“What unites us is far greater than what divides us,” said JFK, but shared hatreds make for strange bedfellows too.
John Safran says Australia’s far right movement is a ‘melting pot’
Members of Australia’s far-right movement are not all white-skinned neo-Nazis, but instead from a diverse range of backgrounds, including recent migrants and evangelical Christians, writer and documentary maker John Safran says.
After attending a United Patriots Front rally in Victoria, Safran said he was surprised to see a racially diverse mix of members and he decided to delve more into the movement.
The result is his latest book, Depends What You Mean By Extremist, in which he also socialises with Islamic State sympathisers and anarchists.
“It’s quite a melting pot,” he said.
“The far right in 2017 is different to 20 years ago, when it was the first incarnation of Pauline Hanson.”
One member of the far right whom Safran said he spoke to, was the son of an Italian migrant father, an Aboriginal mother, and was married to a Vietnamese migrant.
Safran said many, including a racially diverse mix of migrants, were drawn to the far right solely because they were against Islam.
“I learnt that these immigrants often have their own backstory and their own relationship to Islam that, in this case, is totally different to the white Australian experience,” he said.
“So if you’re quite a reactionary sort of Hindu or a Sikh from India, and that’s where you came from before you migrated to Australia, you’ve got families of generations going back with their own kind of tensions with Islam back there.
“Then immigrate to Australia where there’s these strange bedfellows where they go, ‘Oh here’s these white people who also are against Islam, so I’ll join up with them’.”
‘On the back of a ute with neo-Nazis’
Safran said many of those people were then side-by-side with white nationalists.
“You get these almost surreal situations where you’ve got someone who’s got a track record of being a white nationalist or a neo-Nazi and they’re on the back of a ute and they’re calling against Islam and against multiculturalism and then joining them on the ute is an immigrant who has their own reason for why they don’t like Islam,” he said.
He said it was often a convenient pairing for the white nationalists in the movement.
“They’re very touchy about the word white nationalists — so how other people see them,” he said.
“They just say, ‘Oh well we’re just nationalists’, and sometimes they’re being sincere and sometimes it’s a cover story and they are actually white nationalists, but they like being able to deflect it a bit and say, ‘Oh but there’s a brown guy in the movement’.”
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