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Speech: The Christchurch Attacks

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 1 Sep 2020

On 15 March last year the lives of Muslims across the world changed forever. Our worst fears were realised as an Australian man walked into two mosques and massacred dozens of Muslims at Friday prayers. It was horrific, devastating, and it was completely and unspeakably tragic. At the sentencing hearing of the Christchurch terrorist last week, the court heard testimonies from the families of the targets. Aden Ibrahim Dirye provided a statement about his three-year-old son Ibrahim, who was killed. He said, 'I don't know you. I never hurt you, your father, mother and any of your friends. Rather, I am the type of person who would help you and your family with anything.' Sara Qasem spoke about her beloved father, Abdelfattah, who was killed. She said: 'I want to hear him tell me more about the olive trees in Palestine. I want to hear his voice, my dad's voice, my baba's voice.'

Listening to these statements rips your heart apart. The attack was psychopathic but it was also political and ideological. It was an act of a white supremacist terrorist, an act of white supremacist terrorism inflicted on a community that had watched the increasing fervour of a particular populist strain of right-wing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism that had percolated for many years and had resulted in acts of terrorism and violent deadly hate overseas. Further, it had been indulged and platformed in Australia, crossing into mainstream politics and political commentary.

On Thursday the Prime Minister made a statement in the House about the massacre following the sentencing of the shooter. He correctly labelled what happened in Christchurch as a terrible terrorist atrocity and said that justice had been delivered. This of course was welcome, but Mr Morrison also said that all Australians were and remain horrified and devastated by this despicable terrorist act. I wish this were the case but, sadly, it is demonstrably untrue. Eighteen months on from the massacre, we should face up to the fact that some Australians were not at all horrified or devastated by what happened in Christchurch. Let's start in this chamber. One former senator had the utter shamelessness to blame Muslim immigration for Christchurch, calling it the real cause of bloodshed—hardly horrified and devastated. Look further afield, and any cursory glance at online commentary on mainstream news sites following the massacre in March last year would reveal a similar truth—that not everyone was unhappy that the massacre happened.

We owe it to the targets of Christchurch and their families to acknowledge that not enough is being done to face up to this brutal reality. I am one of only a handful of Muslims in this parliament and I am the only Muslim in this chamber. My demands are simple: I ask for honesty, I ask for self-reflection and I ask for action. I fear that we have learned very little from the events of last March. Last Friday at the National Press Club, the day after the sentencing, Minister Tudge gave a wide-ranging speech about social cohesion in Australia and, aside from a reference to the danger of echo chambers, he had only this to say about political extremism: 'There are other challenges to our cohesion that remain, such as Islamic extremism and other forms of extremism and radicalisation.' Let's consider this for one moment. The day following the Christchurch sentencing, when an Australian white supremacist was sentenced to life without parole for the cold-blooded massacre of 51 Muslims, the minister could not even name far-right or white supremacist violence as a challenge we face.

This government must properly acknowledge the existential threat of far-right and white-supremacist extremism to Muslims and other communities of colour. We need self-reflection, we need accountability and we need to complete this task with the seriousness it deserves. Otherwise, I fear that it will not be too long before I have to get up in this chamber to reflect upon another day that the lives of Muslims were changed forever.

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