New Zealand terror attack

Australia gets tough on anti-Muslim rhetoric

A young man threw an egg at Queensland Senator Fraser Anning at a press conference in Moorabbin, Melbourne yesterday. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison looking at tributes to the Christchurch attack victims during a visit to the Lakemba Mosque
A young man threw an egg at Queensland Senator Fraser Anning at a press conference in Moorabbin, Melbourne yesterday. PHOTO: ABCNEWS/TWITTER
A young man threw an egg at Queensland Senator Fraser Anning at a press conference in Moorabbin, Melbourne yesterday. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison looking at tributes to the Christchurch attack victims during a visit to the Lakemba Mosque
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison looking at tributes to the Christchurch attack victims during a visit to the Lakemba Mosque yesterday.PHOTO: DPA

CANBERRA • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the government will censure a senator over his Islamophobic comments about the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Queensland Senator Fraser Anning, a far-right independent politician, tweeted last Friday: "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?"

"I wonder if there will be as much outrage from the left wing when the next Muslim terrorist attack occurs? Most likely silence and talk about 'lone wolf attacks, mental illness and no connection to Islam'," he added.

The remarks were yesterday rebuked by Singapore Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Facebook. "The senator's statement is sickening. It is completely unacceptable. And he issued it when people are grieving," he said, adding that "our prayers are with the victims and their families".

Mr Morrison said yesterday his coalition government and the opposition Labor party had discussed a bipartisan motion when Parliament returns next month.

"I would normally not want to give this any oxygen, but I want to absolutely and completely denounce the statements made by Senator Anning... in his attack on Islamic faith specifically," the Prime Minister said. 

"These comments are appalling and they're ugly and they have no place in Australia. He should be, frankly, ashamed of himself," said Mr Morrison, who is an evangelical Christian, after visiting Sydney's Lakemba Mosque.

 
 

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull also called Mr Anning's comments "contemptible".

"He is a disgrace to the Senate and, what is worse, by spreading hatred and turning Australians against each other, he is doing exactly what the terrorists want."

Both major parties can go no further than censuring Mr Anning as he is an independent. But amid the controversy, an unidentified young man threw an egg at Mr Anning during a press conference in Melbourne, prompting the senator to hit him in the face repeatedly before being stopped.

Australia is grappling with the New Zealand shooter being its citizen, given how far-right groups have been active in Australia for decades.

Some experts say that anti-Muslim rhetoric has now been normalised by mainstream right-wing news outlets, many of which are owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

In recent years, far-right political parties such as Ms Pauline Hanson's One Nation have gained newfound political relevance by pivoting to the issue of Muslim immigration from the Middle East and South Asia.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Australia's first female Muslim senator, blamed Ms Hanson and Mr Anning for normalising language used to target Muslims.

"This is not random. This is the consequence of the Islamophobic and racist hate," Dr Faruqi wrote last Friday in a message on Twitter.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 17, 2019, with the headline 'Australia gets tough on anti-Muslim rhetoric'. Print Edition | Subscribe