Early this morning I got a call from a radio journalist.

“Irfan’s did you see that article in The Oz about the thick sheiks? What do you make of it?”

The Oz has marketed itself as a reliable source of news on these issues, with a specialist reporter of Lebanese background who speaks Arabic. Reporting on a community which is really 60 different communities, most of whose members are under 40 and native English-speakers!

Today’s offering reports that Australia’s tiny minority of Muslims following the “fundamentalist Wahhabi” strain are self-destructing. Apparently the wackier ones meet in private homes, turning their backs on their Sheiks who previously taught wacky stuff but now try to sound responsible.

What does all this mean? I’d say very little to most young Aussie Muslims who are by and large just as nominally Muslim as their school/TAFE/uni/work mates are nominally Jewish or Christian or Hindu or Buddhist or Callithumpian.

However, after speaking to the radio journo, it became clear that so many journos are finding these topics so hard to get their heads around. The hysterical neo-Con marketing of Islam as some sort of dangerous, devious and terroristic threat makes us all (including scribes) ill-informed but not much safer. (Thankfully our national security types get their information from independent sources).

To be fair, The Oz’s Richard Kerbaj does genuinely try to speak to as many people as possible before writing his stories. However, his story is written (or rather, edited) within a prism that, according to veteran journalist Peter Manning, regards all things associated with Islam as “them” and not “us”.

And the existence of more extreme splinter within a splinter group is a story because sadly so much public discourse on Australian Islam is dominated by the imbecilic rhetoric of splinter groups and Sheiks who don’t bother learning the native language of most Muslims (i.e. English).

Apart from news stories and sound bites, the phenomenon of “thick Sheiks” and their isolationist rhetoric also provides plenty of material for Muslim stand-up comics.

See you all at the show!

Peter Fray

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