Nov 10, 2017

Why I’m done fact-checking Islamophobes, racists and trolls

It's hard to come up with the perfect come-back when you're accosted by racists like Sam Dastyari was. But it's what happens next that is more important.

Shakira Hussein — Writer and academic in multiculturalism

Shakira Hussein

Writer and academic in multiculturalism

They say you never forget your first time.

Mine was during my Queensland high school years way back in the 1980s, when the local newspaper published a letter in which I pointed out that the author of a previous letter denouncing the commercialisation of Christmas by our culture’s "traditional enemies" was a well-known supporter of the anti-Semitic pseudo-historian David Irving. The following week, some anonymous person posted me a newsletter from the notorious far-right Australian League of Rights.

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32 thoughts on “Why I’m done fact-checking Islamophobes, racists and trolls

  1. Irfan Yusuf

    Wow. Shakira/Dr Hussein as usual nails it. I just hope those wielding cultural and political power will heed her words.

  2. Djbekka

    Thanks, Shakira. How difficult it must be to live well when so many days bring another blow on the same deep bruises. I live in the hope that the fear mongers and their ugly talk will fade from the daily news before they trigger something really fearsome.
    Respect, in solidarity and hope.

  3. Mike Smith

    I’m not one of Sam’s greatest followers (understatement) but he didn’t deserve that. And I’d defend him against the yobbos.

  4. Robert Barwick

    I believe that Pauline Hanson’s latest incarnation as an Islamophobe is the product of the dog-whistle rhetoric of the War on Terror. Howard stopped the Tampa before anyone died at sea, but also before 9/11, and then used that attack to demonise refugees as somehow associated with the terrorists. He, Bush-Cheney, and Blair escalated their rhetoric before and after Iraq to distract from their obvious lies, and while there was some resistance from Labor, many in Labor bought into it (the neocons–Beazley, Rudd, Danby et al.). All Pauline and the so-called Patriots do is regurgitate the impressions that the governments of Aus, USA and UK were happy for them to absorb. (This is borne out by the fact that quite a few Patriots are ex-military.) I think Trump’s attitude to Muslims is similarly acquired. So where I believe Dastyari erred in his blame is to pin Trump and Hanson as unleashing this behaviour, when in truth they like the Patriots are products of the Establishment’s cynical disinformation to justify unjustifiable policies. And while Australian Labor isn’t entirely to blame for Iraq (UK Labour and US Democrats are though), they are equally culpable for the appalling mistreatment of refugees, which they lie is to stop deaths at sea, all the while knowing that it is only popular because most Australian have been conditioned to fear/hate Muslims. Dr Hussein’s final paragraph is spot-on.

    1. Steven Pecl

      Excellent point, Labor bear immense responsibility for the current political climate as well, and are certainly culpable when it comes to where we are at in this county with our abhorrent policies regarding asylum seekers. That said, I wouldn’t extend too much blame towards Dastyari personally, as you can bet your bottom dollar he wouldn’t be supporting these policies in the party room.

  5. JQ

    To a certain extent you’re right in that there’s no arguing with ideologues, but the lesson I think would have been valuable to extract from your encounter with the “religion of Satan” bedlamite is that it was time to learn how to respond to such statements with resolute and effectual counter-arguments in future.
    Having written a book on the plight of Muslim women, it stands to reason you’ll be able to decisively refute poorly formulated anti-Islamic rants. It’s not enough to assume that other commentators or the media will have your back post factum.
    To quote John Stuart Mill:
    “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

    1. Dan Dair

      Excellent reply
      & extremely well-made points.!
      I will take them away with me for use in the future.!!!

  6. Draco Houston

    Gotta say, one of your best pieces yet.

    1. Helen Razer

      The woman was AFLAME, no?
      (The Doctor writes very well on any day, though, I’d say. May I recommend her book From Victims to Suspects: Muslim Women Since 911?)

  7. John Hall

    Great read and hits the nail on our Governments moral failure. If they are following Australian ‘values’ we are damned. Our bloated Gestapo Department headed by Dutton is a stain on the Public Service also – how people can ignore our UN Charter obligations is beyond me.

    1. PeteH

      That’s Obergruppenführer Dutton to you.

  8. PG

    Thanks Shakira. Beautiful work. Thanks to Tim Watts for “What race is dickhead?” The boy should go far.

  9. Venise Alstergren

    Excellent article Shakira.
    IMHO Australia has always been a racist country. In my mother’s day it was an opinion behind a raised hand. “Oh of course he’s like that, he’s a ……..doncha know.” I have been told to go back where I came from, (admittedly it only happened when I wore a poncho.) After my mother’s time there seemed to be several years of uneasy peace -from the mentally challenged- followed by the Pauline Hanson cringe circus where it seemed to be suddenly OK to express racist views. Sanctioned by, of all people, George Brandis on the subject of bigots. And now the Sam Dastyari event.

