For thousands of years, Muslims have been trading peacefully with Aboriginal Australians. I emphasize that point at the outset to highlight the reality that the recent Reclaim Australia rallies which have ‘swept the nation’ are not supported by Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
It’s important to keep the ‘Reclaim Australia phenomenon’ in perspective. Their numbers are very small. So is their thinking.
What intrigues me most about them is why they think it’s their country to reclaim in the first place. I’m also wondering what parts they think they’ve lost.
As an Aboriginal activist, I can identify a few parcels of land that I think should be given back to their rightful owners. One is known these days as ‘Australia’. Another we call ‘The Torres Strait Islands’.
But I’m struggling to identify any land, culture and rights that non Aboriginal Australians have lost, and need to reclaim. I’m also struggling to understand the hypocrisy of Reclaim Australia.
In recent days rock legend Jimmy Barnes requested that Reclaim Australia not play his songs at their rallies. He joins other great Australian singer-songwriters such as John Schumann, and now John Farnham, in making that simple request.
Reclaim Australia’s response was surprising. They acknowledged that they would no longer play Barnes’ music at their rallies, although they expressed their disappointment that he had “misunderstood” the purpose of Reclaim Australia.
I think Jimmy Barnes has understood it perfectly. It is an organisation led by deeply ignorant people, who are hell-bent on dividing an otherwise peaceful nation.
They are determined to cast Muslims as a threat to our way of life. The real threat to our way of life, of course, are the extremists seeking to promote hatred and division.
Disappointingly, however, the Reclaim rallies have, in the past, also displayed the Aboriginal flag. This is despite a request by the designer of our flag, Harold Thomas, for it not to be used.
In a story published in New Matilda in April, Thomas said: “The flag is our identity and expression of who we are. It’s quite clear we use it freely and willingly and the government recognises the flag. It has its place. But to utilise it as a banner for anger or for another skewered reason is idiotic.”
However, Harold Thomas has apparently been ignored. The Aboriginal flags were flying again last week.
The irony of the Reclaimers bowing to a request from a white Australian, while ignoring requests from a black Australian, should be lost on no-one. It’s very much in keeping with the sense of entitlement that these people have.
Regardless, I can assure the Muslim community that the use of the Aboriginal flag at Reclaim rallies in no way represents the broader views of the overwhelming majority of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The values of Reclaim Australia – or rather their lack thereof – are repugnant to our people.
We understand all too well the sting of Australian racism. We’ve been fighting it, and trying to reclaim our rights – and our land – for more than 200 years.
On that front, Muslims should know that Australian racism and bigotry will move on. Our nation has a long history of cyclically hating minorities. Hatred was historically directed at the Chinese, then the Greeks and Italians, then the Vietnamese, then the Lebanese, then the Sudanese. Unfortunately, it’s the turn of Muslim Australians to be on the receiving end. It will pass.
All of the people who have come to these lands have integrated well into Australian society. All of them except for one.
It wasn’t these minorities who committed the massacres. It wasn’t these minorities who poisoned our waterholes. They haven’t raped our women and stolen our children. The British did that.
Eventually, of course, our nation will come to understand that the minorities it persecutes pose no real threat.
As I mentioned at the start, many Australians already know that Muslims have been trading peacefully with Aboriginal people in the north of Australia for thousands of years. I look forward to that mutually beneficial relationship continuing well into the future, and as always, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in opposition to division and ignorance..