Islamophobia Sweeps Thru Australia



There is a new face of Islamophobia in Sydney.

Gone are the images of angry young men draped in Australian flags and brandishing beer bottles as they rampage through Cronulla terrorising anyone who looks Middle Eastern.

In their place is middle-aged, earnest-looking Kate McCulloch, wearing a large Akubra hat plastered with Australian flag stickers. She tells the TV cameras that she is not racist, but Muslims take our welfare, do not live by our rules and are not welcome in Camden.

They are different faces, but their message is the same. They do not want Muslims on their beaches, in their streets, in their suburbs.

"You heard the news and saw the people," says the treasurer of the Qur'anic Society, Ahmed Chami, whose application to build an Islamic school in Camden was knocked back last week. "They said, 'Go back home. We don't want you here'. "

When Camden Council unanimously rejected the application for a 1200-student school last week, it insisted the decision was purely about planning control. But protests before the decision, which culminated in pigs' heads being left on the proposed school site, have left the impression that it has everything to do with religion.

Whatever the truth, experts say the Camden affair is the latest sign of worsening Islamophobia in Sydney, and will only add to intolerance.

Ms McCulloch, who runs a local business, says: "The school is just the thin edge of the wedge. You only have to look at those countries that have accepted Arabs and other Islamic people to see how they've come in and waged violent campaigns to try and displace locals."

University of Western Sydney human geography professor Kevin Dunn calls the steadily worsening intolerance to Muslims cumulative Islamophobia.

Professor Dunn, who as part of a PhD studied applications to build mosques in Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s, says almost every mosque is opposed by local councils and communities. But in many cases, this is overturned in the courts, he says.

The Qur'anic Society has already said it plans to appeal against the Camden decision.

"In those places where there was opposition to mosque development and where councils catered towards that intolerance, there's no doubt community relations worsened," Professor Dunn said.

He says Camden is no more Islamophobic than many other places in Sydney. In a 2001 survey under the geographies of racism project that Professor Dunn leads, 52.9% of people in Camden and its surrounding suburbs said they would be concerned if a close relative married a Muslim. Sydney-wide, the figure was only slightly lower at 52.8%.

Last year, NSW Police established a new position to look at the force's response to hate crimes. Inspector Chris Keane, of the community contact unit, said he had not seen any increase in reports about attacks on Muslims in particular but said that after 9/11 the whole community felt under pressure.

NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian says he firmly believes Camden Council knocked back the school on planning grounds.

"But we've got people using that opportunity to express jubilance, and to present it as if it was the success of an anti-Islamic campaign," he said.

He agrees anti-Muslim feeling has been increasing in recent years and the situation in Camden will make it worse. There has been a trend since 9/11 "but more importantly since Bali and then Cronulla" where particular groups take advantage of situations to promote anti-Islamic messages.

"It would be fairly disheartening for the Islamic community to see the kind of images that were on TV and to hear the anti-Islamic comments by residents. It sows the seeds of doubt in their mind about the reasons for the school's rejection."

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1 comment:

Go Go Chinchilla! said...

I have no sympathy for the Muslims who wanted to build a religious school in Camden, Australia. Islam is currently going through its equivalent of Christian Europe's dark ages, but with modern weapons. Their barbarism is evident in their treatment of women, children, gays, and anybody who questions the "truth" of Islam.

Humanity will be better off when Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are as dead as Akhenaten's own brand of monotheism.