The Sydney Morning Herald and the dirty politics of the religious right
No story about the 2004 Federal election more clearly illustrates the
reactionary role played by the religious right than the Muslim-baiting
of Ed Husic, Labors candidate for the seat of Greenway in Sydneys
On 27 October Eric Roozendaal, a member of NSW Parliaments upper
house managed to bring out some of the facts in an adjournment debate.
He pointed out that, on the night before the election, a bogus ALP brochure
saying Ed Husic is a devout Muslim. Ed is working hard to get
a better deal for Islam was distributed in Greenway.
Husic had been the victim of a vicious and well-orchestrated attack
on his religion and ethnicity, Roozendaal said. He didnt
say who had produced the brochure, but he told Parliament that the direct
beneficiary had been Louise Markus, the Liberal Candidate. Markus is
a member of the Pentecostal Hillsong Church, which is also behind the
fundamentalist Christian Family First Party.
The Sydney Morning Herald also played a role in this seedy business
through its celebrity journalist, Paul Sheehan, long the sly voice of
the far right. On 27 September Sheehan set the tone by gratuitously
raising the issue of Husics religious background.
As far as I can deduce, while every story about the Greenway contest
has mentioned that his Liberal opponent is a member of the Hillsong
Church, the largest evangelical congregation in the country, Husic believes
there is something sinister about discussing his religious practices.
Why? Because his parents, Hasib and Hasiba, are Muslims who emigrated
from the former Yugoslavia. I am not a practising Muslim,
he told The Blacktown City Sun [but] I can't dishonour my parents
by disavowing their religion, Sheehan wrote.
Sinister? Just the opposite. Its utterly reasonable and completely
honourable that Husic didnt discuss his religious background,
because he followed the tested principle that a persons religion
(or the lack of it) has no business in politics. Of course, if youre
from the conservative Christian right, sectarianism is the essence of
what youre on about, so you advertise your religious affiliations
to gain votes.
On 17 October last year the Herald, in an editorial titled Carrs
dangerous game with race, condemned the Premiers anti-Lebanese
demagoguery, but it seemed to this possum a tad hypocritical that the
newspaper of record editorialises against the Premier when
one of their senior journalists has repeatedly, and with exquisite timing,
played both the race card and the anti-Muslim card.
Speaking on ABC radio during the Tampa affair (shortly before the last
Federal election) Sheehan cited the Bankstown rape crisis the
work of a small gang of criminals unrepresentative of their community
as a reason why Australia should turn away Middle Eastern asylum
seekers. In his Herald column (5 September 2001) he opined that Muslims
had been brought to Australia with barely a shred of consultation
or consent, implying that an acceptable religion should be a criterion
for eligibility to migrate here. He also lashed Arab and Lebanese Australians
for being the least cost-effective of migrants.
It was Sheehan too, who lauded the fundamentalist Christian madness
suffusing the US crusade in Iraq when, in June this year, he wrote Stripped
down to its basics, beneath all the rhetoric, we are witnessing a religious
war, the one foreshadowed by
Samuel Huntington. He also
approvingly quoted a chaplain blessing a company of US Marines before
their assault on Falluja:
Today is Palm Sunday. The day of Jesus triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, where he broke the bounds of hell. Tonight commences your
triumphal entry into Falluja
This is a spiritual battle, and
you Marines are the tools of mercy.
(Far from a triumphal entry, Resistance fighters ejected the Marines
from the city, but not before 600 civilians had died, mostly from US
airstrikes. Such are the tools of mercy. It should also be noted that
Samuel Huntington, author of the Neo-con bible, The Clash of Civilisations,
now opines that Mexican Catholics pose the greatest threat to US democracy).
Sheehan is a slick operator. He tacks and weaves constantly, at one
moment attacking secularism or multiculturalism, on another claiming
to be in favour of them. Mostly he advances his agenda by claiming he
is only voicing what an oppressed right-thinking majority are thinking
an old and tried technique of demagogues.
The editors of the Herald might argue that the newspaper of record
must print Sheehan because he represents some strand of Australian opinion,
but that is a fake-democratic argument and a moral evasion. They have
no obligation to provide a platform for sectarianism and political atavism.
AND SEE ALSO ...
to the drums of madness
Good Christian boys and girls abusing Iraqi POWs ... John Howard's God
Squad lashing out at secularism ... our hero ponders the religious right's
march to madness.