The eighth generation Australian Muslim abused on the street and told to "go back where she came from". The Muslim men at a footy match marched out by police and questioned for using their phones "suspiciously". The senior Muslim cleric detained by Customs for no clear reason. The bomb threat signed "Australian Defence League" sent to an Islamic centre. Muslims raided and detained by NSW Police and then released without charge, henceforth stigmatised as "terror suspects". Muslims told to leave the country if they want to follow sharia law by an opportunistic politician who doesn't actually know what sharia law is. Muslim women told they don't have the right to dress as they please by government backbenchers. Muslims vilified as practising a religion of hatred and murder by a far-right News Corp columnist. Muslims vilified as practising "hatred, thuggery and racism" by a far-right Fairfax columnist.
"Some in the media have even argued that an individual victim's beheading would somehow be more psychologically damaging to Australia than mass-casualty attacks -- a homeopathic approach to terrorism in which ever-smaller numbers of actual victims produces ever-greater damage and fear."
The harassment and vilification of Muslims isn't merely the actions of a few neo-Nazi nutjobs or shrill talkback callers. It's coming from all over. The footy fan who thinks Lebanese men using phones is automatically suspicious. The police who act on this "tip". The politicians who seize on terror raids to vent their weird obsessions with Muslim women. The media figures who hope to harvest clicks by demonising Muslims. Demonising Muslims not for anything they have done, but for who they are. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis have rightly sought to take an inclusive approach toward the Muslim community's role in being able to stop extremism, and government ministers repeatedly emphasised terrorism was unrelated to religion and called for calm. But at other times  Brandis has inflamed, not calmed things, with his over-the-top rhetoric. To insist, as the Attorney-General did yesterday, that the current terror threat was greater than the risks of the Cold War is a new height in War on Terror hysteria, from the man who gave us the "existential threat" of some thugs whose idea of a terrorist strike is a random murder of an individual. Even libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm, who has adopted an appropriately sceptical view of Brandis' proposed extensions of anti-terrorism laws, has bought into the inflated rhetoric by accusing the government of "appeasing" Muslims -- presumably an odd form of appeasement that consists of police raids. Nor have the media helped. Even without extreme commentators attacking Muslims, the breathless reporting of every detail, whether fabricated, mistaken or correct, relating to possible terrorist incidents only makes the atmosphere more febrile, especially with the peculiar media obsession with beheading. Even if there's no evidence for such a clumsy form of terrorism, inside each Muslim terrorist there is now, apparently, a beheader. Some in the media have even argued that an individual victim's beheading would somehow be more psychologically damaging to Australia than mass-casualty attacks -- a homeopathic approach to terrorism in which ever-smaller numbers of actual victims produces ever-greater damage and fear. And the media appears to have only a binary understanding of terrorism: you're either a sword-wielding Muslim fundamentalist or you're not, with no understanding of the demonstrated recurring role of mental illness in Western terrorists, or how expressing unpopular political views does not immediately mean one is a "terror suspect". Put aside fairness and decency toward our Muslim citizens, if nothing else, there's a growing risk that the constant attention, harassment and demonisation of a single community will alienate, isolate and enrage people who may already be at risk of being turned to extremism, the people already convinced Australia is targeting Muslims, whether here or overseas. This is the very problem, supposedly, we're trying to address. The government appears at best torn on this -- anxious to call for calm and discourage the vilification of Muslims, but eager to whip up fear in order to expedite the passage of its terror laws and provide a justification for its involvement in Iraq. So many of us, including in the media, seem hell-bent on creating the very conditions that encourage extremism and alienation, right here in Australia.