Candles are placed to commemorate victims of Friday’s shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: AP Photo
Candles are placed to commemorate victims of Friday’s shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: AP Photo

We don’t have the right to spread hatred

VIEWS that incite violence and hatred towards Muslims should not be protected under the banner of free speech.

Such speech is divisive, dangerous and deadly as the New Zealand massacre of 50 people has shown.

While hatred exists as a powerful force in our democracy and a motivation for evil acts, we must continue to denounce hate speech in all of its forms.

We should not be protecting the rights of murderers, bigots and racists, but calling them out for expressing views that have violence as an inevitable consequence.

Senator Fraser Anning may say "the real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program that allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place".

But the real cause was the political views of alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant, who wanted to "crush immigration and deport those invaders living on our soil".

Candles are placed to commemorate victims of Friday’s shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: AP Photo
Candles are placed to commemorate victims of Friday’s shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: AP Photo

Tarrant is part of a growing number of non-Muslim extremists who perpetrate violence in the name of alt-Right ideology, including the killing of 11 people at a synagogue in Pennsylvania in 2018 by neo-Nazi Robert Bowers.

Almost all of the 50 deaths due to terrorist attacks in 2018 in the United States and 950 attacks in Germany in 2017 have been linked to Right-wing extremism targeting Islamics.

I am not suggesting we stop reasoned, informed debate about the negative aspects of Islam. The focus needs to be on shutting down racist, anti-Islamic hate speech which views all Muslims as an explicit threat to the Australian way of life.

Tarrant is not a lone wolf. His views are supported by a growing number of groups opposed to climate change, Aboriginal land rights, multiculturalism, gender equality, Muslim faith and ethnic diversity.

A sophisticated online presence, strong internal links and political allies in the major parties have given groups like the United Patriots Front, Antipodean Resistance, Reclaim Australia and the Australian Defence League a strong voice.

Politicians like Pauline Hanson and George Christensen have spoken at Reclaim Australia rallies, preaching against the spread of Islam. The Australia First Party also wants to limit immigration to white Europeans and end multiculturalism; the Australian Liberty Alliance wants to "stop the Islamisation of Australia".

Of great concern is the growing legitimacy given to such views. The alt-Right movement has long had a place in Australian politics but in recent years, its violent voices have reached the mainstream.

High-profile visits from alt-Right figures such as Lauren Southern and former leader of the United Patriots Front, Blair Cottrell, have further fuelled such divisive rhetoric.

Cottrell staged a mock beheading with his far-Right nationalist pals to protest against a mosque being built in Bendigo.

There is also controversial alt-Right figure Milo Yiannopoulos, who has labelled Islam as "fundamentally incompatible with the West" and as a "barbaric, alien" culture. Thankfully, the government banned him from visiting at this time.

United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell addresses a far-Right nationalist rally earlier this month. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell addresses a far-Right nationalist rally earlier this month. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Ideological support has come from Coalition figures demonising African gangs and calling for race-based migration. The Greens are wrong: such views aren't as bad as those expressed by Anning, but they have helped foster a sense of immigrants being "others".

Let's also remember that 23 members of the Coalition supported Pauline Hanson's "It's OK to be white" motion in federal parliament.

Such support feeds the growing sense that racist, violent groups are expressing sensible views. But there is nothing legitimate about those who rely on extremism to advocate violence. The New Guard, whose followers are self-described fascists, posted this on Facebook after the massacre: "Whether the attack was a false flag, or whether it inspires followers, time will tell.

"Remember their sacrifice, but never forget why it happened."

Similarly, the Australian Liberty Alliance said the massacre showed that "everyone can see what Islam does to Moslems (sic) and everyone else around the world".

And Reclaim Australia followers posted that it was "only a matter of time before people were going to have enough and fight back". One supporter wrote: "I can see more of this happening unless our governments start treating their own citizens with the dignity they deserve."

While the rest of us were uniting in grief and condemnation, these groups were sympathising with Tarrant's deadly views and foreshadowing more attacks.

It's time for our political leaders to stand up and denounce these views in the strongest possible terms. Asserting the equal right of these groups to spread their hatred of immigrants serves to legitimise their deadly views.

Free speech is not a right but a privilege which should not be granted to those who spew deadly hatred and excuse violence.



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