Sunday, October 24, 2010

RACISM: Words of wisdom from Eugenia Flynn ...

On Tuesday 19 October 2010, Adelaide-based Eugenia Flynn spoke at a gathering at Melbourne University on the topic of Race & Identity in the Muslim Community. Her words and her delivery stunned her listeners as well as her fellow panellists (North American comics Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman).

I tried taking copious notes at the event, which I have typed out and reproduced below. If anyone who attended has any corrections or can add anything, please do.

[01] My conversion to Islam did not represent a rejection of my Aboriginal or Catholic heritage. I don't reject Catholicism as some kind of religion of oppressors. My path to Islam was more of a flowering of my innate spirituality.

[02] Some Muslims see Islam as a badge of honour. Because Islam is getting a rough time, they see being Muslim as giving them street cred.

[03] Some migrant Muslims claim that they have a more exclusive and legitimate connection with Aboriginal people, as if Muslims have a superior claim to Australia than non-indigenous followers of other faiths. This sense of ownership and superiority leads to a kind of arrogance, as if Muslims have a greater right to speak for indigenous people, which is compounded by the fact that many Muslim migrants are not white. Many Muslims don't realise that this kind of arrogance makes them complicit in the injustice perpetrated toward indigenous people.

[04] Why is the Aboriginal Muslim community growing? Are Aboriginal converts attracted by some alleged increase in freedom? Do Aboriginal Muslims feel Muslim for all the same reasons? Must it always be explained as a rejection of Christianity and/or Western culture?

[05] Many Muslims have adopted the same colonial mindset toward indigenous people as Christian missionaries. They see the purpose of dawah (preaching) to be saving Aboriginal people and getting them to leave behind their aboriginality. Aboriginal Muslims are also pressed to adopt migrant Muslim modes of dress etc. Underlying this is often the presumption that Aboriginality boils down to petrol sniffing, alcohol abuse and criminality.

[06] The notion that Muslims somehow become morally superior over other Australians simply because a growing number of indigenous people are adopting Islam must be challenged.

To be continued ...

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Suleiman said...

Salam Irfan,

Your notes pretty much replicated mine - you can cross-reference with my impressions at

I would add the following points:

1. So far, there really isn't enough hard evidence to point out what Indigenous conversion to Islam means for Indigenous culture, Australian Islam, or the relationship between Indigenous Australians and Muslims (please note that this is a particularly horrifically mangled 'reproduction' of what Eugenia actually said, but I suppose you get the gist of it).

2. Muslims very ironically are often too ready to take part in the perpetuation of common stereotypes of Indigenous Australians (an example being the online conversation she mentioned about how one user was sick of Lebanese people making fun of Aboriginals, and the reaction to that)

3. The equivalency of white privilege with Muslim privilege in regard to Indigenous Australians, and how Muslims are often unaware of this.

4. It is often overlooked that many Indigenous Muslims identify as such simply due to their ancestral heritage

I eagerly await part 2, maybe you'll have picked up something that I missed.

Anonymous said...

Eugine's talk was insulting.

Whenever an author starts off with "some Muslims" or "some Migrant Muslims" or "many Muslims" then you know they are speaking from a very subjective standpoint without substance.

Who are these Muslims she is talking about? Troubled lebanese youth? They say stupid things about a lot of things: why use them to taint the whole community.

I have not met many Muslims at all that actually think "they are morally superior" than indigenous people, apart from the very few uneducated salafis (who I can count on one hand) They argue indigenous people practice shirk, but they also think they are morally superior to everyone including other Muslims

The vast majority of us do not "try and speak" on indigenous people's behalf, we want their dignity, because what we do recognise is the very force that displaced them is the same force that displaced Muslims from power in historically Muslim lands.

Historically, since colonialism, non-whites sympathise with each other. If the issue is about dawah, those who give dawah are always assuming they are saving people from hell fire... wether its aboriginal or whites, or jews, or hindus,

If anything, Eugine entirely missed the point of racism and the comparison, or even the idea, that, Muslims and white Australia share the same power structure that oppresses indigenous people reflects how she doesn't know much about Australia.

Muslims exaggerate the increase in Indigenous people entering Islam precisely because they feel disempowered here by white australian and we want to say: look the original owners are closer to us than anglos.

There is no sharing in privileges. I agree with brother yassir who's talk at city circle said it best: the anti-racist movement are a bigger obstacle for ending racism than the actual racists.