Rallies and counter-rallies have been held around the country, with one man arrested as opposing groups of protesters confronted each other over issues of extremism and tolerance.
The Reclaim Australia group said its rallies on Saturday were a public response to Islamic extremism and a protest against minority groups who want to change the Australian cultural identity.
- ABC News, 5th Apr 2015
I am confused.
I am not confused about the fact that Reclaim Australia exists because humans generally do not like change and some of them also happen to be predisposed to a severe dislike of people different to them; nor am I confused about the fact that there were counter rallies held in opposition to Reclaim Australia's. What I am confused about is that anyone is surprised that organisations like Reclaim Australia exist, given the history of this nation.
Reclaim Australia (which I didn't even know existed before this weekend; even now I think is an overly glorified dog and pony show) is unashamedly Anti-Islamic. They might also be unashamedly racist if it wasn't for the fact that Islam is a religion which sweeps across many nation states, ethnic groups and racial groups. This is a fact which can not be denied, for five of nine of their bullet points in the section of their website entitled "What we are about" are specifically Anti-Islamic¹, two are daft and one is impossible to enforce.
Across Europe, in nations like Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and the like, there are groups like this and some of them have solidified into political parties which have gained representation in parliaments. I'd like to suggest that this is unique to the old world powers but groups like this exist it the United States, presumably exist in South Africa, and on the flip side, Anti-Christian policies and groups exist throughout the Islamic world. We only have to look to the twentieth century to find Anti-Jewish policies which once swept across Europe.
I could question who Reclaim Australia thinks that they are reclaiming Australia from, and or what they are reclaiming Australia from but I think that that is kind of obvious. Being Anti-Something and Anti-Someone, appears to be very much an unfortunately normal position for people throughout history.
Yet in a strange sort of way, I kind of like the fact that Reclaim Australia exists. One of their bullet points has to do with freedom of speech and I think that this goes hand in hand with the connected freedoms of religion and expression. I think that people do and should have the right to hold opinions which are vile and repugnant, provided the exercise of those opinions doesn't cause harm and injury to other people.
The right to free speech and freedom of expression has as one of its consequences, the dissemination of people's ideas and opinions. If society has the ability to evaluate and accept or reject those ideas and opinions, then this creates something akin to a marketplace for those ideas and opinions, and because ideas and opinions are free they're not even subject to the forces of supply and demand. As a result of the exercise of Reclaim Australia's right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, I can form the opinion that they are a bunch of wingnuts and won't accidentally be duped into voting for them in elections, should they form a political party and run for office.
I might disagree with Islam as a thing but I still very much believe in Islamic people's right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression as I hope that they believe in mine.
In the recent leaders' debate in the UK, which was a seven-way rumble on the run up to their General Election, I was able to make assessments about the various political parties based on what was said. Admittedly, I don't get a vote in another country's elections and watched the debate purely for entertainment purposes (yeah I know, it's weird) but the fact that you had Nigel Farage from the UK Independence Party (UKIP) being given a platform to speak, you very quickly realised that apart from one small issue, there was no real plan to organise or run a country. If Reclaim Australia does ever condense with other like minded groups in forming a political party, the fact that they have had the opportunity to speak, means that I won't vote for them because of what they have said.
I find it heartening that there was a set of counter rallies as well. Again because of people exercising their rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, there have been voices as a counterpoint to Reclaim Australia. I know that this might sound ridiculous but one of the greatest contributors to world peace over the past 70 years has been the existence of cheap air travel. I will suggest that companies like Ryanair, Air Asia, Garuda, Aerolineas Argentina etc. have done more for world peace than even the United Nations because they have flown people around the world. Once you meet different people, you start to realise that people around the world have more in common than what separates them. People's concerns about putting a roof over their heads and being adequately clothed and fed, are pretty well much universal. In that respect, the questions of from whom and what Australia needs to be reclaimed from, start to look incredibly puerile.
I also find it heartening that at counter rallies, people were reclaiming Australia from Reclaim Australia because I don't think that Reclaim Australia either represents who we are or who we should be as a nation.
¹http://www.reclaim-australia.com/ - I do not endorse this group. This is link is for you to cast your own judgement.