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Pauline's peddling the hate again

Rachel Woodlock |  15 September 2016


I'm not writing this for Pauline Hanson. Peddling anti-immigration and anti-Muslim views are her schtick, and she does it well enough to be elected to the Senate 20 years after her first go in federal parliament and some pretty thorough Labor and Liberal campaigns to neutralise her as an opponent.

Pauline Hanson in ParliamentShe's not going to change what works so well for her politically, truth be damned (although I am sure she absolutely believes what she says).

Nor am I writing it for her most avid supporters, like the Party for Freedom members who frightened the wits out of some Gosford Anglican churchgoers in August, after storming their service dressed up as scary Muslim foreigners complete with prayer-mats and Arabic prayers blasting from a loudspeaker. Theirs is a wilful hatred and ignorance unamenable to rational argument.

Instead, I am writing this for ordinary Australians. The ones who probably don't know any Muslims; despite Hanson's alarmist prophecy of Islam's follower's 'swamping' Australia, they are only two per cent of the population.

So, this is my message to you, as an Australian Muslim, albeit one who actually did go back to where she came from (well ... my great-great-grandparents at any rate), that bastion of Islamicity: Ireland. Muslims are not scary bogeymen, they are normal people trying to get on with their lives despite being the subject of intense media and political speculation every time something horrible happens overseas.

Like everyone else, they want to make a few bucks and provide something better for their kids. Most are not intensely religious — Fethi Mansouri from Deakin University did one of the few surveys of religiosity and found Muslims have about the same levels as other Aussies — and even the ones that are, generally use their faith as a source to help them be better Australian citizens. I should know, I spent years gaining a doctorate through studying Australian Muslims and what they think about living in the sunburnt country.

But perhaps the most dangerous part of Hanson's tirade is not her call to ban halal certification, burqas or building new mosques and schools. It is not her ludicrous insinuation that sick Aussies can't get healthcare partly because of polygamous Muslims having too many children. Nor is it her invoking the tired old anti-Lebanese cliché of no-go areas and crime rackets, nor the totally discredited idea that we are behind bans on Christmas carols and hospital Bibles.

All of these have been debunked in the past, and a quick Google Scholar search will provide page upon page of links to genuine research conducted by actual social scientists with factual evidence to support the relatively positive state of the Australian Muslim community despite the levels of prejudice and discrimination they face in their everyday lives as well as in gaining access to employment and housing, and a fair suck of the sauce bottle in media representation.


"There is an ongoing battle over who gets to speak on Islam's behalf, and Hanson has served up a big dish of legitimacy to the small minority of extremists, by speaking as if theirs were the only Islam game in town."


The most egregious part of Hanson's speech this week is how she talks about Islam. 'Islam sees itself as a theocracy,' she said, as if Islam were a real, live person walking about muttering 'down with democracy'. Whether you believe God is behind it or not, Islam has to be interpreted by human beings to become an actual lived experience.

There is no Islam we can lock up in jail for being a nasty-pasty anti-freedom and ham-sandwich-hating demagogue. Instead, there is an ongoing battle over who gets to speak on its behalf, and Pauline Hanson has just served up a big dish of legitimacy to the small minority of fundamentalist extremists, by speaking as if theirs were the only Islam game in town.

Yes, there are a few nutcases who don't believe in democracy and who hate Australian society, Ibrahim Siddiq Colon and Rabiah Hutchinson spring to mind, neither of them immigrants, by the way, but they are few and far between and their views are given hugely disproportionate media attention. Invisible to Hanson and her ilk are the hundreds of thousands of Aussies whose understanding of Islam allows them to enjoy and promote the separation of religion and state, live happily and peacefully alongside their non-Muslim neighbours, and have no long-term plans to impose their beliefs on anyone. Why should anyone delegitimise their Islam? Pauline Hanson may do it for the votes, but if we listen to her and follow her suggestions, we run the risk of destroying the very social cohesion she mistakenly thinks is threatened by multiculturalism. Unlike Hanson, I say long live the kaleidoscope that is modern-day Australian diversity: it's great mate!


Rachel WoodlockDr Rachel Woodlock is an expat Australian academic and writer living in Ireland.



