An Australian senator has been blasted for making anti-Muslim comments in the wake of a terror attack that killed at least 49 people at two New Zealand mosques.
Details of the shooting are still emerging, but a suspect described by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an “extremist, right-wing” terrorist has been arrested, according to the BBC.
Queensland senator Fraser Anning released a statement Friday that called Islam “the religious equivalent of fascism,” blaming immigration policies for the attack.
Screenshots of Anning’s statement were shared to social media and republished by Australia’s News.com.au. In the document, the Queensland senator condemned what he called an act of “violent vigilantism.”
He then launched into a 300-word tirade against Islam, calling the religion “the violent ideology of a sixth century despot.”
“The real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place. While Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators.
“Just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance does not make them blameless,” Anning said, before ending the statement with a quote from the Bible.
Morrison quickly rebuked the senator on Twitter, writing: “The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting. Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull slammed the politician in a series of tweets that called Anning’s comments contemptible. “He is a disgrace to the Senate and what is worse by spreading hatred and turning Australians against each other he is doing exactly what the terrorists want,” Turnbull wrote.
Repurposing one of Anning’s own tweets (“Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?”) former border force chief Roman Quaedvlieg wrote: “Does anyone still dispute the link between [Fraser Anning] and blunt-ugly, revolting, vulgarity?”
Anning has made headlines in the past for making statements perceived as racist. In his maiden senate speech last August he used the Nazi-linked term “final solution.” He was ousted from Katter’s Australian Party after he called for immigration policies that favored European Christians over Muslims. “Clearly that is racist—clearly our policies are anti-racist,” party leader Bob Katter said at the time.
His Twitter account is replete with similar posts. “I stand totally against any Muslims in our Parliament,” reads a tweet from Tuesday. “Islam is NOT compatible with Australia and our politics,” reads another.
On March 8 the independent politician said: “Fraser Anning’s Conservative Nationals Party” was the only group that will “aim to preserve Australia’s predominantly European ethnic composition.”
Anning did not immediately respond to a request for comment.