The recent anti-Islam demonstrations around Australia made international news. While there is no doubt that racism against Muslims in general has spiked since September 11, the size of these protests – a couple of hundred people – brings into question the need for such publicity.
And yet, extreme right-wing racist groups may be as significant a threat to Australia’s security as radical Islam.
Many of these Reclaim Australia protestors find it very difficult to articulate what they stand for, or to understand the broader context of racial discrimination.
Their central claim, that Australia is in danger of being taken over by radical Islam, is without foundation in fact. It is delusion, fuelled by hate, masquerading as national pride.
Interestingly, one of the protestors was dressed up as Ned Kelly.
It is ironic in the extreme that the bushranger be summoned to the cause of racist supremacy. In the context of his time, Kelly would have been the Muslim. He would have been seen as someone who was radicalised, who wanted to upset the way of life in the young colony, an extremist with dangerous ideas.
He and his community were the outsiders who attracted suspicion because of their difference.
If Reclaim Australia had existed in Ned Kelly’s day, Ned would have been their target, not their inspiration. It is the Muslim community who should be donning Ned Kelly helmets.
After all, many Muslim Australians have felt the cold hand and the hateful stare of suspicion, simply because they are part of a community from which radicals and terrorists have emerged.
The Irish occupied that position in Australia in Ned Kelly’s day and indeed later.
Kelly was radicalised – in part – because of discrimination against his people. But he was no jihadi. His declared motivation was to fight injustice and moral corruption, not to target civilians who did not share his view.
Australia is now multicultural, whether Reclaim Australia likes it or not. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle on cultural diversity and Australia is a significantly more vibrant and interesting place because of it. The Australia they wish to reclaim no longer exists, if it ever did.
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has once again appealed to emigrants to return home to be part of Ireland’s economic recovery. Last week, he said that emigrants feared that they would be “screwed” by tax if they went back.
The Taoiseach is guilty of clouded thinking on this issue.
Last month, we sought the views of our Facebook friends about the obstacles for returning emigrants. Tax was barely mentioned. Those contemplating a move are much more concerned about services and practical issues. For example, when Ireland’s underfunded health service is held up against Australia’s universal Medicare system, Ireland tends to compare badly despite the obvious talent and dedications of Irish nurses and doctors.
But the Taoiseach also needs to be careful not to seek to speak on behalf of emigrants. The recent Global Irish Civic Forum heard that some returning emigrants feel that they are being judged for fleeing the country during the crash.
Emigrants do not need a separate tax deal to coax them back. They need practical help from government to make the transition. That help is not there right now.
Moreover, the Kenny government had the opportunity to make a real difference to the treatment of Irish citizens abroad through the constitutional convention. It failed.
Yet when Christmas, or St Patrick’s Day or an election comes around, the Taoiseach becomes suddenly preoccupied with emigration. We need actions, not more crocodile tears, Taoiseach!