OUR MANY MUSLIM VOICES
Ten years ago I wrote an opinion piece for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph about the ugly face of radical Islam, sparked by a a case that caused an international furore: a Nigerian woman called Amina Lawal had been charged under sharia law with adultery.
She was to be buried up to her neck and stoned. The authorities were just waiting until she weaned her breastfed baby so they could carry out their sentence.
Yes. I know.
The letters to the editor pages were full of understandable outrage that, in a case of unfortunate timing, fed into a simmering anti-Islamic mood in Sydney city.
We had seen the gang rape case in which 14 Lebanese Australians were charged with raping young Australian girls; the infamous Cronulla riots that showed the ugly face of Australian patriotism were yet to come.
In that moment in 2002 it seemed somehow urgent to call for calm and rational thinking around Islam and Australian multiculturalism.
Just as it does now.
Muslim protestors in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Saturday.
Image via Roving I on Flickr.
Some things may never change, but the things that have, in this case are striking.
In the passage of a decade the number of varied Islamic voices in our community has proliferated, and they are loud and clear.
Back in the early 2000s, journalists in Sydney largely went to Mr rent-an-Islamic quote Keysar Trad, of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia.
Then there was Sheik Taj Ed-din Hilaly, who will go down in history for his outrageous remarks comparing unveiled women with uncovered meat.
How encouraging then, to hear the range of Islamic voices this week. The many voices of condemnation about Saturday’s riots in Sydney have been eloquent and swift.
At Lakemba Mosque this morning, leaders from 25 different sections of the Islamic community banded together to take a very strong and unequivocal stand against the vocal and violent minority.
Muslim community leaders meet in Sydney this morning.
Image via muslimvillage.com.
Samier Dandan of the Lebanese Muslim Association called for calm and restraint, said the Muslim community did not endorse any rallies in the near future, that it did not support the radicalisation of children, and that a very small minority should not be used to tarnish the reputation of a whole community.
That community, he said, was meeting with police and meeting with the government, to create educational programs for disaffected youth. They were looking for concrete solutions.
In the media there has been a range of voices: Waleed Aly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Irfan Yusuf in Eureka Street, Ed Husic, the first Muslim to enter Federal Parliament, in the Daily Telegraph, Jamila Rizvi and Randa Abdel-Fattah on ww.mamamia.com.au, Ruby Hamad on ABC’s The Drum.
On ABC radio this morning terrorism expert Clive Hamilton said the level of intelligence surrounding this public discussion had risen considerably over the past ten years, and he’s right.
This is the great success story of Australian multiculturalism.
We should feel proud and elevated by the rational discussion that has followed the irrational acts of Saturday morning, and without a trace of irony I say, have faith: faith in a strong Australian democracy that relishes the voices of the many, and faith in our strong laws and police force that will take care of the criminal actions of the few.
Lucy (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want. You can follow her on twitter: @lucykateclark.