In June, during national Refugee Week, there was a Coronavirus outbreak in Victoria which some news agencies swiftly took the opportunity to label as “caused by Muslims celebrating Eid at the end of Ramadhan.”
They couldn’t just write “One family does the wrong thing.” Instead they had to throw us all under the bus. Some even went too far as to blame multiculturalism.
In one particularly disturbing article they used images of a full mosque congregation alongside an image of people wearing PPE in a medical setting, presumably tireless working on COVID-19 patients or a cure.
This kind of reporting is designed to ignite emotion in the reader by giving the impression that while the white Australian medical staff are looking for a cure there are masses of irresponsible brown Muslims gathering at their mosques and not even abiding by the 1.5m social distancing laws.
As the entire Australian Muslim population knows, all our mosques took the preventative action to close their doors during Ramadan this year.
The Board of Imams sent through several notices cautioning and reminding the Australian Muslim population. The same messages were repeated through our newsletters at schools and workplaces and through many social media platforms.
The images used in their articles of a full mosque congregation are pre-COVID-19 photos, used opportunistically to paint the picture of Muslim Australians not obeying the law. These are misleading, deliberately defamatory and divisive.
More importantly this reporting is not reflective of what Ramadan and Eid was actually like for the overwhelming majority of Australian Muslims this year. Ramadan through the pandemic of 2020 will go down as the most quiet and sombre ever, at least in Australia’s history.
Within the next 24 hours after these articles were published, it was no surprise that all shades of white supremacists came out of the woodworks, putting their best demonstration of Islamophobia and even blaming multiculturalism as the root cause of COVID-19.
It’s situations like these that make the role of key places like Islamic Museum of Australia all the more crucial.
When dealing with experts at erasing and replacing the truth, the best and only weapon is truth itself.
For their latest project, over the last month, Islamic Museum of Australia has been approaching Australian Muslim communities; collecting information regarding impact of COVID-19 through the lens of Australian Muslims. They are gathering a collection of stories and images for the Islamic Museum archives.
“We’re asking Australian Muslims to tell us how you’ve coped and how you’ve thrived during this time. We want to know, collect and archive what Ramadhan and Eid looks like in 2020 through your eyes and in your words. How you’ve filled the void of not attending Jummuah in the masjid (Friday prayers at the mosque). If you were due to perform Hajj this year, tell us how you feel right now…”
These projects which share our truths and our history as Australian Muslims are incredibly important resources that must be supported, funded, encouraged and shared.
They are crucial in countering the often relentless islamophobic elitist sentiments of mainstream media and for the the prominent voices who’ve pledged allegiance to white supremacy.
In the noble Quran, Our Creator tells us that He “Made you into nations and tribes so that you may better know one another. The most honourable of you is the most pious of you.”
We are all brothers and sisters in humanity and we all have a role in eradicating racism and discrimination. It starts with educating ourselves, our families and our communities. Let the truth-telling begin.