A Call for Calm
A few weeks ago on my Sunday night radio program on Sydney Radio 2GB 873 I invited a philosopher to speak on the causes of Islamic radicalism.
The effect it had on some listeners was truly electric. It became obvious to me that amongst many listeners a “Team Australia” versus “Team Islam” mentality was developing.
Some listeners called me a traitor and others said I should have censored the person I was interviewing as they did not like what he was saying.
What I found really sad was that during that interview I expressed no personal opinion at all! All I did was simply ask questions. My interviewee (an atheist not a Muslim) gave his opinion as to why he felt some Muslim youths were being radicalized to the point of wanting to go overseas and fight. He also spoke of some of the causes that he felt created a sense of loneliness, alienation and anger amongst some Muslim youths.
In many ways, to my way of thinking, he really spoke about what causes human beings to react rather than made any religious comments at all.
A couple of times in my life as a radio presenter and more than once working with disturbed people I have had my life threatened. However, I left the studio that night feeling quite afraid.
Now, I have to stress that was not the majority of calls I received and other radio stations have received exactly the same sort of abusive calls as well. So members of my listening audience cannot be singled out for this attitude alone.
The next day I heard my radio colleague Ray Hadley on air, talking with a young Muslim “radical” who phoned in to tell Ray that he would like to go overseas to fight. Ray handled the whole situation really well. He pointed out that this character did not talk for all Muslims and made the sensible suggestion that if this person did want to leave Australia to go overseas to fight, then he was sure someone would pay the fare as long as on exit he handed in his Australian passport to Customs authorities.
The response Ray got to that interview was electric too.
I remember thinking “My God, if some “terrorist” sets off a bomb in Australia, God help the victims and God help the Muslim community at the retaliation which will inevitably be wrought on them”.
Day after day we read and hear stories that horrify and terrify us. Mass decapitations, ethnic religious cleansings, unbelievable inhumanities heaped upon the suffering victims by marauding bands of cut-throats who seem to think they have a religious justification for the horrors they perpetuate.
Day after day we read and hear of exhortations to violence from individuals we can only classify as mindless thuggish brutes. We hear them heap praises on “criminals” doing the most brutish of things, particularly overseas. I think to myself “Why do we give all these idiots oxygen? Why do we give them a voice to scare the bejeebers out of everybody? Why do we actually believe they are spokespersons for their whole community when they plainly aren’t? They really are just criminals and are lauding criminal behaviour”. The more we find out about these so called spokespersons the more we find out that many of them have psychiatric problems and are social misfits.
Why do we listen to them (I keep asking myself)?
But we do! And it scares us.
A week ago upon opening my computer the first email I received was this one.
“My husband now carries in his bag a machete and I now carry in my bag an 18″ metal pipe cosh, this is to protect us when we leave the house in case an attempt is made to kidnap us by Muslims.
Terrible to think it has come to this in Australia.”
It’s scary, isn’t it?
All I can say is, God help any Muslim looking person (whatever that means), who looks at these two the wrong way.
An interview with me on another radio station elicited this one:-
“You are an extreme left wing person regarding Muslims! You have no idea of what you are talking about! You seem to love Muslims more than Christians!
You are Protestant and you don’t know your Bible! Catholics get accused of this all the time!
I suppose you would be embarrassed by the White Australia policy that Tony Abbott said. Are you embarrassed for being White? You shouldn’t!
People are concerned about extremism in any religion. Don’t be ashamed of people who want to defend themselves. You should defend yourself too! Jesus said defending yourself is ok…
In the Bible Jesus said Luke 22:36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Verse 37 it is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.”
Verse 38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.’
Media reports also tell us of women dressed in “Muslim” gear being abused and spat on in the streets. Also having their head scarves ripped off. In other words our great nation, Australia, is gripped with fear. Each of the other.
This madness simply has to stop!
