BY SHAHAD NOMANI
Another day, another media attack, another condemnation hot off the press.
On the 13th of April, the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) released a media statement “categorically” condemning any form of domestic violence. This was co-signed with a range of figures from the Muslim community. The statement was released hot on the heels of a string of articles by Australian media outlets righteously condemning a video made by the ‘Women of Hizb-ut-Tahrir’ which condoned domestic violence. Alongside the media, politicians also lined up; ready to pounce on the situation, repeat truisms and loudly portray how outraged and personally offended they were. Sublime.
When will we as a community realise that our desperate condemnations only ring hollow to mainstream Australia?
Never mind that the Muslim community in Australia is multi-faceted, drawn from all corners of the Earth. Never mind whether Hizb-ut-Tahrir truly represents a sizeable portion of the Muslim community. Never mind that, statistically speaking, the rate at which Muslim women are “monstered” (thanks, Tony Abbot for standing up for Muslim women, you great White saviour, you), doesn’t seem to be different from rates of domestic violence within other communities. Never mind, the tremendous world of discussion surrounding the interpretation of particular verses within the Qur’an. Never mind all that. We apparently need to compulsively try and soothe mainstream white anxiety, no matter the cost. In publishing their condemnation (read: apology), ANIC has simultaneously portrayed the Muslim community as a monolithic whole, and as a guilty child caught red-handed.
In our vehement attempts to rid ourselves of the very stigma conjured by the media, our community is being strung along as a convenient punching bag. This pattern has become all too well established. Whether it be terrorist attacks, domestic violence or even Halal food, the media sensationalises and exploits the image of the Muslim as ‘other’. Always ensuring they achieve their main aim: sell the story, make money. The very headline of The Australian newspaper that started this most recent media frenzy was, “It’s OK for Muslim men to hit their wives”. Wording specifically chosen, to produce shock, and draw ire towards an already embattled minority. The media invests and continues to invest in this cheap manipulation of mainstream fears for cheap profit, and it is high time we learn to ignore such bullying.
That News Corp and other mainstream media entities aren’t interested in serious investigative journalism when it comes to the Muslim community has become apparent in the post 9/11 era. Their approach is simple: perpetuate outrage and sell newspapers. That’s why they’ve created a whole business centered of terrible punny headlines, provocative imagery and defamatory information. Just last week, the Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim Mohamed won a defamation case against The Daily Telegraph for an article which asserted that he failed to condemn the 2015 Paris attacks and (surprise surprise) demanded that he do so. Because, naturally, Muslims in Australia are required to absolve themselves of the actions of 7 terrorists in Paris.
This recent interest by media organisations and politicians’ stem from no deep concern for domestic violence. Ironically, this flurry of self-righteous statements from our politicians is responding to the statements of merely 26 women in Sydney’s West from a group which, in their own words, is: irrelevant, extremist and evil. I mean aren’t we meant to expect such statements from minority fringe groups? But what’s to be expected when cheap political gains are to be made? What does it matter if the words of extremists are to be bloated beyond belief and the Muslim community trampled underfoot? The media also stands only to gain from sensationalising such events and tarring the entire community with the views of a small few.
Where are the articles and politicians that honestly point towards the pivotal role that alcohol consumption plays in domestic violence in Australia? According to the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), about half of reported domestic violence incidents involve alcohol. But I suppose there is not much to gain by having a larger (and White-r) portions of society reflect sourly on their alcohol consumption.
Let me clarify, I am not stating that domestic violence within Islamic contexts cannot or should not be investigated. An article written by the ABC on the 24th of April, in which dozens of scholars, imams and social workers were interviewed, gave the issue its due right. The article voiced the concerns of the wider Muslim community, detailed the problems that exist, and highlighted recent initiatives created to deal with concerns of domestic violence. That is what the media should be doing.
However, I hope that we begin to understand that we are under no obligation to repeatedly condemn or apologise f or the views of a minority within our diverse community. Especially not in the face of a media that intentionally promotes stigmas against our community for cheap profit. Ultimately, such apologies and condemnations fail to absolve the Muslim community in the eyes of mainstream Australia. Often resulting in a reverse effect: painting us as guilty culprits caught in the act. It is also important to notice that the condemnations of terrorism by countless sheikhs and Muslim organisations worldwide, has not made a slight impact on the rising Islamophobia currents in the West. Muslims are hated now more than ever, despite our profuse and desperate apologies after each time a Muslim even sneezes wrong. Rather, such condemnations serve to further isolate Muslim youth from their community leaders. Exhausted and confused within the current political climate, Muslim youth are aching for direction and simply tired of their supposed ‘leaders’ and ‘authority figures’ falling head over heels to apologise for anything and everything.
It is time for us as a community to step back from this pattern of apologising and condemning after every media attack. Only then can we stop being a convenient punching bag, and start to take control of the discourse surrounding Muslims within Australia.
Illustration By Navira Trimansyah