A Silenced Conversation

Al Qaeda was formed in 1988; the Islamic State in 1999.  Since their establishments, both militant groups have led horrific acts of violence, terrorism and brutal crimes against humanity. Even with Muslim leaders around the world condemning the extremist’s ideology and actions, such events have spawned for a heightened sense of hostility and tension within the Australian public. The presence of hate speech, discrimination and vilification are not unheard of. During the past year, 1 in 5 people living in Australia were the target of racial discrimination, an estimated 4.6 million people. Added to this, 1 in 5 people living in Australia have been the target of racial abuse.

Mohamad Zouhour is just one of many.

On September 22nd 2015, Mr. Zouhour was informed that his business had been the target of a racially motivated crime. The shop front of his Newtown Lebanese restaurant had been destroyed, with anti-Muslim slogans and profanities scratched across the glass panes. Coinciding with months of abusive phone calls and racial slurs, Mr. Zouhour and his family were being attacked as a result of the conflict in the Middle East, or so it would seem.

“I don’t know why this guy or guys think I’m the leader for Arab people or I’m the leader for Muslims – they’re calling me to abuse me about what’s happening overseas or something like that which is not my fault. I’m not doing nothing wrong here.”

Many suggest that both the media and political spheres encourage for scrutiny of Australian Muslims, with the threat of raid cases dominating the television screens. Similarly, he expresses

“I’m a bit surprised about the media. Usually if a Muslim guy does something, they put it on the TV next half an hour but if something happens to a Muslim guy, they’ll think about it a hundred times before they put it on.”

Australia has a culture of denial when it comes to racism, a culture that perpetuates racist and prejudiced behaviour. One in seven people living in Australia are against the concept of multiculturalism, one in ten have racist attitudes. Though with current census data revealing that 1 in 4 Australians are born overseas, how can this be the case? The cost of terrorism and war is nothing compared to the ongoing cost of ourselves. Cross-cultural tension affects the whole of society, the majority, the minority and the individual. This is where the conversation begins, this is where the silence ends; no fear, no racism.

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