Category Archives: racism

Fitna

The other day, I watched the film Fitna on YouTube, a film about Islam by Dutch right wing politician Geert Wilders.  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I had read some interesting reviews by Skepticlawyer at Catallaxy, Pommygranate at Australian Libertarian Society Blog and Saint at Dogfight At Bankstown.

I must say that I felt considerable ambivalence about it. I’ve waited over a week to write on it.

On the one hand, I support freedom of speech. Furthermore, there is no denying the fact that there are extremist Muslims who in the world who advocate terrorism or jihad (as I’ve argued previously). I think this kind of behaviour is unacceptable from anyone of any religion, and should be condemned.

But on the other hand, I wonder what this film will really achieve other than deepening the divide between the West and Islam. Among other things, it extracts news, film and photographs of all the worst instances of Islamist extremism and terrorism, and juxtaposes them against sura from the Qu’ran. It has a scaremongering feel which I do not like at all – it makes broadbrush generalisations and depicts the worst of a particular group. As I have said in a previous post, I find scaremongering propaganda to be problematic, regardless of whether it is on the Left or the Right, or from the West or Islam. It makes people behave in an irrational manner.

As Pommygranate noted in a post at the Australian Libertarian Society Blog, there is a rather odd dichotomy in this film – Wilders preaches Western values of tolerance and free speech, but he is essentially calling for intolerance of a certain religion. Pommy says:

He [Wilders] is essentially a hypocrite as on the one hand he champions Holland’s proud history of tolerance and freedom, yet on the other, seeks to introduce discrimination back into the Constitution (by banning further immigration of Muslims), wishes to ban the Koran as a fascist book comparable to Mein Kampf, and wants a complete ban on the wearing of the headscarf. 

The ironic thing, as with the Danish cartoons, is the way in which various Islamic groups and countries are claiming that the film is offensive and inaccurate for saying their religion is intrinsically violent and intolerant, but radical Muslims are also making death threats against LiveLeaks for posting the video… Don’t those guys who make the death threats have any sense of irony whatsoever? Any violent retaliation against Wilders will prove his point rather nicely.

The film makes me think of a book by Chester Porter called The Gentle Art of Persuasion. He argues that using fear to get your point across is not an intelligent way to put an argument. I concur. The central message I got from the film was “Muslims are terrorists, intolerant people, anti-Semites, bashers of homosexuals, genital mutilators and oppressors of women’s freedom.” But I am still wondering: what was the point? How are people (Muslim, Dutch and others) meant to respond to that message? How does this film fix anything?

If this film’s central message is that Muslims need to rethink the violent and unpleasant aspects of their religion, which is one of the film’s claims, then I don’t think a vehicle such as this would be the way to achieve it. It would immediately make even a moderate Muslim defensive of his or her religion, rather than open to reasonable criticism.

I suspect there were two responses Wilders wanted – to provoke a backlash among Dutch people to Islam (or at least, some extreme practices of some Islamic groups), and to make a point that the response to films or writings which criticise Islam is often violence (although I note that the Dutch Muslim population seems to have sensibly decided that the best response is to be moderate).

I’ve noticed in blog comments threads that a common response to the film is that “Christianity is just as bad” (see for example the comment thread which has developed at Iain Hall’s post). Yes, one could do the same with Christianity and find some nutbag Bible bashers who wanted to stone homosexuals or whatever, and intersperse it with Biblical quotes (particularly chapters like Leviticus). But I think that misses the point of the film. As Skepticlawyer has indicated in her post at Catallaxy, I think one of the particular concerns Wilders is focussing on is the interaction between Muslim immigrants in Holland and the mainstream Dutch culture, which is tolerant of homosexuality, prostitution, drug-use etc. Thus, it’s obviously not relevant for him to make a film on the shortcomings of Christianity, because the Dutch Christian attitude is generally tolerant; or at least, most Dutch Christians turn a blind eye to those things in Dutch culture which they disagree with. If a whole slew of US Southern Baptists emigrated to Holland and started questioning Dutch values, it would obviously be relevant to question Christianity, but that’s not the particular conflict he has in mind.

