Creeping racism

The mass murder of 50 innocent men, women and children at the hands of a radicalised gunman in two Christchurch mosques last Friday has shocked people to the core.
It is a tragedy which has deeply affected many, both in NZ and in Australia – the home of the alleged perpetrator.
The wider finger pointing has already begun, with white supremacists, neo-Nazi extremists, the media and even political leaders all sharing some of the blame.
While it is believed only one man pulled the trigger, the casual racism that can creep unseen into the minds of ordinary people needs to be identified at a moment like this.
A climate of fear of Muslims has steadily been brewing in Australia.
We have been actively at war with Muslim extremists for the best part of 20 years and the political demonisation of Islam has, for most of that time, been both subtle and sustained.
Labeling people “illegal immigrants” when they are lawfully seeking asylum, or political leaders questioning whether Muslims should be allowed to settle in Australia, or the race card being played at election time are all markers of this demonisation.
While the national condemnation of Federal Senator Fraser Anning’s attack on people of Muslim faith has been swift and severe, many of us fail to see that the angst and division has been steadily and insidiously building under the guise of political debate over “border security” and “population control”.
People such as Senator Anning who peddle hate speech hide behind the right to freedom of speech.
This is disingenuous and should be called out for what it is.
But sometimes the messages from other leaders are subtle enough to trickle through society with the resulting ‘quiet racism’ taking root in all but the most alert of minds.
The result is that people of the targeted ethnicity or faith are marginalised, isolated and made to feel unwelcome.
We have lost the art of respectfully disagreeing with each other and compassion and empathy have been drowned out by the baying cries of the political extremes.
In the wake of this latest tragedy let us all take a moment to reflect and identify what we can change within ourselves to ensure our country remains a rich, multicultural society from which we can all benefit.

For the full report, see the print issue of The Courier.