He’s My Brother – Why Are Australian Muslims So Pissed Off?

Since the weekend’s protests in Sydney, a number of high-profile Muslims have felt the need to speak out, to condemn the violence and to remind the broader population that this was a minority group – that not all Muslims are violent terrorists.

This seems the logical thing to do. After all, we can’t let this ”violent minority” tarnish the image of Islam and Muslims, right?

The problem is that such analyses miss the point. They zoom in on one incident and frame their entire discussion around that, as if it occurred in a contextual vacuum. When viewed on its own, of course, the protest makes no sense at all.

Why were some protesters chanting ”Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell”? When prominent Muslim leaders cannot even begin to fathom how some Muslim youth have mentioned corpses when apparently protesting about a movie, we need to question whether the real problem is that such leaders are incredibly out of touch with the reality of Muslim youth in this country. Waleed Aly has correctly identified that, ”This isn’t about the film”. Correct.

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Rather than dismissing these protests as an excuse for these youth to ”feel good about themselves” or as a public statement of righteousness, we need instead to give genuine consideration to why our youth are acting in this manner. We need to give the situation context.

The reference to corpses made by these protesters is not at all surprising to anybody who has worked closely with the Muslim community. They are referring to those killed in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; they are referring to the many children killed by US drone attacks; they are referring to the Rohingya Muslims burnt to death in Burma; they are referring to Uyghur Muslims being persecuted in China; they are referring to the daily oppression of Palestinians; they are referring to the war on terrorism which they see as targeting Muslims; they are referring to Kashmir, Guantanamo Bay, Chechnya, and the many other places around the world where they witness injustice and persecution.

So no, this is not entirely about some poor-quality YouTube clip. These youth are basically protesting against the broader context of Islamophobia, within which this clip is not only being produced and propagated, but also defended as freedom of speech.

Beginning to make sense?

But there is still a problem. How do we know if these are the real concerns of the youth since they haven’t articulated them in such a manner? And why on earth are they so angry at events entirely unrelated to them?

To begin with, many Muslims in Australia do not simply give up their identity as belonging to a global community merely because they happen to live in Australia. Many have not bought the liberal idea of individualism, and so see events happening on the other side of the planet as personally related to them. So, when a Muslim woman is killed collecting firewood in Afghanistan, these youth are angered at the fact that their sister was murdered. When a Muslim man is crushed to death in Palestine, they lament the loss of their brother. It may not make sense to a Western audience, but that doesn’t matter. This is what is angering our youth, and until we start discussing it honestly and genuinely, the confusion will remain.

As to the question of articulating these grievances correctly: this is the ironic and very sad part. These youth have been relying on their leaders – their representatives – to do exactly that on their behalf. Instead what they see is a leadership almost exclusively concerned with ”portraying the correct image” of Muslims in the media. Rather than voicing their grievances, they see their leaders capitulating to representatives of the governments they accuse of Muslim oppression. Instead of protecting them from what are seen as some of the harshest anti-terrorism laws in the world, they see their leaders thanking police for raiding Muslim homes; they see their leaders as siding against them, rather than with them; they feel betrayed.

And so the anger rages inside them. They’re frustrated, with no avenue for effective expression. They reach breaking point, and decide to do something.

They take to the streets.

Yes, perhaps there is a feeling of catharsis in the waving of fists and chanting of slogans. Yes, it’s obvious that the way they express themselves betrays the message they claim to be carrying. But we should not place the blame entirely on them. We should look towards what’s really lacking in the Muslim community, and for that, we cannot look past the real superheroes in this episode: the present leadership. These Muslim leaders who come out in full force when it’s time to condemn other Muslims in the public, only to welter away and become invisible again once the tide settles. These superheroes, who, rather than voicing the very real grievances of the youth, and defending the interests of the whole Muslim community, seem more intent on representing the voice of an exclusive, overly image-conscious minority.

So what is the solution, then?

Well, here’s one radical idea: rather than having a collective anxiety attack each time Muslims are mentioned in the media, how about we actually genuinely engage the youth for a change, and speak to them rather than about them?

Mohamad Tabbaa is a PhD candidate in law and criminology at the University of Melbourne. He researches issues of discrimination against Muslim minority groups in the West, particularly Australia.

19 thoughts on “He’s My Brother – Why Are Australian Muslims So Pissed Off?

