The Hard Questions

This article was the first I ever wrote for the Crescent Times, in my regular column Native Matters. It appeared in the May 2009 issue and generated, what I like to think is, quite a bit of discussion.

The Hard Questions

By Eugenia Flynn

The lack of understanding and solidarity between the Indigenous peoples of Australia and the largely immigrant-based Muslim community in Australia is baffling to me. Here are two communities much maligned by the “white” systems, government and media in this country and here are two communities that only sometimes come together against our common enemies of racism, ignorance and injustice.

There is no better example of this than the Gaza Rally I attended earlier this year at which there was a lot of clapping to each statement said. A politician got up to speak to the 1800-strong crowd. He started off by acknowledging that the rally was on Kaurna land (the traditional Aboriginal people of the area) and how fitting it was to have a rally against illegal invasion, occupation and dispossession on Aboriginal land, as Indigenous Australians know all too well what invasion, occupation and dispossession mean.

Unfortunately, the clapping was nowhere near as loud or widespread for this statement – the majority of Muslims and Arabs in the crowd looked confused as to why this politician had started speaking about Aboriginal Land Rights issues.

As I looked around, I noticed that there were a number of non-Muslim Aboriginal people in the crowd, whom I assume were there in solidarity for justice. Seeing those other Aboriginal people in the crowd triggered something inside of me; and it left me wondering if this incident is symptomatic of the relationship between the two communities?

For me, the incident was an outward display of the ignorance and covert racism I believe exists within the Muslim community towards Indigenous Australians. I believe no issue is more pressing than the one of disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians in this country. The fact that many Muslim Australians do not know or rally against this issue, in my opinion, makes them complicit in the continued injustices carried out against Indigenous Australians. I wonder, how can Muslims maintain the moral high ground that Islam affords us, when we do not take it upon ourselves to learn and challenge the issue of disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians? I hope, I wish, I pray that you wonder too.

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