Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bigots aside, Australians quietly opt to ignore intolerance

  • Print

BRISBANE -- "Behead all those who insult the Prophet'' is a protest sign of unquestionable vigour with an admirable clarity of language leaving no doubt about the author's intentions.

But it doesn't prompt your typical response from the average Australian who stumbles upon those noisily engaged in their democratic right to gripe.

One does not toot the horn and wave with cheery enthusiasm as one drives by a "behead all those who insult the Prophet'' sign. Nor, for that matter, does one roll down the window to offer a robust, countervailing argument.

One drives on in silence, gripping the steering wheel a little more tightly, wondering if those hate-filled bigots who rant about Australia being hijacked by a bloodthirsty band of psychotic medievalists might be on to something.

That beheading sign was aired in a Sydney park last weekend as Muslims rioted in protest at a film made in far-off America insulting their religion.

Six police officers were injured, two taken to hospital, while a couple of protesters were treated for police dog bites and many more for the effects of pepper spray.

In the wake of all this unpleasantness the 'beheading' sign has become something of a rallying point. Many Australians would table it in Parliament if they could as irrefutable evidence Muslims will never blend into our imperfect but enduring multicultural rainbow.

That view is nonsense -- for those wanting to play the ancestral antecedents game, thousands of Muslim patriots could claim bluer Australian blood than many European Christians.

They could trace their lineage back to the pioneering days of the mid-19th century when Muslim camel drivers (many from Afghanistan) helped open up the outback.

Thousands more arrived postwar, many from the Balkans, settling peacefully into a normal suburban world that just happens to include visits to a mosque, along with those intriguing dietary restrictions of Ramadan.

But no one argues the actions of no more than a few score protesters in Sydney last weekend have done enormous damage not merely to Muslims but all Australians.

Once the Scot Presbyterian gazed through the curtains at his blameless Irish Catholic neighbour, suspecting him of involvement in some grand, Popish plot to topple the British Crown.

The postwar Italians were grave threats to Australian identity with their strange food and incomprehensible accents, the Asians an invading horde, the "Commos" a sinister presence with a red under every bed.

With those divides largely vanished, it's now the suburban Muslim tinkering with his car at the weekend who's suspected of being the enemy within -- the flaming jihadist plotting the global Caliphate from his oil-stained garage.

Thousands of peace-loving Muslims will now face the hatred and suspicion of a few Australians hard-wired for bigotry -- those unable to grasp the dangers of that primitive tribal instinct that can so swiftly ignite deep malice.

There are glimmers of hope in what to many pessimists appears the almost intractable problem of Muslim integration into the norms of a secular state.

While protesters appeared to come out mid-week against this movie with renewed intensity in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Australia was showing signs of sanity as Muslim leaders warned their communities violence was both unacceptable and counterproductive.

The leaders suggested alternatives available in a democracy -- having an open day at the local mosque or writing letters to politicians to express concerns about the film.

Religious people from the Christians to the Caodaists routinely dismiss attempts to demean their deities without demanding mass decapitations. Muslims, God or Allah willing, will soon learn the value of ignoring insults rather than giving oxygen to their detractors via a public riot.

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell gave full expression to the mainstream Australian view when he summed up the controversy for what it was:

"What we have here is a fool in the United States who made an incredibly offensive online video... ''

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 J6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The Whiteboard - Jets' 5-on-3 penalty kill

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / Jan 10  2011 ‚Äì WEB STDUP ‚Äì Frosty morning at -15 degrees C , in pic frost covers the the Nellie McClung statue  on the MB Legislature grounds at 7am
  • Horses enjoy a beautiful September morning east of Neepawa, Manitoba  - Standup Photo– Sept 04, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think it's a good idea for Theresa Oswald to enter NDP leadership race?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google