Why Australia’s most notorious anti-Islam activist became Muslim?
SYDNEY: (Web Desk) Shermon Burgess, one of Australia’s most notorious anti-Islam activists and former head of the far-right group United Patriots Front, has converted to Islam.

 He has joined a trend of prominent right-wing figures who’ve embraced the religion for its conservative stance towards masculinity, gender roles and the LGBTQIA+ community, as reported by Crikey.

The report maintains that Shermon Burgess is notorious for his role in the 2015 anti-Islam protests that centred on the construction of a mosque in Bendigo. He was instrumental in organising dozens of protests alongside neo-Nazis Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson. At its height, his social media page “The Great Aussie Patriot” would share racist, inflammatory content to tens of thousands of followers.

Half a decade on, Burgess’ personal Facebook account is now adorned with a cover photo of a Palestinian flag overlaid with the Shahada and features posts praising an Islamic prayer mural in the regional town of Jindabyne.

Also read: Anti-Muslim incidents double in German but overlooked by authorities

Burgess and another former anti-Islamic activist had taken their Shahada, an Arabic term for an Islamic oath, had converted to the religion and had been welcomed by his local mosque, it revealed

“The Muslim community is so kind and amazing, if you need help they are there,” he said.

Burgess said he’d backflipped on his beliefs (once saying that “multiculturalism has failed, Islam is not compatible with our way of life”) after witnessing the strength of Australia’s freedom movement — the anti-vaccine, anti-government, conspiracy-fuelled multicultural activism that emerged out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its protests attracted a diverse crowd of different ethnic, cultural and religious communities united by their opposition to pandemic health measures.

Speaking on his Facebook page in December last year, Burgess said “going back to 2015-2016, you would not have seen me stand side by side with a Muslim fighting for the same cause, not in a million years, but now — things have changed. Now I will stand side by side with the Muslims, to fight against these zionist and freemason oppressors who are ruling over us.”

Also read: Ontario Premier Ford ousts MPP for meeting with anti-Islam campaigner

Burgess said that former UPF members attacked him online when they found out about his conversion.

He said, “Many of them were heavy booze-drinking alcoholics and degenerates. I liked the health aspect of Islam, how they train hard and refrain from alcohol and drugs.”

Other members of the far-right, such as self-proclaimed “theocratic-fascist” Matt Walsh and commentators Candace Owens and Jordan Peterson, have been capitalising on their new-found popularity amongst the Muslim community.

Besides Burgess, several prominent Islamophobic politicians in Europe have gone on to convert to Islam, such as far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ former right-hand man Joram van Klaveren, who converted in 2012 after studying the Quran for an anti-Islam book he intended to publish. Arthur Wagner, a leading party official for the far-right German party Alternative for Germany converted to Islam in the same year, even as his party claims “Islam does not belong in Germany”. In France, Maxene Buttey, a local councillor for the far-right party Front National, converted to Islam before being suspended from the party. 

These examples represent a trend amongst the far-right to diversify by embracing conservative sentiment in migrant communities. With the global culture war now squarely focused on issues of gender roles, sexuality and the trans community, popular misogynistic far-right figures are latching onto Islam as the strongest ideological framework to fight their battles against the modern world.