Muslim leaders have called upon key politicians to raise their voices against hate speech by the Senator-elect Pauline Hanson.
The media focus on Ms Hanson and her constant vilification of Islam and demonisation of Muslims seems to be having a detrimental effect on community harmony in Australian.
Support for her call for banning of Muslims entering Australia by Nine Network celebrity Sonia Kruger has started an ugly debate in various sections of the community.
According to the Islamophobia register, there has been an increase in verbal and physical attacks on Muslims particularly women while a number of mosques have been vandalised.
Professor Shahjahan Khan, Founding President of Islamic Society of Toowoomba has written an open letter dated 1 August 2016 to the Prime Minister calling on him to publicly condemn Ms Hanson’s extremist views.
“The community requests that you and your colleagues publicly reject the politics of division, hate and attacks on a section of the peaceful people of Australia. This is a normal expectation of any leader who is committed to do good to all citizens, not just working for any selected group of them”, Prof Khan has written.
Reminding the PM of the last time Ms Hanson espoused racist attacks against Asians that were rejected too little too late by the then prime minister Mr John Howard, that resulted in racial tensions and riots 20 years ago.
“In the past, the rise of Ms Hanson was at the expense of the conservative politics in Australia. The initial neglect of Prime Minister John Howard, and not speaking against her on time gave her a free go to divide the nation. I am afraid it will be the same this time if her poisonous views are not challenged now to stop the damage”, Prof Khan writes.
He further writes “The ongoing irresponsible predominately anti-Muslim and also anti-Asian rhetoric of Ms Hanson is likely to have a significant impact on Australia’s reputation as a peaceful egalitarian nation in the Asia-Pacific region, and more so on its economic and potentially security interests.
Prof Khan has first hand experience where the Toowoomba Mosque founded by him has been twice destroyed by arson attacks presumably by extremists in recent years.
Mr Alpha Cheng, the son of NSW Police accountant Mr Curtis Cheng, murdered by a 15 year old Muslim boy has called on senator-elect Pauline Hanson to stop using his father’s death to justify her concerns about Muslim migration.
He said that he was a victim of the “hateful and fearful attitudes” that the One Nation Party promoted when he was a young immigrant to Australia in the 1990s.
“We need to look how we can heal and build; not how we can divide and exclude,” Mr Cheng said.
Another politician, the LNP MP George Christenson has been preaching hate at various forums as well, and promptly blamed Islam and Muslims for an attack on Merrylands Police Station, on 21 July, that was carried out by a non-Muslim with mental health issues.
There have been evidence of polarisation between various sections of the community on social media, comments in major newspapers as well as statements for and against the views by politicians and community leaders.
A Muslim teenager Adam Abu Mahmoud was stabbed to death by allegedly three young men presumably of white Christian background on Monday 18 July. Police have yet to determine if it was a hate crime.
Muslims have reacted with alarm at the blatant hate speech with vilification of Islam and demonisation of Muslims by extremist and racist politicians and media celebrities.
In a media statement, the Australian National Imam’s Council has shown great concern from certain quarters proposing to ban Muslims migrating to Australia. The statement on the other hand praised an overwhelmingly great number of courageous Australians who have spoken against hate and bigotry.
Countering the Islamophobia with positive action, a team of Australian Muslim community representatives, in collaboration with several non-Muslim Australians, have launched FactCheckOneNation.com.au – a website which seeks to place One Nation’s policies under the microscope to test whether the party’s positions are based on fact or fiction.
Media spokesperson for FactCheckOneNation.com.au Mariam Veiszadeh said: “In a free and open democracy people are entitled to their opinions, however unsavoury they may be, but politicians and people in positions of influence must rise above divisive, inflammatory, baseless and unconstitutional rhetoric. We are therefore seeking to hold One Nation to account by fact checking our way through their policies, starting with their positions on Islam and Muslims.”
The website’s launch coincides with Queensland One Nation senator-elect Pauline Hanson’s appearance as a panelist on the ABC’s QandA program last month. The website will offer a source of factual information to equip both the media and the general public who are interested in sifting through One Nation’s policies on Islam and Muslims.
“Whilst we believe that a multi-faceted approach is required to tackle the misinformation and xenophobia that is increasingly on the rise, separating fact from fiction is a good starting point to counter the fear and mistrust being peddled in the community,” Veiszadeh said.
The public is being urged to share the website on social media, using the hashtag #FactCheckOneNation and #FactsOverFear