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18 Mar, 2019 06:23

'A statement of fact': Aussie politician refuses to backtrack after blaming Muslims for NZ attack

'A statement of fact': Aussie politician refuses to backtrack after blaming Muslims for NZ attack

An Australian senator who implied that Muslims are to blame for the attacks on New Zealand mosques has stood by his remarks, accusing the government of hypocrisy. Over one million people have signed a petition for him to resign.

Queensland Senator Fraser Anning has remained defiant in the face of an avalanche of criticism and calls for his resignation over his controversial remark on the Christchurch massacre. In a statement released on the same day when 50 people were gunned down by white supremacist attacker Brenton Tarrant, Anning suggested that the tragedy highlighted "the growing fear over an increasing Muslim presence" in New Zealand.

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Although Anning condemned the massacre in his initial statement, it did not save him from incurring the wrath of most of the world, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and politicians of all affiliations.

The massive online and offline backlash he received culminated in a physical altercation with a 17-year-old protester on Saturday, who broke an egg over the back of Anning's head before getting hit in the face by the lawmaker.

Anning continued to stand his ground on Sunday, telling a specially arranged press conference that while media had "twisted" his initial statement, he did not feel the need to apologize for what many decried as an ill-timed diatribe.

"What people took out of context I think was that in the same press release I said that the countries that allow a large-scale Muslim immigration invariably have escalations in crime, violence and terrorist attacks," Anning said Sunday.

"Now, as far as I'm concerned, it's just a statement of fact and for some reason I have upset a lot of people, including Mr Morrison," the independent senator said, effectively doubling down on his previous remark that landed him in hot water.

In a pointed swipe at Morrison and his government, Anning accused the PM of being a hypocrite for not paying as much attention to the plight of Christians facing Muslim attackers.

"In the last 30 days, there have been 122 terrorists attacks by Muslims on innocent Christians and other civilians in 21 different countries, killing 859 people. There has been deafening silence from Mr Morrison and from the media on those points."

Anning argued that Australia is on course to repeat the fate of European countries like France, Belgium, the UK and Germany, which underwent a spell of terrorist attacks inspired by radical Islam, if it does not stop "Muslim immigration."

Asked whether he regrets the timing of his statement, Anning said he did not regret "anything." The lawmaker, who was expelled from his most-recent party over his right-wing views, also defended getting physical with the teenage protester.

READ MORE: Imran Khan announces national award for Pakistani ‘martyred’ trying to stop NZ mosque gunman

"He got a slap across the face, which is what his mother should have given him long ago, because he's been misbehaving badly," Anning said.

Throughout the conference, Anning repeatedly denied that he was condoning the attack, labeling Tarrant's infamous manifesto the work of a lunatic. "I don't agree with any lunatic's views, killer's views. I would never agree to any of those."

READ MORE: Strange bedfellows: Trump’s son defends Clinton’s daughter amid accusations of stoking Islamophobia

Australian MPs have drafted a censure motion against Anning that is expected to be backed by a majority in April. Anning laughed off the measure, saying: "What, is Mr Morrison going to give me a flogging with his lace hanky? I hope it's not too painful."

A Change.org petition calling for him to be kicked out of the Senate had racked up over one million signatures as of Monday. "There is no place in Australian government for Neo-Nazis. There is no place for bigotry. There is no place for hate speech," it states.

Responding to the petition, Anning said that he is "not sure" that all signatories are from Australia, adding that "quite a lot of people have told us they're happy for me to stay where I'm at."

Anning denied that he was deliberately adding fuel to the fire by choosing to attend a show in Queensland on Sunday, where he had his own booth. "I was happy to be there. Why should I decline the invitation?" Anning said.

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