Monday, 1 July 2013

Trolling Ed Husic

The trolls were out in force today, bombarding the facebook page of Ed Husic who, yesterday, was sworn in as the first Australian Muslim to hold a place in a federal government ministry. His page was attacked after he was sworn in by the Governor-General using the Koran for the oath. His page was attacked by Australians denouncing him as a Muslim and a "traitor" and a "terrorist". Someone named Aussie Sheila wrote "Shame! Shame! Shame!" and others agreed that it made them "ashamed" to be Australians.

As I have said in the past, you don't need to scratch too hard to find a racist bigot on the right side of politics. It is by far the aspect of right-wing politics that I find most deeply troubling and deeply obnoxious. On the left side of politics we find the pollution of gender politics, misandry and radical feminism. (The deformed New Left doctrine that men - not capitalists - are what is wrong with the world.) On the right we find racism and bigotry. It used to be anti-semitism. Now it is the blind, hysterical hatred of Muslims. 

In some instances, I understand this. I am in sympathy with people who find the influx of unreconstructed Muslim fundamentalists into Australia threatening. I find it threatening too. These are Wahhabi Muslim fanatics who have absolutely no intention of ever finding a stable place in Australian society. They form enclaves in our cities where they try to live as much by Sharia Law as they can. They have little or no connection to the rest of Australia. There are not "hordes" of such fundamentalists in this country, but there are some, and I find it as objectionable as anyone. 

But Ed Husic is not in that category. In fact, he is not even a *practicing* Muslim, merely a cultural Muslim with a Muslim background. In my view, he is the type of face that Islam in Australia needs. No beard. No funny hat. No seventh century Arabian clothing. Rather, he presents an altogether ordinary, mainstream image. I applaud this. I am in the school of thought that thinks that Muslims in Australia need to do much more to fit into Australian society. In this, I find myself in the company of these same right-wingers. But I part company with them when they fail to acknowledge cases like Ed Husic. This is a Muslim who has embraced Australia, Australian culture and the australian way of life. His Islam is residual and non-threatening. A terrorist? Get a grip on reality! Ed Husic is as Australian as meat pie and footy. If you are threatened by Ed Husic - gee, you have one serious bigotry problem. 

Because the posts on Husic's facebook today were bigotry pure and simple. Ugly, small-minded bigotry without any justification that I can see at all. If Husic was a Koran-waving Wahhabi clad in beard and kurta with four wives and a secret plan to uproot the nation's vineyards, then fair enough. But Husic is a mainstream Australian, and the fact that he is a Muslim is entirely incidental. Islam in Australia needs many more Ed Husics, and every one of them should be applauded and welcomed into Australian political life. 

Australia - let me say this for the millionth time - is not a Christian country, per se, and never has been. Indeed, the Australian Constitution makes this absolutely clear. There shall be no religious test for either citizenship or public office. Australia is, nevertheless, a Christian-majority country, which is quite a different thing. It is true that its history, culture and institutions have Christian roots. This fact should be respected and upheld against the worst excesses of multicultural relativism. I understand and sympathise with the anxieties of right-wingers on that point. But I don't sympathise with cases of naked bigotry, which is what we have here. 

I would hope that the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, would publicly acknowledge the historical milestone that is Ed Husic's elevation into the government, and roundly condemn bigotry and distance himself and his party from this type of ugly Australian, but I'm not holding my breath. My deepest concern about Abbott - and Howard before him - is that he deliberately allows this putrid stuff to fester on the right side of politics. He wouldn't condemn Alan Jones' appalling attacks upon Julia Gillard's deceased father and other instances of this redneck culture. He seems happy to win the tainted votes of ugly Australia. It is the job of any leader, I believe, to moderate the nut-jobs in their own ranks. 

I add, though, that among the things that renders me so-called "right wing" these days is that I have no desire to take the law to these bigots. I find their point of view objectionable, not criminal. There is now an equally disturbing culture on the Left that wants to criminalise such people for their views. Left-wing fascism. I don't believe in that either. Left-wingers have an obsession with controlling people's speech. I'm for free speech, even for bigots. The limits of free speech are incitement, slander, defamation and vilification, not merely "causing offence". The trolling of Ed Husic is a case in point. It is offensive, but I have no desire to make it illegal and in fact, at the end of the day, I'd side with the bigots every time against the people who do.

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Postscript: Ed Husic responded to the attacks by saying that people had a right to question his decision to swear the oath on the Koran. I'm happy to say Ed stands by the right to free speech. I am also happy to report that a Liberal MP, Josh Frydenberg, leapt to Husic's defence and called the attacks a "disgrace." And for his part Tony Abbott at least said: "I respect his coice. I think the australian people should as well." That's as close to a positive statement on this as you'll get from Tony Abbott. 

1 comment:

  1. As an Australian Left-Wing Libertarian and practicing *heterodox* Shi'ite Muslim, I applaud the views expressed in your blog post and find myself agreeing with practically everything you said. Thanks especially for underscoring the part about the menace posed by the Wahhabi/Salafi shari'a-thumpers, i.e. the lunatic fringe, who are as much a problem to us (and sometimes a bigger problem too) as they are to everybody else. This important distinction is constantly glossed over by the bigots who want to lump all Muslims into the Wahhabi/Salafi camp.

    Ed Husic's elevation to the ministry and his swearing in with the Qur'an by the Governor-General was an important, symbolic day for all Australians. I think even the denunciations by the bogans was important in a way because it shows there is still a lot of work to be done. But blogs like yours demonstrate that we are half way there already and that one should not despair over such displays of ultra-rightwing knee-jerk xenophobia by the bogans.

    Thanks again for your views. Be well!