The totally expected decision to reject the application for an Islamic school seems to have drawn ignorant statements on one side and ridiculous statements on the other.

A few months from local government elections, such a decision allows the Qur’anic society to take its case above local politics. Had council granted them approval, the Fred Niles of this world would have been handed a free kick to campaign on an anti-Muslim platform, they would have been able to recruit many helpers from the couple of hundred residents opposing the development. If they do win seats on council, God forbid, Camden could be thrown into unprecedented stagnation. Council’s decision in the lead-up to an election is a decision that gives all sides a second chance.

The residents can reflect on this victory and the 51,000 plus silent residents who sat back and watched a couple of hundred of their own driven by ignorance and unreasonable fear may now feel a certain impetus to be heard and to ensure that the 200 do not do permanent damage to the image of Camden.

The silent majority of residents needs to ensure that this minority driven by ignorance does not hijack their town. I am certain that this majority would be feeling quite ashamed of comments like:

“We just don’t want Muslim people in Camden” or in “Australia” or comments suggesting that this would bring Hezbollah into Camden.

“My kids can’t read Islamic, how are they going to go to that school, it’s all crap,”

If the silent majority do not act, there will still be a chance for outsiders like the Christian Democrat’s Fred Nile or the Libs Charlie Lynn coming back to town and stoking ignorance in their efforts to influence the voting patterns of the Camden residents.

Of course the reaction of the Camden residents cannot in any way excuse ridiculous statements from some Muslims responding to the council decision; one ousted “leader” is quoted in the SMH suggesting that such a decision can lead to children being sent to backyard teachers who may be “very extreme”, another representative, this time of an “independent” Muslim “think-tank” fell into the trap of describing the decision as a “victory for racism”, a third went so far as to challenge the residents by telling them that change will come and they’d better come to terms with that.

As a Muslim, with all due respect to these so called leaders, I am just as concerned by their comments as the residents of Camden would be with the comments from their own extremists. While I am not labelling any of these leaders as extremists, I do understand why some Camden residents have asked for an apology.

For the silent majority of Camden residents, I apologise for what some fellow Muslims have said about your town, we should never generalise about you or stereotype you or broad-brush the entire town; we complain when it is done to us, we should never do it to you.

Stepping aside from the “them” and “us” of the two sides already quoted, I thought it good of Cardinal Pell to come out demanding a “fair go” for Muslims. It would be wonderful to see the other churches in Australia following suit.

The Gold Logie has to go to the president of the Anti-Discrimination Board, Mr. Stepan Kerkyasharian, he summed it all up beautifully:

“Regrettably, there are people in our society who will exploit opportunities like this to promote their agenda of distrust and of hatred.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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