Victoria’s peak Muslim body has slammed the federal government for remaining silent on nationwide anti-Islam protests over the weekend.
Speaking to Fairfax, Islamic Council of Victoria president Ghaith Krayem said he was disappointed the government had not condemned the “racist and bigoted attack on Muslims”.
On Saturday, supporters of the Reclaim Australia group — a small number of whom sported Nazi insignia — rallied across the country to oppose ‘sharia law, halal tax and Islamisation’.
Violence erupted at some of these rallies when Reclaim clashed with anti-racism groups who had organised a counter-protest.
“The commonwealth has been quick to call on our community and leaders to speak out against extremism and hate preaching, yet when these are directed at us they have remained silent,” Mr Krayem said.
“We expect the government to speak out strongly against these co-ordinated rallies.”
Mr Krayem said elected leaders had a responsibility in “setting an example of what Australian values are really about”.
Speaking on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night, Liberal backbencher Kelly O’Dwyer agreed extreme beliefs had to be challenged.
“Australians and very tolerant and embrace multiculturalism in this country, but I think there are extreme elements in our community, both on the far right and the far left,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
“In society, you should attack people’s ideas, not attack people,” she said.
Labor Party rising star Ed Husic, who is a Muslim, said the extremists do not represent the majority of Australians, just as terrorists do not represent his faith.
“Reclaim Australia does not represent the great things I see in the broader community, and the way in which people get on,” Mr Husic said.
“They are just trying to find a platform and a way for fear to feed off fear.
“I’m not prepared to give them any more platform than they deserve.”
Now is not the time to doubt our fellow Australians, the Labor backbencher said.
“The biggest danger for us is not the fear itself, but starting to doubt the people you are with and their love of the country.”
Greek musician Nana Mouskouri, who served in the EU parliament in the 1990s, said she has seen racism first hand in the form of the Golden Dawn party.
Golden Dawn, headed by a self-professed racist, now has 17 seats in the Greek parliament, which the singer agreed was frightening.
When asked by host Tony Jones if parties like Golden Dawn can be reasoned with, Ms Mouskouri disagreed.
“But the problem is people have voted and they are in the Parliament, and they have to find a reason why this was created.
“Our problem like everyone is to have friends, not enemies, this is what is important, and maybe we have to direct them.”
Left-wing commentator Van Badham said there was extremist elements in Australia, which she witnessed first-hand after attending the rally.
“We, like any country, have an extremist element on the very far right,” she said.
“I will not stand for neo-Nazism.
“We should all be unambiguous in our condemnation of it.”
In the end, all we have is our common humanity – though slightly lowered after Reclaim Australia #QandA
— Thomas Campbell (@TomCampbell92) April 6, 2015