Protesting the Far Right: Christchurch, Two Months On

Tooba Farooqui

Cover image: Bella Meagher | @kovvu

 

On 15 March there were protests across Australia demanding climate justice. With the support of hundreds of uni students, thousands upon thousands of school kids walked out. It was a powerful feeling, getting a taste of the strength of our collective will. Many of my friends said that it was difficult being sucked back into their 9-5 jobs after walking the streets of the CBD, chanting at the top of their lungs that they wanted the whole damn system to change and refused to live through catastrophic environmental damage.

 

SYSTEM CHANGE NOT CLIMATE CHANGE,

RAISE WAGES NOT THE SEA,

OCEANS RISING SO ARE WE.

 

On the same day we heard the awful news of the Christchurch massacre: 50 Muslim people were murdered in their place of worship. For what reason? This world is becoming increasingly frightening—here we lie in a hotbed of racism manufactured to justify wars we didn’t sign up for.  

 

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un — To Allah we belong and to him we shall return.

 

I refuse to believe it was the will of Allah that murdered three-year-old Mucad Ibrahim, a young boy that was there to pray with his Dad, a family now without a child.

 

Families who have fled their homes because of western government sanctioned bombs arrive at the doorstep of liberal-capitalist countries to plead for safety, only to be made to jump through a laborious collection of bureaucratic hoops; visa form after police check after language test.

 

Exhausted and in search of peace and rest, Muslim people are made to feel even more demonised by the media, claiming Muslim women are oppressed and without agency, advertising policies that preference Christian refugees over Muslims.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch tragedy, ScoMo condemned the attack, calling on the public to unite against the “real enemy… hatred and intolerance”, yet Morrison himself has made a career out of stirring up racism and hate. While Shadow Minister for Immigration in 2010, he famously argued for the Liberals to campaign against Muslim immigration, saying that we needed to “capitalise on the anti-Muslim sentiment” in a disgraceful attempt to stir up racism and win votes.

 

As Immigration Minister, he established Operation Sovereign Borders and instructed the Immigration department to refer to asylum seekers arriving by boat as “illegal” arrivals. The United Nations declaration that Australia signed in 1959, co-authored by Australia’s own Doc Evatt, compelled the Australian government to wholeheartedly accept those fleeing persecution after the atrocities of WWII.

 

As recently as November, following the attack in Melbourne’s Bourke Street, Morrison was spewing forth fear mongering condemnations of “radical, violent, extremist Islam”, despite evidence that Shire Ali, who carried out the attack, had a history of mental illness. This makes it clear once again that mental illness is the excuse for only some members of our community when it comes to these sorts of attacks; the rest of us are simply maliciously brown.

Morrison went even further, and began to target the Muslim community as a whole, blaming them for the attack and declaring that “more needs to happen” from Muslim leaders to tackle extremism.

 

This was only the latest episode in the two decades long “war on terror”, which has cast suspicion on the Muslim community as a whole through draconian anti-terror laws and raids on Muslim homes. The Australian Government has also been a key supporter of Western imperialism and bombing raids across the Middle East since 9/11 that have claimed hundreds of thousands of Muslim lives.

 

In the lead up to the election, the Liberals are desperately trying to create a scare campaign about refugees to win votes. Morrison and Dutton have smeared refugees on Manus and Nauru as criminals and even claimed Australians could be thrown out of hospital queues if refugees were brought here for medical treatment.

 

Anti-racist organising and protests are vital to reject both the racism of the far right and the political mainstream. The demonstrations against Islamophobia in response to the massacre in Christchurch, including 2,000 people in March in Melbourne, and similar numbers in Sydney, are an important start.

 

There is a time to grieve, a time to mourn. I went with my friend and their family to Lakemba on the Sunday following the massacre. My friend and I had linked arms on the picket line and now we sat holding hands in the Masjid. There is a lot of power in healing, in knowing that we need to keep fighting racism but also taking the time to remember what we are fighting for. There is no rest for the oppressed, but it goes without saying there is also a fight back. We are exhausted, but if things are going to get better, it’s because we keep fighting.