And ultimately, so what if you can do the same with Christianity? It doesn’t make the conduct of Islamists who espouse the same views right. It cannot be denied that there are a proportion of radical Islamists who believe many or all of the things in this movie. A plague on all the houses of those who seek to convert by the sword, kill and persecute those of different religions or oppress and use religion to justify violence towards women and homosexuals.

What is the best thing to do about Islamist terrorism and intolerance? I’m just not sure that this movie is a constructive solution to the problem: it may just make things worse. Yes, it is important to be honest about the problems of Islamist extremism, but it is also important to find ways to solve those problems rather than to inflame them.

Postscript

Incidentally, I heartly agree with Skepticlawyer that many Muslim commentators, politicians and imams need to get over calling anyone who disagrees with Islam’s tenets “Zionist”. A Jordanian media coalition described Wilders as “extremist and Zionist deputy Geert Wilders” in a press release. Wilders is not Jewish, and I don’t know if he supports the establishment and/or expansion of the State of Israel or not. Even if he does, that wasn’t the point of the film anyway. As soon as I hear insane frothing at the mouth about Zionists such as this, I start to doubt the credibility and sanity of the source.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under blasphemy, christianity, freedom of speech, islam, judaism, politics, racism, society, terrorism, tolerance

Monkey business no laughing matter

Racist skull analysis

This rather offensive picture comes from Josiah Clark Nott and George Robert Gliddon, Indigenous races of the earth (First published 1857). It illustrates scientific theories of racism in the 19th century, which continued into the early 20th century. Essentially, the theory is that Aryan “races” are superior in evolutionary terms to Black “races”, and that people of African descent are more genetically related to monkeys than Aryan races. Personally I think that Apollo Belvidere looks like a bit of freak, and I’d rather be more closely related to the chimp than him, but maybe that’s just me. Such theories were used to justify colonialism, slavery, apartheid and racial discrimination by Europeans towards other races.

India

Cricket has been marred recently by allegations that Indian Harbhajan Singh called Australian Andrew Symonds a “monkey” during the recent test at the SCG. Three Australian players backed up Symonds, whereas Singh denies that he said Symonds was a monkey, and Tendulkar backs him up. Oh, and an important detail: although Symonds was brought up in Australia by his adoptive parents, he is part West Indian. There was a history behind this, with Symonds being repeatedly taunted by the Indian crowd in Mumbai last year, who made monkey gestures at him. Symonds alleges that Singh also called him a monkey during that match, but he preferred to settle it “man to man”, going to Singh after the match and asking him not to do it again. Singh also denied saying such a thing on that occasion, but apologised.

In the recent incident, match referee Mike Procter accepted the allegations of the Australian team and suspended Singh for 3 matches. Indian officials then threatened to abandon the Indian cricket team’s tour of Australia, saying that the allegations against Singh were unfair. In India, effigies of the test umpires and the Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, were burned. There were calls for Ponting to be sacked as captain, in part because he “dobbed” Singh into the umpires. One of the umpires, West Indian Steve Bucknor, was made to stand down for the next test in Perth, prompting outrage from the West Indies. Brad Hogg was then accused by the Indians of calling Anil Kumble and Mahendra Dhoni “bastards”, scarcely a term of offense in Australia (more a term of affection), but much more offensive in India. The Indians now say that “monkey” is not an offensive term in India. In any case, the Test will now go ahead after the ICC acceded to the Indian team’s demands.

There’s a few things here. Both the Indian and the Australian cricket teams have at times behaved badly. Neither team are perfect. Both have complained about the other appealing too many times. Both have sledged.

In Sydney, India lost a match which it looked like it was going to win, in part because of some refereeing decisions. I think this is why the decision to ban Singh provoked such passion. It was mixed up with frustration and disappointment. Certainly, I would have been very disappointed if I was an Indian fan after the Sydney test. Australia has been the dominant force in cricket in the recent decade (very much like the West Indies during my youth), and there is a perception by the Indians that Australia thinks it can rule the roost as a result. By the same token, the Indian cricket authorities are using their economic power to get their way in a bullying fashion, but if anyone questions it, they claim Australians don’t like the thought of “brown” people controlling the game. I don’t care who controls the game, as long as whoever controls it treats everyone equally, regardless of whether they are black, brown or white, and regardless of how much money they put into the game. That’s a fundamental principle of justice – no favour should be given to race, religion or class. The adjudication should merely be on the merits.

