Laced in every news update, the basis of political stanzas, ever prevalent on public transport, plastered on newspaper front pages. The fear of Muslims in Australia is harrowing, the fear of Muslims in the world is harrowing. Our media was happy to turn a blind eye when the Taliban were tearing through Afghanistan, as a river of blood ran through Syria, the western world has only become so terrified of terrorism now that it is so closely and directly affecting us. Our government was happy to conceal the stories of asylum seekers begging for entry into our country, terrified of the terror they had left back home. Stopping the boat people is subjecting them back to what they’ve been so desperately running from which is congruent to what we are so desperately running from. Muslims and terrorists are not synonymous nouns, they are not words to be used interchangeably. There is only one enemy we are being attacked by and it is not Islam, people of Islamic faith or Muslims, it is ISIS.
Islamophobia is defined as a ‘dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.’
And Islamophobia has become gasoline with all the media needing to do is strike a match and place it near a Muslim and the world will revel at the flames.
After the attack on Nice, the well regarded newspaper The Australian posted an article full of reader based submissions, one which suggested internment of Muslims.
“Eventually, the secular world is going to have to decide if it’s going to accept these outrages as the new normal, or if it’s going to actually do something other than lay flowers and mouth pointless platitudes. The solution is radical. We will have to consider internment. Outrageous? See if you can come up with an alternative.”
And this isn’t the first time internment and segregation of Muslims has been suggested it was mentioned by both Gen. Wesley Clark and Franklin Graham both endorsed the radicalized treatment of Muslims back in 2015 stating,
“It’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”
How quickly history is repeating itself, how infuriating it is that we cannot see the patterns in our mistakes, how many people visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, weep at the children’s shoes, the locks of hair. How many people shed tears over Ann Frank, The Book Thief, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. How many people shudder at the harrowing happenings of the holocaust but are so ready to do it again. To wipe out an entire race, an entire culture.
If we are going to write an order of internment for Muslims then we may as well write the history books recounting the horrific acts as we go. If we’re going to design a place to detain all these innocent people, while we’re at it design the entry and exists that tourists are going to use in hundreds of years when they come to pay their respects, include the plaques of explanation in the floor plan, blueprint where people will revel at the horror of what we have done. Include regret in the final proposition. Hit copy and paste on the apologies made after the Second World War, make sure you 2nd to 3rd and we’ll be ready to make the exact same mistakes we’ve made before.
And while I can say I don’t think that internment is the answer, while I can watch the news, read the papers, feel sorrow and fear for the victims of attacks or my Muslim friends that are heckled, all I can have is compassion. I am white. I am 5”1. I am female. I have never been seen to the media as a threat, I have never been accused as being vicious or being capable of crimes I cannot even dream of. I have never been painted in a light to the entire world as a terrorist when I don’t even have the watercolours that make up radicalisation.
But my friends Michelle and Kamania have. While I have empathy they have experience.
These are their stories.
“I am an Australian Muslim. When I first reverted I was so proud to wear a headscarf and be known as a Muslim. But now I find that I cannot wear the headscarf as I find that people treat me differently, even rudely. What people don’t understand is that the headscarf is optional, so I chose not to where the headscarf to not draw attention to myself (in the Qu’ran it actually mentions that Muslim women should not draw unnecessary attention to themselves, this is why I made the decision to unveil), however when I am overseas I feel very comfortable wearing the headscarf. According to the Muslims which have said this to me I believe that it is a cultural difference, in their culture women wear the headscarf no matter what, according to my actual ‘non-Muslim’ friends I am not a Muslim without the headscarf because, as far as they know ‘all Muslims wear headscarfs’. I am personally directed from what is written in the Qu’ran and I am free to make that choice.”
But Michelle does not feel free anymore, “in the last 12 months I have noticed my friends have forgotten that I am Muslim and make prejudicial comments about Muslims in front of me, which affects me deeply, to the affect that they should burn down mosques, shut down Islamic schools because they only teach terrorism and all Muslims are terrorists.”
Kamania Butler is not quite the same, she does not feel the need for label to describe herself, rather a label to describe what she believes in.
“I’m an African American/Australian woman who is technically a Christian who has a Muslim, refugee partner.
I’m not “black” and I’m not “white,” I’m not religious but I’m also not not-religious. What I am is an advocate for understanding, knowledge sharing and searching for one’s own truth: what do you believe is honest and fair?
I don’t care what your parents believe, or what “you’ve always been told,” I don’t even care what your religion or faith has taught you. If you see an injustice occur speak up if you are able to, call someone out on their unfair behaviour or misuse of a word. Ask someone WHERE they received that information. Do not be afraid to stick up if you see something unjust or unfair. When I say stand up for your beliefs I mean just that, your beliefs. Challenge what you have been taught and what you believe and challenge why you believe it.
Do you believe it is fair for a shop owner to refuse service or entry to someone of a race, religion, or colour based on their (the owners) personal beliefs? If you answered yes you said you believe in slavery, segregation, banning Muslims (AND Christians, Jews, Buddhists) and colonisation over native people. If you said yes then you just agreed that someone should be able to decide on another person’s rights. That someone else should be able to decide on your rights without your input.
I challenge you to take the perspective of whoever it is that you want to deny a right to a Muslim family fleeing bombs, native people having ownership rights. Ask yourself why you believe that your belief is alright to enforce upon others? (IS it alright?)
Where did this belief come from? Your parents, your church? Your community or the news?
Do you know much about ‘these people’ which you wish to deny the right of? Do you know much about Native Indians or Aboriginal people? About Muslims or “black” people? Again where did you get this information that you think you know?
Know yourself and know your values, make sure you know and understand that which you are defending or protesting against.
Something Kamania really takes inspiration from is the quote from Taylor Mali's poem Conviction, he says,
"I implore you I entreat you and I challenge you to speak with conviction. To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it.”
So is ISIS a problem?
However is there an equally pressing crisis embedded in the western worlds lack of compassion?
A massive thank you to Kamania Butler and Michelle for lending their experience and voices to such a poignant issue.