The febrile reaction of some conservative politicians and the right-wing commentariat to #illridewithyou — a movement to show solidarity with Muslim Australians that started on Twitter on the day of the Martin Place siege — has been instructive. News Corp pundits, in particular, have lashed out at the idea that ordinary Australians are willing to defend Muslims from public vilification and are prepared to say so on social media.

One Coalition politician, the hijab- and halal-hating north Queensland MP George Christensen, called it “whitey hating” that “creates false victims”. Christensen’s remarks — which seem to imply that only white people might ever attack Muslims, and that Muslims who are attacked in public aren’t actually victims of anything — were offensive enough that one of his own LNP colleagues, Ewen Jones, dissociated himself and called them “completely insensitive and ignorant”.

There’s no obvious reason why the Right, and mainly old white conservative males, might feel so threatened by #illridewithyou. Indeed, it’s exactly the sort of grassroots community action they normally support: Australians responding to a social problem without the need for the kind of government regulation or intervention they like to decry. Is it because they’d prefer the message of the Sydney siege to be about fear, not hope? It’s as if someone has taken terrorism and national security off them and used it for something unifying, rather than divisive, and it infuriates them.

The events in Sydney are grim enough without this kind of reaction. That many people were able to find something hopeful in the aftermath of such meaningless and frightening death should be a good thing, no matter what your politics.

Peter Fray

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