Muslim candidate says she’ll fight for the underdog

Toni Pikos-Sallie is contesting the seat of Southern River for the Greens in the West Australian election next month.

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She says she’s doing it to counter what she calls the politics of division, from parties and politicians such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Senator Jacqui Lambie.

“Honestly, last night I knew I had work in the morning, but I just sat there and I couldn’t go to sleep. I thought that I just have to and this is why I’m here. I have to have a voice. I have to say something.”

Toni Pikos-Sallie is talking to the Australian Greens campaign staff about a response she posted to her Facebook page.

It came after Senator Jacqui Lambie made this appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program, talking about sharia law and US President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from some Muslim countries.

“If he wants to put that and put some of that on hold for three months, then he has every right to do so until he can work out exactly what is going on. If that’s going to keep America safer just like it’s going to keep America safer… you know what? Stop playing the victim! Stop playing the victim. We’ve had enough.”

Toni Pikos-Sallie says Senator Lambie and the One Nation party are marginalising a minority for political gain.

The WA Greens candidate says she was encouraged when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister and spoke positively about a multicultural Australia.

But she says the political tone has changed.

“The time to speak up about this issue is now. I don’t think we can afford to wait any longer in silence while it festers and increases because of that absence of voice and representation so that’s why I’m here. Yes, I’m putting myself out there. Yes, there will be nasty people. Yes, they’re out there. But the alternative for me; I’m Australian, I grew up with these values, I stick up for the underdog, I stick up for people who don’t have a voice. It’s just not in me to sit there and say nothing and do nothing.”

Toni Pikos-Sallie was working as the Vice Principal of an Islamic school when she was approached by the Greens to be their candidate in Southern River.

The electorate includes several suburbs with large Muslim populations.

But she acknowledges she is very unlikely to win the Liberal-held lower house, with polls predicting a big swing to Labor.

She says she’s entered the political fray to make a statement, that Muslim Australians deserve to be treated as equal members of society.

“Australia should learn from its own history. Marginalising, isolating people, labelling them and grouping them up and making them feel outcast and on the periphery of society is highly detrimental. I don’t even think I need to say that to an intelligent person. It should be obvious.”

Several Perth Imams have also entered the political debate.

They’ve issued their own how-to-vote cards for attendees at mosques around Perth.

They’re encouraging people to vote for the Greens in the upper and lower houses.

They say a strong vote for the Greens will send a message to Labor that voters were not happy the party “flirted” with the idea of doing a preference deal with One Nation.

The WA head of the One Nation party Colin Tincknell told SBS, the Greens are confusing the party’s state and federal policies on immigration.

He says the state party has no position on immigration.