I wrote a few weeks ago I had been impressed with the mainly rational response to the Paris attacks and the lack of Islamaphobic bile on social media. I obviously spoke too soon, because it has seemed to increase exponentially in the last few weeks.
Tony Abbot, obviously feeling that his recent efforts at white-anting Turnbull’s leadership were too subtle (note I’m note saying they have been at all subtle, but he and I hardly see the same reality), decided he had more to give, so he stepped out and reminded a lot of people that we (except for Bill Shorten watching his approval rating plummet) really are glad of our nation’s change in leadership.
Now compared to Donald Trump, Abbott’s statement that Islam requires a revolution, and that some cultures are superior in their approach to human rights and the separation of Church and State may not seem that bad. But Trump is a low threshold I found this opinion piece utterly cringe-worthy. Being ok in comparison to Donald Trump is not much of a defence.
Now I am not a scholar of the history of Islam, so I don’t feel particularly well qualified to argue whether any part of what he said was right, but I don’t feel that Mr Abbott is well qualified to have this argument either. While he is at pains to recognise there are peaceful Muslims who need to be supported, he then goes back to talking about a prevalent problem within Islam, much like saying that there are some tolerant Christians but groups like the IRA and the KKK show an intrinsic problem within general Christianity. If you haven’t watched this video featuring Reza Aslan completely debunking this myth, please take a moment and watch it now.
Perhaps more importantly, even if some of what he said was right, why our most gaffe-prone public figure thinks he is the right person to deliver this message is beyond me. I have to question the point of this opinion piece, apart from serving his narrative about the dangers of Islam to justify some of his policy positions and differentiate himself from the Prime Minister.
Abbott can’t admit that this essay was written primarily to push his own agenda so would have to justify it some other way, but what else does it achieve? If his intended audience is non-Muslims, all it achieves is entrenching a sense of superiority and mistrust in those who still listen to him. If he thinks he can affect any change in a Muslim audience, does he really think anyone would listen to advice given in such a condescending and superior tone?
When the former Prime Minister who presided over the systemic internment and abuse of refugees speaks of our cultural superiority in relation to human rights, would anyone from any other culture listen? Nor should they.
When a devout Catholic trumpets his culture’s superiority with no sense of irony about his own religion’s inherent sexism and homophobia, as well as the institutionalised child abuse and its cover-ups going back decades, who from another religion would listen? Again, nor should they?
And when a politician who has been unable to divorce his politics from his religious beliefs about the RU486 abortion pill and Marriage Equality speaks about separation of Church and State, who takes him seriously?
That isn’t to say that there might be changes for Islamic leaders to consider to help combat radicalisation and to benefit their own communities, but they won’t do it because they are lectured by uninformed outsiders. They will do it because they see the importance of it themselves. Discussions are in fact already in place about how best to combat radicalisation and reduce the divisions between Muslims and other Australians. One thing they would definitely love would for divisive people like Mr Abbott to just shut up and stop undermining their efforts.