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Morrison the cure for Islamophobia

By Kuranda Seyit - posted Monday, 1 February 2016


It is wonderful news to hear that David Morrison is the 2016 Australian of the Year; someone who is not a sporting star, or a TV celebrity or even a scientist; but a former military chief, a man with an illustrious career who has in the past two years become the champion of diversity.

As chair of the Diversity Council Australia he has spoken out against gender inequality in the armed forces, he has been vocal about domestic violence and of course has strong views about social cohesion and Australia's cultural diversity.

Malcolm Turnbull's emergence to the political leadership last year signaled an important turning point in community relations. After a tumultuous year in which Tony Abbott fanned the flames of discord during a time when racist groups like Reclaim Australia reared their ugly heads, Mr Turnbull was a welcome sea change.

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Whereas, the former PM stood silent while racists chanted slogans attacking Muslims, Turnbull's language was conciliatory and even-handed. He understood the heat the Muslim community was taking after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Islam and the Muslim community have for many years been in the spotlight, copping criticism that ranges from claims that women are oppressed to suspicions that halal money funds terrorism. Of course, these are ridiculous claims which have been debunked, but they gain traction through the media and especially through online web sites.

Every time a Muslim tries to defend his or her faith, critics like Andrew Bolt call out that Muslims are once again playing the "victim". The Muslim community has had difficulties dealing with the rise in Islamaphobic attacks which has been played out on several fronts by the Reclaimers, the United Patriot Front, Cory Bernardi and Jacqi Lambie with other pollies such as Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison jumping on the bandwagon.

In my recollection over the past two decades I have never seen a more concentrated and intense period of attacks on Islam in Australia. No doubt the atrocities that have taken place in Somalia, Pakistan, Paris and Syria have been a catalyst for this unprecedented rise in Islamaphobia.

However, the problem is; if we complain we are called whingers; if we stay silent we are called sympathisers; if we condemn the terrorists, we are called disingenuous.

So that is why it is so important to have an Australian of the Year who sees it as it is and calls out the truth: someone deemed the best of the best, someone who everyone admires and respects. When he says something people listen.

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David Morrison recently pointed out that religious discrimination in Australia is without doubt alive and well. He was referring to Muslims in particular.

As a Muslim Australian, I know that we make up a part of the Australian fabric of society. We are members of "Team Australia" and we want the same things that everyone else wants for Australia.

When David Morrison said, "We need to see where the rest of Australia can work with them [Muslims]," he had the ear of many, including Mr Turnbull.

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About the Author

Kuranda Seyit is a council member of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations (FAIR) and an independent documentary film maker.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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