The Australian Senate on Wednesday appointed its first female Muslim member, Mehreen Faruqi, even as the country was caught up in a bitter row over racism.
Pakistan-born Faruqi, the Greens Party MP for New South Wales, was appointed to fill a vacant seat. Her joining coincided with the row sparked by Senator Fraser Anning by seeking immigration restrictions based on race.
Anning advocated a return to a White Australia policy and called for a migration ban on Muslims in his maiden speech in Parliament on Tuesday. He called for a “final solution” (the phrase that refers to a plan hatched by the Nazis to annihilate the Jews) to the immigration “problem”.
Faruqi, who will be sworn in next week, was among the prominent critics of Anning’s use of the Holocaust-associated term. She said that Anning had “spat in the face of millions of Australians, spewing hate and racism”.
“I’m a Muslim migrant, I’m about to be a Senator and there’s not a damn thing Fraser Anning can do about it,” she wrote in a piece for website Junkee on Wednesday.
Faruqi migrated from Pakistan to Australia in 1992 with her young family. Her election to the state Parliament in 2013 made her the first Muslim woman to attain any political office in Australia.
She told the BBC she would use her new role as senator to fight for a “positive future for Australia where we are stronger for our diversity”.
She said that overt displays of racism were not isolated incidents. “I could stand on Bondi Beach, serving sausage sangers in an Akubra, draped in an Australian flag with a southern cross tattoo and, for some, I still wouldn’t be Australian enough,” she wrote in the Junkee article.
Faruqi said she was excited to bring “much needed diversity” to Canberra and hoped her presence would encourage non-white Australians.