I wrote this prior to any Australian terror attacks, to open the conversation on whether we the public had learned from our ignorant past. I’m glad to say that we have.
It’s been hard to ignore that ‘TERROR’ is once again on the centre of the world stage. With each 24-hour news cycle churning out sensationalised headline after headline, factual accuracy has been left behind in order to mass produce these stories that have been fueling hysteria that Australia is on route to Islamic-nihilism. It begs the question: are Australians stupid enough to consume the propaganda being thrown at us by the media, and take it as gospel, or have we learned from the post 9/11 years exactly how dangerous perpetuating stereotypes and breeding hatred can be?
We all remember 9/11, the anti-islamic behavior that ensued and we all remember the Cronulla riots that shamed our nation in the eyes of the international community; and so we should be ashamed.
Do Australians have the foresight to distinguish between Islamic extremists and your everyday peaceful, Islamic-Australian? How much of a role is the government and media playing in influencing not only the nation’s school of thought on Islam, but exerting pressure on our Islamic community to feel the need to condemn these extremists, as if it is their responsibility to do so. Did Christians feel the same pressure in excusing the KKK for their extremist views and actions?
I spoke with Dr Joshua Roose, Melbourne local, currently a visiting Scholar at the Harvard Law School working on two projects related to Islamic law. He explained that he believes while the State governments and police services have learned from past mistakes, they continue to face numerous issues overcoming racism. At the leadership level, considerable progress has been made. “This differs significantly from the approach of the current Federal government.” Says Dr Roose. “Muslims in the US haven’t been forced to justify their existence the way they have in Australia. However many, particularly in Detroit, have been outspoken against the so-called ‘Islamic State’. I don’t feel that the US government has sought to utilize Muslims as a convenient political scapegoat, although some right wing groups certainly have. Very broadly speaking, [the US] have been more successful in integrating Migrant Muslims into mainstream US Society.”
With opinion pieces like the one titled ‘There Is No Doubt Where This Blame Lies’ by the vile Andrew Bolt, in which he dribbles on that ‘The Islamic Council of Victoria’s reaction [to the shooting death of Numan Haider] is a disgrace and only too typical of the Muslim leadership that has so betrayed Australia’, it’s no wonder Islamic-Australians feel this pressure to condemn, or be condemned themselves.
The social media campaign #NotInMyName, countered by the #MuslimApologies to tackle pressure to say ‘not in our name’ highlights the ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ dilemma the Islamic community is facing. Which brings me to my next point: one big game changer this time around is social media. People have been venting their outrage publicly on social media; able to shout louder and to a wider audience than was possible post 9/11.
I spoke to David, criminologist, sociologist and criminology lecturer from RMIT University about how the potential new anti-terror laws can affect our freedom to hit social media with our point of views. “Criticisms expressed on social media can attract the attention of police and spy agencies in times like these, just as they did during the Cold War days. Anyone who may express dissent or criticism can very easily be described as “terrorist sympathiser” or as “condoning the extremism of terrorists” if they do not accept the dominant or preferred narrative of the state. This is not something unusual for Australia, let alone Western democracies. What is considered a terrorist offence or even what can earn you the attention of authorities is a low bar under current anti-terrorism laws.” I asked David what advice he would give people concerned about these new laws “do not make any digital footprint on the internet if you do not want it to be watched by the world.” While this is indeed smart advice, unless you’re compromising any national security operations, there is no cause for alarm. Otherwise I will be whisked away by ASIO for writing this very piece by the time it reaches your eyes.
Let’s not forget who is at the centre of all this. I spoke with Chad who lives in the heart of the Islamic community in Western Sydney. “We’re feeling scrutinised, and that we’re being painted with the same brush as ISIS. We are being attacked by non-Muslims, mistaking us to be affiliated with the likes of ISIS, and we face the real threat of being attacked by the extremists within the Muslim community as we reject their principals and existence. We have to consistently defend ourselves and explain to friends, neighbors, co-workers that are not in any way the same as the monsters they’re seeing in the media.” Sadly this depicts a similar story to those years following 9/11. “I was 14 when 9/11 struck; it was a tragedy seeing so many innocent lives lost in the name of a holy war. I was in high school and remember so much hate being spread; my friends and I were scared for our safety. I remember my mum coming home once distressed because she was heard speaking Arabic to her friend in a shopping centre and overheard someone calling her a terrorist. ”
There is no doubt that this issue is a very sensitive and of concern high on the social agenda. While we can’t control how the government and media continue to manage this, we can control whether we buy into this fear. Let’s reflect on those post 9/11 years and choose if we will let our minds be shaped by facts or spin. If as a society we counter this, guided by hate or compassion.