by Thomas Samm (January 2015)
A friend once laughed as she told me how her elderly mother had phoned to say she had sent her daughter an email, “so you’ll probably get it by tomorrow morning.” The traditional print media in its electronic form is even quicker than my friend’s now late mother could have imagined. Ready-made self-pitying activist screeds are mechanically cranked out by grown men wanting to yell and wail about their victimhood, even before the most elementary facts of a case have been drawn up in history’s first draft. One “Sydney-based writer and activist,” who faxed over to the British media a long ago-written response to his home city’s siege-murder event, was at the far opposite end of the spectrum to those carefree dumb Sydneyers who took selfies in front of an ongoing scene of kidnap and murder.
Osman Faruqi in the Independent expended a single negative adjective on the wrongness of the perpetrator’s act: “devastating.” (Note the word’s usual collocation with more elemental or contentious tragedies, like hurricanes or debt crises, where culpability is phenomenal or arguable.) Faruqi then used one on the victims themselves, the non-muslim residents of Australia: “patronizing.” You only have to read the title of his article to know that physicist Alan Guth got his theory of parallel universes just by flicking through the oped pages of newspapers like the Independent. “Sydney siege: Australia’s Muslims need much more than #IllRideWithYou’s hollow symbolism.” For you see, after two of Australia’s non-Muslims have been murdered by a Muslim, it is, to Osman Faruqi, Australia’s Muslims who need “much more.” But much more of what? Material aid? Social welfare? Educational coupons? Psycho-sexual counseling? Faruqi never specifies what Australia’s Muslims need much more of after the murder of two Australian non-Muslims because they are non-Muslim. But that is his position, and the Independent wishes to publish it: that it is Australia’s Muslims who need much more as two non-Muslim families mourn their children and relatives murdered because they were Australian and non-Muslim.
The Independent is merely megaphoning a restatement of the 21st century’s most commonly implied geopolitical threat: give us much, much more if we are not to produce another individual primed to act out his murderous citable command from the only book he ever reads. The byline photograph of Faruqi shows him bearded, yes, but also, in a gesture of affability toward western readers who otherwise might mistake hirsuteness for hostility, smiling. #IllRideWithYou, the campaign by nice Australians which emerged whilst Man Haron Monis – a name Faruqi doesn’t mention once in his article – was forcing young women to ventriloquise his religious demands on video, originated as an offer by non-Muslims to accompany Sydney’s Muslim citizens on public transport, lest they be attacked by one of the many crazed ordinaries from among the victim pool. Sterling, laudable, “decent,” caring, all these words might be applied to the sentiment behind the notion. Confused, masochistic, rashly virtuous, and completely the wrong message to send are others. Faruqi also objects, but rather because “at this moment of tension and fear, we need to go beyond symbolism.” But who has what to be tense about and who should be in fear?
One reason #IllRideWithYou became mere symbolism was because “despite repeated call-outs, I [-Faruqi-] was unable to find a single Muslim who took up the offer to ride with anyone yesterday.” Fair dinkum to them: they, unlike Faruqi, were possibly aware that advertising your misplaced sense of victimhood on the day of two other person’s slaughter might come across as a little outré. Either that, or the old saying is true: there’s no such thing as gratitude, just the expectation of gratitude. But I wouldn’t impute anything to Australia’s “Muslim community,” an appellation Faruqi uses seven times in his article. I would instead impute much to the Independent.
For what should have the status of nothing more than this, an online blog post; what should be an inaudible whine in Faruqi’s own private little intra-community talking shop of ethno-religious crybabying; what should be such a counterintuitive and marginal irrelevance on the day of a murderous crime, is commissioned and published online by a British broadsheet. In it, Faruqi conveniently misinterprets the generosity of #IllRideWithYou as a red-handed admission that Australia is a feral morning-of-Kristallnacht of anti-Muslim conspiracy and violence, when, if taken at its purest intention, #IllRideWithYou is an offer of clear humanist good by the “Australian community,” though among its crafters may have been those with an arrière-pensée. However, all the campaign demonstrated to Faruqi, was “the broader issue of anti-Muslim discrimination and xenophobia in the Australian community,” even as it sounds to everyone else like an egregious act of blatantly timed xenophilia. But if they, Australians, are “serious,” our wounded Independent commentator asserts, they “must listen to [the Muslim] community.” But Faruqi, provided this opportunity by a venerable broadsheet within hours of the double murder of two members of the Australian community to make his demands to the victims concrete, fails to specify anything beyond the need for respectful collaboration, in order “to build genuine solidarity in the face of division and oppression.” So we must return to the headline to understand what Faruqi is demanding, for the headline communicates the essence of the conflict in this dialogue between the Australian community and the Faruqis.
Australian Community – What do you want?
Osman Faruqi – Much more
AC – Much more what?
OF – Much. More
AC – Ok, but much more of what?
OF – MUCH MORE!!
..at which point hostages are taken. Because the endgame scenario is the adaptation, in whatever degrees, of Australia and all other societies like it to the prescriptions contained in Man Haron Monis’s favorite book.
“I am not the kind of person to decry social media campaigns” reassures Faruqi, thereby implying that there is a kind of person who decries social media campaigns. “Nor,” he goes on, “am I not seeking to condemn those who are trying to help”. Which of course means he is seeking to condemn those who are trying to help. In turn, I am not the kind of person to decry sloppy grammar, but I am sure that Faruqi would be the kind of person to impute an accidental confession to anyone from the Australian community who were to make a similar slip up in prose, especially in light of the fact that he cynically interprets #IllRideWithYou as implicitly condemnatory of Australians for requiring “a social media campaign… for such basic humanity.” A few hours after two of their number have been murdered by one who might have had his hand held on the subway, thinks Faruqi and the Independent, is the time to call into question the basic humanity of all Australians.
The murder by Man Haron Monis, Muslim cleric, convert from Shia to Sunni, charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, later charged with over thirty counts of sexual assault, who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and who was granted political asylum by the Australia government in 2001, of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson provided the opportunity for Osman Faruqi to get into print something he has been wanting for a very long time to tell the world: an Australian “shouting racist slurs” once threw a bottle at him. What happened next, you might think, proved the basic humanity of the Australian community: “Many bystanders came to check if I was ok and offer me support,” something akin to an act of genuine solidarity. Meanwhile the Australian police force would have been somewhere at hand in Sydney’s busy Central Business District to pursue the matter to its prosecutable ends. But Faruqi doesn’t go into specifics; he just wants “much more.”
As with most articles published in the Independent, you learn more from the comments. “Fouad Ajami, the Lebanese academic,” points out one, “described the general Muslim outlook as ‘A political tradition of belligerent self-pity.’” Again, I wouldn’t wish to impute that to all. But Faruqi only proves once again that these are the voices the western liberal media seek out whilst the actual victims are being shuttled around intensive care or the morgue.
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