Hanson Faces Backlash Over ‘Divisive’ Maiden Speech
15 September 2016 at 4:56 pm
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has come under fire for the “crude, divisive, ill-informed Islamophobic rhetoric” that formed part of her maiden speech to the Australian Senate.
Muslim leaders and politicians have united to reject Hanson’s call for a ban on immigration and her claim Australia was “at risk of being swamped by Muslims”.
Echoing fears aired in her 1996 address about multiculturalism, she claimed in the Senate on Wednesday that Australians were “fearful” and cited, without evidence, that organised crime rates were higher among Muslim populations.
“Islam cannot have a significant presence in Australia if we are to live in an open, secular and cohesive society,” Hanson said.
“We have seen the destruction that it is causing around the world. If we do not make changes now, there will be no hope in the future. Have no doubt that we will be living under sharia law and treated as second-class citizens with second-class rights if we keep heading down the path with the attitude, ‘She’ll be right, mate.’”
The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Keysar Trad, said the speech displayed ignorance about Islam and he commended the prime minister for “showing leadership and a positive direction for Australian society in rejecting Hanson’s divisive rhetoric”.
“In her maiden speech in the Senate, Pauline Hanson made wild allegations and grossly exaggerated generalisations against Islam and Australian Muslims,” Trad said.
“Her words were ill-informed, hurtful, divisive and create tremendous concern for Muslim Australians and Australian society.
“Ms Hanson’s comments confound the dictates of the conscience of every decent Australian, such comments are divisive, harmful to Australian society and embarrassing to our senate and our nation.”
Her comments sparked members of the Greens to walk out less than halfway through the speech.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale later tweeted: “Racism has no place in parliament but that is what we have just heard from Senator Hanson. I stand with those people hurt by her words.”
However former prime minister John Howard told ABC TV Hanson was entitled to be treated in a respectful fashion by the rest of parliament.
“In relation to Pauline Hanson, the mistake that was made 20 years ago of trying to demonise her and demonise her supporters should not be repeated,” Howard said.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the ABC that Hanson had “rightly taken her seat in the Senate” and was entitled to her views.
“I disagree with many of them, as would other Australians,” Bishop said.
“But one of the strengths of this country is that we do believe in freedom of speech, we believe in open debate and the opportunity to debate dissenting voices.”
Australian Multicultural Foundation executive director Dr B (Hass) Dellal AO told Pro Bono Australia News that politicians should provide solutions and not “just give general rhetoric”.
“I’m not going to attack her [Hanson], she has been appointed to parliament as a senator and you have got to respect that,” Dellal said.
“But I think at the same time we need to understand that elected politicians should lead and should provide solutions, and I’m not hearing any solutions, all I’ve heard really is a mirror speech of 1996 replacing Aborigines and Asians for Muslims… but no solutions.”
Dellal said politicians should focus on preserving social cohesion.
“Australia has always been a draw card for those with imagination and the capacity to work hard, seize opportunities and build something new,” he said.
“Generations of migrants from all over the world have come here to create a better future for themselves and their children.
“So Australia’s future prosperity will depend on its ability to maintain social cohesion while significantly increasing population through immigration intakes.
“That is obviously going to involve a greater level of managing and understanding of cultural diversity than ever before and in the interest of the nation… so the question we should be looking at is how do we actually… preserve social cohesion and how do we strengthen that. Because social cohesion comes under threat when there are increasing levels of fear and misunderstandings within the community and divisions and that’s what you don’t want and I think this is what we are hearing in some of this rhetoric.”
He said the Australian multicultural experience was a reality.
“Of course we have challenges, but I don’t believe it will be at the demise of our society because the Australian multicultural experience is a reality, that’s a fact, it is not a vision, much less an ideology or creed, it describes societies like Australia, as they are, and as they are destined to be,” he said.
“It is the institution of Australian democracy that enables that diversity in our society to flourish. It’s important to highlight it is being built on evolving values of Australian democracy and citizenship… these are the sorts of things that our leaders should be talking about.
“What you want is politicians working together and if there are issues we need to ensure that there is an understanding that there are challenges and issues and we need to resolve it.
“You don’t want to create divisions within our political leadership as well as divisions within our community.
“It is easy to make these sorts of remarks that are emotional or emotive, because all that does is create animosity… it is important to ensure you are representing the views of all Australians, it is important that you don’t tarnish everyone with the same brush.”
Dellal highlighted that the Australian Muslim Community was not homogenous.
“It is so diverse,” he said.
“It is close to 30 to 40 different nationalities and ethnic groups, all with different levels of religiosity and… that is never translated or actually seen in our media or in our public discussion. That diversity within the Australian muslim community is never properly acknowledged because if you were able to understand that then you would see how people have integrated and their roles in terms of Australian Muslims and the role they play as law abiding citizens.
“So you need to demonstrate all that so you take away the fears, because with the challenges there is also so many good things, that in fact outweighs the negative, by 100 to one.
“It’s really important that we understand that diversity has enriched all our lives, we can all agree to that, but it also pushes each and everyone of us to accept a different reality from our own and that’s the challenge.
“We need good leadership around that so that people can understand that by creating fear or misunderstanding or fear of the unknown, creates further barriers, you need to break down those barriers.
“If you are arguing the fact that you want people to integrate, then if you remove those barriers then people will integrate but if you create barriers of fear they also are fearful of integrating because they don’t know how they are going to be responded to.”