Newly formed anti-Muslim group, Reclaim Australia, plans to hold rallies around Australia on Saturday, 4 April. Counter-rallies are being organised. The Socialist Party (CWI Australia) has been organising to oppose Reclaim Australia since we first learned of their existence.
For more than a decade anti-Muslim sentiment has been on the rise in Australia. It has been actively fostered by both major parties and echoed in the mainstream media following the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Racist propaganda dehumanizing and belittling Muslim populations has been used to justify horrific torture tactics, the use of chemical weapons and the installation of US puppet regimes across the Middle East. It also serves to minimize the horror of an estimated 500,000 civilians killed from war-related causes in Iraq since the invasion began in 2003.
The social and economic catastrophe created by the US-led, Australian-backed invasion of Iraq has led to a serious backlash. Inflamed further by the civil war in Syria, these conditions have led to the rise of the right-wing Islamist movement known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Feeding upon the anger, death and destruction left by Western invading armies, and a hatred of the US installed sectarian Shia Muslim government, blatant in its crimes against the Sunni Muslim population, ISIS has taken advantage of the chaos and made huge territorial gains.
With an estimated 50,000 or more fighters ISIS now controls large territories in Iraq, Syria, the Sinai Peninsula, and eastern Libya. The success of ISIS, and its flashy online presence, has attracted admiration from a small but significant section of disaffected young people across North Africa and the Middle East, as well as smaller numbers in Europe, the Americas and Australia.
Many of these young people are motivated by a desire to rid the region of Western imperialist intrusion, despite close ties between US regional allies and forces on the side of ISIS.
Across the world, the rise of ISIS is looked upon with fear and horror. This is very much warranted, though most mainstream narratives exclude the role Western powers played in setting the scene that ISIS is now succeeding in.
Rather than acknowledge the blame they share in destroying the lives of millions and stoking the flames of right-wing movements like ISIS, Western governments have been busy using the rise of ISIS to their own benefit. People have been distracted momentarily from the pillaging of public accounts to bail out private debts by Islamophobic finger-pointing and misleading and racist rhetoric about immigrants and immigration.
The right wing Abbott government in Australia no doubt breathed a sigh of relief at the rise of a political movement more reviled than its own anti-worker, anti-poor, and anti-women policies. Referring to ISIS as a “death cult” at every available opportunity, Abbott has reignited the obsession with so-called Islamic terrorism.
In the wake of the tragic Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, and the bizarre and awful Sydney siege, spreading fear of ‘Islamic extremism’ in Australia has renewed pertinence for unpopular politicians and media outlets churning out ‘click bait’.
There has reportedly already been a rise in incidents of racist attacks on Muslims and Sikhs, particularly those wearing head scarves. In this climate, Australia’s small far-right organisations have seen an opportunity to espouse their white supremacist message.
They hope to use the anti-Muslim sentiment propagated by years of fear mongering about ‘Islamic terrorism’ and bipartisan refugee bashing to build a racist anti-Muslim movement on the streets. To this end, these groups organized anti-Muslim ‘Reclaim Australia’ rallies across a number of Australian cities in April.
‘Reclaim Australia’ looks towards far-right movements like Pegida in Germany and the English Defense League in England for their inspiration. These movements thrive on exploiting the legitimate worries of workers and small business owners in deteriorating economies.
Rather than point to the role of exploitative bosses and neo-liberal governments in creating the growing gap between rich and poor, these movements point the blame at people from Middle Eastern and Muslim backgrounds, considering them easy targets. This serves the interests of big business elites in keeping ordinary people fighting amongst ourselves for crumbs, rather than demanding democratic control of the economy in pursuit of a fairer, more equal society.
It is possible for socialists to be critical of the role of religious fundamentalism while, at the same time, defending people’s right to practice their faith free from fear or harm. It is imperative for socialists to organise against far-right movements spreading racist hatred that only serves to divide working class people and divert blame from where it belongs – with the ultra-rich who plunder the earth leaving death and destruction in their wake.
Rally Against ’Reclaim Australia’ on 4 April!
From the Socialist Party (CWI Australia) website
Economic inequality is on the rise throughout the world. The global economic crisis has seen millions of people driven into poverty while at the same time a small group of super rich have profited handsomely at our expense. By next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%!
The 1% only gets away with this because the bulk of the population is divided. Those profiting from the crisis often use racism as a tool to sow divisions amongst ordinary people. For them it is far better if the bulk of the 99% are arguing amongst themselves rather than uniting to fight for a bigger share of the wealth.
In many places across the world far-right racist movements are attempting to blame ethnic minorities for unemployment, high living expenses and inadequate services. The truth is that the root cause of these problems is the capitalist system that puts profits before people’s needs. It’s the system that’s at the heart of inequality.
In Australia today racism expresses itself in many ways. The scapegoating of refugees, high incarceration rates of Aboriginal people, Islamophobia and police harassment of African youth are common in most cities. Both the major parties have been complicit in supporting policies that facilitate this discrimination.
In fact many policies that oppress certain groups are very profitable for big business. For example the private prison system and off-shore refugee detention centres are multi-billion dollar industries.
Islamophobia has been used to justify wars for oil in the Middle East and the barbaric treatment of refugees. The cynical portrayal of Aboriginal people as welfare cheats has been used to justify racist policies like the Northern Territory Intervention.
All the major parties have to some extent pushed the idea that ‘overcrowding’, rather than their policies, are to blame for diminishing access to jobs, housing and services like healthcare and education. Their aim is to make migrants the target of people’s anger rather than big business profiteers and the governments who represent them.
As we move into more economic uncertainty we can be assured that big business and the major parties will continue to push divisive racist ideas in an attempt to maintain their rule. Responding with solidarity and unity is the best way to push back against big business rule.
How can we fight racism?
In the aftermath of the Sydney siege, thousands of people used solidarity hash tags like #illridewithyou in anticipation of a racist Islamophobic backlash. This type of solidarity is welcome but hash tags alone are not enough to challenge the root cause of racism. We need to get organised!
Racism only benefits those who make profits at the expense of the majority. Ordinary people are far more likely to win a bigger share of the wealth created if they are united. That is why campaigns for refugee rights, against the discrimination of Aboriginal people and against Islamophobia are so important.
There is more than enough wealth in society to make sure that everybody’s basic needs are catered for, with plenty left over! The money spent on war, mandatory detention and welfare quarantining alone would go a long way to improving and expanding public healthcare, education and housing for everyone.
The reason this money is not spent on jobs, homes and services for all is that ordinary people do not have control over how the wealth in society is used. The Socialist Party participates in anti-racist campaigns, but for us the most effective way to campaign against racism is to link these campaigns to the fight for a different type of society.
We need to fight for a world where ordinary working people collectively own and control society’s wealth, and can democratically decide how production and distribution are planned. This type of democratic socialist society would ensure equality for all, and could start to put an end to racism once and for all.