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'Australian Muslim' is not an oxymoron

  • 15 June 2015

During the past few weeks we have seen the prospect raised of a 'Jihadi watch' scheme in schools. It would aim to 'show teachers and students how to spot the signs of a potential terrorist' such as students 'getting into trouble, having fights with people of differing ideology and drifting away from friends.'

Unfortunately, these signs are common in teenagers to the point of being expected. Behavioural shifts which are usually indicative of stress, mental illness or merely growing up, are being recontextualised for Muslim youth, taken as a sign of an intention to run off to join ISIS — a group whose ideals have more to do with geopolitics than Islam, regardless — or carry out a random beheading.

'Jihadi watch' has been described as a 'required' program to 'combat radicalisation and extremism in schools', but functions as a 'justified' kind of bigotry. Beneath the surface, it simply reaffirms the already-pervasive pre-emptive criminalisation of Muslim youth.

There is a particular anatomy to the process of othering. In any context, the formula consists of propaganda, hatred, division, suppression and control. It is done through calculation, strategy and legislation, and aided greatly by polarised public opinion.

I'm from Perth. Some people would dispute this due to my brown skin and non-Anglo name. But I was born here, and have lived here, on unceded Whadjuk-Noongar land, for my entire life. Still, people like me are too often considered Australian only by law, and not by sociocultural connotation.

Mainstream views of Muslim people are not favourable. We are one vast, homogeneous Australian ummah, disparate from wider society, unable and unwilling to 'integrate' — or so goes the narrative I have heard rehashed over and over across mass media for a decade; the definition I've grown up with.

Our men are depicted as hypermasculine, savage caricatured prone to violent pursuit of power and domination; our women as helpless, subservient victims of culture.

But the term 'Australian Muslim' is not an oxymoron, despite this government's relentless attempts to redefine our identities via absolutes. When you raid our homes and gun down our kids, you are also raiding your own homes and gunning down your own kids.

Islamophobia, whether on a national or individual scale, didn't begin with this government, nor will it end with this government. But the increasing harm of these policies is surreal to observe. Before Cronulla, we were alien; post 9/11, we are criminal, immediately suspect.

Omar Bensaidi described his experience with Islamophobic police brutality last month. Ahmad Rahmany explained why he was targeted during counter-terrorism raids. Dr