I am an Australian, I am a Muslim. I am an Australian Muslim. The recent actions of the group known as Islamic State have put my faith in the spotlight as a threat to my nation and fellow Australians with whom I share the privilege of living in this great nation. It is here that I practice my faith freely.
A number of Muslim community organisations and Councils have come out in recent weeks against the Anti-Terrorism legislation proposed by the Australian Government in response to individuals who go to Iraq and Syria to fight.
As a lawyer I am very sceptical of any legislation which reverses the onus of proof. However, I do not understand the resentment against this legislation from the Muslim segment of the population which feels it is being unfairly targeted.
The Muslim community is quick to stand up and use its democratic right to protest against being singled out. It feels under attack by the government. Maybe it is, maybe it is not, but the government is able to explain and justify the proposed legislation.
When will Muslims stand up and accept that yes we have problems within our faith. Maybe a few more problems than other faiths, but sure, we have problems. They don’t just affect us as Muslims, they affect our friends, their families and our neighbours. They affect a society that welcomes us here, treats us as equals and gives us the opportunity to live a decent and dignified life. Democratic Australia gives us a voice and tries its best not to judge us.
The issues that we face within our religion range widely from individuals brutally beheading people in the name of establishing an Islamic Caliphate to, at a local level, female genital mutilation.
Muslims need to be able to discuss these issues openly and denounce barbaric behaviour. Instead, we choose to remain silent and then criticise a government that tries to make Australia safer. We use democratic values such as the right to equality, to claim the existence of discrimination, racism and Islamophobia.
The Islamic Council is against the government taking steps to secure its citizens from Australian fundamentalists who fight wars in other countries. It’s their prerogative to fight wherever they want. But these fundamentalist want to bring this war back to Australia. They do not value what Australians have. They do not agree with our way of life. They do not want to respect the law and the democracy in which we thrive.
What is the Islamic Council doing to eliminate the threat of radicalised individuals? What is it doing to protect Muslims and those of other faiths in Australia? Who is responsible for protecting us from fundamentalists, who, on their return to cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, might try to inflict pain on us? Why is the Islamic Council critical of the government’s efforts to secure its citizens from this threat? Where do our priorities lie as Muslims?
As Muslims we need to change our mindset and our attitude towards the society in which we live. We need to understand the value of what we have in this country and we should be the first to protect Australian society from elements within our faith that want to harm it. We shouldn’t fight a government that is trying to protect Muslims and others alike. When we are able to separate our faith from our politics, we will see how damaged our faith has become.
When IS beheaded a civilian journalist we didn’t go out on the streets and protest. We don’t self-reflect and accept that there are problems within our faith and it is up to us to fix them so they do not affect people around us. We are too busy being calculative, examining the details of the government’s actions and the impact they might have on us. So what if I need to answer questions upon my return from a war zone? If it saves one person from being killed or injured in Australia we should be lining up to support it.
When IS beheads an innocent person, it is doing so in my name. I am here to make a declaration that it is not in my name. These people are a threat to me, my faith and my country and I will do all I can to protect Australia from any harm that these people within my faith may inflict on it.
*) Glenn Mohammed is a lawyer, an officer with the Australian Army Reserves and Convener for the Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Forum for the Liberal Party in Victoria.