I was at a café waiting for my coffee to be made, when I looked over at the giant television displaying morning show news. All I saw was how easily the words Terrorist and Muslims were rolled up into a nice neat package. I look away and switch my attention to Facebook, and I see statuses and shared posts on vandalism, physical and verbal abuse directed towards members of the Muslim community, the ones I had read were mainly of Muslim women being threatened and attacked.
It is impossible to deny there is a sense of tension within the community. Despite Muslims being unfairly targeted by the media being nothing new, this is the first time I’ve seen such a large amount of physical assault taking place in cities around the country. And what’s worse is that there doesn’t seem to be any indication that it’s going to stop anytime soon.
There are so many complex issues floating around and being discussed, which includes identifying what kind of language is used to describe members of the Muslim community, and how should it be clarified?
Should the Muslim community engage with the government and media? What are the internal issues that our own community needs to face up to? What should you do when faced with any kind of verbal or physical assault? What are your rights when it comes to Police harassment or mistreatment?
It seems that Australian Muslims are expected to take on the responsibility to apologise for extremists and satisfy the media, politicians and the general public. But what we really need to do is shift the focus back onto our community and assess the impact the most recent events had on us.
Local forums have taken place for community discussion of the recent police raids. Events likes these are much needed within our community in order to have a more unified approach in engaging with the government and media. How we engage as a community is crucial, it’s not about being fatalistic, the fact of the matter is, whether we like it or not, more laws are being formulated that will affect our community.
We as a community need to be prepared as to how to deal with the situation from a legal perspective. Aside from Muslim leaders and the Muslim community publicly opposing the laws, we need to established professional organisations such as the Muslim Legal Network. We need to utilise the services by professionals within the community who work behind the scenes and understand what consequences will emerge from these laws. We as a community need to be more unified and organised so that we may be informed about what our rights are. Having these set structures and strategies in place would provide fast-acting quality leadership and strengthen the community as a whole.
Then there’s the political perspective. How does the community respond to the media, the government and to the general public. It’s so difficult to address these issues when you’re already on an uphill battle.
On the one hand, we don’t want to be apologetic, playing into the idea that we are responsible. Yet on the other hand, we do need to address what is happening abroad because there are direct consequences to our community.
There is a lot of tension and confusion as to how Muslim leaders are overtly voicing their ideas on the issues. The key is that we are strategic in the timing and the way in which we respond. It needs to be well thought out, planned and agreed upon.
It is imperative to understand the context of the situation. Look at the timing of what is happening right now, the terror alert is raised to high, we have 600 Australian Defence Force troops sent overseas, the terror laws are being debated, the context is heavily politicised. The raids are fully televised and the media had full access to photograph and spin their own sensationalist beat up stories.
This compromised the right of the individuals affected to a fair trial. There level of civil liberties to all Australians are severely compromised. The media have perpetuated a strong frenzy of hysteria and panic.
The most significant parts of the terror legislation are as follows:
It is an offence to travel to certain countries where there is a terrorist organisation, and based upon pure suspicion, authorities may stop you.
It is easier for the Australian Federal Police to obtain control orders, and restrict movement.
It is much easier to arrest a suspected terrorist without a warrant.
ASIO may request the suspension of your passport for three weeks based purely on suspicion without any further reasoning required.
Police are provided with control to enact violence as long as they do not kill, cause serious injury to the person or damage to their property.
Police may interrogate people for a week without any charges being placed.
According to the Muslim Legal Network, this legislation is “ill considered, hastily pursued, and stated without the engagement with the very community it would affect the most.”
The way in which members of the Muslim community respond is paramount to how we’re going to deal with the current situation. Don’t allow the media and propaganda from the government and media to instil panic. Muslims must not be afraid to speak out when they are harassed and make it publicly known.
Don’t just take the abuse and be complacent about it. If there are any cases of harassment, abuse, assault from the public, report it to police and community leadership. Its so important not remain quiet or passive. Document your innocence as much as possible, take photos, note down numbers, locations and timings and report it. You have right to go and complain. Thanks to social media providing a platform for people to convey their experiences, put your complains on the Islamophobia Register Australia Facebook page.
Remain positive that with every hardship comes ease. Look at any opportunity to provide daawah, be kind, open, composed and peaceful. And finally, remember the greatest power of prayer, supplication and worship.