Tuesday, August 02, 2005

 

GG - An Aussie Catholic Presumed Mossie Terrorist

She is of mixed ethnic background. Her mother is Indian, her dad Irish Catholic. She grew up in the nation’s capital and attended a private school. When she was a toddler, she would crawl after her mum, trying to copy everything she did. As a result, her relatives gave her the nickname “GG” (in Hindi, it means "Yes Yes"). And that is what I call her as well.

GG works as a law clerk. She's also completing her nursing degree at university. Each day, she walks from her home to the railway station and catches the train to uni. It is a 20 minute walk followed by a 10 minute train ride. She attends lectures and tutorials, following which she goes to the library or catches a bus to the legal office where she works part-time.

GG is your typical aussie girl. She likes going out with friends. She drinks a fair bit. She has a boyfriend. She enjoys her music and has perhaps Sydney’s largest CD library in her flat. I intend buying her 2 ipods for her birthday so that she can save all her music (at least 30,000 songs!) in an easily accessible format.

You would think someone like GG has nothing to fear from increased security measures arising from the war on terror. Think again.

“I think I will stop using a backpack to uni on the train. They might arrest me”, she told me after watching Lateline on ABC. The story concerned a new ethnic profiling system police in London are using to track possible terrorists. Persons fitting a certain profile (typically Pakistani, Middle Eastern or African) will be subject to random checks. So what does this have to do with GG?

If I were to introduce you to GG, you would understand why she is worried. GG’s problem is that, for reasons beyond her understanding, she fits the profile of a terrorist. And she feels terrified.

GG has olive-coloured skin. Her hair is black with brown streaks. She could be Pakistani, Iranian, Arab or Turkish. She might even be Indonesian or Malay. She “looks” Muslim.

When GG catches the train, she gets strange looks. Once or twice she has been heckled and told to go back to Lebanon. She is terrified of what would happen to her if a terrorist attack occurred in Sydney.

GG is frightened. She is afraid purely because of how she looks. Her appearance is the result of factors beyond her control. She has to suffer because her Indian mum married an Anglo-Australian man all those years ago.

What sort of environment makes a girl born in Canberra Hospital, an old girl of an exclusive Canberra school feel like a foreigner and a terror suspect in her own country?

It may sound unbelievable, but GG is even more terrified than I am. She lives alone, and has been forced to have an Anglo-Australian friend stay with her. She is frightened just to go to university. She is afraid she might get attacked physically and not just verbally.

Why does GG feel less Australian than her Anglo friends? It is simply the assumptions people make when they see her. Yet she could just as easily be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Not that this would make her feel safer.

When the war on terror leads to people being terrorised because of how they look, victory is being handed to the terrorists on a silver platter. In New York, following the September 11 attacks, an Indian man was the first suspect to be arrested. Another Indian man was shot dead. Both wore turbans. Both had dark or olive-coloured skin. Neither were Muslim.

When one reads the columns of tabloid xenophobes like Andrew Bolt or the blogs of allegedly educated people like Peter Faris QC, one can sense the growing hate against anyone perceived to be somehow linked to Islam. Even if a person merely “looks” Muslim, they can be turned into a target. The Bolts and Faris’ of this world are programming their readers to hate anyone presumed Muslim. Sadly, many of those targeted by this hatred are in no way related to Islam.

When we use the war against terrorism as a means of discrimination and curtailing civil liberties, we might as well declare Usama bin Ladin to be our Attorney-General. Because the policies and procedures that drive people like GG to feel terrorised in their own country are the type that al-Qaida want to see implemented.

(The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer and has been friends with GG since 1997.)

© Irfan Yusuf

Comments:
Good article Very well put.
 
As a Muslim of South Asian origin, I can completely relate to what you wrote. However, as much as I have thought about it, I cannot come up with a solution that would preclude profiling. I mean, how does a law enforcement agency prevent crime before it’s committed? It focuses first on the most obvious of suspects. Yes, many of those suspects are innocents but how would you go about finding those that would commit these acts without focusing on the most obvious of characteristics, their ethnicity.

I say this with the full knowledge that what I propose will affect me more than most. I have already seen the looks, gone through the searches, etc. However, I don’t know if there is another solution, one that does not relate to the community, for law enforcement agencies to catch those that would commit these crimes and sully the names of everyone else.

I look forward to reading any proposals that your readers may have on this issue.
 
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