I’m white, Christian and live happily among Muslims

The Punch

Simon from Lakemba

by Simon from Lakemba

16 Mar 06:00am

I have been asked by The Punch to offer a different point of view about Muslims in Australia. Being a white, Christian, male living in Australia’s most populated Muslim suburb, I should be the most vilified person in Australia according to some fellow Punchers.

Just another street in just another suburb

Well the truth is, I’m not.

My background has many different layers and stepping stones to it. I was born in the mid 80s in Broken Hill to a dad that was local and a mum that was from Wilcannia. Growing up, she was one of the only few white families in town but never had a bad word to say about Aborigines, irrespective of how the situation is there now.

We then moved to Canberra settling in Tuggeranong or “Nappy Valley” as it was called. This is where my first interaction with Muslims happened.

The local primary school had a very multicultural feel to it and my main friends were Lebanese who all seemed to live on one particular street. Being young, I was never aware that he was “different” than me. I never noticed that he didn’t eat pork, believed in a different religion or that his family talked differently than mine.

The moment when things changed was September 11, 2001. I was in high school at the time, in year 10 when this event happened, and it was a difficult time for everybody. My Muslim friends didn’t know how to act, my fellow students didn’t know how to act and my teachers weren’t too sure either.

For the first week not too much had changed, but for the weeks after the anger increased, the whispers increased, the stares were more noticeable. The first instance when “Islamophobia” happened was when the bus driver saw me and my Muslim friends and shut the door in our face and drove off. Then the “terrorists” taunts started.

Another friend had a group full of kids in a car stop and surround her and pull her hijab off. I saw a change in my friends. They became closer to their religion, mainly to go deeper into it to find out why it happened. One particular friend’s mum started to wear a hijab, which she never had before. She was then called a terrorist where she hadn’t been before.

These taunts would continue over the years. These same friends now have double degrees from the ANU in law and politics and engineering.

In 2008 I moved to the Sydney suburb of Lakemba as it was affordable, 15 minutes from work and not too far from the M5 freeway and city. At first people were asking “why?”.

“There are Muslims there, crime, you won’t fit in,” they said.

All those fears haven’t been realised. There is actually more crime in Sutherland Shire, where Cronulla is located, than my local Canterbury Shire. My local Butcher is halal, but so what?

The local Muslim community, whilst never publicised, has raised money for the floods. It raised $26,000 in one single Friday night at Lakemba Mosque, and also had a van helping clean the flood-damaged areas in Brisbane.

They support the local Canterbury Bulldogs, and are arguably the most passionate group of supporters in the NRL. They are also keen players of sport, as evidenced by Saturday mornings at the local Lakemba playing fields.

Unfortunately the bad apples within the community bring the good people down and that’s what the media will tend to focus on.

With more integration and time, I feel the Muslim community will be a great asset to Australia, but that will take an open mind from my fellow Australians as well.

Source

18 thoughts on “I’m white, Christian and live happily among Muslims

  1. I have heard the bogots bleating a lot that “the Muslims” didn’t help with the flood relief effort.

    Take that, bogots! And that was only in one mosque, in one night.

    Unfortunately, when you provide them with that kind of factual information, they almost always to choose to ignore it. This is the problem with Islamophobia – it is a phobia in the purest sense, because it’s irrational. There’s no logic to it, just irrational fear and a willingness to hate. Utterly pathetic.

  2. There you go!

    The whole problem with demonizing a particular community is that the paranoia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    The more you marginalize a group, the more they will detach from the mainstream, the more exclusivist they will become. And when they detach from the mainstream, you have all sorts of issues, from increased crime to “misunderstandings” to outright riots.

    Bigots complain that Muslims aren’t “Australian enough”. How are they going to be Australian enough when you don’t even give them a chance? How are they supposed to be just like everyone else if their religion, their country of origin, their cultural differences are shoved into their face every day of every week? How are they supposed to contribute to nation-building when bigots like Nick Folkes preempt every effort by treating them as inferior, and incapable of contributing?

    And despite all this, they manage.

    Despite the marginalization, the bigotry, the keyboard crusades, these people saw humans in need and pitched in with what they could. A simple human response to the fact that there were fellow men and women and children in desperate need of their assistance.

    In the end, we’re all just people.

    A flood does not discriminate between Muslim and Christian, atheist and agnostic, Buddhist and Jew.
    And neither do most of our fellow men and women.

    When we join hands, mother nature herself forgets her murderous rage, and bows with a wan smile.

    And in the end, the ones who will not join, the ones who will let their petty pride override their humanity, the ones will stand aside and hurl abuse rather than address their own insecurity – will stand alone.

    May Simon’s tribe increase.

