Police violence and racism on display in attack on Muslim rally

Police, politicians and the media have unleashed a wave of anti-Muslim racism in response to the protest in Sydney against a film that mocks Islam. In words designed to stoke anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant racism, NSW Premier O’Farrell warned Muslims not to, “bring from overseas ethnic protest to this country”.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard made similar comments, saying the events had, “no place on the streets of our country” and declared it “not the Australian way”. Tony Abbott went a step further warning that, “newcomers to this country…are expected to surrender their hatreds”. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen added to the
xenophobia by threatening to cancel the visas of any non-citizens who were involved in the protest.

The real violence at the Sydney protest against an anti-Muslim film came from the policeTheir words will help reinforce the idea that all Muslims are prone to violence, extremism and terrorism, ideas that politicians and the mainstream media have worked hard to drum up over the last decade.

Some in the Muslim community as well as The Greens have condemned the protest, blaming it for playing into the stereotypes about Muslims. But it is the media and the police who have seized on slogans on a tiny number of placards in order to tar the protest as a whole as “extremist”. Their mock outrage is just hypocrisy.

Where was the outrage when shock jock Allan Jones used his mass radio audience to suggest that Julia Gillard be drowned in a chaff bag? Where is Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s apology for the killing of Afghan civilians by Australian soldiers?

The police have accused the protesters of violence. But video footage and eyewitness accounts show that it was police who were to blame for the violence. Up to 150 police charged at demonstrators, using pepper spray and batons. Two people were taken to hospital after being bitten by police dogs. There are even reports of use of tasers.

In Hyde Park towards the end of the protest, two lines of police surrounded protesters. An eyewitness from Green Left Weekly reported, “The police kept goading the protesters by shoving them back in coordinated waves of advance.” Police officers chased after protesters yelling “hit them” according to the Sydney Sun-Herald. Another eyewitness was told by several women that police tried to rip off their headscarves.

No similar protest of 300 to 500 people in Sydney has faced such vicious policing in recent years. It is only when Arabs and Muslims gather, it seems, that the police resort so quickly to such tactics. The police lashed out in exactly the same way when hundreds of Arab and Muslim youth joined an anti-war protest in Sydney in 2003.

In March, police tasered and killed a Brazilian man in central Sydney. A month later they shot and wounded two Aboriginal teenagers in King’s Cross.

Racism and war
The protest in Sydney is one of many around the world sparked by the anti-Muslim film The Innocence of Muslims. But the real reason for the protests is the systematic racism and discrimination faced by Muslims living in Western countries, and the continual process of regime change, war and occupation imposed on Arab and Muslim countries by the West.

In the wake of 9/11, we saw a surge in racist attacks on Muslims and Arabs as the mainstream media spread the message that all Muslims were suspect. This was reinforced following the London bombings in 2005, when the Muslim community as a whole was blamed for “home grown terrorism”.

There has been a continual campaign waged by the right about the supposed incompatibility between “Western values” like democracy and Islamic values and culture.

The shocking impact of this racism has been confirmed in opinion polls. A 2006 Gallup poll found that four out of ten Australians believe Islam is “a threat to our way of life” and an Essential poll last year found 57 per cent were concerned at the number of Muslims living in Australia.

Countries like France have institutionalised the anti-Muslim hysteria, banning the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in schools and making it practically impossible to build new mosques.

So it should come as no surprise that many Muslims feel that their religion and their communities are under attack. We need to reject the racism that is being directed at the Muslim community and stand against the hypocritical accusations of violence and extremism from the media, governments and the police.


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  1. To the author of the above article.
    Go hang out in Paris’ non-touristy spots and observe the muslim presence before writing such comments about France. Also most French Muslim females are happy to go to school without being forced by their families to wear a hijab!

    Yours Sincerely,
    A French Muslim

  2. I can’t believe this article. I more often than not agree with the sentiments of Solidarity, but this time the author has gone too far. Despite being overwhelmingly peaceful (by your accounts), how are those in a position of public responsibility expected to respond to this protest when signs are held by children calling for the beheading of people for acting within their right to insult whoever the wish? As an Australian and a Muslim, I agree fully with all three quotes used in this article. Newcomers to any country should surrender their hatreds, ethnic protest should not be battled on Australian soils, and signs openly calling for murder certainly do not belong on the streets of Sydney, or anywhere. Imagine the outcry of your readership if I was to parade around the street with a sign calling for the beheading of those who do not follow a Christian faith. As a Muslim I disagree with your statement that this protest was about systematic racism and discrimination. It was about a group of people unable to accept reality; one person making an hateful video calls for nothing more than a giggle and moving on. It certainly hasn’t affected my faith and it shouldn’t affect yours either. Why does the author think they are able to appropriate motive for this protest? Are they Muslim? Were they involved in the protest? Have they looked into this issue with any genuine inquiry? It’s arrogance like I have never seen in Solidarity and I have forever lost faith in the team responsible for this once credible publication.