On the merits of the matter, there are two conflicting accounts of events, both with esteemed players backing up their sides’ account, which makes it very difficult to adjudicate. I’m reluctant to come down on any particular side or the other without a full view of the evidence. What is important is the lesson to be learned about sledging and the appropriateness of “friendly” rivalry. I’ve never been a fan of sledging and taunting the other team. I really don’t think it’s very sportsmanlike, whoever does it.

The Australian team should be aware that in other countries, the term “bastard” is far more offensive than it is in Australia. I know that when I went to live in the UK, my father warned me not to use the term. But the other teams should also be aware that if an Aussie calls someone a bastard, it’s often more affectionate than nasty.

By the other token, I think that Indians should be aware that there is an entire racist discourse behind calling a person with West Indian background as a “monkey”. It may be culturally acceptable in India to call someone a monkey, but as the picture at the beginning of this post shows, to single out the only black man in a team for that name has some very unpleasant connotations. If it’s not racist, why did the Mumbai crowd single out Symonds? Why were the other (white) team members not called monkeys too? I suggest the only answer can be racism. It ill behooves a group of people who have been under the colonial yoke to adopt racist colonial stereotypes. There is a certain fallacious logic to some of the responses that “brown people can’t be racists”. Anyone can be racist. Racism is present in all societies. It so happens that in most continents, for reasons of “luck” or historical happenstance (rather than because of any intrinsic superiority), Europeans colonised and subjugated other people. But it could just as easily have been a different ethnic group if the conditions had been right.

To call a man of partial West Indian descent a “monkey” could be said to suggest, in accordance with 19th century scientific racism, that black people are somehow less than human. So it’s far worse than just an insult. It’s a justification for slavery and genocide. It’s like teasing a Jew with a swastika and saying it’s an innocent Hindu symbol – the racist subtext of the swastika makes it non-innocent. I note that in the Hindustan Times, many Indians have written justifying the use of the word “monkey” towards Symonds. Those Indians should look at the picture at the start of the post and think carefully about that claim, because there is a deep racism ingrained in that insult. In my opinion, regardless of whether or not Singh actually called Symonds a monkey, it should be made clear to all cricketers and cricketing fans that racist terms such as this are simply unacceptable, and to say it was “just a friendly term” is disingenous.

7 Comments

Filed under Australia, cricket, history, india, media, racism, society, tolerance

Playing the race card

Last night when I was driving home, I saw a large group of boys standing on the pavement outside the Housing Commission flats. The boys were predominately of African descent. I was thinking about it when I got home. The boys had been dominating the footpath. Would I have felt nervous if I had been walking on the street and had to push past them? Yes, I would have. Was it because they were African? No, not at all. It was because they were male and blocking the footpath. Regardless of race, religion or class, as a lone woman, I would feel slightly worried about having to pass a large group of boys. I don’t think they were a gang, they were just a group of boys hanging out with nothing better to do, but that’s when boys get up to mischief. It made me think more deeply about the news of the last few days.

It was with a sinking heart that I watched the news the other night with stories of Sudanese gangs terrorising Noble Park and Dandenong. The news release dredged up the crimes committed by Sudanese refugees Taban Gany and Hakeem Hakeem. The implication seemed to be that all Sudanese refugees were lawless drunkards and rapists. Sudanese refugees had become an issue because a young Sudanese man, Liep Gony, was bashed to death at Noble Park railway station by two youths who were not of Sudanese descent. Sudanese people have been victims of crime too.

The response of the Federal government was to say that it had limited the intake of African refugees to Australia because of their difficulties in integrating. Various interest groups and Sudanese community groups then said that this was racist.

Neither response is going to resolve the problem. Just because some Sudanese refugees commit crimes does not mean that all Sudanese refugees have integration problems. On the other hand, if there are problems with a small section of the community, they should be faced and people’s concerns should not simply be dismissed as racist. That dismisses the concerns of people who may feel worried. It’s better to actually confront the concerns and see if there’s any valid points.

