Australian Muslims seek political voice

Many Australian Muslims hope to secure their community a political voice when they stand for election next Saturday in Australia's most populous New South Wales state.

Australian Muslims seek political voice

Australia's300,000-strong Muslim community believes that racism and Islamaphobia must befought at the ballot box.

"One of the reasons we stepped forward is to confront racism head on andto confront Islamaphobia head on," said Kaysar Trad, spokesman for Sydney's IslamicFriendship Association.

"We owe it to this nation to stand up to racists and make a positivepolitical stand," Trad told Reuters.

Like any other Western state, a wave of discrimination and Islamophobia emergedin Australia following theSeptember 11 attacks on the United States.

The Iraq war and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistanalso inflamed tensions between Australia'smainly Sunni Muslim community and the rest of the country.

During the election campaign, Christian Democrat leader Reverend Fred Nilecalled for a 10-year ban on Muslim immigrants to give priority to Christiansfleeing persecution. He also urged the government to carry out a study toexamine the effects of Muslim immigration.

Among the Muslim candidates is former Guantanamodetainee Mamdouh Habib, who admits that he his chances of winning in theelection to the New South Walesparliament are slim.

However, Habib campaigns emotionally against the Iraq war and for democracy.

"Why do we send people to war. People do not know the truth. Some one hasto watch what the government is doing and I believe I can do that," Habibtold supporters in Sydney.

Habib, who was released from Guantanamo inJanuary 2005 without charge, is contesting the seat of Auburnin southwestern Sydney,an area with a large Muslim community, along with Muslim converts Silma Ihramand Malikeh Michaels. A fourth Muslim is a candidate in a neighboring seat.

None of the Muslim candidates represent major political parties; they areeither independents or stand for minor parties.

"The major parties seem to be caught up too much in Islamaphobia and theyseem to be too frightened to run a Muslim," said Trad.

"They are indirectly saying they have an Islamaphobic, racistconstituency, and we want to prove them wrong. We want to prove to them thatthe people of Australiaare not as racist as the politicians think they are," he added.

Silma Ihram, who will run for the small Democrat party, says minorities in Australiastruggle to gain a political voice.

"The many struggles that I have had to endure on behalf of an Australianminority and the difficulty I have found in obtaining a worthwhile politicalhearing has colored my attitude to politics," Ihram said.

Even if none of the Muslim candidates win Saturday's elections, the candidateshope that more Muslims will participate in the national election expected laterin 2007.

"It is in the hands of God, it is in the hands of the public. If we do notwin this one, we will go to the federal (election), no big deal," saysHabib.

It's worth mentioning that Australia'sMuslim leaders are working on establishing a political party which willrepresent the country's Muslims but wouldn't exclude people of other faiths.

Unfortunately, the party isn't expected to be established in time for the nextnational election.

"We've been trying to encourage as many Muslims as possible to take anactive interest in politics," Trad said. "It's not necessarilysomething that will result in a member of parliament in the short term. It maytake a number of elections."


Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16