The Liberal Party has been under pressure from critics on its perceived hardline views on issues such as immigration and Islam. The party’s also been accused of not doing enough to promote women within its ranks.
But in the federal seat of Canberra, the Liberals have taken a step towards answering those negative perceptions, by selecting a candidate who is a woman, an immigrant and a Muslim.
Mina Zaki was born in Afghanistan and moved to Australia with her family when she was just seven years old. She lives in Deakin in Canberra’s inner south with her husband and three children.
Ms Zaki says that her background has been celebrated within the Liberal Party and has not hindered her progress within the party.
She believes her professional and personal status puts her in a good position to serve the community and it is important for politicians to understand the diversity of the people who make up their constituencies.
However, she has encountered abuse from some members of the public.
“I have received negative reactions from some in the community, particularly on social media,” Ms Zaki says. “This sort of abuse is unfortunate but prevalent, and I believe it’s because politicians are generally seen as ‘fair game’”.
The Liberal Party has been wrestling with finding a balance in its attitudes to immigration and Islam as the election looms.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was Treasurer at the time, was vocal on the issue after the Bourke Street attacks in Melbourne in November 2018. He stated that the greatest threat of religious extremism was the ideology of extremist Islam and they were “making [our] communities less safe and more vulnerable”.
Six months later and in response to the Christchurch mosque attack, Mr Morrison reached out to support the Islamic community.
“This horrific event took place and was targeted to one community…it was an attack on all peace-loving peoples, on all innocent peoples. And that’s why we can all stand together in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters who were the specific targets of this attack.”
The Prime Minister also condemned Senator Fraser Anning who blamed the attack on immigration of Muslims into New Zealand.
“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,” he said.
Ms Zaki hopes the more progressive tone being struck on such issues will resonate with the electorate.
“What is important to remember is that if anyone is calling for something… then they need to take responsibility to ensure that they enable Liberal women, not attack them unfairly, ostracise and marginalise them, simply because they are a Liberal.”