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Submitted comments

My late father had friends back in the twenties who were Muslim. As I child I loved going to their home for the warm welcome and fine hospitality they showed us. Religion was never an issue and I only thought about when I attended their funerals at the Mosque. The fifth generation of that family continues to contribute quietly to our way of life.

Lou Carkeet 16 September 2016

Please, please help this article go viral. Thank you Rachel

Glenys North 19 September 2016

When I watch her face and listen to her talking I can't help but wonder what things have happened to her in the past which cause her to behave in the way she does today. After reading her personal revelations in the Wikipedia article I thought what a powerful person she would be to have working for positive goals in the community instead of focusing on the negativity which currently surrounds her and seems to attract some people. At least she is providing a vent for the expression of the fear, hate, and anger which exists within our community, the extent of which I suspect many, like me, had not realised existed.

Paddy Byers 19 September 2016

Rachel, thanks for your wise words backed up by research and not just emotions. Who would have thought that this way of thinking about our world might actually lead to a respectful conversation!

Timothy Collier 19 September 2016

Dr Woodlock correctly arts that Hanson legitimises that which she seeks to oppose...Islamism. But her Party's numbers in the Senate legitimize her opinions. Her influence via her voting bloc will grow. One Nation is now a true political force and must be opposed. The future looks grim.

HarryWho 19 September 2016

Wonderful article. Hating races should not give a person the privilege of a parliamentary wage.

marlene 19 September 2016

A great article, Rachel. Tragically not going to be seen by many who believe Hanson's diatribes. Would that the Murdoch tabloids throughout Australia would re-publish!

Ian Fraser 19 September 2016

I wish Dr Woodlock's words will receive as much publicity as Pauline's. Rachael's words are truth. Pauline's words will take our great diverse culture back 50 years of difficulty worked through issues to be the country everyone would love to live in. It's a great place mate alright

Frances Scurfield 19 September 2016

I enjoyed reading your article and agree with your assessment on Hanson.

john o'callaghan 19 September 2016

Rachel Woodlock has put this well - Pauline Hanson gives an advantage to the minority of violent extremists among Muslims, by speaking as if they represent a majority.

Rodney Wetherell 19 September 2016

Love this article - so true, so compassionate - and so funny. Would love you to debate Hanson face to face and have you take all the hate winds out of her sails. Perhaps then she could use her position as Senator to unify rather than destroy, help rather than hinder.

Annabel 19 September 2016

The mind-set of Pauline Hanson and her supporters is like that of babies who love what they bonded to, and reject everything else. But progress is usually made when cultures clash, and find a new synthesis. Failure to adapt leads to stagnation and death. Both sides need to adapt, of course, and not stay stuck in old out-dated traditions that are no longer relevant.

Robert Liddy 19 September 2016

This giving of support to extremist interpretations of the sectarian minority by Hanson gives oxygen to those who peddle hate and prejudice, be they self-proclaimed "Muslims" or self-identifying "Patriots." She threatens social cohesion in this country which has become, despite so much opposition, an inclusive democracy. She threatens our way of life.

Bilal Cleland 19 September 2016

Seems like a hate Pauline Hanson column to me. Sadly no balance or looking at the real problems. (No, I'm not a fan of PH but that's beside the point.)

Jane 19 September 2016

Although I do not agree with Ms Hanson on much of her agenda, I think that there may be legitimate concerns with the Wahabi sect and the literal way it and other groups may interpret the Koran and focus on apocalyptic verses and prophecies which may reinforce an antagonistic approach to other religions ideologies.There needs to be a way of addressing legitimate concerns about interpretations in Islam without everyone being labelled a racism who may raise this issue. That being said it should be in the context of highligting what a great contribution the muslim community is making and how the majority of muslims have a balanced approach to interpretation of their texts especially the sufis who see the place of the internal struggle with the infidel of our carnal desires and not an outward struggle with infidels, see Rumi's poems. Anooshe Mustaq a counter-terrorism expert has outlined this as a problem with integrating some muslims. Christianity and Judaism also have apocalyptic texts but as far as Catholicism goes, literal interpretation is not promoted in education and there have been Vatican pronouncements to warn against literalistic interpretations of the gospel.

