Labor MP Anne Aly has received a deluge of death threats after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton criticised Lebanese Muslim immigration to Australia in the 1970s.
Labor MP Anne Aly, Australia’s first ever female Muslim parliamentarian, has been the target of death threats following Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s comments implying Australian Lebanese Muslims are mostly responsible for acts of terrorism.
"The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background," Mr Dutton said during question time on Monday.
The 2011 Census recorded more than 76,000 Lebanese-born people living in Australia.
Egyptian-born Dr Aly’s Facebook page has since been targeted by people making threats of violence and death, prompting an Australian Federal Police investigation.
She has also received numerous threatening emails, one of which her office shared with SBS News.
But Dr Aly told SBS News the threats did not faze her, especially because of the protection she was afforded as a member of parliament.
She said she was more concerned about members of the public who were not provided with the same level of security she was granted.
For instance, Dr Aly said she had recently heard of a woman in a Melbourne shopping centre who was approached by a man who said he would “put a bullet to her head”.
She said racist and threatening comments seemed to escalate after events such as Mr Dutton's rhetoric and the election of US president-elect Donald Trump.
"I've never understood racism, I've never understood hatred, I've never understood why some people have such vermin and vitriolic hatred against someone they don’t know," she said.
Dr Aly lambasted Mr Dutton over his views: "When this sort of commentary comes unchecked and unchallenged, I'm worried."
But she also expressed disappointment in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who did not condemn Mr Dutton when given the opportunity on Tuesday.
During a press conference, a journalist asked Mr Turnbull: "Do you support your minister’s comments about Lebanese Muslim immigration in the 70s?"
"There is no question that there are lessons to be learned from previous immigration policies," Mr Turnbull said.
Throughout 2016, Mr Turnbull's has emphasised Australia’s success was due to its multicultural fabric.
In March, he said Australia was better placed than European countries to deal with terrorism "because of the strength and intelligence and security agencies, our secure borders and our successful multicultural society, one that manage to be both secure and free".
At a UN summit in New York in September, Mr Turnbull touted the country's multicultural policies.
"Diversity is an investment against marginalisation and extremism,” he said.
"It helps our community unite rather than be divided."
Dr Aly said Mr Turnbull needed to censure Mr Dutton's comments.
"Peter Dutton saying it is one thing, but having a Prime Minister, a leader of this country who distances himself from [the Australian Lebanese Muslim community], to slap them down…to have a leadership that refuses to do anything principled about it is just as disgraceful as the comments themselves," she said.
In parliament on Wednesday, Mr Turnbull said Australia should avoid stigmatising people in the effort to counter extremism.
"But that does not mean we should be blind to extremist behavior," he said.
Dr Aly said she believed tolerance and unity could be nurtured by holding a moderate world view.
"We need to hold the centre," she said.
"We have to keep focusing on the positives, we are a vibrant society, let's be vigilant, let's hold the centre, we cannot afford to let Australia go to any form of the extremes."
She said people needed to look after each other.
"We do that by spreading equality of wealth, we do that by ensuring that equal rights are spread equally," Dr Aly said.
"And this is not just about minority racial or ethnic groups or people with migrant heritages, this is also about people who live in outer suburbs, who have less access to wealth, infrastructure and other services."