A few days ago, an anonymous party published a website titled ‘Reclaim Australia’. The site has published what is at this stage the most complete statement of demands the rally organisers have managed to compile. Below is my response.
This peaceful rally is part of the national Reclaim Australia [r]ally and is being used to show the people of Australia we have had enough of minorities not fitting in and trying to change our Australian cultural identity.
Whether or not the Reclaim Australia rallies are peaceful affairs remains to be seen. It’s certainly curious that the author fails to specify which ‘minorities’ s/he believes are failing to ‘fit in’, what ‘fitting in’ means for these groups or what characterises the ‘Australian cultural identity’ – and how and why it should be eternally preserved. Of course, the condemnation of the failure of unspecified minorities to conform to some unspecified standard rests upon an implicit assumption: that maintaining an Australian cultural identity means being intolerant of and seeking to police the behaviour of minority populations. In other words, the Reclaim Australia rallies are intended to be a policing action directed at cultural and religious minorities – and one religious minority in particular.
This will be a peaceful rally, [n]eo-Nazi/White [s]upremacist [b]anners/[p]lacards will not be tolerated. This is not a supremacist rally, it will simply be true[-]blue patriotic Aussies standing together to stop the minorities changing our country to suit their needs!
The fact that the author needs to reiterate the claim of peaceful intent – while at the same time acknowledging the likely presence of neo-Nazis and White supremacists at the rallies – is telling. The fact of the matter is that neo-Nazis and White supremacists have flocked to the Reclaim Australia banner, and with very good reason. Along with the organisers, they too regard themselves as battling minorities intent on destroying Australian culture and society, and imagine themselves cast in the heroic role of seeking to impose their own, very special brand of cultural, political and social conformity upon these recalcitrant populations. Beyond a shared belief in the need to ‘save’ Australia from wicked minorities, neo-Nazis and White supremacists are also closely linked to Reclaim Australia via its chief propagandist.
As noted previously, the chief promoter of Reclaim Australia is Shermon Burgess. Burgess (aka ‘The Great Aussie Patriot’) has previously promoted a protest against Islam organised by the neo-Nazi groupuscule ‘Squadron 88′. As ‘Eureka Brigade’, he has covered the song ‘I hate commie scum’ by defunct Melbourne neo-Nazi band Fortress and indicated his enjoyment of neo-Nazi music (ISD Records). His songs have expressed his love for Ralph Cerminara (sometime leader of the Islamophobic Australian Defence League, currently in jail awaiting trial for affray and behaving in an offensive manner) and for killing Muslims and asylum seekers. The Reclaim Australia rallies are also being promoted, with approval from Burgess, by another neo-Nazi groupuscule called ‘Nationalist Republican Guard’. (It’s also worth noting, if only for the lulz, that one of the neo-Nazis promoting Reclaim Australia is Creatard and Combat 18 propagandist ‘Reverend’ Patrick O’Sullivan. Last weekend he attempted to promote the rally at a gig at the Bendigo Hotel in Collingwood. For his troubles, O’Sullivan was told to shoo and is now apparently banned from the venue.)
What we’re about:
1. To stop any enforcing of Sharia law throughout the whole of Australia. To make Sharia [l]aw illegal in every [s]tate and [t]erritory.
The laws which govern Australian society are derived from the British common law. As for Sharia law, while no definition is given by organisers, it generally refers to Islamic jurisprudence. The degree to which religious law can be reconciled with secular law is a matter of some debate. See, for example: Advocates of sharia law should leave, or lose voting and welfare rights: Jacqui Lambie, Jared Owens, The Australian, September 15, 2014; Sharia poses problems, says judge, Geesche Jacobsen, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 24, 2012; Sharia a good fit in some areas, says academic, Leesha McKenny, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2011. For a more extensive discussion, see : Archana Parashar, Australian Muslims and Family Law: Diversity and Gender Justice, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol.33, No.5 (2012).
