Greens deputy says Muslim voters ‘long ignored’

Poppy Johnston |

The Muslim Vote is set to run candidates in some Western Sydney Labor strongholds.
The Muslim Vote is set to run candidates in some Western Sydney Labor strongholds.

Muslim voters have “long been ignored”, says Deputy Greens leader Mehreen Faruqi, amid expectations a grassroots organisation will field candidates in Labor-held seats. 

The senator also expressed pride in Western Australian senator Fatima Payman for “standing strong on her convictions” after she quit the Labor Party over her stance on Palestine statehood.

Senator Faruqi said she had been in touch with the senator over the past few weeks but had not tried to recruit her to the Greens.

Pro-Palestine protesters hang banners from the top of Parliament House
Senator Faruqi says Muslims have long been ignored in Australia. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

The Greens are also expected to keep pressuring the federal government to recognise a Palestinian state, Senator Faruqi said in an interview on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

Queried on her views on The Muslim Vote, a grassroots organisation set to run candidates in some Western Sydney Labor strongholds, Senator Faruqi said the major parties had failed to address the needs of those communities. 

“People of colour and Muslims have for too long been ignored in this country,” she said.

Politicians from both the major parties had used migrant communities as “tokens” and “photo opportunities at religious event”, she said. 

“So I don’t find it surprising at all that communities are organising and communities are saying, ‘well, you know, we want our voices heard, and one way to do this is to actually organise and to put up candidates’.”

According to the 2021 census, the number of Australians who identify as Muslim, from all forms of Islam, totalled 813,392 people, or 3.2 per cent of the population.

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi
Mehreen Faruqi says major parties used migrant communities as “tokens” and “photo opportunities”. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has raised concerns about the nation going down the road of faith-based politics, saying it would “undermine social cohesion”.

Senator Faruqi was not concerned by Muslim communities running their own candidates as people had a right to express their faith in Australia. 

She believed in a “secular parliament” with a “separation of church and state” and would like to see the Lord’s Prayer no longer read out at the start of each Senate day.

“I would like to get rid of it because so many people of different faiths and from all over the world live in this country, and that is not representative,” she said.

The final two weeks of parliamentary sitting before the mid-winter break were dominated by the fallout from Senator Payman’s decision to cross the floor to support a Greens motion on Palestinian statehood.

Senator Fatima Payman
Senator Fatima Payman quit the Labor Party for the crossbench. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

More than two-thirds of the United Nations’ membership recognise a Palestinian state and it has been a non-member observer state of the UN General Assembly since November 2012.

Senator Faruqi said the Greens would continue to pressure Labor to recognise Palestinian statehood and self-determination.

She said it was a separate issue as to whether or not Hamas should be dismantled.

“Who is going to dismantle it? It is up to the people in Palestine and that region to make sure that people can live in peace,” Senator Faruqi said when pressed on the question of Hamas’ future.

“The Palestinians need to decide where they want to go with their own region,” she said.

Australia has listed Hamas as a terrorist organisation and the senator said the Greens had made no demands to change that.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said he was disappointed Senator Payman had left the Labor Party but it was ultimately her decision.

Yet were Mr Shorten to leave the party, he said he would give up his seat.

“As charming and charismatic as individual candidates are, people vote for parties, quite often,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Nationals senate leader Bridget McKenzie said it was “an issue of the prime minister’s own making”. 

“This guy has been left floundering and focused more on internal factional politics, and, you know, constructing his foreign policy through the lens of how it will impact Western Sydney,” she told Sky News  on Sunday.