Rosanne 19 September 2016

Francis Armstrong - interesting list of characteristics of what you term Islam, but are more accurately perhaps the tenets of the extreme Wahabist or even more extreme Salafist sects (or things found on 'hate halal' websites). Have you also noticed that if you replaced the word "Islam" with the word "Fascist" in your list, you have a more than accurate description of the general mindset and obsessions of Fascist regimes too, certainly of the Nazis. It is not for nothing that the jihadist extremists - who cannot be taken as representative of mainstream Islam - are often termed "Islamic Fascists". Come to think of it, most of the attitudes you describe probably also apply more than incidentally to many extremist right wing or neo-fascist ideas suddenly finding legitimacy in Australia and the West right now. Perhaps both of these apparent extremes of generally poor education mixed with a good dose of monomania are demonstrating that hoary old saying, "It takes one to know one."

PaulM 19 September 2016

Nice article and enjoy Ireland Rachel. However there is a fatal flaw in the arguing and many of the comments. It goes like this: "we are reasonable and rational and reason ought carry the day". Many or most religious, bigoted, sectarian and like arguments are not based on reason not able to be managed by reason. These matters are prejudices, pre-judgments in the mid brain not the reasoning section of the mind. Many of the sentiments above are fine, but they are no more solutions than water is a solvent for oil. We need to understand more about the irrational, the arrational and the effects of belief on behaviour. These are matters of symbolism, of the arts, of culture and matters of the heart. They also require leadership and symbolic events at a high level. Hanson is not interested in logic any more than are sellers of Lourdes water. We ought to know that and be more investigative about how to manage her and followers. Ultimately we have freedom of speech and freedom of belief. We need to be better educated in what is beyond reason.

Michael D. Breen 19 September 2016

At present, it is the media (sadly) giving Pauline Hanson the oxygen to expound her vitriol. It is time the media cut of the oxygen supply to her, once and for all time.

Terry Hannan 20 September 2016

I could not agree more, Rachel, with many of your comments. Having worked with a number of Muslims in Australia and lived in a suburb with many Muslims, a mosque and school. There were small points of friction with society and the law but nothing major. The problem arises with the Saudi dominance over many mosques and the resulting strict observance demanded of the flock. If Australian society is characterised as dissolute and depraved by the imam then a tendancy to stick together becomes isolationist and good ground for the minority of radical Muslims to dominate -- with result obvious in Paris, Brussels and London. It seems to me that this is more of a problem in Europe than in Oz, but the only antidote is full assimilation into society and Australia is good at that. Good Bye, Best Wishes John.

John Lewis 21 September 2016

Speaking of "Muslims" as an entity is like speaking of '"Aborigines" as an entity, disregarding the fact that they are made up of many and varied languages and cultural influences.

Rose Marie Crowe 21 September 2016

great article. thank you Dr. Woodlock. What a boring country Australia would be without its cultural diversity

sylvia palmer 23 September 2016

Thank you, your article was a good read. I'm glad you (and other Muslims) aren't getting beaten down by the idiocy that is Hanson's racism. I want you to know that many non-Muslims, like me, also walk the streets, knowing full well the bull of all the radicalised claims against Islam. Stay Strong. <3

Kim 24 September 2016

I unreservedly concur with your depiction of Ms Hanson, Dr Woodlock, but as a denizen for nearly two decades of my life in a country with a substantial Islamic minority (India), I have found it peculiarly susceptible to many of the religious prejudices and appeals that were employed by Ulster Unionists to make political life implacably difficult for Irish Catholics. Indeed, as a Political Catholicism scholar and academic, it is hard not to be drawn into making comparisons between the more powerful and influential aspects of Islam (as opposed, say, to William Dalrymple's famously mellower Sufism) and the more extreme and intemperate expressions of Calvinism that have plagued the world for over three hundred years. Even in East Africa, which lacks a significant Irish presence, the zealotry of Muslims has been compared with that of the more fervent and exclusive Voortrekkers and their descendents. One might reasonably speculate, given the tendency of Sufism and other sects to be brutally obliterated at the hands of other more intemperate Muslims, what the chances are for the emergence of a new and more modern Q'uranic tradition, ready and willing to take on the established orthodox order, particularly in defence of women and gays?

Dr Michael Furtado 03 October 2016

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