Sudan is a very troubled area of the world, to put it mildly. It has been involved in successive civil wars and conflicts with neighbouring countries. The conflicts have been partly on religious, ethnic and tribal grounds. Presently there is a terrible conflict in Dafur where it has been alleged that the Janjaweed militia have committed acts of genocide against rebel groups.

The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees says that a refugee is a person who:

“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…”

Refugee and asylum law only really developed after World War II, where there was a massive number of displaced persons. The idea is that blameless civilians should be granted asylum in other countries which are safe and in which people will be free from war and violence. My attitude toward refugee law is “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” If Australia were suddenly dragged into a civil war, and I escaped with my family, I would hope that another country would offer me refuge. Some of my dear friends came to Australia as refugees.

Clearly, there would be many Sudanese people who qualified as refugees. Many of those who arrived here would be traumatised and would have seen and suffered terrible things. Many Sudanese would have grown up in a war zone, with little or no laws. Obviously, there are going to be adjustment problems when people who are traumatised suddenly have to adapt to a totally new society. Sometimes, also, ethnic, religious and tribal conflict is also likely to have been brought across to the new country, especially if a person’s family has been killed by another group. That’s just a fact of life (I remember those Serbia-Croatia soccer matches when I was a kid – which turned into mini-civil wars in the stands). Some refugees may be both perpetrators and victims of violence. Furthermore, refugees may have grown up with little or no laws, a very different culture and a different language.

I should think that, given the above factors, it’s clear that at least some Sudanese refugees will have integration problems, and it does no one any good to deny it. It is also true that there are some “bad eggs” within the Sudanese community, as there are within every community. But does that mean the intake of African refugees should be limited? Aren’t integration problems part and parcel of taking in refugees, and to be expected? I don’t think we should exclude Sudanese or African refugees on a blanket basis. That would be unfair to those Sudanese and African people who genuinely wish to live here in peace and harmony with other Australians. It reminds me of times when teachers say “I’m going to give you all detentions because of the behaviour of one person in this class”. I really hated that. The expectation was that the group would discipline the individual as a result – but why should everyone be punished for the crimes of one or a few? I always felt angry, and as if the teacher was abrogating his or her responsibility.

It must be ensured that refugees are given proper support and counselling, as well as education in English language and Australian laws and culture. I have heard of some refugees being dumped in rural towns, with little or no support, and it is hardly surprising that problems then arise. As the UNHCR says, refugees are required to comply with the law of the country which has given them asylum. Refugees must be made aware of our laws and customs (but certainly not in the manner of that really stupid citizenship test). It must also be ensured that community leaders communicate with their members and say that ethnic violence, tribal violence and violent crime are not acceptable in this country.

Also the concerns of shopkeepers and the like in Noble Park should be addressed. They obviously perceive a problem, and while it’s easy just to write them off as “racist”, I think that this actually makes the problem worse and increases resentment. People have a right to feel safe, and there should be a swift response to crime which gives a message that it is not acceptable. I tend to think no excuses should be made on the basis that someone is a refugee.

Thinking back to that group of boys on the pavement yesterday, perhaps boys should be made aware that congregating in a large group can sometimes be intimidating and scary to others, whatever one’s ethnicity or religion. But I suspect it’s just something that naughty, bored boys do, wherever they are from and whatever their culture. And I also suspect that some boys enjoy and cultivate the intimidation factor.

It’s a problem that can’t just be fixed by one side alone. The refugee communities, the police, the government, the social workers and schools have to all work together. And there’s always going to be a few bad eggs. It is a fact of life that there will always be negative aspects to granting asylum to refugees. Some people will have difficulty adapting or will be undesirable or criminal. But there are also immense positives. I think of my dear friend, who came here as a two year old, a stateless refugee. She’s now a success story: a businesswoman with two degrees, a mother and wife, an Australian citizen, an Aussie Rules footy fan (far more than me) and an all-round great person. I couldn’t think of a better addition to Australian society. It’s not worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Some common sense from all sides would not go amiss.

Finally, I wish the press would show some restraint as well. Sensationalised reporting creates the sense of a crisis and inflames tension. I’m sure there are genuine problems, but sensationalising them helps nobody. Let’s look at this logically and calmly. What am I saying? It’s election time – no one can look at anything sensibly during election time… Sigh!

