• Thousands of people showed up in Melbourne in support of the Muslim community. Photo: Charandev Singh (Charandev Singh)Source: Charandev Singh
An anti-racism rally held in Melbourne over the weekend condemned both major political parties for what activists say are election tactics.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

18 Mar 2019 - 5:58 PM  UPDATED 18 Mar 2019 - 5:59 PM

Thousands of people turned up to the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne the day after the horrific terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

The rally, called 'No To Racism, No To Islamophobia, No To The Right' was hosted by the community group, Stand Together Against Racism and was led by leaders of the Victorian Muslim community.

Event organiser Jasmine Ali said climate of Islamophobia had been fostered in Australia for many years by the country's politicians and it was important to recognise how those sentiments contributed to the Christchurch atrocity.

"Just to think about the last year. There was a motion in the senate that was the white supremacist slogan 'it's okay to be white' - voted for in the senate," she said.

"Earlier this year, Fraser Anning, another far-right nationalist politician in the senate, flies down to a mobilisation in St Kilda with another group of Nazis. No condemnation from the Prime Minister about that."

While many speakers used their time on stage to discuss racism in politics, others took the opportunity to drive home examples  everyday racism in the Melbourne community, especially for Muslim women.

Anam Javed from Islamic Council of Victoria told the crowd about a confrontation she had in a cafe on the morning of the demonstration.

"I have been in the city pretty much all day and I got my coffee from Melbourne Central. The barista said some really nice things and commiserated with me about the events that occurred yesterday," 

"Then this lady who was also getting a coffee felt that was the moment when she had to step in and say 'Muslims got what they deserved, finally', to my face in a public area. Such is life here in Australia for women like myself."

Between speeches, an Imam led a silent standing prayer for Muslims and non-Muslims who wanted to participate, while others formed a circle around those praying in a show of support. Many stood silently crying.

While the purpose of the rally was to call out the policies of the federal Coalition government, federal and state Labor Party supporters were also called to account by activist and Gunditjmara woman, Meriki Onus.

“I would like to remind everybody that hatred wins elections here, racist hatred. With that I would like to make a special mention to Labor. You are complicit, you do not stand for refugees, you are complicit in what has happened on Manus and Nauru. Shame,” Ms Onus said.

Ms Onus also said the federal Opposition leader and mainstream media were equally to blame for toxic nature of politics and public debate in Australia. 

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Ms Onus said the Victorian Aboriginal community is especially feeling the effects of the Christchurch massacre given Australia's history, and people were not surprised to hear the perpetrator was a radicalised white Australian.

“I felt compelled to come and talk and to show solidarity with our Muslim communities across the world, but also remind people that our fights, and our fights against racism and white supremacy – we should all stand together," Ms Onus told NITV.

She urged mob to continue to support not only the Muslim community, but all marginalised communities in Australia by showing up and speaking out against racism.

Tonight a silent vigil will be held outside the State Library of Victoria, with several other events planned throughout the week.

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