  3. The signs about beheading was NOT by Muslims, I repeat it was not, it was a covert operation by right wing extremist of Australia who hid in niqabs and approached little children and told them to hold up the placards , the evidence is all over Facebook. Think about it why would children hold up those sayings. The perpetrator said on his Facebook openly the children couldn’t even read , and he said ” here hold this this is for Allah” and said lol as if it’s some kind of joke. I was absolutely sickened. This is a real act of inciting violence and a criminal act to unjustly vilify the Muslims in Australia.

  4. So….despite the fact that there is footage of dozens of those signs being held up by men, women and children, despite Muslims involved in the protests admitting on camera that they understand the anger of those holding up the signs – UmmMaryam would like us to believe that some Nazis put on niqabs and snuck into the crowd like Wiley coyote?

    …..and you wonder why there is a public outcry to ban such clothing.

    Not only are you too stupid to understand the implausibility of your allegation, you are so stupid as to provide the argument to outlaw what you cherish. Less time on the Koran and more time on deductive logic might bring you out of the dark ages my dear.

  5. In response to Danny: The point about the comments by politicians and the media about “abandoning hatreds” etc is that they are inflammatory, and have fanned the ideas already promoting relentlessly since 9/11 that there is some kind of problem with Muslim immigration, that all Muslims are suspect etc. They have turned this protest into a national political issue when just as inflammatory statements by Alan Jones or the radical Christian right attract nothing like the same attention. This hypocrisy is a product of anti-Muslim racism. Their statements and the hysterical backlash from politicians and the media we are witnessing drive more people to think their religion is under attack.

    The protests against this film are a global phenomenon: so the question we should ask is, why have people responded this way? Why are so many Muslims angry? Asking questions like these is much more in the spirit of critical inquiry, I would think, than the genuinely arrogant assumption that everyone at this protest was simply “unable to accept reality”. I fail to see how the everyday racism against Muslims in the West and the barbarism unleashed by the US, Australia and Israel on countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine can be ignored as part of the context for these protests around the world.

  6. Western imperialism creates Fundamentalism of all kinds, of which Islamic Fundamentalism is one form.

    One needs to start by condemning the whole history of interventions in the affairs of other peoples.

    Holding up signs calling for beheading of those disrespecting the Prophet is a sign of frustration and anger. It is wrong but what is more wrong is the way Israel and the US trample on the rights of Palestinians daily.

    This is not about a stupid movie. It’s about anger at the effects of Imperialism and also the disaffection felt by Muslim youth in this country, a country that still suffers keenly from racism and isolationism.

  7. Im sorry but these events do not have a place on our streets. Peaceful protesting is fine. But some of the messages on the signs and the behavior is unacceptable and is un Australian. And comparing anger over a stupid video to civilians being killed in a warzone is also not on.
    As for the aborigines shot and killed in kings cross…you do realise they had a stolen car on the foot path…..way to pick certain things that go only to your favour!

  8. The hysterical media and political reaction to the protest by Muslims in Sydney says much about the low level of political debate in Australia. I was in the city with my daughter and witnessed some of the demonstration. Far from being a Muslim riot it seemed more of an over reaction by police as they blocked the route of the march and then proceeded to douse the vocal crowd with pepper spray and set dogs on them. A report on the protest by SBS World News that evening seemed to confirm my initial impression. It is important to put this event into perspective. Our media and political leaders are quick to denounce ‘Islamic violence’ on our streets whilst remaining muted as NATO planes kill eight Afghan women and Australian soldiers are accused of murdering an elderly imam and his son. Meanwhile the Australian government flew the first batch of refugees including children, to a prison camp on Nauru. And if anyone doubts that the media might have exaggerated the violence of the protesters, I would only ask them to remember the political venom directed against supporters of the Aborigine Tent Embassy earlier this year for the trivial offence of chanting slogans outside a function attended by Gillard and Abbot.


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