Being afraid of Islam is harmful to our society

This afternoon Professor Robert Manne sat down with popular TV personality and political commentator Waleed Aly to discuss the rising fear of Islam in the West.

Throughout the 90 minute webinar Aly discusses his famous ‘ISIL is weak‘ segment aired on The Project and talks about the impacts of the threat of terrorism in our society.

While Aly concedes that a terror attack is a possibility in Australia, he goes on to say that the most damaging element of an attack comes in its aftermath.

“The thing that hurts a society is the echo of that [terrorist attack]… We are not experts in dealing with domestic trauma.” Says Aly, “we tend to deny trauma or react really viscerally.”

In the wake of the growing and more public threat of terrorism, Aly says there is a trend of far right political movements gaining momentum and having a place in national public discourse, both in Australia and globally.

“Just about every country on the [European] continent has a far right movement that is doing quiet well. Even now we’re starting to see it in Germany, and that was the thing that scared me.” Aly tells Manne.

Here at home we see this trend in groups like the United Patriots Front, who regularly call for bans on people’s right to practice their religion.

Extreme statements, like the ‘stop the mosques’ banner unveiled at last weeks Collingwood vs Richmond football match, are harmful, not only to our muslim community but also to those of us who support freedom of religion and oppose discrimination.

stop mosques
Banner erected at last weeks AFL match

Fortunately, many Australian institutions support multiculturalism, and we saw this in the swift response put out by the Collingwood Football Club.

There are of course several far right voices that continue to penetrate the mainstream media. True to form, Aly believes they are of little consequence.

“Voices like Andrew Bolt are not as relevant as they think,”says Aly. “The ignorance is so determined and so insincere that I have no desire to engage it.”

However, Aly admits to being a minority when it comes to reflecting on anti-muslim sentiment.

“It’s clearly becoming a problem… A lot of muslims I know are really worried about this.”

We can combat the spread of anti-muslim sentiment, and Australia as a nation has an advantage in stemming the flow of fear and hate.

While identifying that Australia has a long and rich history with our first peoples he says that “We are a young nation. We therefore are malleable… The fact that we went from White Australia to whatever you call this, in 40 years, is quite amazing. I think that’s because we don’t know who we are yet.”

Unlike the deeply rooted history in Europe and the U.S, which can be difficult to change, we have the ability to mould a society based on acceptance, tolerance and understanding.

That is an exciting idea, and with a collective effort, it’s something we can give to the future generations of Australia.





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