  3. After spending 7 years living in London – with all those jihad recruiters, militant mosques, the Mad Imam etc, coming “home” to Brisbane was a huge reverse culture shock. I was hearing “the Muslims think this” and “the Muslims do that”, and I kept saying, “really? The Muslims I rented from, whose shops I frequented, who I worked with, who ran the local Internet café, who worked at the library… most of them wanted what you want: a safe, secure environment in which to raise their moderate, law-abiding, high-achieving children.” I mean, OK, I still don’t get the whole “arranged marriage” thing, & I think Islam is misused in terms of women’s rights etc, but as individuals… as individuals, we’re human, and mostly desire the same things. I’d rather learn what “halal” means, than to avoid the 90% of butchers & chicken/pizza/kebab shops with the symbol on the door; I’d rather talk to someone & find out why 9/11 made him/her a more/less “public” Muslim/bigot, than to operate on assumptions. Every crowd has its arseholes – it’s just a shame that the media ADHD is more suited to the quick soundbite than to investigating the actual issue(s) involved.

  4. I’m white, fifth generation Australian, who adopted a middle-eastern religion and live happily among Christians*

    * except the ones who assume because I’m white and have an aussie accent that they can go on racist tirades about middle eastern asylum seekers and expect to get a sympathetic audience**

    ** actually I don’t care what religion they are, I still don’t agree with them

  5. Whilst its nice to get a positive article, I would like to ask a gay couple if they would feel safe in Lakemba holding hands.

    I have a Muslim friend who lives at Punchbowl and works in the city and he always tells us that that area is not like the city, and is much more violent and dangerous

  6. “There is actually more crime in Sutherland Shire, where Cronulla is located, than my local Canterbury Shire. My local Butcher is halal, but so what?”
    What stats are you relying on? Show me the link to the ABS or AIC page that has those stats. Also, if you are cheaply and rather weakly (for your argument, considering the low, low stoop) trying to do one of those pathetic stat comparison such as Lakemba versus Gosford, in which crime may be the same in number of crimes per capita in both areas. But if one checks closer high end-violent crimes such as armed robberies and group assaults, gang shootings, murders, organized drug selling and organized car re-birthing rackets would all show up much, much more in the Lakemba area than in the lower-class white area of Gosford. Gosford may have many more smaller crimes such as shop lifting, basic assaults (pub fights), car theft, drug use, etc., but there will definitely never be any organized criminal activities, and usually not as many high end crimes as in the Lebanese areas.
    Also, you say “so what” re your butcher being “halal”. But, shouldn’t out of decency, fairness and respect for difference, offer non-halal meat also?

    “The local Muslim community, whilst never publicized, has raised money for the floods. It raised $26,000 in one single Friday night at Lakemba Mosque, and also had a van helping clean the flood-damaged areas in Brisbane.”
    Outright lies! I have NEVER heard of a charity for anything that did not have primarily a North-Western European culture behind it and imbued throughout it. The only charities I ever heard about that were otherwise were specific charities, racial/tribal targeting such as during the tsunami in Asia, Sri-Lankan groups in Australia were raising money but ONLY for their precious “Sri-Lanka”. Quite frankly that disgusts me, since this type of selfish thinking is racist and selfish. It makes you wonder whether these same people would bother to help anybody but their “own kind”?
    Compare that type of thing, which is normal in Aus. and I see it for every ethnic group (except Anglos and Aborigines) any time there is a disaster overseas, to what occurred in the so-called “insular peninsular” (Cronulla) as racistly referred to by Scott Poynting. Actually, I remember at the time of the Tsunami in 2004-5 in Indonesia and other SE-Asian spots, I specifically remember that the Sutherland Shire area was the highest donations for any area to these “Muslim” areas affected by the natural disaster. One can check the stats since I heard a current Liberal minister back at that time make that claim on insight or a similar program.

    “Unfortunately the bad apples within the community bring the good people down and that’s what the media will tend to focus on.”
    That’s simply totally the other way to an extreme degree! Remember when Sheikh Hilali (the Muslim community’s “Cardinal Pell” equivalent in popularity and power in his culture/religion) claimed that Australian women who dress “scantily” basically are to blame for a “wild” animal called a “male” if they decide to use her a “meat” and simply rape her. He should go home and “she should go to prison for 100 years”. How much more racist and even rape inciting can a speech get, made by the Muslim community’s “Mufti” at the time in charge of the largest Mosque in this country. When the media and talk back radio wanted an apology and some explanation etc., none came, only jibberish about not “really say that” type stuff. After merely 1 week and without any meaningful Muslim community leaders or even just normal Muslims in the street speaking against the Mufti at all, the Muslim community in fact had the hide to demand that the Australian public and media immediately stop discussing the matter, as to do so was racist they were claiming.