  1. This analysis completely ignores the fact that a lot of the people killed in these incidents overseas are not Muslims. There are significant minority groups within these countries that are are just as dead but apparently these ‘youths’ are only concerned with the ones who follow their own faith.
    I would also dispute that this was a ‘youth’ protest. According to reports there were families, women with children among the protesters. I do agree that Muslim youth feel disconnected from Australian society. Who is to blame for that? Their parents came here and set up enclaves within the community, isolating themselves fostering a feeling a ‘being different’. They discourage their kids from making friends in the wider community and socialise within their own group. Consequently these 2nd generation Australians feel more in tune with societies they have never lived in instead of the country of their birth. Instead of appreciating the benefits of living in a free democratic society, where they won’t get shot in the street for protesting, they are raging against the very society that has given them their voice.

    And this is not a Muslim phenomenon. We have seen it within all migrant communities. The second generation feels out of synch, neither one thing or the other. Focusing on religion is missing the real issue. The real issue is that when people come to this country, some of them want to bring their old country and their grievances with them. They want the benefits of living here but don’t want to really be Australian. It’s just not possible and when they do this, they do their children a disservice.

    This is incident is one of civil disorder. The fact is that there are people who are exploiting this feeling of disconnection to encourage violence. I believe in everyone’s right to protest but bringing your kids up to believe it’s OK to kill someone for insulting your imaginary friend is not OK.

    • Their parents came here and set up enclaves within the community, isolating themselves fostering a feeling a ‘being different’. They discourage their kids from making friends in the wider community and socialise within their own group.

      Could it be that Muslim immigrants quickly became victims of the prejudice which followed the Irish, the Chinese, the Kanaks, the Christian Lebanese, the Germans, the Jews, the Italians, Greeks and Maltese, the Eastern Europeans, the refugees from South East Asian conflicts, the Indians – the ugly underbelly of white Anglo exceptionalism which has long hidden under the myths? Fortunately its practitioners have become smaller in number but just as ignorant and vicious as the racist ranters of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

    • “There are significant minority groups within these countries that are are just as dead but apparently these ‘youths’ are only concerned with the ones who follow their own faith.”

      True, but sadly people caring more for the in-group than the out-group is sadly commonplace. After all, when did you last cry about a slaughter in Syria?

      “Their parents came here and set up enclaves within the community, isolating themselves fostering a feeling a ‘being different’.”

      Well, enclaves occur because an area ofl and is cheap, and it’s comforting to be with people you can speak one language is. When the migrant has money they get the hell out of the enclave though, which is why Melbourne
      s former enclaves of Italians, Greeks and Chinese are no longer isolated in one area.

      “They discourage their kids from making friends in the wider community and socialise within their own group. ”

      Source for this? Becasue I’ve had no issue making friends from a range of cultural backgrounds?

      “. We have seen it within all migrant communities. The second generation feels out of synch, neither one thing or the other. ”

      Except that australian has oen of the highest mixed marriage ratesi n the world with second generation migrants. Seems like second generation migrants seemed to have sorted out their identities in time for marriage.

      “The real issue is that when people come to this country, some of them want to bring their old country and their grievances with them. They want the benefits of living here but don’t want to really be Australian”

      Wait, so if you come to be Australian, you can only ever be Australian? You have to throw away any old disputes or link to your old country?

      Well, in that case, you’d surely want to ban Irish bars, righ? St Patrick’s day to be banned? And no Greek Orthodox Easter either?
      Hell, better no bring any Catholicism either (That brings a whole lot of conflict with protestants-better get rid of protestants too!).

      Eventually all we have left is Aborigines-because EVERY migrant from the first fleet onwards have broguht aspects of their home coutnry, good and bad, along with them. And thank God for that! It’d be a less interesting country if everyone abandoend their identity when they came to Australia.

      “The fact is that there are people who are exploiting this feeling of disconnection to encourage violence. ”

      Absolutely-there alwasy have been. Again, this incidence reminds me so much of Cronulla. In that case it was white supremacist groups that were trying to encourage violece in a legitimate protest. We should all work together to make those exploiters, no matter what their backgroudn, be isolated and ignored by the majority of Australia.

  2. Religion poisons everything… If you aren’t willing to come here and abide by the laws of the country, then you should leave or not be allowed to settle in the first place.
    The real victims aren’t the people offended by a youtube video (really…) or the vision of the protesters on the streets, but the cops who were hurt just doing their jobs.

