The shooting in Orlando should have brought condemnation of homophobia. In Australia, our leaders turned it into an attack on Islam. Hayden Dalziel explains.
Last night Prime-Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke out on the attack in Orlando, stating among other things that:
“… We cannot be complacent, there are people outside our country – and some within it – who hate the freedoms we enjoy, and would seek to threaten them and undermine them with violence. And I know that I speak for all Australians when I say that we stand in solidarity with the people of the United States as they stand up to this terrorist, violent, hate-filled attack. And as we stand up too, whether it is in the skies above Syria and Iraq, in Afghanistan or on our borders.”
A lot has come to light in the time since then. We now know that the assault rifle used to kill 50 innocent primarily Queer Latina people was bought legally, and that the killer passed a full background check.
We know that his friends and family have repeatedly stated that he was not a religious man, and that the attack was more likely the result of his extreme homophobia. This is in spite of constant media reports that he was a Salafi Jihadist.
We know that he abused his ex-wife. We know that he wanted to join the police.
What has never come to light is any apparent link to Australian border security or military interventionism. Why then was it our Prime Minister’s first response to make a statement full of anti-ISIL and anti-refugee rhetoric, when the only apparent link is the killer’s ethnicity?
Why was societal Queerphobia left unexamined, when surely that would be the most obvious motivation for an attack on a Queer nightclub?
I speak now as someone who is openly Queer and gender-nonconforming: the grief that Queer people are feeling is being used as a justification for war.
Fear, anger and confusion are being used to bolster support for policies such as Australia’s continued interventionism in the Middle-East and national refugee policy.
It is easy to dismiss this by saying the PM didn’t know the full facts at the time, but it is telling that when the only given fact was the shooter’s ethnicity, Turnbull immediately mentioned any aspect of Australian foreign or immigration policy with a narrative of racialised conflict.
Why then, now that more facts have come to light, hasn’t the statement been retracted, or even denounced as a political blunder?
Perhaps it’s because it wasn’t a blunder at all. For a PM who supports same-sex marriage and made an open condemnation of Australian Islamophobia shortly after taking office, it is easy to forget that he and his party still gain significant political capital from hard-line conservative stances on racialised and sexualised issues.
Coalition voters are still under the spell of hard-line conservative MPs in the Liberal party who racialise issues by initiating Senate Inquiries into halal certification, or draw on tired old ‘illiterate eastern outsider’ tropes to bolster their border security strongman image.
Turnbull will always cave in to their demands, no matter how much he sells himself as the softer alternative to Abbott.
The worst aspect of Turnbull subtly stoking the fire of Islamophobic sentiment is the sheer hypocrisy of such a man continuing to sell himself as a Queer-friendly Liberal.
While he gains political capital from Queer deaths, he continues to allow Queer asylum seekers (many of them Muslims) to languish in offshore concentration camps, and it was Turnbull who caved in to conservative pressure to gut the Safe Schools program – one of the few ways the federal government actively combatted anti-Queer violence.
To watch as the man denounces anti-Queer violence while actively working against efforts to curb it domestically is sickening.
Our PM is trying to turn Queerphobia into Islamophobia. He does this knowing that he’s caved to homophobic conservatives at every turn here in Australia.
He does this knowing that Queer Muslims are languishing in concentration camps he supports.
He does this knowing that one deeply homophobic man with a legally-owned gun in the US has nothing to do with our military interventionism, and everything to do with the Queerphobia still dominant in western liberal democracies.
We mustn’t let him redirect people’s anger and confusion. That anger should be directed at the people who propagate hate from above.