IN MANY ways, the gatherings in Camden, on Sydney’s outskirts, opposing the construction of an Islamic school, resembled the Cronulla riots minus the booze.
When, on May 27, the council voted unanimously to reject a development application for the school, there were cries of “victory” from the racists assembled outside.
Mayor Chris Patterson claimed the rejection was made “on planning grounds alone”. Yet the racist nature of the campaign undoubtedly played a key role in determining the council’s decision.
Many local residents abhor the wave of prejudice that has swept their suburb. Chef Thiery Marillier said the decision had given Camden a bad name: “I have Muslims eating at my restaurant and they’ve been fantastic. I don’t have a problem; this decision is narrow-minded.”
A pre-Xmas rally in Camden attracted over 1000 people-and certainly not around environmental demands. Christian fundamentalist Fred Nile, whose party has been campaigning for a 10 year ban on Muslim migration, asserted to the audience that the Koran prohibits singing carols. Other rally participants included the fascist Australia First Party, the Australian Protectionist Party and the Anglo-Australian National Community Council.
More recently, it’s a more parochial bigot, Kate McCulloch, who has risen to prominence. On May 31, The Sydney Morning Herald gave her vilification of Muslim migrants front-page treatment: “the ones that come here oppress our society, they take our jobs and don’t want to accept our way of life”, she bleated.
McCulloch met Pauline Hanson when she dropped by Camden last November as part of her (failed) Senate campaign. McCulloch is now considering becoming a local candidate in 2010…in what has become a marginal seat after a 10.5 per cent swing to Labor last year.
Wearing a green and gold jacket and Akubra adorned with Australian flags, McCulloch added: “I guess (joining the) Liberals would be natural”.
During the election campaign Kevin Rudd too expressed his opposition to the Islamic school…on planning grounds! After the school’s rejection, federal Education Minister Julia Gillard expressed her support for the decision.
Labor’s eagerness to side with the racists shows its failure to break with the Howard government’s disparaging of multiculturalism.
There is a pressing need for the left to draw together all those who want to stop the spread of anti-Muslim racism, and to prevent the growth of organised racist parties like One Nation and Australia First.
By Mark Goudkamp