The views expressed below are solely the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Australian Progressives.
‘Death to Islam and all Muslims, you filthy korandathals. You will watch your family burn in bacon fat!!’, one message reads.
‘You even approach One Nation, you will see a burning Qaran and the death of your family.’
These are messages sent to the man who organised the protest outside Q&A against Pauline Hanson.
These messages are motivated by hate of an ethnic group, and are, therefore, textbook racism. We should not hesitate to condemn them for one second.
Progressives, we have to stop creating the conditions in which hatred like this can flourish.
I know, I know, you don’t mean to do it. But listen.
A few days ago, on the Today show, Sonia Kruger called for Muslim immigration to be ‘stopped now … because I would like to feel safe,’ in light of the tragic events in Nice. After being branded racist, she said ‘As a mother, I believe in a democratic society to be able to discuss these issues without automatically being labelled racist.’
This is not someone motivated by hate. This is not Donald Trump shamelessly exploiting people’s fears for political gain. This is a private citizen expressing her fear for her children’s safety. Fear and hatred are related, but they are not the same thing.
Fear is something we can confront. Fear is something we can deal with. Confronting fear requires an open and honest discussion. When we label someone expressing their fear as racist, we are shutting down the possibility of open and honest discussion. We let it fester underneath, until it turns into hatred.
As Progressives, we have a tendency to do this. We are damaging our own cause and creating the conditions for real hatred to emerge. We need to separate those who are merely afraid from those who actually hate, and engage with their fears.
This will require some difficult introspection on everyone’s part.
For Progressives, it will require admitting that yes, there are some Muslims out there who want to kill us, and that this is a problem.
For those who are afraid, it will require admitting that we have given them far too many reasons to do so. Whether that be killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians for no good reason, or locking up (predominantly) Muslim people under horrible conditions while claiming to be champions of human rights, we certainly have a hand in provoking this level of hatred.
For Progressives, it will require admitting that we don’t actually have any solutions for stopping terrorism, and we need to start developing them straight away.
For those who are afraid, it will require admitting that 1.6 billion Muslims don’t actually want to kill us, and if they did, we would all be dead already. Equating the actions of a few to one-sixth of the world’s population is a completely irrational response. It will require admitting that human beings are basically the same everywhere, and that they just want to live peaceful, happy lives.
For all of us, it will require admitting that we have created a society which champions individualism at the expense of community. We are disconnected from the people around us, and thus have created the perfect conditions for radicalisation to occur.
And so forth. These are hard conversations, which will require us all to challenge our own beliefs. I believe this country has the maturity to have these conversations, and to grow as a result. It will not be easy.
So to Sonia Kruger, I will say this:
I strongly disagree with your call to end Muslim immigration. I think it will play directly into the hands of ISIS and make things worse.
However, I don’t believe you are a racist. I think you are simply afraid.
There are Islamic leaders in Australia who are working tirelessly to combat terrorism and build positive relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia. Reach out to them. They will show you that it isn’t a religion that you should fear. Muslims need all the help they can get, and would welcome your assistance in building a better Australia.