POLITICS

Comedian Responds To Racist Abuse After Pauline Hanson Criticises His Book

'They literally judged a book by its cover.'

17/07/2017 3:50 PM AEST | Updated 17/07/2017 6:13 PM AEST
Facebook/Fairfax Media

Australian comedian Sami Shah has spent Monday laughing off racist abuse, after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson posted a veiled criticism of his new book and asked her followers to weigh in.

Shah, who was born in Pakistan but migrated to Australia and became a citizen last year, recently published his book 'The Islamic Republic of Australia', named after a successful radio series he created with the ABC. The book, Shah told HuffPost Australia, is about Islam's place in modern Australia -- raised as a Muslim, but having later decided he was an atheist, the comedian said he had a unique position from which to analyse Islam.

"I was born a Muslim but am no longer a Muslim. When I moved from Pakistan, I didn't think in Australia there would be so much discussion about Islam. I went and interviewed Muslims of all backgrounds, moderates, progressives, people who criticise Islam," Shah said of his book.

"I have some valid criticisms against Islam, which makes a fairly neutral party. This is me saying here are the problems the Muslim community is facing, and some they are creating. I hope people find it informative."

However, on Sunday, One Nation leader Hanson came across a copy of his book. Seemingly upset at its cover and title, she posted an image of the book on her Facebook page, asking her followers "How do you feel about Dymocks book range?" and adding the hashtag #Islam. The response has ranged from one woman saying "The title is a bit concerning" to " Throw them in a fire, rubbish and should not be for sale on our shelves" and "I was looking to buy some toilet paper that could double as a fire lighter".

"There will be a lot of bloodshed before that ever happens and nearly all of it will not be ours," wrote one man.

"Even if they were giving it away free I would only get one to burn it," said one woman.

Shah said he had received nasty emails from "right-wing, conservative" critics in recent weeks, but was surprised that Hanson herself would bother with criticising his book -- indeed, he thought the Facebook page "Pauline Hanson's Please Explain" was an unofficial Hanson fan page, not her official political page.

"I didn't expect it to be that controversial, it was just a funny title to me. In the last few weeks, I've got a few messages like that. It's interesting what offends people," he said.

"The book is about an atheist ex-Muslim, to show his point of view, and show the Muslim community in Australia is quite diverse and not something to fear."

He then laughed at the irony of what Hanson had literally done.

"Why would you judge a book by its cover? One thing you can say, is [One Nation supporters] are prone to judging books by their cover, metaphorically. Now they literally judged a book by its cover."

Shah also said he was buoyed by the support her had received in the wake of Hanson's criticism. Both Dymocks bookstores and the Avid Reader bookshop had come to his defence on Twitter. Dymocks even suggested selling Shah's book and a book titled 'Please Explain: the rise, fall and rise again of Pauline Hanson" in "a sweet, sweet bind-up of the two books".

On Hanson's Facebook post, too, was support for Shah.

"Thanks for the advertisement! Am now heading to Dymocks website to grab a copy for myself, and one for a friend too," wrote one woman.

"Who cares? Are you seriously having a sook because a book store happen to be selling a book with the word Islam in the title that was written by a Muslim?" said another.

Shah said he was surprised by those comments, alongside many others.

"Its been interesting to see how many people on her page aren't One Nation supporters. Lots of people saying 'he's a comedian, he's an atheist'. I don't understand why so many people are on her page to repeatedly comment and take apart her arguments," he laughed.

"I understand going outside your bubble, your echo chamber, but I found it fascinating that so many people disagree with her."

More info on 'The Islamic Republic of Australia' is available on Shah's website. The book is also available to buy at Dymocks and other book shops.

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