Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yesterday’s Australia

Each day I receive a bundle of media-related stuff including press clippings and summaries of talkback radio stuff. Today, I was looking through some stuff from the John Laws program.

Mr Laws’ program commences at 9am, at a time when most people are at school, college, uni or work. Most of his listeners (and virtually all his callers) would consist of the elderly and those out of jobs.

Many talk about terrorism. Naturally, since much terrorist activity reported is carried out by persons claiming to act on behalf of Islamist groups, the terror talk includes talk about Muslims.

Keysar Trad cops plenty of flack, with Laws and his callers wondering why Trad doesn’t stop terrorists or at least condemn them.

The constant theme of so many callers is that ordinary Muslim citizens need to take responsibility for terrorist attacks and for extremists from among their midst.

Mark Steyn asked me to do the same on Monday night (14/08/06) during a Q & A session at the CIS “Big Ideas Forum”. I have his exact words, but would need permission before reproducing them on this blog. Suffice it to say that he suggested:

a. Most (or a large number of) Muslims support the sentiments that inspired terrorists and hence they were potential terrorists.

b. Every Muslim knows inside that Muslims are the ones committing virtually all terrorist attacks.

c. The problem is one inside Islam itself, that Islam itself enables Muslims to commit such acts and that Muslims need to reform Islam.

His statements drew loud applause from his largely geriatric audience. Afterwards, one audience member said to me: "You people are all violent".

Australia has an ageing population. All Abrahamic faiths (including Islam) teach their followers to show respect to elders. But Islam also insists elders show mercy to their youngsters. Certainly the CIS audience (whose average age must have made them eligible for Australian Pensioners Insurance) didn’t show much mercy to myself and other young Muslims present.

However, one elderly lady did approach me after the event. She was a mature-aged student who was completing a degree in religious studies at the University of Sydney. She said to me words to the following effect:

“Don’t worry about those ratbags. They are all old and ready to die. Look at them – half of them can’t even walk! I’m old and grey but my brain works. I’ve studied your religion at university, and I know everything that character on stage said is hogwash. Ignore him and his followers. They are yesterday’s Australia.”

Some moments later, a young man approached me. He seemed to be of Indian or South American extraction, and he introduced himself as someone close to one of the speakers. And what was his message?

“Steyn really frightens me. I’m so glad you stood upto him. His mob are the type who would no sooner go after me thinking I’m Muslim even though I’m not.”

The rhetoric of Steyn and co scares even non-Muslims who might be deemed Muslim because of stereotypes Steyn and his ilk busily spread. I should be scared. And I am. We should all be frightened when even respectable thinktanks provide a stage for xenophobes to spread their hate-speech.

When racism and ethno-religious intolerance gains respectability, the terrorists have won. It is upto young Australians, today’s Australia, to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Most of our politicians grew up during the White Australia Policy. They regard racism and prejudice as normal. Our politicians are happy to openly make racist remarks toward anyone deemed Aboriginal and/or Muslim and/or Sikh.

We need to make sure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation. In fighting political correctness, we cannot allow ourselves to go to the other extreme.

Muslims have a special responsibility in this regard. We have been blessed with a religion that has a zero-tolerance policy on racial and religious prejudice. We need to set the example by ridding our communities of racist attitudes.

We need to fight anti-Semitism in our community wherever it still exists. We need to rid ourselves of ethnic-based mosques. Groups like the Lebanese Moslems Association and the Fiji-Muslim League of NSW should remove all membership restrictions that bar other ethnic groups from joining.

We also need to do all that we can do to stop extremism where it exists. We need to provide support systems for young people and converts who might be vulnerable to being sucked in by fringe extremist forms of theology. We also need to bridge the gap between Sunni and Shia Muslims, to set an example to Muslim communities in Iraq and Pakistan where sectarian violence us endemic.

And we need to publicise our efforts. Now is not the time to be modest about our achievements. People want to feel re-assured. People want to feel secure. Smart PR based on actual efforts and real achievements.

Yesterday’s Australia are dying off. Aussie Muslims are a young community. We are home-grown. We owe it to our country and our people to build bridges. There’s no point trying to change the Steyns and the types that enjoy his tripe. For every Mark Steyn, there are 500 ordinary Aussies and Canadians and Americans and Brits and Kiwis and Europeans and others prepared to listen with an open mind.

Yesterday’s Australia should be left where they are – in yesterday!

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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Law Student said...

Irfan man,

you're an absolute genious! right now, im taking you as my mentor, whether you like it or not!

keep up the good work bro.

David Lim said...

Thanks for this article - it was just the pick-me-up that I needed. I was having dinner with my parents last week, and they made exactly the same comments as your "geriatric ratbags" did.

I pointed out to them how hypocritical it was to racially abuse Muslims when people were doing exactly the same to us only a few years ago. "But that was different!" they exclaimed. "And just how is that different?" I asked. And they honestly couldn't provide an answer.

It's sad to think that after retirement, my parents have stopped using their critical faculties. I've made a personal vow not to do the same. So thanks for the wonderful article, it's good to know that the viewpoints of Mark Steyn and his geriatric fan-club aren't the prevailing point of view.

Anonymous said...

I have his exact words, but would need permission before reproducing them on this blog.

What a total cop out. A transcript was posted on the web by the organisers as you know fully well. Yet for 'some reason' you don't link to it.


Because it might cast doubt over your version? Or because other comments demonstrate it wasn't a "largely geriatric audience" as you also claim?

It's very difficult to have an honest discussion when one party is not even trying...

Irfan said...

Anonymous @ 1031, at the time I wrote this, the transcript was NOT on the CIS website as far as I was aware.

Further, the term "yesterday's Australia" wasn't mine. It was a phrase used by a senior member of the audience to describe other members of the audience with little understanding of the topic.

Anonymous, you obviously do have understanding of the topic. Perhaps you might tell us about the various differences between the Zaydi and Ithna Ashariyya schools of Islamic thought, with references from their books and imams.

Anonymous said...

Well update your post. Particularly as you are linking to it from a recent post on one of your many other blogs.