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Issue #1694      July 22, 2015

Editorial

Racism and cynicism - a powerful blend

Racist group Reclaim Australia held protests in several cities over the weekend. The ugly anti-Muslim gatherings were outnumbered in every case by people at contra-rallies, people concerned at the obvious growth of intolerance in the community. They’re not the only ones. Police, including NSW deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, are worried about the proliferation of right-wing racist and white supremacist groups. “I’m loathe to give them any oxygen, but I would say that there is definitely activity on the right wing, the extreme right wing of politics, and people who are using events around the world to create incidents in Australia and New South Wales and in Sydney,” the deputy commissioner said recently. He has witnessed an upsurge in racist violence and verbal abuse to a point where he is worried about social cohesion in the country.

What are the origins of this phenomenon and what is being done about this threat? The deputy commissioner is on the right track about incidents taking place overseas and those in Australia seeking to take advantage of them. But it’s not only the YouTube preachers of hate, and followers with shaved heads and swastika tattoos who are involved. In fact, the leadership of this wave of intolerance can be found at the very “top” of society, including in Australia’s parliament. And while they might not believe exaggerated “high” terrorism threat levels for an attack, presumably from Muslim extremists, they are happy to ride the wave of xenophobia the bi-partisan “national security” obsession is generating.

While people’s attention is drawn to IS atrocities and stage managed raids on homes in Australia, there has been a sweeping attack on every Australian’s rights. Their digital communications are under total surveillance. Their citizenship is under threat. Fortunes in taxpayer dollars are being devoted to tracking down “radicalised youth”. Attorney-General George Brandis was at his breathless best in supporting an extra $296 million to go to intelligence agencies to increase their spying capacity.

“People as young as 14, without criminal records or strong links to known terror networks, are being groomed online by terrorist organisations and presenting a new challenge for security and law enforcement agencies,” the federal A-G said.

Muslim Australians are sick of it. Community leaders have boycotted an annual dinner hosted by the Australian Federal Police to celebrate the Eid religious festival. A petition signed by 840 people makes plain their exasperation at government authorities’ determination to “demonise, marginalise and victimise the Muslim community.”

“I can’t break fast with those who authorise flash bombs to be used against families,” said Australian Muslim Women’s Association spokeswoman Silma Ihran.

There is no plan to tackle the growth of anti-Muslim bigotry in the country. It has been a good cover for the theft of rights that Australians will need to defend themselves and their livelihoods. It is a prop for the increasingly irrelevant US alliance and the massively wasteful military expenditure that commits us to. It keeps us locked into US war plans, including a confrontation with China. While officials trot out the usual line about the distinction between Islam as a religion of peace and Islamic extremism, their plans continue to take their toll on an entire community.

According to polls, Australians are aware that we are under no threat of invasion by an external power. However, they have been stampeded into an utterly disproportionate concern of acts of local terrorism. The extreme manifestations of this, the growth of right-wing groups and xenophobic protests, are a completely predictable consequence.

The cynicism behind the creation of this type of toxic environment is not something new. Seventy years ago, Nazi Germany’s second in command was interviewed in captivity by allied authorities. They asked Hermann Goering how the Hitler regime managed to persuade an educated population to support total war. His response is worth noting in today’s Australia. “... the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Next article – Australian farmers facing multiple threats

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