Sunday, October 16, 2005


Guess what! I’m an Australian …

I have a message for Aunty Bronwyn and all the others of her generation. And that message is this.

I am an Australian. So is Walid Aly. So is Susan Carland.

There is no clash of civilisations going on with me or between me and others in this wide brown land. In reality, as my friend and colleague Walid Aly pointed out on the Compass program on ABC on Sunday night October 16, what we see is a clash of ignorance.

Terrorism thrives on hate. Hate thrives on ignorance. Just as a flame needs fuel from oxygen or coal or some other substance, hate also needs fuel. And the fastest fuel to light the flames of hate is ignorance.

I have known Walid and his wife Susan since 2002, the year they married. I’ve known other members of Walid’s family since 1995. These thoroughly Australian people were introduced to me by a movement called Young Muslims of Australia (YMA).

Walid and Susan are typical young Aussie Mossies. There is nothing un-Australian about Susan. In fact, probably the most un-Australian thing about Susan is the fact that her mum is a Kiwi.

Then again, so are the Finn brothers. So is one of Australia’s best Rugby League players, Nigel Vagana. And so is half the population of Byron Bay, including Russell Crowe.

Walid first introduced me to the world of media in any significant way. I always had friends at uni who were studying Media and Mass Communications. I’d done some community radio work. But it was Walid who encouraged me to write for the papers. Australian papers.

I am from Sydney. I’ve lived here all my life. Why shouldn’t I be writing for a Sydney audience? Why shouldn’t newspaper readers in Australia (and now New Zealand) be reading what I have to write?

And why should I allow fear and terrorism to dictate what I have to say? I was just as Australian before September 11 (New York), October 12 (Bali) and July 7 (London). The world may have changed, but I haven’t.

My best friend from St Andrews Cathedral School is still singing in the choir. His wife still speaks fluent English and Japanese. I still have friends (and a few enemies, it seems) in the Liberal Party. I still go out with friends to pubs and clubs (though in my case, intoxication is caused by fumes, not the real thing!).

And each time I go to Sydney’s CBD, I get scared some crazy terrorist will do something stupid. I get scared that Aussies will be victims. I get scared that I will land 6 feet under the ground, or perhaps in a hospital.

And if the new anti-terror laws are passed, I get scared that I might be subject to a “control order” jut because my skin is a little browner and I have a weird name few people can pronounce properly.

All this has the ability to make me incredibly depressed. Even more depressed than I am already. But after watching so many of my friends on the Compass program, I know I am not alone.

The largest single ethnic block in the Australian Muslim community are people under 40 and born in Australia. I missed out being born in Australia by around 5 months.

Like the First Fleeters, I came here on a boat (though mine was a bit more luxurious). But I have lived almost all my life in John Howard’s electorate of Bennelong. So if they want to send Muslims home, they’ll have to send me back to East Ryde.

I guess the most heartening thing is to watch young Aisha, daughter to Susan and Walid. She was shown on the Compass program giving thanks to her parents. And what were the words of this sweet 2-year old?

“Thank you maaate!”

After the most recent episode of the ABC Compass program, I wonder how people like Sophie Panopoulos and Bronwyn Bishop will have the face to appear in public and lecture us all about Australian values and a clash of cultures.

And if they don’t have the face, perhaps a generous Aussie Muslim woman can lend them a hijab. Or perhaps even a face veil!

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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