Say g'day to Australia's other muslims

Most Muslims living in the West are like my family. We aren't fanatics and we don't issue death threats over YouTube clips - which is why we don’t get the airtime.

Fact File

Here in Australia we like to give the impression we are the Lucky Country. We have the beaches, the weather, the laid-back attitude – all of which has attracted countless Brits to these shores. It is however, a carefully cultivated image – we like to project that we are immune from all the bad stuff that’s taking place in the rest of the world. We aren’t of course, we just don’t want you to know that. So when something like the riots that occurred in Sydney last weekend take place, Australians are a bit taken aback, to put it mildly. 

It’s OK for us to view the angry mobs burning flags and effigies in a foreign country, far, far away. But when they do it in our own backyard, our heckles get raised. It’s no secret that Australia has an uneasy relationship with multiculturalism. This is a country that had the White Australia policy little more than 40 years ago. It’s a country that receives only 2.5% of global asylum claims  but is spending $1.4 billion to ensure these asylum-seekers are processed off shore. It’s a country where 1 in 10 are considered racial supremacists

When men with beards, skull caps and white Kurthas, who don’t look like your average “Australian” start chanting and burning flags in the centre of Sydney’s CBD the old “us” and “them” rhetoric gets brought up again. Stereotypes that are never too far from the surface get raised. There are calls for these men to be sent back to “their Islamic country of origin” (whatever that means) even though 38% of Muslims in Australia are born here . There are calls for the children carrying placards promoting beheadings be put into care (they won’t be ). And then there are politicians who point and say, look, see what happens when you promote a multicultural society – you get violence.

It’s easy of course to take this line of argument. It’s easy to look at a small group of protestors and make assumptions about not only the 400,000 or so Muslims who call Australia home, but the millions of Muslims living in pockets across the West. People like myself.

By Muslim standards my family is very liberal. Some Muslims may not even consider us to be Muslims, even though we are. We just don’t wear hjiabs, don skullcaps or grow beards. We happen to feel that our religion is a private matter, between ourselves and our God. It’s not a thing to be politicised. And it’s certainly not a religion that incites hatred and violence. We lead our lives like normal citizens of a country that we love. The main difference between us and those rage-filled guys acting violent and spouting all kinds of vitriol is that we don’t make a fuss. We go about our business, contributing to the economy, and trying as best as possible to assimilate ourselves into the nation we call home.

Most Muslims living in the West are like my family – i.e. boring. The media won’t find much, if any, of what we do all that interesting. Which is why we don’t get the airtime. That instead goes to a few fanatics who know how to create a scene. In fact, they are so good at creating drama, the media is hooked. It can’t get enough. The Wire has got nothing on these protestors when it comes to dramatic tension.

It’s just unfortunate however, that the actions of a few is able to damn the religion of many. Not just in Australia, but all over the West. In the UK a recent survey revealed that more people would support an anti-Muslim political party than reject it. The protests around the world about a YouTube clip that most of those protesting haven’t even seen, has further worsened this image. We can of course become defeated by it. We can claim that the fanatics have won. That in fact, progressive Islam is over. It’s not of course, it’s just not as interesting. For the voices of reason to be heard above the raucous rabble, the media narrative needs to change.

There is no defending their actions, but we could look at the reasons why these men are protesting. We might be able to point to the fact that most of them are disenfranchised, that they have no other outlet to voice their opinion. They see the media elite talking about people like them, even though these talking heads have never actually spoken to anyone like them. Economically many of these men are suffering, a lot of them are unemployed and from poor backgrounds. They have not had the opportunities that many of us take for granted. But once you start looking at these people as complex individuals rather than as the demons they have been painted to be, you start to realise the situation is more complicated than you previously thought. And that of course, turns people off. At the end of the day, whether in print or online, the media is all about black and white. It’s when you get into the greys that things get difficult, and really who has got time for that?

But perhaps we need to start making time. As Albert Einstein once said, “It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom.” We have to live together after all. There is no going back from that.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own