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Reclaim Australia's message of hate may be wrapped in a pretty ribbon. But it's still a message of hate.

Writer and commentator Susan Carland attempts to make sense of this weekend’s ‘Reclaim Australia’ rallies.

It’s never fun to wake up on a Saturday and find out there are numerous rallies happening across the nation against you.

Explicitly protesting against “halal tax, shariah law and Islamisation”, it’s clear who was being protested against at the Reclaim Australia rallies: Muslims in Australia.

Some rallies had a few hundred in attendance, others just a small handful. Protestors carried signs proclaiming “No more mosques” and “Abbott! No halal certification!” as well as the more confusing “ban hala” (no one is quite sure who or what “Hala” is, but probably best to ban that, too, just in case), and “You keep your burqa, I’ll keep my clitoris”.

This was puzzling because number seven of Reclaim Australia’s stated aims is to “ban the burqa or any variant thereof”. Also in attendance were people sporting swastika tattoos, despite the official Reclaim Australia website stating on their website “This will be a peaceful rally, Neo-Nazi/White Supremacist Banners/Placards will not be tolerated. This is not a supremacist rally”.

reclaim australia rallies
“It’s never fun to wake up on a Saturday and find out there are numerous rallies happening across the nation against you.” Image via Getty.

It must have been annoying for the organisers that there were people in attendance that were so off message.

Someone who appeared right on message, however, was Pastor Danny Nalliah, National President of the Rise Up Australia Party and keynote speaker at the Melbourne rally. At the Federation Square event, Pastor Nalliah told the rally (and the vocal counter-protestors) he was “not against Muslim people, but … opposed to the teachings of Islam. We love the Germans, we oppose the Nazi philosophy. We oppose communist philosophy but we love the Russians and Chinese. Likewise, we oppose Islam but we love the Muslim people.”

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On a superficial level, this may sound reasonable; they don’t have a problem with us Muslims as people – they love us! – it’s just that pesky Islam thing.

This is a rational idea only until it is held up to the slightest level of scrutiny. What is a German without Nazism? Still a German. Nazism is not what makes someone German.

But what is a Muslim without Islam? Not a Muslim.

Related content: Dear Australian Muslims: We will ride with you.

This is not an emotional shout of “Without Islam, I am nothing!” – this is basic linguistics.

Belief in Islam is what makes someone a Muslim. If you don’t believe in or follow or align yourself to Islam, that’s fine – but you’re not Muslim. In the same way that a Christian cannot be a Christian without Christianity.

And so for all the reassurances that Reclaim Australia and its supporters don’t have a problem with Muslims, it’s Islam that they have a problem with, I have to ask: if I’m not allowed any adherence or attachment to Islam, in what way can I be Muslim in this country?

I gather from the protestors that there is not even a basic understanding of what shariah comprises nor where halal certification fees go, which, given they want to ban them, would be funny if it weren’t so insidious.

Take, for example, their desire to ban halal certification because it allegedly funds terrorism. This is despite Australian halal certification boards publicly stating certification fees only go to paying staff salaries, rent, and Australian taxes, and, most ironically of all, ISIS burning truck-loads of halal-certified American chicken bound for starving Syrian refugees because they don’t want anything to do with it.

reclaim australia rallies
Protestors hope to ban halal certification because it allegedly funds terrorism. Image via Getty.
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Their desire to ban shariah law whilst claiming they have no problems with Muslims, is based either on a similarly remarkable level of ignorance, or a staggering level of dishonesty. Giving annual charity is part of shariah and a religious obligation. If shariah is banned, does that mean I, as a Muslim, cannot give that charity, meaning I have not fulfilled one of the five basic requirements of being a Muslim?

What about prayer, another one of the five practical requirements of being a Muslim? The rules governing ritual prayer, which Muslims must perform five times a day, are governed by shariah. Does this mean I would not be allowed to pray?

What about fasting in Ramadan, another religious obligation also covered by shariah laws? Banning Muslims from fasting in Ramadan is not without precedent: the Chinese government already bans numerous Uighur Muslims doing that. (I can’t tell if this is an example of the communism we hate being done by the Communist Party of China, or the Chinese people we love, following Communist party orders. Which we hate. Or is it love?). Wearing hijab is part of shariah. If you ban shariah, does that mean I cannot wear my headscarf?

Read more: “Why are we afraid to say that Muslim women are deprived of their freedom?”

In essence, what Reclaim Australia and others like it are saying is that Muslims in Australia are fine and “loved” – so long as they’re not Muslim. And thus what is missing from all of the debate around these rallies isn’t just any condemnation from our Prime Minister, but an even basic level of clarity.

The placards of some of the protestors at the rallies were not examples of a couple of confused individuals in a group of otherwise well-informed individuals: they were perfectly indicative.

It is not wrong to be confused or lacking a rudimentary level of knowledge on something; we all have areas about which we are ignorant or unsure. It is quite another to actively work to ban and destroy something, and with it, the people who adhere to it. Because, make no mistake – that is what is being done here.

You can tie your message of hate and incomprehension in the pretty ribbon of love all you like, the core is still the same.

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