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Australian Muslims need a PR advisor right now…

By Gary Humphries Ex MLA - 23 September 2014 12

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British author Ian McEwan wrote after 9/11: “It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity.”

Australian Muslims right now will be feeling like victims, victims of a frighteningly swift collapse of certainty in their world. Hitherto, first generation Australian Muslims will have appreciated the relative tolerance afforded them in the practice of their religion, even if some prejudice will soured their sense of acceptance in their new home.  They will no doubt have felt this new society giving them affirmation – even encouragement – to hold and practise the faith of their forebears.

But they will have sensed that acceptance turn into suspicion in recent days. As the horrific images of barbarity and calculated terror have brought forward denunciations from political leaders, they know exactly what question lies behind the glances of many Australians: and where do YOU stand on this behaviour, follower of Islam?

Entering the mind of these “victims” right now won’t be easy for other Australians, because Muslim sensibilities are mostly opaque to Westerners. They would be surprised to learn, for example, that the concept of a pan-Islamic caliphate is not merely the fantasy of extremists, but a respectable sentiment among Islamic historians, who quite rightly see most of the political boundaries drawn on maps of the Middle East as the invention of European powers.

It should be easier for non-Muslim Australians, however, to understand some of the sectarianism that infects Muslim loyalties even in this country (Sunni versus Shi’ite, for example). Why?  Because many of their own ancestors too arrived here carrying hatreds from “the old country”, vestiges of which survived several generations.

As a child of Irish Catholic descent, I heard stories about the deprivations visited on Ireland by British colonial policy. Stories like that shaped the cultural identity of countless thousands of young Australians; no doubt, generations later, when acts of IRA terror struck Britain, there would have been many who thought, in the dark places of their minds, “Well, the Brits had that coming…”

Being more recent arrivals, the old scores are fresher in the memory of Australian Muslims. It is natural that some understanding, some sympathy, will be felt for those fighting the ideological or religious battles they grew up learning about.  In doing so, they merely relive an experience felt many times before in our immigrant society.

Letting go of those old hatreds, vacating the battlelines of our ancestry, is an essential element of surrendering to the blending forces of Australia’s dynamic melting-pot. The genius of our social experiment is powerful, but is always most tested in the first generation of arrivals.

The rally organised in Sydney’s Lakemba a few hours after the raids on terrorist suspects last week was a negation of the power of that Australian phenomenon, a repudiation of the onus on all of us to put our shared values ahead of the old hatreds. The Prime Minister described those who attended as “utterly unrepresentative of Australian Muslims”.  Though in part about protesting the scapegoating of Muslims generally, there was a real extent to which it appeared to be expressing solidarity with those targeted in the raids.

It was something of a PR disaster for the Muslim community, sending a message to middle Australia that Muslims here believe there is no sentiment for imported violence in their midst (surely overreach, and likely to be debunked by evidence led in the media and the courts in coming days) or, worse still, that advocates of violent Islamism would be sheltered and nurtured in Muslim enclaves.

In an ideal world, Australian Muslims should have no need to demonstrate their primary loyalty to Australia and its values. Without any doubt, a wholesome majority of these Muslims understand and embrace the tenets of tolerance and peaceful behaviour this entails, even if it means setting aside some of the old loyalties.

But Australians right now need a little assurance that the tolerance they extend to the followers of Islam is being reciprocated, in thought and in deed. This is not made easier by the fact that Muslim communities are less hierarchical than some others; at any given time many possible leaders can be identified, and their opinions quoted as the views of “the Muslim community”.

But a co-ordinated message, projecting the voice of “mainstream Muslims”, would do much to avoid some anti-Muslim sentiment that stirs in our land, the rearing-up of which can only isolate and marginalise the young hotheads. Muslim leaders, however identified, need to make an effort to acknowledge that extremism does have a foothold – however small – in their ranks, and to emphatically signal to the broader community that they will be as willing to move against the purveyors of hate and violence as Australian government s and security forces presently are.

What’s Your opinion?


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12 Responses to
Australian Muslims need a PR advisor right now…
goody658 10:24 am 25 Sep 14

Muslim leaders need to be seen to condeming these acts. For example last night they stopped short of condemming the acts of the boy who was shot.