14 Comments

Filed under human rights, immigration, law, media, politics, racism, refugees, society, tolerance

The radical centre

Noel Pearson has written a great article on taking the “radical centre”, a synthesis between rights and responsibilities. It delves into African American politics and other issues.

It’s long, so if you want a potted version, check out Nicholas Gruen’s summary at Club Troppo.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, indigenous issues, morality, politics, racism

Some people are just pathetic

A reader has sent me a link to this story from The Guardian about the latest antics of Rush Limbaugh, a US conservative shock jock. Apparently, Limbaugh has been playing a song on his show called “Barack the Magic Negro“, referring to Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Obama hopes to become the first African-American president of the US.

I can’t help being shocked and horrified by the title of the song. The term “Magical Negro” was coined by Spike Lee to describe a stock Hollywood movie character who appears out of nowhere to help the white protagonist. African-American commentator David Ehrenstein first used the term in conjunction with Barack Obama in an article in the Los Angeles Times. Ehrenstein explains the “Magical Negro” as follows:

He’s there to assuage white “guilt” (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

Ehrenstein’s argument was that Obama is a “Magical Negro” – he is a benign and polite figure who presents no danger to white American sensibilities. Sounds like a modern take on the “Noble Savage“. If I read it correctly, Ehrenstein’s argument is that it is too good to be true, and of course, being an ordinary human being, Obama has flaws and shortcomings just like the rest of us. By idealising Obama in this fashion rather than treating him as a real person, once he behaves like an ordinary person and falls from grace, the public cannot help but be disappointed. Secondly, Ehrenstein seems to suggest that Obama is sidestepping a whole heap of issues which affect African-American people because he is concentrating on being “safe”. In this way, white voters feel that their guilt is assuaged and that everything is hunky-dory in terms of race relations.

Ehrenstein’s column is at least intelligent. The same can’t be said for Rush Limbaugh’s song. Apparently the singer is parodying black activist and politician Al Sharpton. (For a bit of context: relations between Sharpton and Obama have been rumoured to be tense, although Sharpton has categorically denied this.) I’m not exactly sure what the point is. Humour is culturally relative, so perhaps I’m missed the humour of the song because I’m Australian, but it just seems stupid, racist and offensive to me. I thought about listening to it again to try and work out whether I’d missed a funny bit somewhere. But then I decided not to bother. First, the though of listening to the song again made me feel dejected. Secondly, I suspected that I hadn’t missed any funny bits. So I didn’t waste my time.

Things like this raises difficult questions of freedom of speech and tolerance. How far does one have to tolerate offensive and intolerant points of view? Should people be allowed to parody and criticise politicians on the basis of their personal characteristics? How is parodying Obama for being African-American different from suggesting John Howard shares a marked similarity with Penfold the Hamster from DangerMouse? In both cases, each politician is being singled out because personal characteristics. But when a parody is racially based, it is not just about a physical characteristic. It is potentially a slur against a whole group of people. It is particularly vexed because of the history of slavery, oppression and segregation of African-Americans, and the way in which racial characteristics were used to perpetrate and justify that unfairness. Limbaugh has attempted to justify his use of the term by saying “Well, Ehrington said it first” – but I think Ehrington’s use of the term was quite different to Limbaugh’s use. The song is patronising towards Obama and Sharpton, inviting the audience to laugh these “uppity” men who think that they can play a white man’s political game.

But does suppressing comment such as this help? Clearly, shock-jocks such as Limbaugh and Imus are tapping into a certain pre-existing feeling within the community, and getting rid of them is not going to stop that feeling. However, my concern with radio demagogues is that they have immense influence, and can ratchet people’s feelings up to a dangerous level (see previous post on Alan Jones, Sydney shock jock). On the other hand, preventing someone like Limbaugh from playing his song might cause him to garner more sympathy.

I can’t help hoping that Limbaugh will get in trouble in the same way Imus did, but I can’t see it happening unless, as in Imus’ case, radio sponsors pull the pin. Evidently, Obama and his team have played the whole thing very coolly, refusing to get upset, but gently suggesting the song was dumb anyway. Perhaps that’s the best way to play it.