    “With more integration and time, I feel the Muslim community will be a great asset to Australia, but that will take an open mind from my fellow Australians as well.”
    Isn’t it racist to want then to “integrate” into the “what” culture? Are they supposed to become more like the culture of the descendants of the North-Western Europeans and their colonies? I thought multiculturalism was a policy that “allows” each ethnic group to keep, maintain and foster growth in their own particular culture, hoping that overall there is a sharing of all cultures between every single ethnic group. Aren’t you a “racist” for desiring this “integration”?

    • Newcastle crime rates: http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/NewcastleLGA.xls/$file/NewcastleLGA.xls

      Bankstown crime rates: http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/BankstownLGA.xls/$file/BankstownLGA.xls

      Roughly the same in terms of socio-economic status, but completely different cultural make-up. Please refer to the ’17 major crimes’ category, within the the past 6 years, and refer to the rate per 100,000.

      A butcher offering non-halal meat? You’re saying you can’t find a butcher offering non-halal meat? What rock are you living under? The author of this piece is referring to his local butcher, not all butchers.

      The Lakemba Mosque raised money for the Queensland floods but you didn’t hear about it? Must be a lie. Good reasoning.

      The Sri Lankans raised money to assist those in Sri Lanka? Racist? Does this imply that no Sri Lankans in Australia have ever raised money for any other causes that were assisting other countries other than Sri Lanka? Way to add 2+2 and come up with 5, Matt.

      http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2005/02/research-post-tsunami-fundraising

      Most money donated came from Sutherland Shire? Now the onus is on you to provide evidence. This is what came up in my search: http://lgfocus.com.au/editions/2005/february/citizrec.shtml

      Also found this, on the first page of Google results: http://www.aussiemuslims.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-3651.html

      RE: Hilali’s ‘uncovered meat’ comments:

      “Muslim community leaders were yesterday outraged and offended by Sheik Hilali’s remarks, insisting the cleric was no longer worthy of his title as Australia’s mufti.”

      “Young Muslim adviser Iktimal Hage-Ali – who does not wear a hijab – said the Islamic headdress was not a “tool” worn to prevent rape and sexual harassment. “It’s a symbol that readily identifies you as being Muslim, but just because you don’t wear the headscarf doesn’t mean that you’re considered fresh meat for sale,” the former member of John Howard’s Muslim advisory board told The Australian. “The onus should not be on the female to not attract attention, it should be on males to learn how to control themselves.””

      “Australia’s most prominent female Muslim leader, Aziza Abdel-Halim, said the hijab did not “detract or add to a person’s moral standards”, while Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Ali said it was “ignorant and naive” for anyone to believe that a hijab could stop sexual assault.”

      “”Anyone who is foolish enough to believe that there is a relationship between rape or unwelcome sexual interference and the failure to wear a hijab, clearly has no understanding of the nature of sexual crime,” he said.

      Ms Hage-Ali said she was “disgusted and offended” by Shiek Hilali’s comments. “I find it very offensive that a man who considers himself as a mufti, a leader of Australia’s Muslims, can give comment that lacks intelligence and common sense.””

      “Aziza Abdel-Halim said Sheik Hilali’s remarks during Ramadan were inaccurate and upsetting to the Muslim community.

      “They are below and beyond any comment (and) do not deserve any consideration.””

      “Politicians including Prime Minister John Howard, community leaders and a large number of Muslims condemned the mufti’s comments amid calls that he should be deported to Egypt, his country of origin.”

      It seems that many Muslim community leaders and spokespeople opposed his comments. But you said “After merely 1 week and without any meaningful Muslim community leaders or even just normal Muslims in the street speaking against the Mufti at all, the Muslim community in fact had the hide to demand that the Australian public and media immediately stop discussing the matter, as to do so was racist they were claiming.” Why are you bringing this up? What are you trying to imply about Muslims and their sexual behaviour?

      “Isn’t it racist to want then to “integrate” into the “what” culture?”

      Some would argue that yes it is. But this is the mindset of the general population of Australia – that if you live or dress or eat a little differently – you’re refusing to assimilate and integrate – hence the pressure on migrant communities. Where does the racism come from? Where does the demand to conform come from? Perhaps you can answer that one.

    • I love your logic Matt. I’m just glad you have heard of the internet because if you hadn’t then it would surely not exist and I don’t know what I’d do without it.

      Also, you could learn something from MMU who has provided links to credible sites to support their case. You, one the other hand support your case with “I have NEVER heard of… it” and “I heard a current Liberal minister back at that time make that claim”.

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