Seeing the hate that has been directed towards Muslims recently over the past few months in Australia, I feel incredibly sad. It shows that we haven’t yet learnt from our past mistakes.
I grew up in Australia during the first era of Pauline Hanson. I remember her maiden speech in Parliament in 1996, where she said Australia was being swamped by Asians. Rather than speaking out against these views, the Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, said that, because of free speech, she was entitled to say whatever she wanted.
It was the first time I felt truly unwelcome in the country in which I was born.
In 2011, I remember reading an interview in the newspaper of the Queensland director of the One Nation party, which Pauline Hanson founded. The journalist pointed out that this man had a Thai wife.
Wasn’t it therefore hypocritical for him to denounce Asian immigration?
Oh no, the man replied. It’s not the Asians I’m worried about. It’s the Muslims who are the real threat.
This is what the Hansons, the Bolts and the Krugers don’t want you to realise. If it’s not the Muslims, it’s the Chinese. If not the Chinese, the Vietnamese before them. And before them it was the Greeks and Italians. Who knows who they will pick on next?
A lot has been said in Australia that Sonia Kruger should be able to say whatever she wants on television, even if her views on linking Muslim immigration to terrorism are factually incorrect. That because of her right to free speech, she shouldn’t have criticism targeted towards her.
According to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the right to free speech does not mean you can say whatever you want.
To put it even simpler, the right to free speech does not give you the right to spout racist bullshit.
This is what John Howard conveniently ignored in 1996.
I am not Muslim. But by saying nothing, I’m complicit with the lies directed towards Muslims. And just because now, after the 90s, it isn’t “my turn” to cop it, that shouldn’t mean I stay silent.
The sad part of this whole saga is that Australia is, of course, a country built upon immigration. We seem to forget that Captain Cook only arrived less than 230 years ago. But rather than a progressive nation that values diversity, and uses this diversity to its full advantage, we are being held back by a small but loud minority of Australia.
It’s a minority that seeks to blame and direct hate towards whatever minority is flavour of the month. I posit that the majority of Australians don’t actually agree with this minority. We need to stop tolerating blatant racism and calling it out when we see it. And we need to stop allowing people to be racist under the guise of free speech.