The ongoing media assault on Yassmin Abdel-Magied had dominated the spotlight last month almost like an obsessive love-to-hate frenemy.
Yassmin wrote: “Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine…)”.
It is astounding how seven short words on a facebook post (which was later deleted) has sparked some of the most disgusting vitriol from social media trolls, online news platforms and television panels severely demonising Yassmin.
The mania behind the reaction reveals a kind of hypocrisy, from some Liberal politicians, right-wing columnists and shockjocks and shows the true nature of who freedom of speech is reserved for in this country.
The over-reaction of hate towards Yassmin resulted in multiple petitions with thousands of signatures calling for her to be sacked from her presenting role at the ABC. She was called a “bitch” by a reality TV housewife on live television and vilified on so many public forums.
The right-wing lynch mob tactics of press and politics vilified her identity rather than what she wrote. It’s a clear portrayal of vicious retribution against the 26-year-old, through the incessant piles of articles and commentary nationwide.
However, a number of columnists have come in defence of Yassmin, writing against her victimisation because of her gender, skin colour and religion.
Masrur-Ul Islam Joarder wrote for the Huffington Post on how freedom of speech is a white man’s privilege. “Her lack of sensitivity towards ANZAC Day certainly raised eyebrows from her followers, but it was the reaction from the right which was most shocking.
Waves of racist, sexist, Islamophobic attacks came her way because she dared to exercise her freedom of speech. She dared to even utter a reference to ANZAC Day, an almost religious occasion for most Australians. People lost their damn minds.
Yassmin is a brown, Muslim woman. Her opinion does not matter. Her right to free speech does not count. Regardless of her values, intellect and demeanour, she needs to be silenced at all costs because she is a threat.
Yassmin threatens every conservative Australian who may have reservations about Islam and Muslims because she is willing to engage in discussion and reveal the truth: that Islam advocates for peace and the majority of Muslims want exactly that.
The truth is threatening as it limits an individual’s ability to conceal their racism behind a pretence of national security and “Australian values”.
Jane Gilmore wrote an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald saying “it would be naive to the point of delusional to think (that Yassmin being a brown Muslim woman) plays no part in the weight of the rage that has settled upon her. She hits every hot button of ideology and it is abhorrent, but sadly unsurprising, that her every action is scrutinised by the right-wing conservatives whose message of exclusion is most threatened by the identity she proudly carries into the public eye.”
On ABC Online, Stan Grant wrote an article titled “Lest we forget and selective national memory”, where he said, “Her critics though have seized on the moment to send a wider message, to seek to define what is and isn’t acceptable — what is and isn’t “Australian”. Surely, the essential Australian value we celebrate on ANZAC Day is freedom — it is what people have sacrificed and died for — and that includes the freedom to make comment, however ill-advised.”
In a comment piece in the Age, Matt Holden wrote about how Yassmin Abdel-Magied failed a citizenship test she didn’t know she was taking and summed things up quite pertinently.
“She’s a Muslim, an outspoken young woman, a person of colour. She wears loud clothes and big glasses. She may as well have painted a bullseye on her backside before she posted.
And she wasn’t born in this country, which leaves her open to that ugliest of Australian insults: go back to where you came from (or, as Christensen put it, “consider self-deportation”).
If she didn’t know it before, she must now know that in a world of “us” and “them”, she (and by association, all Muslims) is one of “them”. And that the “us” is a big, ugly race-baiting gang itching to bully the “thems” into silence and submission” Holden wrote.
Clementine Ford wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning herald about the hypocrisy that lies behind the reaction to seven words from Yassmin Abdel-Magied.
“Conservative politicians have sought to make an example of her, presumably because there’s no better way to shore up support for your party than by reassuring Australia’s most virulent racists that you’re on their side when it comes to the migrants. All that, for a seven word Facebook reflection that acknowledged the ongoing impact of war on a national day of remembrance. How un-Australian.” wrote Ford.
Although the vitriol against Yassmin has been an absolute car crash, it’s important to note that there are media platforms and writers who are willing to stand up for what’s right, reveal the truth and reflect on where we need to improve as a Multicultural society.