As young muslims, we feel our concerns are unrepresented by major parties at election time
The upcoming federal election on May 21 is a critical moment for young Muslims to reflect on whether our political representatives have thoroughly engaged with the needs of our community and if any plans have been developed to address those needs.
In our opinion, the Muslim community is not adequately represented by the two major parties in the 2022 federal election.
For decades Muslim communities have not had their concerns appropriately acknowledged within Australian politics. The needs and interests of Australian Muslims are by no means homogenous, but there are certain issues—refugees, migration and asylum seekers, healthcare in western Sydney and the Palestinian cause—that are prioritised by a substantial number of Muslims yet effectively ignored or minimised by major parties.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech at the Parramatta Eid prayers disingenuously declared his appreciation for the Muslim community and our contribution to multiculturalism in Australia. Unfortunately for him, young Muslims have not forgotten the allegations that exposed Morrison’s suggestion in 2011 that anti-Muslim sentiment should be exploited to win the election. Nor are we prepared to ignore recent reports that Morrison used anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry in Cronulla to win a preselection fight against Michael Towke.
Attending Eid prayers—whether Liberal or Labor—and giving scripted speeches does not change the fact that refugee and asylum seeker policies of both major parties promise to continue maintaining offshore processing, mandatory detention and turning back boats of people seeking refuge and asylum.
The Liberal Party has promised that if elected it will accept an additional 16,500 refugees from Afghanistan, but when an older Afghan lady approached Morrison at the Parramatta Eid prayers expressing fear for her children’s safety in Afghanistan, he simply repeated that promise before palming the woman off onto Parramatta Liberal candidate Maria Kovacic. This ignores the reality that so far, no more than 1000 visas have been granted from an application pile of 10,000.
In the final televised debate between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese on Channel 7 both men referred to low wage health care workers as ‘heroes of the pandemic’ who deserved ‘more than our thanks’. In July 2021, when a hard lockdown was instigated by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on residents living in Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool local government areas, exceptions were made for emergency services and healthcare workers from these areas to attend work.
That exception was an implicit admission of the power of the Western Sydney workforce, especially in the health sector. Young health care workers were expected to keep showing up to work (and saving people’s lives) whilst simultaneously subject to being labelled as belonging to the ‘area (read: people) of concern’. Indeed, the demonisation and hyper surveillance of people of colour during the Western Sydney COVID-19 lockdown was a reminder that the State and wider Sydney has always problematised Western Sydney. Instead of nurses, doctors and public health workers helping communities, we saw police officers and the ADF become the front line of a public health crisis.
The health and wellbeing of unwell residents was put on the backburner in favour of prioritising the policing of communities of colour in Sydney’s West. With allegations of inequitable distribution of Pfizer vaccines to affluent suburbs and nearly 60 per cent of people who died during the NSW Delta wave residing in the south-western or western Sydney local health districts, the politics of health is one of the most important topics for young Muslim communities.
Finally, major parties have failed on the question of Palestine time and time again. This is certainly not a Muslim-only issue but it is something that the community cares about greatly, as demonstrated by the strong Muslim presence at protests for Palestine in May 2021 and the continuous reference to the occupation of Palestine during recent Ramadan and Eid prayers.
During the election campaign and the month of Ramadan, while our politicians were planning their visits to Eid prayers, al-Aqsa, the third holiest mosque in Islam, was under siege and protesters were being terrorised by the Israeli security forces. Male Palestinians under the age of 50 are heavily restricted in their ability to enter the mosque.
From politicians who talk a great deal about freedom of religion, there was no condemnation of this violence and no expression of solidarity with its victims. Instead, fresh from their Eid photo ops, both Albanese and Morrison declared their unwavering solidarity and friendship to Israel, the occupying power. This brazenly repudiates and mocks the interests of Muslim people in Australia.
It is time for this performative and inadequate approach to dealing with the Muslim community to end. To the Liberal and Labor parties we say: Muslims are equal citizens and constituents in the eyes of the law. If you want our votes, take our concerns seriously and provide us with more than just a grip and a grin on religious holidays.