Senate stunt – the real cover up?
The sight of Pauline Hanson coming into the Senate wearing a burqa and then casting the head covering away in a flourish was headline news. Senator George Brandis’ public rebuke of this “stunt” won the applause of those on the other side of the House. It was clearly a provocative act that had more than a touch of the dramatic. And yet it should not have come as too much of a surprise!
Shortly before the last election Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party released its policy on Islam. No major party has ever done the like. It is worth the effort to become aware of what this document, easily accessible online, actually claims and portends.
The foundation for the policy lies initially in the claim that Australia is a secular country that has been “built on Christian values”. It recognises that many “migrants from all different races” have made Australia home. The case One Nation makes against Islam is filtered through the actions of “extremist Muslims who are devout to the teachings of Islam and its leaders”. There is no attempt to discern nuances and shades of competing interpretation as to what makes a “good Muslim”. There is no recognition of how many ordinary Muslims have striven to bring about social cohesion and are deeply opposed to terrorism and various forms of extremism.
The subsequent attack on Islam is made on the grounds that the “religious aspect of Islam is fraud”. It is deemed to be a “totalitarian system” that controls every aspect of personal and communal life while “masquerading as a religion”. It does not believe in democracy and has proved “seditious against every nation and government on earth”.
The One Nation policy on Islam then lists a number of statistics and trends designed to convey a deepening sense of threat to peace and our way of life. What has been cobbled together is what is sometimes called a bricolage – that is, the creation of something from a diverse range of things that just happen to be available. On the basis of such the policy concludes with the declaration that “Islam has no place in Australia if we are to live in a cohesive society”. The tone of the policy is one of scaremongering: “Do you want your children and grandchildren to be living under Sharia Law and treated as second-class citizens with no rights? We don’t.”
Hanson’s stunt in the Senate was designed to put high-profile attention on the third of a number of items One Nation would seek to enact – that is, “ban the burqa and niquab in public places”. It stands alongside a call for a Royal Commission to determine whether Islam is a religion or political ideology, a Trump-like approach to Muslim immigration and refugees, a cessation to the building of any further mosques until that commission is held and the imposition of surveillance cameras in mosques. There is a raft of other proposals.
It is into the frame of reference that the colour orange turned itself into the new black in the Senate.
Clive Pearson is a Research fellow of the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre, Charles Sturt University.