Today, Michael Smith, shock-jock wannabe was in full rant on 4BC, and whilst he was having a go at Premier Anna Bligh, the main subject of his rant was a “sheik” in Sydney who had been to court about something or other. The details of the case are fairly inocuous, apparently he had sent harrassing letters to the widows of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He appeared in court today and chained himself to the court building to protest at the killing of Afghan civilians.

Now I am not condoning what the “sheik” did — pretty low act actually — these women were traumatised and suffering and their husbands had given up their lives for their country. I don’t know who he is or what his specific problem is with the war in Afghanistan — don’t know if he has family over there or not, or if his family are victims of the war, so not sure if he was responding out of frustration, or rage or if he is just plain loopy. And I don’t know how many other letters he has sent to Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister protesting at the war.

Regardless of all that he has a right to say what he wants no matter how abhorrent, hateful or stupid his remarks. You can’t fight wars in other countries espousing freedom and democracy then cry wolf when someone at home uses that freedom and democracy. It’s like one of Smith’s callers today who rang and said the guy had the right to say what he wanted and it was no more hateful than the atrocities committed on returned soldiers from Vietnam — although Smith wasn’t having a bar of it!

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Part of Smith’s rant was about banning hateful speech and words, even though espousing “I’m all for free speech …” He wanted the word jihad to be banned — how do you actually do that? Smith said that it was such a hateful word that it should not be tolerated in this country. Jihad would have to be the most over-used and least understood word in the Arabic/English language. Like a lot of Arabic words, jihad has many meanings depending on the context it is used in — but Smith wanted it banned altogether.

Of course when the announcer goes off ranting it also brings out the worst in the callers to the station — one nearly ran off the road he was that incensed — not at the “sheik” apparently but at Chris Murphy, the lawyer who had the temerity to defend him! One of Smith’s callers wanted a three strikes you’re out policy introduced — if you’re a new migrant you have three chances to live up to Australian values otherwise you get deported back to your homeland. If you transgress within five years of arriving that means we cancel your visa and on your way buddy! And yet we can’t get 78 people off a boat in Indonesia — who knew it was that easy!

What we do about the low level scum who are born and bred here I don’t know – where do we send them – the Martin Bryant’s, the Ivan Milat’s etc. Two sets of rules it seems — just when everyone is raving about Muslims (they seem to be the targetted group de jour) not integrating into Australian society, some want to actually have them operating under a different set of laws.

Another caller rang Smith and asked about the Muslim leaders and why no-one has denounced this “sheik” and told Australia that all Muslims aren’t like that. Smith then made a “generous” gesture and said whoever rang from the Muslim leadership could have all the time needed to state their case against the “sheik”. Don’t know if he had any takers — and here’s why — we don’t care.

The “sheik” is a nut, and the majority of people — including Muslims — would not have even heard about him if not for Smith and the Daily Telegraph in Sydney — so not even a local Brisbane angle to it, for Smith to make it relevant. And why do Muslim leaders have to constantly denounce the more erratic members of their community — don’t see anyone getting a quote from Archbishop Pell about the latest rape or homicide committed by a Christian person in Sydney. It doesn’t happen for any other religion so why is Islam singled out?

Yasmin Khan is a former member of the Prime Minister’s Muslim Community Reference Group and director of the award-winning Eidfest festival. Her family have been in Australia for more than 100 years.

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Peter Fray
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