The far-right group responsible for organising anti-Muslim rallies across Australia in April has splintered under the pressure of anti-racist opposition.
Following the April 4 rally in Melbourne tensions have flared inside anti-Muslim group Reclaim Australia over what to do about anti-racist activists who vastly outnumbered and disrupted their event at Federation Square.
In late May the national spokesperson of Reclaim Australia announced that he had split to form a new group with a handful of neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The departure was prompted by his decision to call a rally against Socialist Party members at Richmond Town Hall, where Socialist Party Councillor Stephen Jolly attends council meetings.
On the same day the Socialist Party, through the No Room for Racism campaign, held a forum attended by 250 people at an entirely different venue. The forum discussed uniting against Islamophobia and expanding the movement against Reclaim Australia and other racist groups.
Despite knowing the Richmond Town Hall would be closed on the day and Socialist Party members would be at a forum on the other side of town, the former-Reclaim Australia organisers insisted on holding their confused and angry rally. Only around 50 members of the far-right turned up to rally against Councillor Jolly and the Socialist Party. Meanwhile, 250 people joined an anti-fascist counter rally to confront them at the Richmond Town Hall, while a further 250 participated in the No Room for Racism forum.
This represents a significant blow to the far-right group that burst onto the scene of Australian politics earlier in 2015 by organising anti-Muslim rallies in Australia’s major cities and some regional areas. It also demonstrates the concrete results that can come from the strategy of confronting and countering racist ideas and far-right movements in their infancy.
It remains to be seen what type of mobilisations Reclaim Australia can muster for its upcoming rallies planned for July 18 and 19. Either way, the seeds of racism and Islamophobia continue to be sown by mainstream politicians and commentators.
In the same month that Reclaim Australia split, Liberal Senator Cory Bernadi launched a Senate inquiry into halal food with the support of fringe anti-halal groups. A week later Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced plans to introduce new ministerial powers to revoke the Australian citizenship of dual nationals suspected of committing acts of terrorism. No trial or conviction will be required before their citizenship is revoked.
The political scapegoating of Muslims in Australia has by no means diminished, meaning anti-Muslim groups like Reclaim Australia will continue to find a hearing. Both major parties have used racist and Islamophobic rhetoric to justify foreign invasions and to lock up refugees. No mainstream political voice has articulated a consistent and coherent anti-racist alternative.
The cycle of blaming and brutalising Muslims for societal problems will only end with a new political movement capable of redirecting people’s anger and attention to the real source of the problems we all face.
It is not Muslims who are cutting funding to education. It is not Muslims who are reducing access to public healthcare. It is not Muslims who are inflating the housing market. It is not Muslims who are causing the collapse of the manufacturing sector.
While politicians, mainstream media outlets and far-right anti-Muslim groups keep our attention on largely irrelevant issues like halal, sharia and hijabs, billions of dollars are being lost through corporate tax avoidance. With huge amounts of money at stake it’s no wonder those at top want us distracted and fighting amongst ourselves.
In a socialist society the wealth created would be used to provide high quality housing, education, healthcare and employment for all regardless of race or religion.
By Mel Gregson