Anzac Day is commemorated with increasing fervour each year on April 25th in Australia. It is something Muslims should not actively or passively partake in – a matter that becomes clear when one studies the reality of this commemoration and the history it celebrates.

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in which Australian forces suffered huge casualties. The campaign took place in 1915 during the First World War and was part of the Allied attempt to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula en route to take Constantinople, the capital of the Uthmani Khilafah (Ottoman Caliphate) at the time. The Allied assault was a major failure in which around 40,000 allied soldiers lost their lives, including about 8,700 Australian soldiers.

From this arises the concept of the ‘Anzac spirit’, celebrated on Anzac Day, which suggests that the Australian soldiers who fought at Gallipoli exhibited positive qualities of endurance, courage, humour, egalitarianism, ingenuity and mateship, and these are said to also constitute the ‘national character’ of Australia.

The Australian Government has already started preparing for the Anzac centenary in 2015, designing a logo for it which, in its words, is “designed to encapsulate the unique qualities that forged the spirit of Anzac and gave birth to our national identity: courage, mateship, sacrifice, generosity, freedom, and a fair go for all…[and it] honours all the men and women who have served our nation in uniform over the past one hundred years.”

This is the narrative.

In truth, one only need study the treatment of minorities in Australia, its indigenous people in particular, or the treatment of asylum seekers, to see the truth about claims of freedom and fair go for all.

Further, the ‘Anzac spirit’ is more mythology than history. It ignores indiscretions by the ANZAC soldiers such as burning the belongings of locals in Egypt, brawling, getting drunk and rioting, and contracting venereal diseases due to time spent in local brothels. It ignores the fact that Australian troops were merely used as fodder for British imperial designs. It sanitizes all the bad to surgically create a mythological legend worthy of celebration.

The result is that instead of learning from past mistakes, they are repeated again and again. Australian soldiers are used for the exploitative agendas of foreign powers, as we saw most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as they were in WWI, under the same spurious pretext of “fighting for our freedom”, as if one’s freedom is predicated on the oppression of others.

For us, as Muslims, nationalism is a prohibited matter, whether it be Australian nationalism or Turkish, American or Egyptian. By extension, so too are nationalistic celebrations.

Further, from the Muslim perspective, the Gallipoli campaign represents an aggression by allied troops against the legitimate Islamic authority of the time, the Uthmani Khilafah. If we were to commemorate anything, it would be the successful defence of Muslim territories by the Muslim soldiers of the Khilafah.

In fact, Australia’s role in the Gallipoli campaign finds its broader context in Australia’s, albeit insignificant relative to Britain and France, contribution to the destruction of the Khilafah, manifest in Australia attacking and colonising Muslim lands. In August 1914 Australian troops were sent first to Egypt. After four and a half months of training near Cairo, they departed by ship for the Gallipoli peninsula. In fact it was in Cairo that the ANZAC acronym was devised by Major General William Birdwood’s staff in early 1915.

In the latter part of the war, Australian troops in the Middle East fought a mobile war against the Uthmani Khilafah. In 1916 they partook in the fight for the Suez Canal and the allied conquest of the Sinai Peninsula. In 1917 Australian troops advanced into Palestine, partaking in the capture of Gaza and Jerusalem. By 1918 they had played there part in occupying Lebanon and Syria.

This is the history we are being asked to adopt, nay to celebrate, as our own. This is the history that is being adopted in various Islamic schools, in the post 9/11 world, as students are made to take part in Anzac Day commemorations such as observing one-minute silence and being taught about the great feats of the Anzacs. We need to challenge and resist this. We have a history of our own, linked to the Islamic worldview and the struggles and achievements of our predecessors.

It should not be said here that the commemoration is not about the campaign per se but about the bravery and sacrifice of the Australian soldiers. Separating the alleged attributes the soldiers exhibited from the context of the fighting is disingenuous. Will we be commemorating the ‘bravery’ of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq a few years down the track, once the Australian Government decides to do so?

Indeed, those Muslims who justify partaking in Anzac Day activities by one excuse or another should be prepared to accept their children and grandchildren doing the same for commemorations of the feats of Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan!

The truth is that Australia, as a former British colony in the past, and a modern independent sovereign state today, supports an international framework of deceit, exploitation and destruction led by the US and European powers. It is this ugly reality is covered by superficial celebrations based on crafted mythologies.

In sum, Anzac Day represents a nationalistic celebration, linked to the ideology of a disbelieving people, of events involving wars against the legitimate Muslim authority of the time. There is no justification whatsoever for Muslims to be actively or passively taking part in it.

Rather, we should be taking the lead in presenting the reality as outlined above in an intellectual and respectful manner. We should be taking the right message to the people of Australia about the ills of nationalism, the reality of Australian war history and its disastrous effects on peoples abroad, the continuation of this today, and the need for all sincere people to challenge and account this oppression.

Media Office
Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia
24 April 2013