Ask any person with an Arabic or Persian or Muslim-sounding name who blogs, tweets or regularly posts on Facebook groups. We’ve all had the same experience — trolls leaving nasty or narky or even violent comments about our religious or ethno-religious heritage. One guy used to leave messages on my blog warning of an impending “alcoholocaust” in which my type would be drowned in grog. Others would request I kindly commit suicide as I was “the fattest ugliest and smelliest lawyer in Australia”.
My favourite would be the snarky reference to “the religion of peace”. From far-Right wackos to the Facebook pages of the Fred Niles and Danny Nalliahs of this world, this cynical reference to George W. Bush’s remarks after 9/11 has become a staple hate-phrase of just about anyone with a gripe against someone who sort of looks mildly Muslim-ish.
And now the Prime Minister is echoing the trolls during a high-profile speech on national security. A speech introducing a report by two public servants into a single tragic incident that is still the subject of an investigation and report from the Coroner.
Abbott’s rhetoric surely must represent yet another ridiculous captain’s call. “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a religion of peace. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.” It was as if he’d just been told all Muslims worked on the same telephone sex line, leading him to wink at his fellow cultural trolls.
And which Muslim leaders is he talking about? Religious leaders? Fruit-loop dictators who imprison Australian journalists? Middle Eastern oil sheikhs? The captains of the Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and South African World Cup cricket squads?
And exactly when will Abbott be satisfied that Muslims actually mean it when they quote Dubya? What does it mean to mean you reckon your religion is all peace and love and flowers and VW vans?
Indeed, what does the peaceful or otherwise nature of 14 centuries of parallel traditions have to do with a crazed gunman who wore Iranian Shia robes and then decided he would support the vehemently anti-Shia Islamic State but took the wrong flag to the Lindt Cafe?
I know plenty of Muslims who are about as observant and pious as Mick Jagger. A fair few are atheist. Others might visit the mosque once a year. There are Muslims who drink, eat very non-halal meat, live in sin and yet still have some identification with their ancestral faith and culture. They aren’t the sort of people to give a rat’s backside about what some non-English-speaking mufti says.
Then there are more devout Muslims who would not associate with IS-type groups for religious and sectarian reasons. They don’t want their country to enter an “ominous” new “dark age”. They just want to go to work, pay their taxes and have enough money left over to take the kids shopping at their local Westfield regardless of any threats or the Jewish beliefs of certain Westfield managers. They probably wouldn’t feel inclined to sign some long-winded statement, many of whose signatories belong to an exclusivist denomination that regards other Muslims as unbelievers.
Grassroots communities don’t need lectures from Tony Abbott. They know what terrorism is because many have fled from it and have often spent years in detention centres. Perhaps the PM should talk to the group of Iraqi-Australians from Christian and Muslim denominations who met in January to discuss the issue of young Iraqi-Australians tempted to fight for either side. “The forum was organised by young people from the Iraqi Australian University Graduates Forum — which included people from Shia, Sunni, Assyrian, Christian, Chaldean, Syriac and Mandaean communities” and called for “an open debate on extremism”. Of course, it’s impossible to have an open debate when a substantial part of the whole community is made to feel like it’s all their fault.
All this fuss and dog-whistling about migrants and non-white people says more about Tony Abbott than it does about migrants and non-white people. Seriously, what kind of conservative prime minister introduces revolutionary changes to citizenship law on the basis of a single report by a couple of public servants? What kind of PM thinks we should change our laws due to the actions of a deranged migrant when our jails are full of deranged violent people who were born here? What kind of champion of Australian values awards the nation’s highest honour to a Greek chap with unsavoury connections? What kind of party introduces legislation attacking hate speech while sharing preferences each election with the likes of Fred Nile and while having supporters like Andrew Bolt? What kind of bloke appoints himself Minister for Women? With this kind of decision-making, is it any wonder Abbott is in deep poop?
Suggesting Man Haron Monis is reflective of Islam is about as silly as suggesting Tony Abbott is reflective of Catholicism and/or Australian values. As for Islamic State, it’s about as Islamic as the Liberal Party is liberal.