Why do they need to wait for the investigation to be over, he clearly had intent and was a clear supporter of ISIS. Untill they do this the puplic will always have the perception that they do “support” isis in some way or another. Its unfortunate but thats the way it comes across.

dungfungus 8:46 am 25 Sep 14

justin heywood said :

…”Muslim leaders, however identified, need to make an effort to acknowledge that extremism does have a foothold – however small – in their ranks, and to emphatically signal to the broader community that they will be as willing to move against the purveyors of hate and violence as Australian government s and security forces presently are.

I think that’s the nub of the ‘PR’ issue for Muslims in Australia. If their leaders came out as a group and roundly denounced the fanatics, it would effectively silence both the more extreme right and the extreme left on the whole issue.

The hard right’s notion that fanaticism has wide support amongst local Muslims would be wiped out at a stroke.
The left’s contention that extremism isn’t an issue in this country would be shown for the lie that it is.

But Muslim ‘leaders’ , on the whole, have not denounced extreme elements. Perhaps the moderate majority have been drowned out by the shouting fanatics. They will need to stand up and speak out.

As long as we accept the phrase “Muslim leaders” there will be no hope of integrating even one Muslim into Australian society, not that their beliefs allow this anyway.
There is only one leader in Australia and he speaks for us all. Even our indigenous people accept that. The fact that the Muslim community acknowledges only what “their” leader says is proof that is was a huge mistake to believe that Islam can co-exist in a place like Australia. Notwithstanding this, we are still allowing Islam migration/settlement to Australia totally ignorant it seems of what has happened in the UK and Europe.
The tactic of beheading enemies is part of the strategy that ISAS is promoting, namely an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East and beyond. This is is clear evidence of what Islam’s wider agenda is all about, namely global domination.

justin heywood 10:04 pm 24 Sep 14

…”Muslim leaders, however identified, need to make an effort to acknowledge that extremism does have a foothold – however small – in their ranks, and to emphatically signal to the broader community that they will be as willing to move against the purveyors of hate and violence as Australian government s and security forces presently are.

I think that’s the nub of the ‘PR’ issue for Muslims in Australia. If their leaders came out as a group and roundly denounced the fanatics, it would effectively silence both the more extreme right and the extreme left on the whole issue.

The hard right’s notion that fanaticism has wide support amongst local Muslims would be wiped out at a stroke.
The left’s contention that extremism isn’t an issue in this country would be shown for the lie that it is.

But Muslim ‘leaders’ , on the whole, have not denounced extreme elements. Perhaps the moderate majority have been drowned out by the shouting fanatics. They will need to stand up and speak out.

dungfungus 6:28 am 24 Sep 14

nazasaurus said :

Muslims aren’t a homogenous bunch, nor is there such a thing as a Muslim Community with a formal hierarchy in Australia. Yes you have self appointed leaders or clerics from the mosque etc however each muslim practices their own interpretation of Islam based on their cultural background, level of education, degree of integration into the broader community etc etc. It isn’t fair to constantly make muslims apologise or be held accountable for the actions of psychiatrically deranged people, either here or overseas.

On an aside, it saddens me to see the tabloid media try so hard in recent days to pump up fear and paranoia to the detriment of our social cohesion.

Where did you get evidence that some Muslims are psychiatrically deranged? This isn’t a view held amongst other Muslims. Just because they interpret and apply the Koran in a way that our Western standards and values find extreme and repugnant doesn’t mean they are deranged – to them it is normal behaviour and reflects their upbringing by like minded Muslims.
What it does show however is there is latent support for their actions given the overall objective of Islam which is world domination. The “tabloid media” is the only source of opinion that is not in denial about this agenda so don’t knock them.

2604 11:04 pm 23 Sep 14

Unlike many on the left, I don’t buy into the idea that Australians are inherently racist or prejudiced against non-Anglo’s. Anyone who’s traveled much will tell you that we are one of the most tolerant societies on earth, and far less inclined to racial hatred and violence than just about anywhere else.

