Melbourne, Australia – Members of Australia’s Muslim community are so concerned about hate speech and Islamophobic messaging among 10 political parties, including Pauline Hanson’s far-right One Nation, they are urging people not to give them their vote when polling stations open on Saturday.
The Islamic Council of Victoria says voters should carry out their research before casting their ballots and has sent out hundreds of how-not-to-vote cards to voters, naming the 10 parties about which it is most concerned.
The Council says the parties named in its list, including Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party and the Australian Conservatives, all have anti-Muslim immigration policies.
It says it was shocked at the response, with many voters unaware of the policies behind the parties.
“In no way should you preference these people because these parties are Islamophobic,” said Adel Salman, vice president of the Islamic Council of Victoria. “They’re all about hate speech in the community.”
Some of these parties say they will regulate Australia’s mosques, ban Muslim immigration and end what they describe as the “Islamisation of Australia”.
The Australia First Party’s leaflets list abolishing multiculturalism and reducing immigration as two of their key policies. Al Jazeera requested comment from Australia First Party but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Australia’s preferential voting system gives smaller parties a voice, which allows citizens to individually rank all candidates for both houses of parliament according to their preferences.
This means micro-party votes can still be counted, even if the voter’s first choice is eliminated due to lack of numbers.
Muslims make up 2.6 percent of Australia’s population and a significant percentage in more than 30 electorates – many of them considered marginal seats.
According to a 2016 study conducted by Islamophobia Register Australia, 51.4 percent of the online harassment directed at Muslims was found to be violent in nature, enticing and encouraging violence.
The main opposition Labor Party, which is projected to form the next government, has promised to protect the Muslim community against hate speech, but has not outlined any specific policies.
The left-wing Greens, meanwhile, have pushed for new laws to stand against racism and Islamophobia as part of their election campaign.
Since a gunman killed scores of Muslims at prayer in two New Zealand mosques two months ago, Muslims in Australia say they have seen an increase in abuse and hate speech despite a pledge by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, of the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition, to “promote inclusion at all levels of Australian society”.
An Australian-born man, a self-avowed white supremacist, has been charged over the March attacks on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in the city of Christchurch.
Mehreen Faruqi, of the Greens, was the first Muslim woman elected to Australia’s Senate. She says she is shocked by the hate speech that she believes is being instigated by the smaller parties.
“I’m really concerned, and frankly scared, about the large number of political parties running almost purely on an Islamophobic platform,” she told Al Jazeera. “These parties thrive on misinformation and demonisation of Muslims, which is really toxic.”
Faruqi believes that Islamophobic behaviour has been allowed to continue for too long.
“The Muslim community has borne the brunt of this vile hate speech while politicians have quietly stood by,” she said. “The community must organise to get more politically active and hold politicians to account.”
Muslim activist Hana Assafiri believes it is Muslim women who are suffering the most from hate speech.
“Not only are there politicians who are overtly Islamphobic, but some senators are being emboldened by freedom of speech to continue their bigoted views,” she said.
She is calling on politicians to put their hands up and stand against these micro-parties.
“In the absence of leadership to condemn, it’s falling on the women in those marginalised communities, because they’re bearing the brunt of it. We’re seeing women being attacked on the streets and Muslim women don’t have another reality – this is our reality.”
Call for anti-racism campaign
In January this year, Ahima Adan, a Muslim woman, had her headscarf pulled off while on the train during an Islamophobic attack in Melbourne.
A recent Facebook post by Anning features an image of a Muslim family with the caption, “If you want a Muslim for a neighbour, just vote Labor.”
The post sparked outrage, as the people in the photograph were a Sydney family who made a public appeal for information about their 19-month-old missing daughter.
Assafiri says she is sickened by Anning’s antics. She encourages local Muslims to become more politically active and urges politicians in Australia to call out Anning’s Islamophobia.
“We want to see new laws to promote multiculturalism and a national anti-racism campaign to push back against racist ideas,” Faruqi said.
“We also know that if left unchecked, hate speech will often lead to hate crimes, which is why we want to introduce laws to stamp out hate speech in Australia.”