Anti-Muslim groups often present local Muslims as a “threat to our way of life”. This threat is presented in three ways: the first says that Muslims want Sharia law to replace the law of the land; the second presents Muslims as a “cultural threat” for not fitting in; and the third presents Muslims as an economic threat, be that as a drain on the welfare system or as people taking Australian jobs.
The accusation of Muslims wanting Sharia law in Australia is a major themes both online and at anti-Muslim rallies. While Muslims explain they like Australian law just fine, it’s why they came here after all, the anti-Muslim activists claim the replacement of Australian law with Sharia law is a likely result if Muslim numbers rise sufficiently within the population. They say this is particularly likely if Muslims don’t “integrate” and instead remain a “cultural threat”. Integration in this sense does not mean participating in and contributing to society (as all other new communities have integrated), but rather giving up Muslim values such as eating Halal food or dressing according to ones view of religious practice.
This view of integration comes from two directions, one is overtly secular and the other is overtly Christian. Any distinctiveness, be it in dietary requirements, dress, accommodations for prayers or holidays, or not participating in mainstream holidays, which are often Christian based, is seen as part of an attack on mainstream culture. This logic comes from the UK and has been important to Australia despite making little sense in the Australian context. In Australia we celebrate many cultures and the contributions of many waves of immigration from different parts of the world.
The cultural threat argument was widely promoted by the English Defence League (EDL) and its off-shoots in other countries, such as the Australian Defence League, its offshoot Reclaim Australia, and the further splinter group the United Patriotic Front. These groups have Nazi ideology at their core and this is reflected in their messages. The EDL and its offshoots do, however, differ from other far-right groups as they have made an effort to visibly include people of different backgrounds in their membership, provided they are not Muslim. The Australian anti-Muslim activists are some of the most inclusive in the wider anti-Muslim movement. In this way they seek to gain public acceptance from those who don’t see through their facade or recognise the hate and fear mongering in their messages.
The attack on Halal food is particularly fierce. It is promoted with messages like “Muslims are urged to ‘conquer the word’ through Halal”, and “It is becoming apparent that Halal is being used as an instrument of Islamic mission (dawa), bringing the oblivious non-Muslim world increasingly under the authority of sharia law”. These arguments are nonsense.
Halal involves a process of inspecting food preparation premises and the ingredients that go into food. It ensures things like gelatine from pigs is not used. It also ensures food is less likely to be contaminated with other foods during the process of production. The certification of food as Halal opens up new markets, creates Australian jobs, and reduced the price of food here in Australia due to the economies of scale. Those wanting foods which cannot be certified as Halal can find them easily. There is nothing to stop someone putting a non-Halal spread or filling on a sandwich made of Halal certified crackers.
Moreover, as Waseem Razvi in the video below argues, it is an important source of revenue for the Australian agricultural industry. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, halal certified foods are worth up to 10 billion dollars in trade to Australia. As he further points out, halal certification industry makes the livelihood of thousands of non-Muslim Australians too. To fight it, it to put their jobs in peril.
The line between words and action can be blurred. Efforts to prevent food manufacturers having their products certified as Halal are designed to have a real impact on the ability of Muslims to live within a society. Similarly, efforts opposing the construction of Mosques and Muslim schools serve to keep Muslims away from the neighbourhood. These efforts to exclude Muslims from society and are often based on anti-Muslim hate. These efforts are coordinated through social media with supporters often coming from around the world.
The anti-Muslim hate campaigns have become a social movement powered by social media platforms. This ignorance needs to be countered with facts and public education. This video, from the anti-racism Rally in Melbourne on July 18th 2015 gives a powerful answer to those spreading ignorance and lies about Sharia law and Halal certification. The speaker in the video is Waseem Razvi, President of the Islamic Research and Education Academy. Please watch and then share this article.
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