Ralph Cerminara is a former Australian solider and one of the leaders of the anti-Islam group the Australian Defence League.
An ABC report this week shed light on the group’s activities after its rhetoric lead to violent threats from some within the Islamic community.
The profile was a confronting reminder of the existence in Australia of outfits like the ADL, with its poisonous rhetoric and targeted, organised campaigns of incitement.
It came after one of the organisation’s then-members Nathan Abela — the ADL’s western Sydney president — was allegedly targeted in a shooting on his Greystenes apartment. Abela, according to Cerminara, his since been expelled from the group, for posting videos which were not approved by the ADL leadership.
Business Insider spoke at length today to Cerminara, an IT technician, in a pre-arranged interview on the topic of Islam in Australia, which coincided with the ABC report.
He was asked if there was a single experience that sparked his deep anti-Islamic resentment, which has seen him become one of the organisation’s top leaders.
Cerminara, originally from country Albury–Wodonga, was visiting Bankstown in Western Sydney with his mother and girlfriend, not long before Christmas several years ago.
He says they were browsing in a clothes store, when they asked an attendant why there were no Christmas carols playing.
“We were in Tarocash, the clothes place, and they said, ‘You’re not in Australia any more here — Christmas carols upset Muslims,” Cerminara said.
This is one example of the issues ADL members have with Islam in Australia. It’s not a totemic issue for the ADL, but it does provide an insight into the motivations that drive someone to hatred.
Police believe the shooting targeting Abela, who has since moved home, was a reprisal against some of the ADL’s activities. The group has photographed Muslim women on public transport, continued a sustained social media campaign, and distributed anti-Islam literature.
Abela was last week charged with a series of offences, including trespassing, using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend, and hindering the investigation into the shooting at his house.
Authorities, as the ABC pointed out, have been under increasing pressure to act, with two sides of an ideological divide on the verge of serious violence. They are investigating the threats against ADL members, and it is understood Australia’s domestic security agency ASIO has contacted Cerminara.
After it was suggested Cerminara had brought the threats on himself with his campaigning, he said: “How have I brought this onto myself, when in Australia you have the right to freedom of speech?”
This is part of a developing story, and we’ll have more soon.