Deputy leader of the Australian Greens Dr Mehreen Faruqi announced last Thursday that she’s considering raising a discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission against serial racist One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.
Hailing from Pakistan, Senator Faruqi’s decision was spurred by a response Hanson made to her tweet, in which she expressed condolences over Queen Elizabeth II, but said she could not “mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples”.
Senator Hanson, with her typical lack of decorum, tweeted in reply that Faruqi’s assertion “appalls and disgusts” her, and she added that the Greens member should pack her bags “and piss off back to Pakistan”.
And while the expression “piss off” is mild when it comes to offensive language in this country, when the term is employed as part of the phrase “piss off back to where you came from”, or the variation Hanson used, it’s just about the most offensive statement that can be said to a migrant.
Faruqi further outlined that the Greens will be moving to censure the One Nation leader when parliament resumes on the 26th. And while these moves are to be celebrated, they do beg the question as to why Pauline has for years had such free range in her racist antics and politicking.
Hate speech isn’t free speech
“I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I’ve been told to go back to where I come from,” Faruqi said in her opinion piece in Junkee last week. “Everyone who looks like me has copped it at one point or another, but I can tell you the hurt and sorrow you feel hearing it never lessens.”
The senator then goes on to explain that when a politician, like Hanson, makes such a comment, it opens the flood gates for other racists to express similar hate speech. So, Faruqi has spent the last week copping a barrage of racial abuse and statements that border on threats.
The complaints Senator Faruqi will raise involve the assertion that in making the racially discriminatory statements, Hanson has created an unsafe workplace.
And the Greens deputy leader underscores that this needs to be addressed for the entire community, especially for migrants of colour.
Faruqi also set out in her article that most media outlets that have reported on Hanson’s tweet framed its content as a rebuttal to the point the Greens member made about the Queen, rather than the “direct anti-migrant attack on a colleague” that it was.
“Unfortunately, it’s all too common that any contribution I make on important public debate… is met with attacks, not on my ideas, but on who I am,” the senator continued. “People feel entitled to demand my silence because I am a non-white migrant.”
Building genuine multiculturalism
As Dr Faruqi expressed, she’s no stranger to racist attacks. In her August 2018 maiden speech to federal parliament, the senator raised the issue of online hate speech, which she’s had to deal with on a constant basis since she entered Australian politics in 2013.
This speech was given after then Senator Fraser Anning gave his “final solution” speech, in which he called for Muslim immigration to end. And Faruqi added that “in addition to their old habit of racist dog-whistling”, politicians “are now comfortable outright fanning the flames of racial conflict”.
“We have a situation where politicians instead of showing leadership for all Australians are amplifying and even encouraging hate speech,” Faruqi told Sydney Criminal Lawyers the month following. “It may be a convenient political strategy, but it has real world consequences for people.”
Indeed, Faruqi’s political career is a triumph within an arena that has long been the domain of rich white men. And on her appointment as a NSW MLC, she became the first Muslim woman to enter any Australian parliament, whilst she’s also the first Muslim woman to have become a senator.
So, as divisive politicians, like Hanson, try to propagate the myth of a past white Australia the nation should return to, Faruqi is forging new paths for a multicultural constituency, via policies such as her Building an Anti-Racist and Genuinely Multicultural Australia that she released in March.
A racial terrorist
Hanson has based her career on making controversial racist statements that serve to garner the votes of a small minority of white Australians, who somehow believe the continent is theirs to “reclaim”, despite it having been stolen from multiple non-white First Nations.
During the One Nation leader’s 1996 maiden speech in the federal lower house, she warned of an “Asian invasion” in this country, and in her first speech in the Senate in 2016, she claimed the nation was “in danger of being swamped by Muslims”.
The politician has also made blatantly racist remarks about First Nations people in the press going back as far as the mid-90s, whilst she’s also been a vocal supporter of white supremacist groups, like Reclaim Australia, and last year’s Freedom movement, which was riddled with racial overtones.
The Queensland senator recently stormed out of parliament, complaining the Acknowledgment of Country shouldn’t be a part of proceedings, which had echoes of the time she appeared in the Senate wearing a burqa to make some racially-motivated comment about parliamentary security.
The time for discussion is now
Faruqi was correct in her remarks about the death of the Queen. Elizabeth Windsor was the head of “a racist empire” that became extremely wealthy via the subjugation, dispossession, and genocide upon multiple peoples around the globe, whose poverty now is a direct result of the colonial project.
The senator has also repeatedly pointed out that First Nations people are served the worst of the racism in this country, and as her tweet points out, current events have highlighted the need for treaty-making and reparations, along with a severing of ties, so this nation becomes a republic.
“While the White Australia Policy was officially dismantled some decades ago. Its legacy is ongoing, and racism is widespread,” Senator Faruqi told SCL in March.
“Australia has a real racism blind spot and for too long decisionmakers have chosen to pretend that we don’t have a problem and people who highlight the impact and the existence of racism are attacked, marginalised and labelled divisive.”