Most Australians do, or at least want to, approach Islam with an open mind. However, look at what’s happened over the past fifteen years:
– 2001 – 9/11
– 2001 – Shoe bomber (unsuccessful)
– 2002 – Bali bombings
– 2005 – London tube / bus bombings
– 2007 – Pendennis plot
– 2009 – Underpants bomber (unsuccessful)
– 2009 – Jakarta bombings
– 2013 – Lee Rigby murder
– 2014 – Boko Haram schoolgirl kidnapping, rise of Islamic State, multiple beheadings of kidnapped westerners (mostly journalists and aid workers)

In other words, there has been an almost constant stream of violent incidents perpetrated by radicalised Muslims since 2001. In most cases, the perpetrators have intentionally tried to get as much publicity as possible. Can you really blame non-Muslims for feeling uneasy when faced with this ongoing tide of violence?

Are you angry about increased racial profiling and suspicion about Muslims? Don’t blame any purported racist or intolerant streak amongst Australians. Blame radicalised Muslims, and Islamic State, and its adherents in Australia. These are the people giving Muslims in general a bad name.

nazasaurus 10:02 pm 23 Sep 14

Muslims aren’t a homogenous bunch, nor is there such a thing as a Muslim Community with a formal hierarchy in Australia. Yes you have self appointed leaders or clerics from the mosque etc however each muslim practices their own interpretation of Islam based on their cultural background, level of education, degree of integration into the broader community etc etc. It isn’t fair to constantly make muslims apologise or be held accountable for the actions of psychiatrically deranged people, either here or overseas.

On an aside, it saddens me to see the tabloid media try so hard in recent days to pump up fear and paranoia to the detriment of our social cohesion.

Alderney 8:29 pm 23 Sep 14

Masquara said :

Q&A was indeed a disgrace last night.

The discrase is that I can never stay awake to the end these days.

Masquara 5:40 pm 23 Sep 14

dungfungus said :

I reckon that that PR advisor was appointed last night on the totally stage-managed Q&A.
I have never heard so much rubbish. The skew on blaming everyone but Muslims for the evolution of ISIS was overwhelming. Even the interjections from the token Muslim women in the audience was perfectly on cue. Tweets about the questions being asked are posted before the question has been read in full.
No, the Australian Muslims don’t need a PR advisor when they have the ABC and apologists like Gary Humphries.

Q&A was indeed a disgrace last night.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 3:28 pm 23 Sep 14

pierce said :

Islam is to IS as Christianity is to the Ku Klux Klan.

Why should average Muslims have to spend their every waking hour assuring people who should know better that they are not dangerous extremists.

Why aren’t fundamentalist Christians called on to denounce their extremist cousins every time an abortion clinic in the U.S is bombed or a doctor gets shot in the face in the car park of their workplace.

This is the most heinous double standard, issued with crocodile tears in the name of concern.

Christians I know hate extremism in the name of their faith just as much as the Muslims I know hate extremism in theirs.

Muslims don’t need PR, Australia needs to take a breath and be sensible.

dungfungus 1:55 pm 23 Sep 14

I reckon that that PR advisor was appointed last night on the totally stage-managed Q&A.
I have never heard so much rubbish. The skew on blaming everyone but Muslims for the evolution of ISIS was overwhelming. Even the interjections from the token Muslim women in the audience was perfectly on cue. Tweets about the questions being asked are posted before the question has been read in full.
No, the Australian Muslims don’t need a PR advisor when they have the ABC and apologists like Gary Humphries.

Southmouth 1:54 pm 23 Sep 14

pierce said :

Islam is to IS as Christianity is to the Ku Klux Klan.

Why should average Muslims have to spend their every waking hour assuring people who should know better that they are not dangerous extremists.

Why aren’t fundamentalist Christians called on to denounce their extremist cousins every time an abortion clinic in the U.S is bombed or a doctor gets shot in the face in the car park of their workplace.

This is the most heinous double standard, issued with crocodile tears in the name of concern.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/mwd-243-nicholas-reece-on-is-and-the-kkk-and-fiona-stanley-defends-abc-on-the-abc/story-fnkqo7i5-1227064321834?nk=1e70da0d4e2c122184cce47ccbe5e24f

pierce 1:05 pm 23 Sep 14

Islam is to IS as Christianity is to the Ku Klux Klan.

Why should average Muslims have to spend their every waking hour assuring people who should know better that they are not dangerous extremists.

Why aren’t fundamentalist Christians called on to denounce their extremist cousins every time an abortion clinic in the U.S is bombed or a doctor gets shot in the face in the car park of their workplace.

This is the most heinous double standard, issued with crocodile tears in the name of concern.

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