Yes, you can learn something from otherwise frivolous Facebook discussions. The other day an article appeared in a metropolitan newspaper penned by a Masters student of Pakistani heritage. The article was about what Australian Muslims needed to do about radicalisation.
Some people with whom I am Facebook “friends” were not happy with the article. One complained that he had never seen the article’s author around “the community”. Another said that the article’s author was not an “expert” on the subject.
As someone who occasionally dabbles in op-eds, I’ve been on the receiving end of such complaints. I’ve also dished out complaints at times when reading an op-ed by someone with a Muslimish name about a Muslimish subject. Or even worse, by a non-Muslimish name about a Muslimish subject. Yes, we allegedly enlightened Muslims can be so territorial sometimes.
It’s true that Muslims and Islam are largely misunderstood by the media. But are we the only ones? Try being a Scientologist or Mormon for a day. Or a member of Reclaim Australia. (Actually, don’t try that! Please!!) Or a politician being hounded by a powerful special interest group.
Some of us imagine that people who write for newspapers – whether as reporters, reviewers or opinion writers – are all part of a massive Islamophobic conspiracy. They see people with Muslimish names whose photos and words are published as being turncoats who have sold themselves or made secret handshake deals.
We claim to be misunderstood but we simply don’t understand. We imagine the media to be exactly as how we imagine it to be. A major reason for this is that we have rarely had dealings with journalists.
We encourage our children to become doctors and lawyers and accountants and engineers and IT specialists. Our kids follow our instructions and enrol in the relevant faculty. They study in groups of their own discipline. They graduate and work in their profession. Then they read the newspaper and feel as powerless as their parents.
All too often we complain about being misunderstood. We feel powerless to do anything about it. And years go by in this collective depression.
What if we started encouraging our kids to do more creative stuff? OK, granted law can be pretty creative, as can engineering and all the other “desirable” professions. But what about journalism and writing? What about social sciences?
I was happy to see that young Australian Pakistani woman write about radicalisation. I didn’t agree with a lot of what she said. I thought she may have been generalising a bit too much based on her own personal experiences.
But why shouldn’t she share her opinions? Couldn’t we and other news consumers learn something from her? Maybe we do need to think about whether the cultural fetishes we force on our kids (especially our girls) are making them resentful.
And if we don’t like what she writes, we can always write a letter to the editor. Or perhaps encourage our kids to become journalists instead of just engineers or doctors.