Guest article written by one of OHPI’s supporters
I’ve been in a unique position in my life, having both a Lebanese Muslim father and sixth generation Aussie mother. As such, I’ve been able to observe both cultures. I’ve never had Christianity or Islam forced upon me; my parents were more anti-religion and chose the best parts of religion and philosophy to form their own relationship with the mystery of creation, minus the middle man.
My father came to Australia in 1976 and dealt with the usual racism for being a ‘wog’ back then. He worked hard all his life in the public service, and identified himself as Muslim the way most people identified themselves as Christians in Australia even though they didn’t even go to church. He hated fundamentalism in the Muslim world. After 911, people started treating Muslims with extreme suspicion. Fast forward to today and my father has given up telling anyone he comes from a Muslim family. He is tired of dealing with the stereotype and explaining himself. Of being thrown in with a certain class of people who do the wrong thing. I have a photo of a young member of our clan who died fighting ISIS in the North of Lebanon. If people were to ask me what ‘Muslims are doing to stand up against extremists’ I want to show them that photo and ask them, ‘is dying enough for you?’
Muslims are seven times more likely than non-Muslims to die at the hands of Muslim extremists. You don’t have to lecture Muslim people about the dangers of extremism because they live with that fear. Here, knowing who is and who isn’t a sympathiser of ISIS is a bit like wondering if your white neighbour is into neo-nazi stuff or the KKK. All those guys are white, but not all white guys are into that. A tiny percentage of those nuts will go into a public place and shoot people like the Christchurch shooter. Likewise with these ISIS sympathisers. They are not the norm, and suspecting and hating all whites or all Christians would be absurd. There are one billion Muslims in the world and they are not out in the street on killing sprees. They are just people trying to live their daily family lives like you.
If it is difficult to accept that there are Muslims in your neighbourhood, consider voting and campaigning against wars that displace them from their homelands where they’d rather be living in peace just like you, being understood by their own people. I’m against immigration not because I fear foreigners, but because I believe an ideal world is where no one should have to leave their home due to war or lack of opportunity where they were born. But most were denied that thanks to the colonial meddling of the Western militaries since WW1 that still continues today.
You need to grasp geopolitics to understand how extremism has been sponsored by the West to bring about regime changes that worked for their oil, money and evangelical agendas. As usual, the rich and powerful ruled in their own favour, the average Joe lost out, and ended up making the average Joe in his new homeland nervous. Neither was responsible for the original event. And as we now know in Australia what it’s like to go without toilet paper, imagine everything is bombed to rubble. You are living in a tent and may freeze to death. They were born into a religion you don’t understand or like, and aren’t obliged to. It wasn’t your fault or theirs either.
It takes knowledge to understand the context and interpretation of books – that’s why there are theologians and Islamic scholars who work on interpretation. These are deeply complex issues, not something you can understand at a glance. Asking questions is good, debate is good – we shouldn’t discourage that.
The founder of the religion was a man who created a system designed to reduce the suffering of its time and create a peaceful, unified society. His followers were tortured and killed for years before they finally fought back to defend themselves, which anyone would have done under the same circumstance, instead of continuing to get wiped out and tortured indefinitely. You cannot use these past actions to invalidate what the religion was originally meant to stand for and achieve. Just like a true Christian is not one who advocates beating gays or owning slaves, the best Muslims, who radiate peace and dignity, understand that the stuff of former times had its context. These Muslims choose to keep the best parts of the tradition, to be better people and connect to something greater.
When you see rapists or murderers from the Muslim world, remember that religion tries to prevent animalistic human behaviour, but fails. People practicing vigilante punishment, murder or rape, are not practising Islam any more than the Inquisitors were practicing Christ’s teachings, or present day Christians who shoot abortion doctors, or fund wars to kill innocent people on the other side of the world.
Focus on practicing your own version of being a better person whether that is religious or not. When you see bad behaviour from an individual, challenge it; it is our duty to correct one another, regardless of background. Until then, don’t make a person guilty until proven innocent. Respect a person’s right to seem weird and different to you as long as they are being law-abiding citizens, whatever their race or religion.
This guest article was written by one of OHPI’s supporters
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This article is part of our April 2020 campaign Tackling Online Islamophobia. We are currently running a fundraiser to expand our May 2020 campaign to stop online Misogyny. The full plan for our campaigns in 2020 can be seen here.