Note that there are already “religious courts in operation in Australia, outside the formal legal process. These courts use ancient religious texts in adjudicating on matters as diverse as divorce, property and business dealings – even the terms relating to a financial loan. They are the beth din, the religious courts of Australia’s Jewish community. The Sydney Beth Din has been operating since 1905, and its decisions are widely respected throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia.” Thus, while their neo-Nazi allies might look forward to the eradication of Australian Jewry, the selective outrage of Reclaim Australia organisers suggests both ignorance and hypocrisy.
2. Keep our traditional values ie. Christmas, Easter, Australia Day, Anzac Day and other beliefs a large number of Australians have grown up with.
Christmas and Easter are religious festivals; Australia Day (aka Invasion/Survival Day) commemorates the formal beginnings of the British conquest of what became known as Australia; ANZAC Day the unsuccessful invasion of Gallipoli by British imperial forces. These dates are not values, obviously, but the author presumably intends for them to substitute for such values: Christianity, colonialism and imperialist war. Leaving aside the question of whether or not such ‘values’ ought to be celebrated (and how and why they should be clumped together in this manner), from what I understand *cough* these annual events are public holidays and likely to remain such for the foreseeable future. In other words, the maintenance of these ‘values’ hardly requires people to assemble on April 4. Finally, it should be noted that Burgess regards Indigenous peoples with contempt.
3. Keep our rights and freedom of speech.
Uh-huh. Who and what threatens these rights and freedoms? The current government (which Burgess urged others to vote for in order to avoid a Muslim invasion)? One armed with a legislative program designed to strip away rights to privacy, to organise unions and to fight for workers’ rights? Nah: the only peril these folks see is the right of Australians to practise their religion.
4. Halal certification should be banned and made illegal. ([I]f not banned, then control should be handed over to the government so it isn’t a moneymaking scheme for [I]slam).
No reason is given for the desire to render unlawful halal certification; one wonders if protest organisers feel the same about kosher certification: presumably not. In any case, control over food labelling is the responsibility of government. Obviously, if protest organisers have any information they believe to be relevant to these practices, they’re free to forward it to the relevant authorities.
See also : ‘Halal money’ funds terrorism: Jacqui Lambie, Rashida Yosufzai, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 10, 2015; Claims Halal certification fees fund terrorism ‘absolutely wrong’, ABC, November 11, 2014.
5. Introduce pride in the Australian flag and [a]nthem at all levels of schooling.
Leaving aside the question of how and why Australian schoolchildren should be made to feel pride in the Australian flag and anthem, students are already instilled with patriotic virtues: complete with flags, anthems and rallies. The idea that these practices need to be ‘introduced’ merely demonstrates the protest organisers’ distance from reality.
6. Ban the teaching of Islam in government schools.
This demand begs an obvious question: why do protest organisers want Australian schoolchildren to remain ignorant of one of the world’s major religions? If an understanding of Islam and other world religions is an important educational goal – and I for one think it is – then this demand is unfortunate at best and foolish at worst. Insofar as it expresses a desire to remain ignorant, however, the demand is entirely in keeping with the general political perspective of the Reclaim Australia rallies.
7. Ban the [b]urqa or any variant thereof.
The burqa is a form of Islamic dress – ‘any variant thereof’ implies a desire to render Islamic attire for Muslim women unlawful. As well as likely being contrary to Australian and international law (see : Jacqui Lambie’s attempt to ban the burqa could be unconstitutional, say legal experts, Latika Bourke, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 29, 2014), such a demand demonstrates little more than religious prejudice.
8.Ban [female genital mutilation] and introduce mandatory 10 year jail terms for perpetrators and organisers. This includes those who send girls overseas to have [female genital mutilation] carried out outside Australia. Once their jail term has been completed, their citizenship should be cancelled and they [should] be immediately deported back to the country they originated from.