I can’t help thinking that in the end, the song says far more about Rush Limbaugh than it does about Barack Obama. Limbaugh is a pathetic idiot if that’s what he finds funny.

16 Comments

Filed under freedom of speech, humour, media, politics, racism, tolerance, USA

Shock jocks and the politics of fear…

A recent report by ACMA found that Alan Jones had encouraged violence and brutality and engaged in racial vilification of people from a Lebanese Muslim background. I must confess that I didn’t know who Jones was until a few years back. In Melbourne, he doesn’t have any influence (at least, as far as I’m aware). It’s scary to think that he has a lot of influence in Sydney. Jones’ influence can be seen from the responses of John Howard and Kevin Rudd to the finding: each said they had no problem with Jones’ conduct, and would continue to appear on the program if requested.

The history preceding the findings against Jones should be set out before looking at the allegations in detail.

On 4 December 2005, two or three off-duty volunteer lifesavers were reported to have been assaulted by a group of Lebanese men at Cronulla beach. Jones mentioned the issue on his program on from Monday 5 – Friday 9 December 2005. It was alleged was that gangs of Lebanese men had been harassing beachgoers over a number of years, that it was a persistent problem and that the State government and the police were unwilling or unable to do anything about the matter.

On 7 December 2005, Jones read out a letter from a listener:

‘J’ has a good answer, he says police and the council are impotent here; all rhetoric and no action: “My suggestion is to invite the biker gangs to be present at Cronulla Railway station when these Lebanese thugs arrive, the biker gangs have been much maligned but they do a lot of good things – it would be worth the price of admission to watch these cowards scurry back onto the train for the return trip to their lairs…and wouldn’t it be brilliant if the whole event was captured on TV cameras and featured on the evening news so that we, their parents, family and friends can see who these bastards are…Australians old and new should not have to put up with this scum…

[offending statement emphasised]

On 8 December 2005, Jones mentioned a text message which was being sent around which stated, “This Sunday every Aussie in the Shire get down to North Cronulla to support the Leb and Wog bashing day, bring your mates, let’s show them that this is our beach and they’re never welcome.” He then said:

“And I say to all those young – hey, you’re not in charge of law and order, we do have law and order people. Boys, don’t get down there and come at this nonsense, this will only make things worse. The police are genuinely concerned now that the SMS is going to inflame things even further and we’ll – we’re talking about vigilante retribution.”

A caller, ‘B’, contacted Jones on 8 December expressed concern that the issue was not as one-sided as it had been portrayed, and that both sides were egging each other on. Jones responded as follows:

“Yeah, let’s not get too carried away ‘B’, we don’t have Anglo-Saxon kids out there raping women in Western Sydney. So let’s not get carried away with all this mealy-mouthed talk about there being two sides. I can tell you, because my correspondence here from mums and dads I am inundated, and I don’t hear people complaining about Catholics and Protestants and Anglicans, I’m sorry, but there’s this religious element in all of this and we’ve got to make sure that we welcome people into our community but we welcome them in on certain terms and certain standards and those standards are not being met. So let’s not have this mealy mouth talk about oh well, everyone’s to blame. All across Sydney there is a universal concern that there are gangs, the gangs are of one ethnic composition, and they have one thing in mind and I’ve read some of the correspondence from here…”

[offending statement emphasised]

On 11 December 2005, there was a gathering of people at Cronulla beach to “reclaim the beach”. Although the event started off peacefully, the demonstrators began to assault people of a “Middle Eastern appearance”. They also threw cans at and attacked police and ambulance personnel. On the evening of 11 December and the following day, there were retaliatory attacks by groups of youths of “Middle Eastern appearance”, in which vehicles and shops were vandalised, some people were assaulted and one man was stabbed. This event later became known as the 2005 Cronulla Riots.

There was a perception that the NSW State government trod very lightly on this issue because of fears that they could alienate a certain sector of the voting public. It is worth noting that Lakemba is in Premier Iemma’s electorate. But this does no one any favours. In the long run, it increases tension and resentment. Jones was able to pick up the perception of preferential treatment, and use it to his advantage. If there is a problem with ethnic gangs in Sydney, it should be faced openly by all (police, government, Lebanese-Australians and other Australians). Gang members should be treated equally by police and the government, regardless of their ethnicity. It is not good to try and suppress concerns on the basis of “political correctness”.

