An Australian senator has sparked outrage by claiming that Muslim immigration is to blame for mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques that have claimed at least 49 lives.
As New Zealand reels from the emerging reports of the massacre, Fraser Anning, who sits as an independent senator for Queensland, tweeted: “Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?”
The tweet prompted a “fierce and negative response”, says New Zealand-based news site Stuff.co.nz.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
In a follow-up statement, Anning wrote that “whilst this kind of violent vigilantism can never be justified... The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place”.
He ended the incendiary statement by attacking Islam as “the religious equivalent of fascism”, adding: “Just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, that does not make them blameless.”
Three men and a woman are in custody in connection to the Christchurch shootings, at least one of whom is an Australian national.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those who condemned Anning’s remarks, calling them “disgusting”.
“Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament,” Morrison tweeted.
Anning’s inflammatory comments also drew international criticism.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “At a time for grieving and reflection, this Australian senator Fraser Anning fans the flames of violence & extremism.”
Anning was elected to the Australian Senate in 2016 as a member of the far-right One Nation party. However, shortly after his swearing-in ceremony, in November 2017, he announced that he had left the party following a fall-out with leader Pauline Hanson, and would sit as an independent.
In June 2018, he joined the newly formed Katter’s Australian Party, but was expelled just four months later for his extreme anti-immigration rhetoric, including referencing a “final solution” to the issue - echoing language used by Nazi leaders planning the Holocaust.
A proponent of “traditional family values” who opposes same-sex marriage, foreign aid and “third world immigration”, Anning is especially notorious for his virulent Islamophobic views.
“In his maiden speech to parliament, Mr Anning called for a ban on Muslim immigration and urged a return to the White Australia policy” of the 1950s and 1960s, under which non-European immigration to Australia was severely restricted, reports Sydney-based site SBS News.
The senator has said repeatedly that Islam is “incompatible” with Australian life and tweeted earlier this week that he was “totally against any Muslims in our parliament”.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.