By Jill Fraser
Politicians are not doing enough to change the anti-Islam public discourse in Australia, say two of the nation’s leading Muslim figures.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Thursday in response to a poll that shows 49 percent of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigrants, the Australian Federation Islamic Councils’ president Keysar Trad and Mariam Veiszadeh, founder and president of the Australian Islamophobia Register, condemned politicians for allowing an environment of anti-Muslim sentiment to thrive.
Trad said he was "heartbroken" and “devastated” by the poll finding, underlining that “irresponsible politics” are in part to blame.
“Australians are being led through fear politics to project a different image to the one we really are. By nature [we] are a generous and hospitable and welcoming people,” he stressed.
“Politicians have created an invasion anxiety,” he said, pointing to the fact that the poll results come shortly after right-wing One Nation leader Pauline Hanson called for a ban on Muslims entering Australia during her maiden speech in Parliament last week.
Hanson, who shot to fame for her attacks on Asian immigration as an MP in the 1990s, returned to Parliament in July.
"We are in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own," she said during her speech -- mid-way through which Greens lawmakers walked out of the chamber in disgust.
“I call for stopping further Muslim immigration and banning the burqa, as they have done in many countries around the world,” she continued.
Veiszadeh, founder of the Islamophobia Register, has been tracking anti-Muslim hatred for two years.
“Based on what we’re seeing Islamophobia is on the rise to the point it’s becoming normalized and that doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” she says. “It takes place in an environment and political landscape in which xenophobia has been allowed to flourish. Part of that is due to a failure of our senior leadership.”
Veiszadeh argues that the failure of politicians to adamantly oppose the sorts of views espoused by Hanson, whose speech in the Senate was endorsed by one government MP with a hug, is leading to “irreparable damage to our social cohesion and a political climate that allows groups like One Nation to take firm hold and impact on the public discourse around Australian Muslims”.
“They say that the standard you walk past is the standard you accept,” Veiszadeh adds.
Trad maintains that an increasing number of politicians are using “the race and xenophobia card when they want to divert attention from another issue”.
This troubles him greatly because he says “there is an element in the Muslim society in Australia that tells young people they will never be accepted and unfortunately more young people are believing them”.
Trad told Fairfax that besides Hanson, other politicians -- such as Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and Jacqui Lambie -- should also bear responsibility for fanning Islamophobia, which Veiszadeh told Anadolu Agency is escalating.
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