On 29 Oct, 2019, the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs launched Round 5 of the Safer Communities Fund infrastructure grants which provides schools, places of worship, community organisations and councils with funding of up to $1million for ‘crime prevention initiatives’. The stated aims are to help reduce crime, violence, and other security risks driven by racial or religious intolerance, with increased CCTV, fencing and gates, bollards, security guards, and alarm systems. While the grants are open to all communities, closer scrutiny reveals higher risks to the Muslim community from a government with a clear record of singling out and demonising the community for political expediency.
Soon after the announcement, the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) issued a statement that it has formed a Community Safety & Security Committee (CSSC) tasked with advising the Muslim community on security and emergency management programs and policies. One of its stated aims is to ‘undertake its objectives in conjunction and consultation with state and federal authorities’.
With previous CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) funding essentially viewed as tainted and illicit money, and openly rejected by much of the community, we must consider the possibility of the government seeking to find alternate methods to interfere in Muslim affairs. While CVE initiatives were cloaked in sporting grants, online awareness campaigns, and de-radicalisation workshops, can the current funding scheme be used to continue to view the Muslim community through the lens of security threats?
Capitalising on local and international attacks against Muslims and their centres, including Christchurch where 50 Muslims tragically lost their lives, the government may have found a foot in the door to gaining entry into our places of worship and increased surveillance of our centres and schools.
From the government perspective, this would be nothing more than a continuation of their War on Terror narrative where the Muslim community is viewed and treated as a security threat, and asked to take ownership of a security condition which we had no hand in creating.
The Australian Government’s relentless barrage of interference and harassment towards the Muslim community has led to an entire community being criminalised through Anti-Muslim ‘terror’ laws, phoney charges, monitoring of children, de-radicalisation initiatives, airport scrutiny, foreign policy, media sensationalism, and imposing values. Despite this, the expectation is that Muslims must remedy this situation through introspection and self-policing, and merely manage its security consequences. This security fund may address the symptoms, but not the cause.
As the government’s intervention in the Muslim community continues to exploit violence against Muslims, whilst it remains at the forefront of such attacks, how can they be trusted especially given the advances in security and monitoring technology? With CCTV systems allowing facial recognition and tracking attendance, will the likes of AFP and ASIO have direct access to these government funded systems? And if not now, then in the future? Will electronic ID Cards be introduced at our schools, prayer halls, and Mosques to track individuals who frequent these centres in the name of security, much like what takes place under other oppressive governments?
The Muslim community in Australia needs to rethink its strategy and engagement with government, policing authorities, and funding, as there are severe consequences at stake. Rather than challenge the government’s policies and actions, we are being coerced to accept operating under a shroud of continuous threats of violence and harm. The ramifications of which include spreading fear within our community (especially for future generations), and providing the government with increased access to our mosques and centres where we can no longer speak openly without fear of surveillance and consequence.
As Muslims, we are Dawah carriers to humanity, and must reflect the mentality of a brave, honest, and confident Muslim. Coupled with Tawakkul (trust in Allah), we do need to provide the right level of security to our centres, but this needs to be on our own terms and without strings attached, rather than in conjunction with a government whose intentions, actions, and history is plain for all to see.