[Publisher’s Note: Fair enough, but why the focus on Tannous Abbout, a man in his final days as Australian Prime Minister?]
From New Matilda:
And then, there’s the question of Muslims. I have argued previously that the Abbott government had decided the best way to sell its war on Iraq was “through innuendo, fear, and cheap sloganeering” about Muslims. At the time, Murdoch columnist Andrew Bolt, famously found guilty of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act, whistled about Muslims, and Muslim leaders who just weren’t doing enough to condemn Islamist terrorists.
Abbott decided to adopt more of Bolt’s talking points, and pointedly said that everybody, “including Muslim community leaders”, should speak up against terrorism. As the consistently excellent Randa Abdel-Fattah wrote, “That he felt the need explicitly to include a particular group into the category of ‘everybody’ is the clearest signal that said group does not, in fact, belong to the category of ‘everybody.'”
Abbott went on to say that whilst Western leaders said Islam was a religion of peace, “I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.”
Randa’s response: “With that one statement, every act of condemnation of violence by Muslim leaders, every articulation of the teachings of Islam, every patient dialogue was deemed suspect.”
It may be sad for Abbott that not all Muslims can be murderous tyrants like the dictators of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Even so, the call for Muslim leaders to oppose terrorism carries an insinuation about followers who clearly need such leadership as a vital measure of the fight against terrorism. That is the artful message behind his call for Muslim leaders to show that they actually mean their opposition to the murder of innocent people.
Abbott’s campaign against Muslims has included a commitment to finding the right kind of laws that can be used to ban the reactionary Islamists of Hizb ut-Tahrir. This has proved challenging, because they don’t seem to break any laws that currently exist.
The latest foray in the battle against HUT has come from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Vic Alhadeff responded to a video of an anti-Semitic speech by a speaker from HUT. He declared, “It’s deeply shocking that at this time of heightened concern about national security, a public figure can so brazenly incite violence and raw hatred against other Australians”.
One might not regard Alhadeff as an authority on this issue. After all, it was Alhadeff who made comments during Israel’s attack on Gaza which were deemed sufficiently inappropriate that he was forced to resign from heading the Community Relations Commission.
More comically – the anti-Semitic speech he condemns is not from “this” time of “heightened concern”. It’s from July last year. The speech is familiar to me, because unlike Alhadeff, I wrote about it last year.
However, since that time, Abbott has launched his campaign against HUT, and so it worked out quite well for his government that he had Alhadeff on hand to express outrage at the appropriate time. It helped that the Sydney Morning Herald was willing to run media-release journalism on a speech from a year ago.
Returning to Abbott, it is unlikely his vulgar attempts to pick fights with Triggs and Muslims will help him much. He is an incompetent fanatic who will be looked on with fond bemusement one day as a strange exercise in Australian folly.
Gillian Triggs will gain greater respect within the broader community for her integrity in standing up to the government on behalf of children in detention. Muslims will continue to be stigmatised, and perhaps one day HUT will be banned, even by the Attorney-General who told us that we have a right to be bigots.
Whatever happens, Abbott’s days are numbered.
Yet underneath the political squabbling, real communities are being targeted, and real lives are being ruined.
I am sure Triggs would agree that it is time to refocus our attention on her report. The one about forgotten children.