Female genital mutilation is already an illegal practice in Australia, punishment for which is dealt with by the courts, not a flag-waving mob. A genuine desire to eliminate the practice would require supporting existing efforts to eradicate it – something which waving a flag in public and expressing hatred and contempt for Muslims does exactly nothing to assist. See : Female genital mutilation: Australian law, policy and practical challenges for doctors, Ben Mathews, Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.194, No.3 (February 2011).
Two further observations:
1) While the basis of the objection to female genital mutilation (FGM) is unmentioned, it presumably rests on the assumption that the practice is mandated by Islam. This is a highly questionable assumption. Two recent essays by Muslim scholars argue that FGM cannot be reconciled with Islamic teachings.
Muhammad Munir, Dissecting the claims of legitimization for the ritual of female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM), International Review of Law, Vol.3, No.2 (2014):
This work analyses the various arguments put forward by the supporters of female genital mutilation (FGM) under Islamic law to determine whether this practice has its roots in Islam, whether it is a customary or cultural tradition, or whether it is a matter of personal preference in different parts of the Muslim world where the practice exists. The findings of this work are that the arguments given in support of FGM are either not reliable, are weak or, do not order Muslims to carry out this practice. Instead, this horrific practice is rooted in customary-cum-cultural tradition or, is a matter of personal preference for some Muslims but cannot be legitimized under Islamic law.
Abdulrahim A. Rouzi, Facts and controversies on female genital mutilation and Islam, The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, Vol.18, No.1 (2013):
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a very ancient traditional and cultural ritual. Strategies and policies have been implemented to abandon this practice. However, despite commendable work, it is still prevalent, mainly in Muslim countries. FGM predates Islam. It is not mentioned in the Qur’an (the verbatim word of God in Islam). Muslim religious authorities agree that all types of mutilation, including FGM, are condemned. ‘Sensitivity’ to cultural traditions that erroneously associate FGM with Islam is misplaced. The principle of ‘do no harm’ , endorsed by Islam, supersedes cultural practices, logically eliminating FGM from receiving any Islamic religious endorsement.
2) The demand is in keeping with the protest organisers’ general ignorance and hatred of Islam. It is not inspired by a desire to eradicate FGM but rather to eliminate Muslims.
9. Stop Centrelink recognising polygamy and only recognise the first marriage for benefits.
Polygamy — the marriage of one individual to multiple partners of the opposite sex — and the obtainment of Centrelink payments on that basis is apparently a matter of critical importance to Australians. How many individuals claim payments on this basis is not specified. Certainly, if a person has information suggesting that another person is fraudulently claiming payments they’re at liberty to alert Centrelink: why a nationwide rally is required in order to achieve this goal remains unexplained, though the reasons xenophobic bigots believe it necessary to parade their hatred and ignorance in public should by now be fairly clear …
In Melbourne, a ‘Rally Against Racism’ — ‘Stand Up To Racist Scapegoating and Islamopbhoic Finger Pointing’ — has been organised to counter the planned ‘Reclaim Australia’ rally:
RALLY AGAINST RACISM – 12 noon Saturday April 4 @ Federation Square (Melbourne)
Polls show 90% of people in Australia think racial prejudice is a problem. The fear of growing Islamophobia and hostility towards refugees and immigrants was shown recently by the popularity of the hash tag #illridewithyou.
In an attempt to ride the wave of prejudice, right-wing groups are attempting to organise a racist rally in Melbourne on April 4. The organizers openly denigrate Muslims and Aboriginal people, with supporters going so far as to say they want to “eradicate Muslims” from Australia.
We want to stop them from spreading their racist ideas on the streets of Melbourne.
Join us at 12 noon (one hour earlier than the racist rally starts) on Saturday April 4 to occupy the space with a peaceful counter-demonstration. The more people who rally against racism, the harder it will be for the racists to propagate their hate!
For txt message updates text “No racism” to 0432 447 036
[Rally Against Racism on Facebook]
See also : Reclaim Australia AKA “Muslims Out!” (February 10, 2015) | Reclaim Australia & The Great Aussie Patriot : Shermon Burgess (February 2, 2015).