    In short I don’t think Australia has changed one little bit. However, it has been the deliberate name calling by politicians like George Brandis and the catawauling of QLD fish shop proprietors and their ilk which have been an excuse to come out of a particularly filthy closet.

    1. Dan Dair

      Venise Alstergren,
      With respect to your more ‘first-hand’ experience, I take a different stance.
      I truly believe that things were changing.
      IMO people were becoming more cosmopolitan & accepting of non-white faces within their communities. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but over generations & as more children grow-up with non-whites in their classrooms; & realise that irrespective of race, colour or religion, they’re all essentially just normal people, the children are not burdened with the prejudices of their parents.?

      Suddenly Pauline Hanson pulls a stunt like that for her own ends, not for any valid reason & the good work done over years is set-aside in a moment.?

      1. Woofle

        … and as more people become confident in themselves and with their views, they don’t “just follow”.
        I remember journos on the street asking people how they would vote in the upcoming election. Many of them said “Umm, I have to check with my priest”

      2. Venise Alstergren

        I understand where you are coming from. However, I still tend to think it’s the concept of racism which besets us. It went quiet for a few years, then flared up again; now that it’s OK to be a bigot. Racist behaviour is a bully’s game which sees concepts flow down from the top until those lame-brained thugs who attacked Sam Dastyari and the marble headed Pauline Hanson followers get the message. The people who aren’t racist form the basis of a tolerant society, until the dickwitted politicians realise public opinion has shifted. And given the appalling hash of things happening under Malcolm Turnbull plus his mentally challenged ministers, I tend to take a darker view of things. I hooe I’m wrong.

        1. Dan Dair

          I too hope you are wrong.!
          I hope that Trump & all of the ‘alt-right’ guff is actually the last gasp of a failed, outmoded & narrow-minded way of thinking
          & than once we get over this current stumble, we can once again get back on the road to good sense & a more unified way of thinking within nations.
          Sure, we might dislike the Chinese nation, but that doesn’t mean that we should disrespect any Asian citizens who live here, work hard & pay their taxes.?
          Just as the rise of ISIS doesn’t mean that the vast majority of ethnically Middle Eastern or Muslim citizens should be tarred with the same brush as the ISIS emptyheads.

          I believe that there is the will amongst the many, for the future to be far, far better than it is right now.

          1. Dog's Breakfast

            Venise, Dan and others, I have vacillated between opinions over the years. I was thinking that racism was being cast out and largely unacceptable to the vast majority. I’m inclined these days to the thought that it was just being hidden away and has now come out of the closet.
            I recognise Helen’s comments also. While calling a person a ‘w__’ was a regular event, and shamefully I did it also, it was not done with hate or fear, just an ongoing reference to difference, and undoubtedly placing them on a lower pedestal in the process, but I was too young to understand.
            There is much more hate in it now, much more threat of violence. While I learned to understand that acceptance meant not calling out difference (as well as not thinking it!) I also assumed that the rest of the country was growing up as I did.
            I now tend to think that was an error, thinking that my experience was the common one. Perhaps a bit of both.

    2. mikeb

      Well I reckon every country is racist up to a point and Australia is nowhere near the top nor bottom of that list. I’m first generation Australian with non-anglo migrant parents but experienced little direct racism. Admittedly we were neither black nor muslim which no doubt helped a lot. There was unintentional racism which we sucked up – mainly because we knew it wasn’t nasty. My elderly mother said only the other day how glad she is that Australia accepted her and my late father and she lives in a country where she gets virtually free health care and medicine and the nurses look after her so well. I got goosebumps a little when she said that.

  10. Woofle

    I reckon that things are changing.
    I remember in the 1960s that if a protestant person married a roman catholic person, it was called a “mixed marriage”.

    1. Helen Razer

      I remember in the 1970s we had politicians like Al Grassby who were well regarded and Black Power activists like Gary Foley who were given a far fairer hearing on news. I also remember my father telling me that to use the “w—” word was unacceptable, as all people were equal and to imply they were not was an offence not only to logic, but to the safety of the building sites on which he was a foreman. 17 nations worked in these spaces together at any one time. The union of the labourers provided translation services, and took the voices of non English speakers into account.
      You’re right that some things have changed for the better. But, when I contrast Australia of the present to my childhood, I wish to be back in the seventies again. It wasn’t perfect, sure. But the sounds of Anglo Celtic Europeans grumbling about funny cooking smells were, in my memory, about as bad as it got. There was racism, but it also felt, even for many radical adults at the time, that we were headed toward a time of enormous and positive cultural change.
      And, look where we are. Wealth equality is in the lav, and brutal foot soldiers like those in the video are manipulated into taking their numb anger out on others by the political class. All the better for them if it can be a privileged Muslim. This suits their fantasy that no one is having a harder time than they are, and the foreigners are to blame.
      You’re right that some stuff has improved. But so very many things have descended. I have never seen racism so visible in so many places in my life. And, I’m white, so it must be pretty extreme for me to see it.

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