Agree with this so much. It’s a brilliant speech given by Elise Curwood, a Year 12 student at Siena College this year.
Picture this. You’re a fish and chip shop owner from Ipswich. You decide to stand up and speak about what you believe in. Surprisingly, you’re not alone. People stand behind you, encourage you. They say run for government. You’re now an independent member of parliament. You’re a household name. Incredibly vocal and passionate, you’ve landed an interview. But you don’t understand one key word that is most associated to the issue that you use as your platform. Upon hearing this common word, you say, “please explain”.
Look, say what you will about the pin up girl for Islamophobia in Australia Pauline Hanson, but she sure makes a mighty fine mirror for the Australian society. Something very important to keep in mind when you look at Pauline is that you’re not seeing one crazy woman being run by her own ideas. She doesn’t brainwash anyone. You’re simply seeing one crazy woman pooling together a culmination of ideas stemming from groups of people being told that they should be scared.
This year, we have all heard, over and over again the word Islamophobia being used on a group of people, often middle aged white men from Bendigo who are really just looking for something to be angry at when the Denni Ute Muster isn’t on. So before I tap into this group of fantastic Australians, I want to talk about the application of the term ‘islamophobia’.
The term goes back to 1918 France. Trust; and it implies a fear of Islam. This is where I have an issue with the word Islamophobia as it projects the sense that there is a mental illness, a genuine phobia of Islam. This is truly not the case within Australia, because really if you had a phobia of Islam you wouldn’t go and beat up the adherents. Applying this term to such a large number of people gives it an identity, a conscience if you will. It totally absolves the ‘islamophobic’ any responsibility of changing their view or learning more of what they’re scared of. In Australia the term is rendered obsolete anyway. Because these people who are ‘islamophobic’ aren’t scared of Islam. They aren’t scared of the monotheistic, Abrahamic religion that inspired Christianity. No. They’re scared of brown people. They’re scared of immigrants and refugees. And after 9/11 every brown person, black person, immigrant and or refugee was considered a Muslim. And because they are Muslim, they are considered a terrorist, a fundamentalist, a threat.
We have all seen the effect of a post 9/11 world. This is what my generation have grown up with. Now this isn’t new to Australia, racism is what has built our very foundation. But something new to me and my age group, is Australia’s habit of social distancing. And this social distancing has led to anger and violent responses. The fact that we label people as Muslim, that we reduce them to simply their Islamic identity shows that we don’t actually look at the as human. The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed 9 Australians on being Islamic in our country. A common thread between all these different 9 people, with different lives and professions, was that they were labeled a Muslim before anything else. They spoke of faith being important to them and that it founded their belief systems, but they also spoke of their peers being an Australian before being their faith. Muslims have been reduced to sexist caricatures, oppressed women and violent men. This labeling has led to marginalization and marginalization has led to a group of Australians being terrified to live.
We all know the United Patriots Front of Australia and their involvement in Islamic hate. In 2015, 1,000 people demonstrated against a proposal to build a Mosque in Bendigo. The best thing about the Patriotic Front is their togetherness, if one of them feels disgusted by Muslims, they all feel disgusted; to an extent, that the majority of the demonstrators at the Bendigo Mosque weren’t actually from Bendigo. They had travelled as far from Sydney, Adelaide and Queensland. Racism doesn’t take a holiday. It is time to stop excusing the actions of these people by calling them islamophobes and call them out for what they really are: blatant racists.
There is no easy way to tackle anti-islamic behavior in our modern day society. There is no pill or quick fix. We need to burn down all pre-established conceptions everywhere that there is a superior faith and a superior way of life. The fact that we are dehumanizing Australians and seeing them as just their faith shows, that no one is looking at them as a human. How can you expect people to show mercy if no one is seeing them as people. It is time to stand up and get angry. We are in such a privileged position and we are not utilizing it. To fight racists and xenophobes you don’t just remind them of the Crusades where Catholics slaughtered Muslims, that was hundreds of years ago. You point out the fact that there is nothing to be scared of. You point out the fact that the majority of Australians celebrate our multicultural nation. You tell them that Islam isn’t sexist. You remind them that the Halal Snack Pack exists and it is in that Styrofoam box of crispy chips covered in melt in your mouth meat where true happiness can be found. So please just stop the racism and replace it with random acts of kindness and mercy instead.
Elise Curwood – Year 12 Siena College.
Awarded the Antonio de Montesinos Award for Excellence in Public Speaking 2016.