      • If they were immigrants why not?
        If your kids were misbehaving with your neighbours kids at your house, you wouldn’t put up with your neigbours kids behaviour, you would send them home and then discipline your own. Can’t see why that logic can’t be applied to Citizens and non Citizens.
        Obeying the laws of the country you live in isn’t some onerous bias applied to minority groups and immigrants.

        • So, let’s just be clear Duncan, if you’re Australian born, then everything is okay, but if you’re a migrant, you should be deported if you step out of line at all-even if you have citizenship?

  3. I’m all for freedom of expression and voicing yourself and agree that there are a lot of injustices around the world, on many levels; but I still will never agree that violence or even threats of violence are justified in that cause – no matter whether it be Muslims, Christians, bogans, or anyone else. Otherwise, we end up in an infernal never ending circle of hate.

    I also think that the Muslim leaders have been correct in condemning acts that are a) expressly prohibited in the coran anyway and b) are violent, non-effective means of expressing your grievences. They are not *wrong* for doing so. I applaud them. Just as much as I think that our politicians were right to condemn those who rioted in Cronulla (which most did) effectively representing “the voice of an exclusive, overly image-conscious minority.” – aka, those against racism, hatred and exclusion. (Works the same way).

    As Ghandi said, an eye for an eye and we will all go blind. And as an atheist, I have to add – religion is like a penis; it’s ok to have one, ok to be be proud of it – but don’t go and force it down my throat. It’s a question of respect in the end. I respect all religions, but I won’t accept to lose my freedom of speech (so long as this freedom is not racist, offensive, etc) so that you (you meaning: everyone who is religious) can enjoy your faith.

  4. I suspect that these young thugs are concerned with emulating the deeds of their Prophet about as much as the KKK were concerned with being Christ-like.

    Oh sure, it all starts with a prayer or two but, before long, emotions run high and somebody ends up getting lynched.

    The author of this article claims that the injustices against the Muslim brothers of those protesting/rioting was the underlying cause of the violence.
    If this is the case, then perhaps all that anger should be directed in protest against the Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims who are murdering each other with reckless abandon in the Middle East at the moment.
    It’s they who are escalating the Muslim body count more than anybody else.

    What we saw on Saturday was no different from what we have seen from white militias in The States, the IRA in Ireland or football hooligans in Eastern Europe; a bunch of young criminal thugs hijacking a cause and using it to make themselves feel powerful and relevant.
    Specifically, we saw a bunch of self-important Lebanese pricks tarnish the good name of Muslims all over Australia.
    None of the trouble makers were Afghans, Egyptians, Malaysians, Indonesians or Sudanese.
    No, they were pretty much all Lakemba Lebanese with their Lonsdale hoodies, Nike Air trainers and tough-guy attitudes.

    They’ve seriously fucked things up for every Muslim in this country and given a free kick to our professional bigots like Bolt, Jones and Hadley.
    I hope they get slapped down so hard they’ll never dare raise their heads again.

    Cheers

    • “They’ve seriously fucked things up for every Muslim in this country and given a free kick to our professional bigots like Bolt, Jones and Hadley.”

      And this dear readers is…….. @#$@#$$** fabulous.

      “I suspect that these young thugs are concerned with emulating the deeds of their Prophet about as much as the KKK were concerned with being Christ-like.”

      Bullshit. Well read the ****ing Koran numbskull.

      Inverted mental gymnastics at full speed ahead.

  5. Sorry, the justification in the article is too weak to support. Australian Islamic youth are angry because of some global brotherhood? A 19 year old Muslim male in Parramatta has such a strong bond with a 70 year old woman in Syria that he’s never met, never thought about, never had any contact with and never knew existed until told of her death but purely because they share the same religion it whips him into a rage at the injustice of it all so much so that he feels the need to show it in a public display?

    Not buying it. It’s too simplistic.

    • Exactly. These riots were world wide.

      The OIC in the UN will simply use them as a pretext to try & enact anti-blasphemy laws in western countries. Thats what is really going on here.

      The ‘movie’ is a ruse.

  6. How anyone could be offended by that crappy movie is beyond me. Any religion which would teach its followers to carry on like wild animals because someone insulted a mythical character is certainly one to be avoided. We don’t need that sort of thinking here.(Santa Clause is real though)

  7. Yeah hold em at a high standard like a perfectly carved wooden penis, it’s not some right to live here we have rules, we all must obey. No sex in a moving car.

  8. Everyone has sex. I thank this site for such a picture, but isnt this the very evidence that people sight as the reasons against multiculturalism?

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