SYDNEY: A leading Australian media personality sparked controversy Wednesday after lashing out at the nation’s Muslim community, saying they “share no common interest” with the rest of the country.
Sam Newman, a former Aussie Rules football player who co-hosts the popular “Footy Show” on commercial television, was reacting after two leading Muslim players embraced in a show of solidarity before a game last weekend.
Richmond’s Bachar Houli and Essendon’s Adam Saad hugged in a planned silent protest during the coin toss after Australian politician Fraser Anning used a speech in parliament to urge “a final solution” to immigration.
Anning, who represents Queensland for Katter’s Australian Party, also called for a return to the White Australia policy that favoured “European Christians”.
He was widely condemned, but Newman said the Australian Football League (AFL) was playing with fire by allowing political debate to creep into Australia’s most popular spectator sport.
“Keep out of our minds … let people go to the games and not be lectured on politics by the AFL, the NRL, the basketball or anyone else,” he told his Sam, Mike and Thommo podcast this week.
But he also took aim at the Muslim community and said “70% of the people would agree with (Anning’s) sentiment”.
“There are 600,000 Muslims in Australia, they share no common interest with what we’re on about,” said Newman, who has previously courted controversy over his views.
“They have no common values, they preach to a different deity, they don’t generally nationalise, they colonise, and this has been a huge problem in Europe and is becoming a huge problem in America.
“I don’t necessarily agree with what Fraser Anning said but there’d be a significant number of people in this country that would absolutely agree with what he said.
“Why would the AFL think they’re being virtuous by getting those boys to shake hands? They’re being divisive.”
His comments sparked a backlash on social media.
“How much longer will you give this dinosaur airtime?” asked one person on Twitter, while another said, “He adds no value to the Australian or AFL communities.”
Geelong Cats fan Renne-Poe-Munro said Newman’s “vile, racist vitriol” must have consequences, and Melbourne FC supporter Veronica Caramel urged the club to ban its players from appearing on his show.
“It’s mortifying to see @melbournefc players that I otherwise respect appearing alongside someone as bigoted as Sam Newman. Please think about the message it sends,” she said.
Anning’s comments were condemned from all sides of politics, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who said Australia was one of the world’s most successful multicultural societies.