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Don’t think it would be wise: Payman warns against mixing faith and politics

Senator Fatima Payman, who quit Labor last week to sit as a crossbench independent, says she would advise Muslims not to form their own political party.

Jul 11, 2024, updated Jul 11, 2024
Labor senator Fatima Payman listens to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressing a Labor caucus meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Labor senator Fatima Payman listens to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressing a Labor caucus meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Middle East conflict, which has greatly increased Muslim activism, has led to speculation of the possible formation of a Muslim party that could contest seats in western and south western Sydney and parts of Melbourne.

Payman has told The Conversation’s Politics podcast: “I can’t speculate what they plan on doing and not doing. But what I can say is, I don’t think it would be wise to have a Muslim party.

“And so if I was to advise them, I’d say, don’t establish a Muslim party because you need to look at your broader base.”

Different states had different demographics but “I just don’t think that would be conducive to the way things function in our democratic system”.

While it was the prerogative of those involved as to whether to go down that route, “if I was to advise whoever wants to start a party out there [I’d say] think about the bigger picture. Think about Australia as a whole.

“Think about how we look so different to what we did even 30 years ago. And we’re going to keep evolving into this melting pot of incredible cultures and, you know, identities and belief systems. And I think that’s just beautiful.”

Last week Prime Minister Anthony Albanese warned against faith-based parties. He said: “I […] don’t want Australia to go down the road of faith-based political parties because what that will do is undermine social cohesion”.

Payman pointed out there have been faith-based parties previously, and said a Muslim party would not challenge social cohesion.

“People are free to do what they want to do and [set up] parties they want to set up. There’s the fishers and farmers and all sorts of parties out there. So if people want to go down this route they can.

“It’s incorrect to […] not just politicise the Muslim faith, but also to make it seem like they’re a threat to social cohesion or it’s going to impact the way we politically engage.”

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She said the important thing was to educate the community about their right to vote, how to use it effectively and how to understand the political system.

“A lot of multicultural communities out there have come from countries where democratic ways of governing is not established or is not a thing. And so for them, voting can be quite an alien concept. And so education is paramount to these communities.”

“They have the right to voice their concerns, to voice their opinions and if they think that their elected members or incumbent members are not doing a great job representing their voice, they can they can use the elections as a way of sending a message to their local representatives.”

Payman said if she were setting up a party – which she hasn’t ruled out – “I would not set up a Muslim-only party. I see the bigger picture of my constituency in Western Australia and know that I represent people from all walks of life.”

She said the genocide in Palestine was “not the only thing that I’m focused on. And that’s why it’s important for me to immerse myself within the broader West Australian community to understand what are the things that are important to them,”

She was not intending to play a major role in mobilising the Muslim vote at the next election.

“I don’t intend on doing that. But more power and strength to as many communities out there who want their voices heard.”

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