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February 26, 2021

Freedom rally celebrates diversity

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Competitors in the sartorial competition at the Byron Bay Freedom Rally. Photo Harsha Prabhu
Competitors in the sartorial competition at the Byron Bay Freedom Rally. Photo Harsha Prabhu

Story Harsha Prabhu, photos Harsha Prabhu and Jeff Dawson

Australian icon and bushranger Ned Kelly and his burqua-clad partner in sartorial attitude trumped a line-up of women dressed in hijabs to take out the inaugural ‘Terrorismadeup’ award at the Byron Freedom Rally on Sunday (October 19). Ned’s burqua bandit queen sported a sign asking the question: ‘Who are the real terrorists?

Judy Shelly, one of the rally organisers said she wore a hijab ‘in solidarity with women from our Muslim community, especially those who have been verbally abused and intimidated in recent weeks’.

‘The attack on Muslim women merely for wearing headscarves is absolutely outrageous. People of different religions need to respect each other and we all need to stand up and defend the rights and freedoms of our multicultural society,’ she said

The rally was devoted to debunking  Australian PM Tony Abbott’s obsession with burqas, bad terror legislation and bombing campaigns, to the detriment of spending on social services, and took the piss out of ‘Tiny Rabbit’ in true larrikin style.

More than 500 punters and assorted passers-by witnessed the day-long shenanigans in Railway Park which included laughter yoga, stand-up comedy, multicultural musical performances and death-defying feats with a chainsaw by the Space Cowboy.

Peace activist and Nimbin Aquarius Festival director Graeme Dunstan, just back from a blockade at a Special Air Services (SAS) base in Victoria, said the treatment of peace activists by troopers of 4 Squadron SAS Regiment on their Swan Island training base ‘has shown that the SAS have brought their wars home with them as normalised brutality’.

‘The recent changes to Australia’s national security laws ensure that the conduct and operations of the SAS will be concealed with even more secrecy. This combination of brutality and unaccountability has opened the way to state-sponsored terrorism both abroad and at home,’ he added.

Activists were critical of the Abbott government’s decision to spend half-a-billion dollars a year on the new war. One speaker said ‘war is terrorism and war breeds terrorism. We will respond to Abbott’s warmongering and fear campaign with mirth and music’.

Stand up poet and MC Frankeinstein was more forthright.

‘A politician is a condom strapped onto the prick of Kapital before it’s shoved up our collective colon. It’s called colonisation and Australia is a penile colony. If any refugees come our way we say “F**k off, we’re full.” But full of what?’

Speaking from the other side of the cultural divide, Andeo, a hip-hop artist signed with Cannonball Records, Dubai, said that back home, ‘Ali becomes Alex, AbdulRahman becomes Danny, and so on’.

‘Through insidious Orientalism, the media has convinced us that we are smelly, brown and inferior, and the only alternative supplied by our traditionalists is Arab pride: the other ugly extreme of that spectrum, rooted in superiority,’ he said.

‘We must embrace the positive aspects of our cultural influences without becoming attached to our backgrounds in a way that turns our traditions into another idol to worship.’

Jabulam songman Lewis Walker performed a mesmerising welcome in Bundjalung, evoking ancient, ancestral spirits with yidaki and clapstick. ‘Know what you walk on’ was his message. He invited all to come together and unite to save country.

Oliver Buckworth, the ‘terrordoodler’, offloaded from a Tiger Airlines flight for doodling ‘terrorismadeup’ , made the final footnote to this tangled tale of made-up terror: ‘ There are heaps of interesting things to be afraid of. Terror has been done: next please.’

The writer was one of the organisers of the Freedom Rally.

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  1. These so-called sympathisers with hijab/burqa clad women would probably react about discrimination against women in the workplace, on the streets, and in domestic violence cases.
    Don’t they see the contradiction in their stance, aligning with a symbol of servitude among Muslim women?

  2. Please, a little perspective here. What’s the greater danger to freedom, a few misguided bogans hurling abuse from passing cars or the medieval subjugation of women in Islamic regimes. It’s an insult to the women and girls who are institutionally raped, beaten, bought, sold and oppressed routinely in the name of religions. Judy Shelley says “we all need to stand up and defend the rights and freedoms of our multicultural society.” Well Judy, is there nothing you wont tolerate in the name of multiculturalism?

  3. Terror is made up? Tell that to the Kurds/Yarzdis/Christians/Shias/Sunnis etc being murdered right now in Kobane, Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan by a bunch of dysfunctional misfits who think they represent Islam.

  4. Nonsense – do some more reading on this subject please. Religious Resurgence in Upper Egypt by Gaffney might prove informative. These freedom rally participants might also like to think about the genocide of the last of the Middle -Eastern Christian and animist communities. If Edward Said lived to see this, it would give him good reason to rethink the Orientalist garbage that has so preoccupied Western universities.


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