Target Muslims, stoke fear: Australian politicians and the media’s response to Paris

After the attacks in Paris, the Coalition and the Murdoch media worked hand-in-glove, casting around for ways to make political mileage.

They zeroed in on comments by the Grand Mufti and the National Imams Council. In a statement after the Paris attacks, the Mufti told the truth, that “causative factors such as racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention” feed terrorism. But providing context and explanation was labelled justification for terrorism.

Despite the fact the Mufti’s statement did condemn terrorism, as have numerous previous statements, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told listeners on Radio 2GB that he hadn’t. Scott Morrison and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells made similar statements, The Daily Telegraph ran a front cover page depicting him as a monkey, while The Australian kept the issue alive for over a week, printing quotes from anyone prepared to criticise him.

The Mufti issued a clarification that the Prime Minister “accepted”, but Turnbull couldn’t keep his attack dogs under control. Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, is now saying there is a “problem within Islam”. His comments were echoed by former Coalition Treasurer Peter Costello, who wrote in The Herald Sun, “there is something in the source documents and history of Islam” that makes Muslims violent, and that “Muslim immigration is bringing special and unique problems.”

The loony right are off the chain, too, with Jacquie Lambie calling for ankle bracelets for the Mufti and Liberal MP Bob Baldwin declaring that Muslims want to get rid of Christmas and Easter.

It is very clear that the Muslim community has become the scapegoat of choice for politicians who want to deny the consequences of the wars in Iraq and the Middle East and drum up fear at home. A statement in support of the Grand Mufti initiated by Solidarity gathered over 40 signatures, including the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, Australians for Syria, Australian Jewish Democratic Society, and many other trade unionists and advocates. More such initiatives will be needed to build active opposition to Islamophobia.

By Amy Thomas


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