I know the fear. I understand this fear. I was personally involved with many of the victims of the Bali bombing. I have recently been on the London Underground when the train suddenly stopped in the middle of the tunnel and passengers looked at one another with fear in their eyes.
It’s obvious that the rise of the Islamic State and the influence it is having on minds of some disaffected young people is worrying. But should it be sending our society here in Australia into panic?
I feel we will be waiting forever to really hear Muslim leaders really come out and condemn all of this evil rhetoric. In Mohammad’s time his and his followers lives were always under threat and parts of the Koran, it must be admitted reflect these “at war with the world” warlike times which are far distant from and alien to mainstream Australian life. Also today, I know, many Christians bang on about the slaughter of innocent Christians over there in the Middle East but you hardly hear them talking about the greater number of Muslims who suffer the same fate! I get horrified at the thought of rescue missions for the Christians that leave all the other victims to perish.
Many Christians mistakenly believe that Christianity is democratic. That Christianity includes democracy within its being. Actually Christianity, just like Islam, is a theocracy under God. Just as Christianity needs to come to terms with that, Islam needs to come to terms with its violent passages in the Koran. And we ALL need to address the violence in the Old Testament. There is certainly a lot of work for religious scholars to do today! All religions need to realise they are not perfect and only contain a smidgen of the glory of God.
It seemed to me we are today suffering from a crisis of leadership. A lacking of leadership, religious, secular and political. From my experience with Church Leadership, I have found that most leaders play to their congregations. That is, they will not express a view outside what their congregation thinks. “What will Mable in the pews think if I say this”? is the thought pattern. With multi ethnic congregations you get the same thing. Leaders not wanting to speak out further than what their ethnic congregations think is right and proper. I feel that would probably be the same for Islamic gatherings. Leaders would not want to speak out too far ahead of their people who, in many ways, could be bullied by a few hotheads in their gatherings. So, in general I feel the best we can expect from our religious leaders is a lot of motherhood statements that don’t really go very far. And as for politicians, all we can expect from them is a playing up to their electorate’s fears so they get re-elected.
So, when a fear inducing issue like this comes along all leadership generally does is suck up to those who are most important to them to keep them onside which leaves us with a lacking of true leadership. The whole system acts against true statesmanship which at this time, is really needed. In other words, with the lack of this leadership we all run around like headless chooks. We can see that happening today, big time!
So, I have begun to realize it is not a problem that can be solved by our religious or political leaders. They have too many vested interests to serve and people to suck up to. I’m all for a good decent, tolerant secular society keeping the religions honest. Experience tells us that when one religion or religious sect or ideology dominates a country chaos and gross abuses tend to occur. So, I reckon, the only way for Australia to lift itself out of the fear ridden mire we are caught in at this moment, will be via a mass grass roots campaign of good, decent, tolerant, secular minded Australians who, ban together and say “Enough. We are sick of this hatred. We are sick of this division. We are sick of condemning people simply because they worship or think in a different way to us. We are simply sick of all of it”. “Lock the idiots up on both sides”, I say. Because there are many malevolent forces, not just Islamic, at work feeding this anxiety.
I feel then, our religious, secular and political leaders will know there are a lot of people in this nation who for are justice, peace, tolerance and all of us living together in peace. There are a lot of us Australians who believe in a fair go, justice for all and we are all born equally. Then, and only then, will the political religious and secular leaders have the courage to speak out for the benefit of all Australia rather than just their own narrow band of supporters.
With this in mind, I approached the Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW because I was getting nervous about the way Australia was heading. I met with the CEO Hakan Harman and Richard Acheson, A/Director Community Engagement. We decided that on the day of the feast of Eid, Saturday 4th October, we would invite religious, political and social leaders to a BBQ to be held at my Exodus Foundation to begin this grass roots campaign.
I have to say the BBQ was extremely successful. Over 80 people turned up including Christians, Muslims and secular people. The Jewish people couldn’t because it was Yom Kippur but were with us in spirit. Some prominent leaders included Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Phillip Ruddock, Former Minister for Immigration, Hugh Riminton, Presenter, Ten Eyewitness News.
