The text below has been developed to counter the arguments of Reclaim Australia. Please share as widely as possible and feel free to copy and modify the text for any or all kinds of publication. Unless you are a racist: then you should just read it and have a big long think.
So you want to Reclaim Australia?
The very fact that these protests are called ‘Reclaim Australia’ would seem to suggest that it has been lost, that someone or something else has the power and control in Australian society, not the population at large. And that would be right. When it gets down to it the vast majority of us have very little say in how this country functions and what direction it should take.
We get it. The world seems crazy. The so-called “War on Terror” has been going for about a decade and a half and violence is spreading to more and more places. More and more people face their lives being threatened either by suicide bombers or drones firing missiles. It’s insane.
We get it. Life in Australia is very prosperous (relatively) but it is also increasingly unequal and precarious. Much of our consumption is facilitated by debt, jobs are insecure, unemployment is rising and the mining boom is fizzling out. The future looks bleak.
Yet when we looked at Reclaim Australia’s 9 point demands they seemed pretty silly and ridiculous. They seemed to boil down to trying to get the government to try to make people more patriotic and also to restrict the freedom of people who are Muslims.
But can you make people love their country more by having the government tell them to do so? And do you want to live in a society where the government has more power to control what and how people believe in or have more power to determine what they wear?
We think the only answer, the only way to try to make life more liveable, is to try to make a society in Australia that is free, equal and just.
Blaming ‘Islam’ is just looking in the wrong direction…. And a bit racist…
‘How can it be racist? Islam isn’t a race’.
In the old days racism seemed pretty simple. It held that humanity could be divided into clear races determined by biology. Genetics were used to explain everything and different countries installed formal legal restrictions to either keep people of ‘other races’ out or separated. It was all bullshit of course.
Today modern racism has shifted from biology to culture or religion. It says a group of people can be explained as having the same kinds of behaviour, to be the same type of human, due to having a shared culture or religion. It’s just the same as old racism but instead of looking at skin colour you look to see how long people grow their beards or if they wear headscarves. It reduces the infinite complexity of humanity into clear and simple categories and declares certain groups, in this case Muslims, as being a despised other. And let us get real. Those targeted by this bigotry are often those new to the country or on the bottom of social hierarchies and who are trying the hardest to make a decent life for themselves.
So yes Islam isn’t a race, but this is the new racism.
Why blaming Islam is stupid
Why is the world so crazy? What threatens us? The Reclaim Australia organisers give us all a simple answer: Islam. There are bad things writing in the Qur’an and since this is Islam’s holy book this is how we can understand what’s going on.
If you read anti-Islamic social media you soon realise a lot of it is nonsense and made up paranoia (like the recent plane crash in France being due to the co-pilot converting to Islam. It isn’t and he didn’t). But even if you take the idea seriously it is still stupid.
There are certainly reactionary, and violent, Islamic organisations in the world that we are opposed to. Every religion has elements and practices that can be horrible.
But the violence of ISIS or Al-Qaeda (for example) can only be understood by grasping the mix of influences that created them: the long legacies of colonialism and the Cold War, the interests of corrupt leaders in the Middle East, the impact on people of undergoing decades of war, the hollowing out of societies due to terrible economic policies as well as terrible ideas. In short these groups are the products of the lack of justice in the world, and this injustice has many complex causes, which reactionary politics plays into. It is only by creating a just world that we can free our selves of all this old muck – including violence and bigotry whatever religion it clothes itself in.
So too the problems of the world, the problems of Australian society are complex. They too are a product of history, of contemporary economics, of war and imbalances of power. They too are due to a lack of justice.
#BanningtheBurqa – or giving the police the right to tell you what to wear
Who should determine what you should wear? Well probably just you. Of course we are all subjected to various social pressures – some voices telling us to cover up, some telling us to strip off. Yet the ideal would be that as much as possible we decide how we dress and appear in public.
The demand to ban the burqa is essential saying that the government should have more power to decide what we can wear. Not only that the government should decided how we express our faith.
Now we are atheists but we believe in religious freedom. How someone expresses their faith is up to them; what they want to wear is up to them. It’s no one else’s business. Banning the burqa would be a slippery slope to giving the government more power over all of us whatever our religion or none.
We are all in this together
Things in Australia are about to get worse. The prosperity of the last 20 years was based on a mining boom that is over, the global economy is in a long stagnation, the world’s ecology in a perilous state, and there are plenty of threats of violence on the horizon.
No politician or media talking head can save us. We are going to have to do it ourselves. This means we have to work together whatever our faith or beliefs to try to develop a society with dignity and justice. Opposing racism new and old is part of building this just society. Our differences are important. But when groups like Reclaim Australia seek to blame Islam for society’s woes they are undermining the bonds of solidarity we need in our workplaces, communities and lives to build a free society with justice and dignity where we can live lives worth living.
Friends of a Borderless World