Donald Trump is not my kind of conservative. Yet it would be foolish to ignore his appeal to many Americans.
As Republican presidential candidate, Trump has a chance of defeating his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in November.
If Trump prevails over Clinton, the US will have a president who wants to halt Muslim immigration to the US until he “can figure out what’s going on”.
In other words, the US might have a president next year whose views on Muslim immigration are not dissimilar to those expressed in Australia this week by Nine Network presenter Sonia Kruger and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.
Both women have been mocked in the media for their alleged prejudice and ignorance.
The professional way to respond to concerns raised by Kruger and Hanson is with logic and evidence. Not condescension, abuse or denial.
Yet we have seen much of the latter in recent times.
Take last Monday, for example. Kruger’s statement, since qualified, on the need to stop Muslim immigration went to air on Nine’s Today Extra show in the morning. Hanson appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program in the evening.
Both occasions provided opportunities for critics to parade their perceived morality and intelligence. But many showed their own ignorance along the way.
In the morning, at about the same time as Kruger’s views were aired, University of NSW law professor George Williams was interviewed by Virginia Trioli onABCNews Breakfast.
Williams attempted to conflate the Nice terrorist attack of the previous Friday morning (Australian time) with the apparent failed coup in Turkey over the weekend.
In fact, there is no causal connection.
According to Williams: “These (French) terrorist attacks are based upon people coming out of Syria and Iraq, and Turkey is the key thoroughfare for many of these people.”
In fact, the family of Nice mass murderer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel came to France from the Tunisian town of M’Saken. This is near Sousse, where an Islamist terrorist killed 38 tourists, mostly British, in November last year.
The Nice attack had nothing to do with Syria, Iraq or Turkey. It was the result of a murderous rage by a local Islamist.
However, Williams was correct in warning that instability in Turkey could lead to a deteriorating security situation in parts of Europe.
On ABC’s The Drum on Monday, lawyer Rabia Siddique maintained that the Nice terrorist “was not religious, was not an Islamist extremist”.
This statement has proved to be incorrect. Sure, Bouhlel was radicalised shortly before the attack. But radicalised he was.
Soon after, Siddique threw the switch to condescension. She declared: “I would be happy to speak to someone like Sonia and give her information — so that if she wants to make a comment then she is making it being well-informed and understanding all aspects.”
This is an authoritarian position that equates disagreement with error.
Similar disdain was expressed on the ABC radio’s PM program that evening when lawyer Lydia Shelly accused Kruger of not having “a very educated response” to the Nice killings. She added that asking Kruger about Muslim immigration “would be like asking Peppa Pig on her response regarding the South China Sea dispute”. Mere mockery.
Later, on Hanson faced a hostile audience when she appeared as a panellist on Q&A.
In response to a critical question concerning her call for a royal commission into Islam, Hanson defended her position by stating: “We have terrorism on the streets that we’ve never had before, we’ve had murders committed under the name of Islam.”
At this stage, presenter Tony Jones declared that he was sure “the fact checkers will be on to this”. He asserted that it was “simply not the case” to say “we’ve never had terrorism in this country before”.
In fact, Hanson did not say this — she was talking about indiscriminate attacks on randomly chosen citizens.
Jones then hit the moral equivalence button when he declared: “In the 1970s there were multiple bombings by Croatian Catholic extremists; this has happened in Australia before.”
A highly contentious comment, to be sure. In the 70s there was tension in Australia between Croatians and Serbs who came from the (then) federation of Yugoslavia. However, there is no record of anyone being killed. It’s possible that some Croatian Australians engaged in terrorist activities against Yugoslavian properties that resulted in some injuries.
But, as John Blaxland documents in his authoritative The Protest Years: The Official History of ASIO, 1963-1975, Australian security officials believed that quite a few attacks at that time were instigated by Yugoslav secret agents in an attempt to discredit local Croatians. In 1979, six men of Croatian background were jailed in Australia for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.
But there is considerable doubt about these guilty verdicts — as journalist Hamish McDonald documents in his book Framed (Fairfax Media, 2012).
In any event, no one in the Croatian community at the time said their opposition to the communist Yugoslavian regime had anything to do with Catholicism. Jones’s own comments on Q&A do not stand up to fact-checking.
There have been three terrorist murders in recent years in Australia by men identifying as Muslim, along with several serious assaults and thwarted attacks.
For terrorist murders before that, you have to go back nearly four decades ago to the killing of two Turkish diplomats in Sydney in 1980 and the bombing outside the Sydney Hilton Hotel in 1978.
It is believed that the killers of the Turkish diplomats came from overseas. In Who Bombed the Hilton? Rachel Landers makes a compelling case that the perpetrators were members of the Ananda Marga sect who targeted Indian and Sri Lankan leaders at the time.
Monday evening concluded with a tweet by ABC Radio National Sunday Extra’s Jonathan Green, who wrote: “There’s an open question whether free speech is enhanced by promoting/licensing errant, ignorant bigotry.”
This overlooks the fact there is a terrorist problem in Western societies of a kind not witnessed before and that scares many citizens.
The likes of Kruger, Hanson and Trump will not go away in response to denial, ridicule or abuse. Rational argument is the only useful way of addressing contentious matters.