Hun­dreds protest Is­lamic law in Australia

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Pro­test­ers wav­ing Aus­tralian flags and car­ry­ing signs such as “Yes Australia. No Sharia” ral­lied around the coun­try on Satur­day in events or­ga­niz­ers said were against Is­lamic ex­trem­ism.

The “Re­claim Australia” events drew hun­dreds of sup­port­ers but also trig­gered counter- ral­lies from other groups who crit­i­cized them as racist and called for greater tol­er­ance.

“We are pro- Aus­tralian val­ues and anti- ex­treme Is­lam, but we’re not anti- Mus­lim,” Re­claim Australia spokes­woman Catherine Bren­nan told AFP, adding there was no racism be­hind the ral­lies, which she said had at­tracted peo­ple from di­verse back­grounds.

“Since when is it be­ing racist to love your coun­try and to love the val­ues and cul­ture that you’ve been brought up with?”

Re­claim Australia’s John Oliver told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion that the group was “not against any par­tic­u­lar race or any par­tic­u­lar reli­gion.”

“We’re against the ex­trem­ists of one par­tic­u­lar reli­gion,” he said.

“I know in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne they’ve got Mus­lims al­ready signed on to at­tend be­cause they can see what’s hap­pen­ing and they don’t like what’s hap­pen­ing.”

In Syd­ney, hun­dreds braved the rain to rally in Martin Place, near the site of a deadly siege in which a lone gun­man in­spired by the Is­lamic State group took cus­tomers and staff hostage in a cafe in De­cem­ber. Two peo­ple, and the gun­man, were killed in that in­ci­dent.

“We have an ex­treme ide­ol­ogy called Is­lam which is start­ing to gain a foothold in our so­ci­eties,” one speaker told the event, in which one per­son held a home­made sign read­ing “No Is­lam. No Sharia. No Ha­lal.”

In Mel­bourne, ten­sions be­tween com­pet­ing pro­test­ers led to scuf­fles, with po­lice on horse­back forced to form a bar­rier be­tween the groups, and paramedics treat­ing sev­eral peo­ple for in­juries.

Po­lice ar­rested three peo­ple in Mel­bourne, while a man in Ho­bart was ar­rested for as­sault and two women were re­moved for breaching the peace at the Syd­ney rally.

In Queens­land, for­mer politi­cian Pauline Han­son de­fended the ral­lies, which on its web­site Re­claim Australia said were against Sharia law and the burqa and in sup­port of gen­der equal­ity.

“We have peo­ple here to­day who stand against racism. So do I,” Han­son said.

How­ever, ri­val pro­test­ers called the Re­claim Australia ral­lies anti- Mus­lim.

“Events l ike theirs in­cite racism and vi­o­lence against Mus­lims,” Clare Fes­ter, who or­ga­nized the counter- protest in Syd­ney, said in state­ment.

“Their at­tacks on Is­lam im­ply that any­one who is a Mus­lim is vi­o­lent, sup­ports ter­ror­ism and is anti- woman. This in an at­tempt to tar­get all Mus­lims with clas­sic racist stereo­types.”

AFP

Pro­test­ers at­tend a “Re­claim Australia” rally to op­pose re­li­gious ex­trem­ism in Syd­ney on Satur­day, April 4.

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