A rabidly anti-Muslim politician in Australia is facing widespread denunciation after immediately blaming a Friday mass shooting in New Zealand — which killed more than 40 people at two local mosques — on the Muslim faith and Muslim immigration.
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place,” Senator Fraser Anning, who represents Australia’s Queensland, said in a statement to the media.
Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, called Anning’s comments “disgusting.”
“Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament,” Morrison said.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was even more pointed, according to the Washington Post, calling Anning a “disgrace to the Senate.”
“What is worse, by spreading hatred and turning Australians against each other, he is doing exactly what the terrorists want,” Turnbull said.
Anning, who has a history of extremist Islamophobic politics, made sure to note in his initial statement that he is “utterly opposed to any form of violence within our community, and I totally condemn the actions of the gunman.”
But the remainder of his lengthy statement attacked Islam and Muslim immigrants in startling terms.
“Let us be clear, while Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are they are the perpetrators,” he said, describing Islam as “the religious equivalent of fascism.”
“Just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless,” he concluded.
He has been stridently unrepentant since those initial comments and the ensuing blow-back.
“Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” he tweeted later Friday. In another message, he wrote, “Islam is NOT compatible with Australia and our politics.”
This is not the first time Anning — who took office in 2017 after the previous senator was removed over a technicality with his citizenship — has opposed Muslims.
Last year, in a Parliament speech, he reportedly called for a “final solution” to Muslim immigrants, recalling the term used by Holocaust-era Nazis to describe the extermination of Jews in Europe.
“The final solution to the immigration problem, of course, is a popular vote,” Anning said, according to the New York Times.
“For somebody to use the privilege of Parliament, the privilege of this platform, to spew such hate is beyond comprehension,” Anne Aly, the body’s first female Muslim member, told the Times then.
“It’s sad that things have got to get to a point where this white supremacist’s hate speech is said in our own Parliament,” Aly said.
New Zealand authorities say some 49 people were killed and dozens more were injured in two shootings at mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon.
Several people have reportedly been taken into custody, including a man who has been charged with murder.
At least part of the shooting was live-streamed on social media.
An email sent to Sen. Anning’s office on Friday seeking further comment was not immediately returned.