Tony Abbott Doesn’t Deserve Any Credit For Finally Acknowledging Islamophobia

Abbott clarified his 2017 claim that "Islamophobia has never killed anyone." But only by doubling down on it.

Tony Abbott, extremely awkward

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Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a classic conservative — an old school Thatcherite, suspicious of social movements and wholly convinced that right-wing policies are as natural as they are deeply sensible.

Thus, like many conservatives, Abbott is about as adaptable as a dinosaur. Everything that he preaches and practices is based on a foundation of traditionalism; a resistance to change and a firm belief that, if unchecked, updating social attitudes will make the world a worse place, not a better one.

But, following the Christchurch shooting, Abbott has been dragged firmly in the 21st century, and has been forced to update one of his most stubborn views — his claim, made back in 2017, that “Islamophobia has never killed anyone.”

“Obviously the Christchurch killer hates Islam and killed people simply because they were Muslim,” Abbott has told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“I wouldn’t repeat now what I said in an interview then because even if it might have been correct then it’s certainly not right today.”

Given his history of stubbornly refusing the call of modern values, it’s tempting to see Abbott’s revised comments as something to be applauded. But Abbott deserves no plaudits for finally acknowledging what many of us have known for years — that fear and hatred of Islam is fueling a dangerous terrorist movement, one that has resulted in shootings, stabbings and violent attacks, all coordinated to sew fear and disunity.

Christchurch changes nothing. It is, sadly, one more instance of a trend of racist attacks that have been going on for years.

A week before the former Prime Minister made his 2017 comments, an attacker killed two people while confronted over a barrage of abuse directed at two Muslim women in Portland. Months before that, six people were murdered at a Mosque in Canada. Around the same time, an Australian priest was stabbed in the neck — later, his attacker claimed that he had thought the victim was Muslim. Three years before, in Central Africa, gunmen killed 17 Muslim men and women.

We should not commend our politicians for finally facing the issues that characterise the modern world. We should not commend them for rising above racism and partisan politics and acknowledging what the majority of us have so long known. And we should definitely not commend a revision like Abbott’s, which doubles down on old mistakes and attempts to frame Islamophobia like a new trend, rather than the deeply entrenched, dangerous and centuries-old movement that it is.