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24 May 2019 19:37
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  •   Home > News > International

    Federal election 2019: How-not-to-vote cards flag Islamophobic parties in 'dark' poll for Muslims

    What's it like to cast your eye over a ballot paper and see more parties than ever that exist out of opposition to who you are? Or to not see them, because you don't recognise the logo.


    In the cardboard cubicle at the polling booths, Anam Javed had no way of knowing if the person next door was voting against people who looked like her.

    But she did know that they had the option — or rather anti-Muslim options, plural — and could have been.

    The high school teacher and community advocate cast her vote early in this election.

    At the Melbourne polling booth she visited, not all the how-to-vote material being handed out was thrust her way.

    "There are a lot of volunteers outside booths who will not approach me because they know that their parties' values are against my existence here," she said.

    She is accustomed to weathering different reactions to her faith and her hijab, the most obvious sign of it.

    Only weeks ago, in line at a coffee shop the weekend of the Christchurch massacre, a woman told her that Muslims had "got what you deserved".

    "It's best to just be guarded," Anam said.

    "I've just learnt to smile, put my best foot forward, but I've also learned to understand that people don't wear their true intentions on the face or their sleeve."

    Nor is it always obvious what a political party might stand for, especially the unfamiliar names of the minor outfits, when you get into that little cardboard booth.

    The proliferation of anti-Muslim fringe parties inspired a kind of how-not-to-vote card drawn up by the My Vote Matters group, an initiative of the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV).

    Some 'wouldn't have a clue' about party policies

    It was "disturbing, but not shocking" to see the compiled list of nine "openly Islamophobic" minor parties vying for senate spots this election, said the ICV's Adel Salman.

    "This is the environment we live in," he said.

    "[But] some of these parties have quite innocuous names, so many people wouldn't have a clue what their real polices are."

    One Nation, Love Australia or Leave and Fraser Anning's Conservative National Party are joined by Katter's Australia Party and Clive Palmer's United Australia on the list.

    Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives and Australia First are included, along with the Australian Protectionist Party, which it is not currently registered.

    The Yellow Vest Australia party is also listed — until recently the group went by Australian Liberty Alliance, and it calls for a stop to the "Islamisation" of Australia.

    Anam Javed said: "Unless I knew about their agenda I wouldn't know what they stood for."

    "Or Rise Up Australia — what are they rising up against?

    "It's really become quite crucial to do your research and identify and prejudices as people go into voting."

    In Facebook comments under a post of the list, many users declared they would use it to vote for the parties named rather than avoid them.

    There is also a policy score card produced by the My Vote Matters group, which looks at the Coalition, Labor and the Greens.

    On the question of Islamophobia and hate speech, the card said the Greens' policies addressed the subject, while Labor's policies did in part and the Coalition's did not.

    Promises and policies

    After the attacks in Christchurch, Muslim groups called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to proactively address Islamophobia and white supremacy.

    But the problems have not been acknowledged in the election campaign, flashing up only briefly as successive candidates were disendorsed for previous anti-Muslim comments.

    In response to policy questions, a Coalition campaign spokesman said: "Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world and a re-elected Morrison government will continue to promote inclusion at all levels of Australian society."

    The spokesman highlighted money for mosque security upgrades, anti-extremism funding in the 2014 budget and a recently announced $71 million package for multicultural programs.

    Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor would keep fighting to protect the Racial Discrimination Act and continue to work with security agencies around violent extremism.

    Greens policy includes a national anti-racism campaign, hate crimes data collection and the creation of criminal offences for hate speech.

    For Anam Javed, "right now we're in a dark age, politically-speaking", but she can imagine what change would look like.

    "It would look like a proper agreement with the Indigenous owners of the land and not just lip service," she said.

    "It would look like acknowledging the pain that people of colour have endured for decades in this country.

    "It would just look like open and honest reflection constantly by those leaders about what has been done but what could change as well."


    ABC




    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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