So, the Great Australian Bikini March has been cancelled. Normally this would be the sort of news that would see me rushing off a few hundred protest letters, but not on this occasion. The march was organised to protest at Sheik Hilali’s inflammatory remarks likening women to ‘uncovered meat‘ and was due to take place this Saturday at Australia’s largest Mosque in Brunswick, north Melbourne. It has been cancelled, according to the official Great Australian Bikini March website, due to irresponsible journalism???
As the involvement of far right groups such as the Patriotic Youth Alliance and the Patriotic Alliance Down Under and the questioning of GABM’s links to those groups undermined the credibility of the organisation, it does beg the question, what is irresponsible about journalists questioning the motives and background of the organisers of such an event. Even a cursory glance at their website is enough to enlighten you to their tacky racist and profit led intentions. The march was cancelled due to fears of violence and public disorder, not because of dangerous journalists.
The event was organised by Christine Hawkins and Chris Gemmell-Smith. Hawkins describes herself as a “grandmother of two and a small business owner”. She refuses to give any further information about herself because, she says, “there may be some loose cannons out there?” Gemmel-Smith is the owner of True Blue Productions, a manufacturer of conservative apparel who also sponsors the event and is obviously keen to direct patriots to his product line and turn over a quick buck.
Far from being an attempt to assert the rights of women over religious extremism, the Bikini March was a thinly veiled excuse to publicly vilify minorities. The GABM website is keen to assert a connection between Sheik Hilali’s gynephobia and sexual assaults on women by Muslim males. Their website draws attention to an article by Carly Crawford, that appeared in The Sunday Herald Sun on the 19/11/2006, about Four youths of Middle Eastern background who pleaded guilty to charges including the rape and sexual assault of two 14-year-old Caucasian girls. They write: ‘Unfortunately it seems the pattern of racist gang rapes committed by young Muslim men, that have plagued Sydney for years have finally arrived in Victoria’. The GABM website makes no mention of the many other attacks on women perpetrated by white males during the same period. As Jerome Small wrote in the Socialist Alternative, (No.110, November 2006, p.8)
“Shortly before the Hilali story broke, the media reported on a group of young men who had filmed themselves taunting and sexually assaulting a young woman in Werribee. Not one federal politician condemned the (white) perpetrators of this crime. Not one expressed the view that there was a deep problem of sexism in the communities in which they lived.
In the same week, a survey by VicHealth found that a staggering 40 per cent of Victorians agree with the lie that men rape because they can’t control their sexual urges — essentially the same argument made by Sheik al-Hilali. Fifteen per cent believe that women say “no” to sex when they mean “yes”. But again, there were no politicians demanding that leaders of the “Victorian community” must “fix” this problem or face “permanent damage” to their standing within the “broader Australian community”.
Sheik Hilali was quoted as saying “when it comes to adultery its 90% the woman’s responsibility. It is she who takes off her clothes, shortens them, flirts, puts on make up and powder and takes to the streets. God protect us, dallying!. It is she who shortens, raises and lowers. Then its a look, then a smile, a greeting, then a conversation, then a date, then a crime, then Long Bay Jail. But when it comes to this disaster, who started it?”
These remarks are reprehensible. But isn’t this the same opinion you will hear in many Australian pubs? Is this not the attitude towards women held by far too many Australian men? At a recent rape trial, lawyer Chris Papadopoulos, said that the crime (rape) was “only brief and at the very bottom of the scale of seriousness” and a recent countrywide P&O add ran with the strap line “More girls, more sun. There is nothing else a guy needs to know. Seaman Wanted!”
The idea that sexual discrimination and rape is something unique to Muslim men is ludicrous and offensive. This is a societal problem. Every religion demeans women, (Adam and Eve anyone) and unfortunately so does Australian society. The Mufti’s remarks were outrageous, but why aren’t the organisers of GABM rallying against Chris Papadopoulos and the Australian legal system? Why aren’t they marching on the offices of P&O? Why aren’t they marching on parliament or the local pub? The whole Bikini March debacle is just another example of how the Muslim community is being demonised and blamed for something that is a problem for us all. The idea that the Great Australian Bikini March is about protecting women is farcical and offensive. It is about attacking immigrants and minorities.
The march was to have to descended upon the Islamic Information and Support Centre where a ‘peaceful’ protest was to be held and speeches given (speeches described by GABM as unfit for children). Quite how peaceful this protest would have been is questionable when you consider the date of the march coincided (unsurprisingly) with the anniversary of the 2005 Cronulla race riots in Sydney.
Although it is difficult to say whether there is any credence to the GABM’s links with far right organisations such as the Patriotic Youth Alliance and the Patriotic Alliance Down Under, one thing is for sure, these far right organisations were keen to show their support and publicised the event to their own support base. Historically, the far right have rather a poor record when it comes to female emancipation and considering the Mosque had requested extra police protection, I would hazard a guess that this bikini parade would not have been a pretty sight!
The march has been rescheduled for next years Australia day. The GABM have given no indication as to whether they will be attempting to link up with indigenous organisations, who also have issues regarding immigrants. Many indigenous people refer to Australia day as invasion day, but I’m not sure that even Hawkins and Gemmell-Smith are stupid enough to see this as common ground. Although, women’s rights and racism……….