I think it is a mistake to simply write off the Cronulla riots as “racist”. As caller ‘B’ said to Jones, there are two sides to every story. On the one hand, groups of young men (seemingly of predominantly Lebanese extraction) were coming to Cronulla beach to make trouble. But on the other hand, it is not fair if innocent people (Lebanese, Middle Eastern or just “of Middle Eastern appearance”) are prevented from coming to Cronulla beach or are abused because of their appearance. As I have always said on this blog, people should not be judged on the basis of their ethnic background or their religion, but by their behaviour. Each group needs to take a long hard look at violent, racist behaviour within their own community, and make it clear that there is no excuse for picking fights or harassing innocent beach goers.

It seems clear, also, that there was a failure by the State government to take the problem seriously until matters had escalated. If there had been more police available to patrol the beaches before the riots occurred, and to nip any fights in the bud, it may be that the riots would not have happened.

It seems to me that Jones’ comments were very ill-considered indeed, and he certainly inflamed tensions. The comment that really gets my goat is “we don’t have Anglo-Saxon kids out there raping women in Western Sydney.” This suggests that Anglo-Saxon men do not commit rape, but Middle Eastern and Lebanese men do. Anyone who looks at criminal law cases involving rape will know that rapists come from all ethnicities and backgrounds. One only has to look at this report about two recent rapes to establish this (one rapist appears to have been an Anglo-Australian man, born and bred here; the other appears to have been a dark-skinned man who originated from another country.)

To my mind, Alan Jones is no better than the Mufti, Sheik Hillaly. The Mufti suggests Australian women are asking for it; Jones suggests that all Lebanese Muslim men are rapists. Both comments are utterly irresponsible. Both pander to popular stereotypes held by their respective audiences, and do not admit any moderation. I believe that Jones should resign, just as I believe that the Mufti should resign. Rape is not about how much clothing the victim is wearing. Nor is it about the ethnicity of the perpetrator. Both of these things are excuses. Rape is about power, and a desire to degrade the victim.

The comment about “we don’t have Anglo-Saxon kids out there raping women in Western Sydney” refers to the Sydney gang rapes committed by the Skaf brothers and their associates. The perpetrators were of a Lebanese background. This underlying issue contributed greatly to the tension leading to the Cronulla riots. Bilal Skaf was alleged to have taunted his victims about their Australian background. He is said to have called one rape victim an “Aussie pig”, asked her if “Leb cock tasted better than Aussie cock” and explained to her that she would now be raped “Leb-style”. Another victim was said to have been told by a perpetrator, “You deserve it because you’re an Australian”. Although I apologise for the offensive nature of these comments, I have set them out in full to show that a passing reference by Jones to the matter was capable of creating great anger and distress in listeners.

As I have discussed before, if there was not a racist element to the crime, the background of the perpetrators would be irrelevant. But because of the racial motive, the ethnic background of the perpetrators should be mentioned, because otherwise the crime cannot be fully understood.

However, the media has to be responsible about the way in which it reports and deals with these problems. People who hold a great deal of power to sway public opinion should be very careful. Just because some Muslim Lebanese people are thugs does not mean all Muslim Lebanese people are bad. By the same token, just because some Australian people are thugs does not mean all Australians are bad. While one should not be bound by “political correctness”, and should be able to say that particular people within a group are behaving badly, it is irresponsible to suggest that an entire community is bad. To suggest that the problem only comes from one group or the other does not help matters at all. It just inflames tensions further, and increases resentment between the two groups. But I suspect that is how a demagogue like Jones gets his jollies.

I really dislike the politics of fear. It results in bad decisions. It allows an angry mob to jump to conclusions. It is difficult to control once released. I am very wary of appeals to mass prejudice – that way lies immense evil. I wish our political leaders had had the courage of their convictions to reject the siren call of people like Jones.

11 Comments

Filed under Alan Jones, Cronulla riots, islam, media, racism