To watch a short video of the event and speeches click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj9DjiO8FFs
To join my Facebook group click on https://www.facebook.com/groups/728851910516182/
My current feeling is that we need to have a march. A big street rally, where good decent secular Australians come out and say we’re sick of this. Lock the idiots up on both sides and let’s move on.
Why do I do this? I do it because 200,000 years ago in central Africa was born one, solitary woman. We know her as Mitochondrial Eve. Every human being on earth carries that one woman’s genes. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Australia, Afghanistan. Africa, China or wherever you ivied you are carrying her Genes. We are ALL one another’s brothers and sisters. Every one of us. Whenever we bleed we bleed her genes, whenever we sweat we sweat her genes. Colour, race or religious differences mean nothing in the face of that.
On this Facebook page you will find photos and a petition they and others signed.
I invite you to add you signature there share this with all your friends and invite them to sign as well.
Finally, here are two stories of hope.
1 In a small Indonesian village, the Christians and Muslims began killing each other. It wasn’t [until the Christian leader stood in front of all his Christian people and said to them “If you want to kill Muslims you have to kill me first”. And the Muslim leader stood in front of his Muslim leader and said to them “If you want to kill Christians you have to kill me first” that the fighting stopped immediately.
2 Years ago my congregation was made up of mainly elderly conservative unmarried women who wore hats to church and called one another “Miss”. One day I decided to invite a Muslim Mullah! to explain Islam to them. He duly turned up on the appointed night but refused to shake the hand of the elderly woman who opened her door to welcome him. Not only did he do that but he told her that she should wear a head covering because hair was the sexiest part of her body. This young fellow had long sensuous fingers and her response was “Well, if I should have my head covered, you should be wearing gloves you know”.
The evening got even more interesting. He sat in the centre of the circle and he and these Methodist ladies were going hammer and tongs. Then half way through he looked at his watch and said “It’s my time to pray”. I thought “This is going to be really interesting”. They said to him “That’s alright darling, you can pray right here where you are in the centre of the circle”. He said to them “I can go into that room over there”. They said to him, “No it is quite alright for you to pray here”. So he got out his prayer mat and placed it in the centre of the circle. They all helped him line it up to point to Mecca and he got down on his knees. “Are you sure this is okay?” he asked. “Yes”, they all replied. Then from within the group a voice was heard saying “A little bit of prayer wouldn’t hurt us all, you know”. So here he is head down, bottom up praying to Allah and these elderly Methodist ladies are all around him holding hands saying the Christian Lord’s Prayer.
It was a moment I will never forget.
On September 11 they rang me worried for him. “Bring him into the Church”, they said. “Tell him and his family there is a place of safety with us”. A deep bond born of differences had been forged.
When I am in London I often speak at Speakers Corner as I truly believe in freedom of the individual and freedom to say what you think. I speak there because I feel it is one of the last bastions of true democracy. The last time I was speaking there, there was a Jewish speaker on one pedestal and a Muslim speaker on his ladder. They were going at each other hammer and tongs. Each blaming the other and accusing the other of dreadful wrongs. The language got quite heated. In the end I got fed up and from my ladder shouted out “Why don’t you two just go away and sort out your problems. We are sick of you. All you do, day after day is abuse each other one way or the other. Why don’t you just go away and sort it out”. The response I got from both of them was electric. As one, they both turned on me and began to verbally attack me. They literally linked arms and together had a go at me verbally. I think there is a lesson in that.
The world is not a small Indonesian village and is not a small meeting of Methodist old ladies and young mullahs. The world is much more complicated than that and the wounds and injustices run deep. However, it will only be when ordinary citizens of the world of all religions, and of none, say to those religious idiots “shut up, go away, if you want to fight go and fight over there away from us, we want to have nothing to do with it. We want to get on with our lives, look after our families, love one another, bring up our children and get on with life”.
Then maybe all this madness will stop.