Australia, Where Standing Up To Racism Ensures You'll Endure An Eternity Of Racism


It’s the kind imagery and language we’re told to expect from Islamic State.

“Leave now before we behead your mother and bury you all with pigs,” one person wrote.

“Your [sic]next whore,” posted another, with an image of a decapitated pig attached.

These were two of the messages recently tweeted at human rights activist Mariam Veiszadeh, a 30-year-old Australian of Afghani heritage who has endured a barrage of abuse since being singled out by racist group The Australian Defence League earlier in the year.

“We’re coming to deport you tonight pig fucker,” another tweet said. “Leave our country now or we bury you with the pigs.”

This is the treatment you can expect to endure in Australia if you have the audacity to be a Muslim woman with an online presence who speaks out against racism.

Veiszadeh is a well-known community advocate, a lawyer by training who serves as an ambassador to refugee group Welcome To Australia and runs the Islamophobia Register Australia, which records assaults and abuse of Muslims.

In 2014, Veiszadeh started the viral Women in Solidarity With Hijabis (WISH) campaign, which aimed to draw attention to the physical and verbal harassment many Australian Muslim women suffer.

In her efforts to expose and fight racism, she has made herself a kind of bigot’s focal point.

As her prominence has grown, and her social media campaigns have taken off, the targeting of Veiszadeh has intensified.

In a recent incident that has resulted in legal proceedings, a young woman allegedly accessed Veiszadeh’s personal facbeook page and left a series of racist comments.

Veiszadeh’s crime had been publicly objecting to a Queensland Woolworths store selling singlets decorated with the Australian flag and the slogan “If you don’t love it, leave”.

Any Australian could immediately identify the racial undertones of that catchcry, but Veiszadeh was nonetheless hammered for expressing her outrage.

The attacks on her prove that those who claim to object to the extreme iterations of Islam – including the treatment of women – in fact find nothing more infuriating than a successful, well educated Muslim woman, who immediately began contributing after being accepted as a refugee (Veiszadeh’s family fled Kabul in 1988, eventually settling in Australia in 1991).

While the tone of the threats against her have been harrowing, Veiszadeh has also found significant backing, with Australians of varying background expressing their disgust at her treatment.

That support stepped up on Monday, as Veiszadeh encouraged her twitter follower to report three accounts sending her threats.



And they did. Lot’s of them.



But not before #IStandWithMariam got trending, drawing a response from at least two Federal MPs.



On the same day that the Liberal member for Reid tweeted his support for a Muslim anti-bigot, Prime Minister Tony Abbott alarmed Muslim groups (again) by singling their communities out (again), sacrificing their public safety and standing in the eyes of other Australians in an attempt to appease the Gods of Good Polling.



The Prime Minister may not be a man greatly moved by the world of ‘electronic graffiti’, but Veiszadeh appeared genuinely thankful for the support.



You wouldn’t be hard pressed to find ironies in the PM’s latest act of dog-whistling (or, as Junkee called it ‘dog-airhorning’) but one is particularly striking when thinking about Veiszadeh in particular.

The government’s turn against Muslims seeks to build legitimacy on the assumption that they are a hostile outsider group in Australia, prone to ignoring domestic law and custom, and the civil rights of fellow citizens.

But the end goal of these insinuations has been to allow the passage of legislation that eats away at civil rights, due legal process, and privacy. Even if you’re a good little bigot living in the nation’s whitest suburb, the government could still soon be sifting through years of your phone and internet data, sans warrant.

Veiszadeh is trying to yell over the dog-whistling, but as a lawyer she’s also a symbol of the kinds of processes, procedures, and checks on executive power that the Abbott government has consistently pushed against.

It’s Veiszadeh who acts within and respects Australian law, not the supposed patriots who go after her, or the government that subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) gives a nod to their racism.



Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.