That Morrison now describes Muslims he has spent eight years destroying as our “family” should arouse in us a visceral horror, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.
As family members with our New Zealand cousins, today we grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist that has taken the lives, stolen the lives, in a vicious, murderous attack, that has claimed so many New Zealanders.
THE ABOVE is an extract from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s statement on the massacre of 50 Muslims in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March 2019.
The Prime Minister’s words were regarded by commentators such as Patricia Karvelas and Craig Emerson as strong, statesmanlike and appropriate for the horrific nature of the occasion. There is little argument to be made against this view. Morrison did say exactly what needed to be said.
However, the statement also provoked vigorous expressions of outrage from many on social media — the majority pointing out Morrison’s hypocrisy on this subject. There is little argument to be made against those views either.
A brief foray into the PM's attitude to Muslims since he was Opposition immigration spokesman in 2011 reveals a man dedicated to creating fear, hatred and division in the Australian community for political gain, using perceived anti-Muslim sentiment as his weapon of choice.
At a Shadow Cabinet meeting in December 2010, Morrison urged his colleagues to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration,” “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.
In 2012, Morrison issued a press statement claiming that “diseased” waterborne asylum seekers – some of whom were Muslim – were putting the health of Australians at risk. His claims were later debunked by Immigration Department officials.
From his time in opposition to the present day, Morrison has unfailingly continued his demonisation of Muslims, particularly those who arrived here by boat seeking asylum from countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka. Those who were – and in some cases still are – held in indefinite off-shore detention on Manus and Nauru.
After the 2018 Bourke Street Melbourne attack, in which popular café owner Sisto Malaspina was murdered, the Prime Minister was fiercely critical of Muslim leaders, who he claimed were not doing enough to weed out terrorists in their midst:
In a round of interviews the PM identified the "vile presence of radical Islam” as the cause of the attack and urged community leaders to take more responsibility for alleged potential terrorists in their midst.
Morrison called on “Muslim religious communities” to increase their awareness, alertness and “proactivity”.
“Their community is the one that’s being infiltrated – and we have to say that, because it’s true, and it presents a real risk to the safety of Australia, and themselves, and their own children.
The leaders of the community need to know what’s going on in their community and there can be no excuses for looking [the other way].”
In the light of last week’s Christchurch massacre, perpetrated by a white Australian male from Northern NSW, Morrison’s comments can only be read with savage and bitter irony.
In February this year, Morrison reopened the Christmas Island Detention Centre in an effort to prevent refugees held on Manus and Nauru – many of whom are Muslim – from coming to the Australian mainland for urgent medical treatment.
In an effort to frighten Australians and create further hatred of refugees, Morrison (and his Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton) warned that the Medevac Bill could mean that those eligible for medical transfer:
“... may be a paedophile, they may be a rapist, they may be a murderer and this Bill will mean that we would just have to take them,” Morrison said.
Over a period of six months in 2018, the Morrison Government went to court eight times in efforts to prevent sick children being brought from Nauru to Australia for medical treatment. Eight times the Government lost and the children were allowed to access the medical treatment they so desperately needed. Some of these children are Muslim.
It appears that the Christchurch massacre of 50 Muslims, including small children, in their places of worship, has prompted a staggering change of heart in Morrison. Suddenly, after eight years of demonisation for political gain, Muslims are our “cousins”. They are “New Zealanders” and we are outraged and appalled at this slaughter of our family members by a home-grown Australian terrorist.
Prime Minister Morrison is going to have to explain to Australians the difference between the Muslims who are our family in New Zealand and the Muslims he attacks as “vile” and lackadaisical protectors of radical Islamic terrorists resident in our country. He is going to have to explain the difference between the Muslims who are our cousins in New Zealand and the Muslims he prohibits from receiving medical treatment on the mainland because they are “rapists", "paedophiles" and "murderers”.
We will also require an explanation of the difference between the little Muslim children his Government fought in court to deny urgent medical treatment and the little Muslim children who died at the hands of the Australian mass murderer.
Morrison’s history in federal politics is one of seamless and blatantly racist exploitation of Muslims and other waterborne asylum seekers for political gain. Yes, his statement on the Christchurch massacre was word perfect. But what we should find staggering is not its “statesmanlike” perfection but its breathtaking opportunism. Morrison’s ability to switch roles whenever the occasion demands should deeply alarm us, not fill us with admiration.
The Prime Minister is no statesman and should never be described as such. What he is is an unbridled opportunist who will cruelly and savagely exploit whatever divisions he perceives as advantageous to him, regardless of the human consequences.
That in this moment of awful loss and grief, and incomprehensible tragedy, Morrison describes Muslims he has spent eight years destroying as our “family” should arouse in us a visceral horror at the spectacle of such blatant hypocrisy from the country’s leader.
Muslims are only “family” when Morrison believes that political advantage is to be gained from describing them as such. The rest of the time Muslims are weapons employed by Scott Morrison and the Coalition Government to divide communities, incite hatred and fear, and win votes from One Nation.
Yes, his Christchurch statement was word perfect. And that should instil great unease in everyone.
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