Leaders need to be informed

The West Australian Muslim Community “leaders” were invited to a morning tea with the Commissioner of Police and the heads of all the district copper stations.

It’s all part of the plan to build relationships, foster understanding and work together to better the community. It was organised by the State Security, the Counter-Terrorism Branch. The guys from the Counter Terrorism branch work very closely with the community on different projects and I must say, they fantastic people who I have a great working relationship with.

I don’t mind attending things like this. It’s part of the job and it’s a good opportunity to network. Inevitably though, every time we do end up at these morning tea’s or consultations I end up cringing and wanting the earth to open up and swallow me. Why? , you may ask? Let me tell you.

The people from the community that attend always manage to embarrass me!

This is what happened yesterday…

The Commissioner gave a very short and sweet informal speech and then made the biggest mistake by opening up for QnA. The first guy raises his hand and asks what he should do if someone attacks the mosque. Ok fair enough. Valid question but don’t you know what to do in that situation? Like if someone attacked your house, would you know? Ok, whatever. Next question. This guy talked for about 3 minutes and none of us could follow what he was saying, it was something about the commissioner saying he was being informal and he made a joke and then something but eventually his question was, could he take photo’s. Why he needed to tell us whatever it was he was saying just to ask a simple question, I don’t know.

But here come’s the question that really caused my blood pressure to increase somewhat.

The sister  starts her question by saying, why is it that when she walks down the street people are allowed to pick on her, not pick on her about being Arab but to pick on her religion, tell me she says, tell me why. I must tell you I cringed for John standing up there ‘cos how do you answer such a question. He even attempts a go before she cuts him off to say, Yes, Yes, it is because I am not a Jew, that is why it’s ok. There’s chest beating going on when she uses the word I.

Now, let me stop to say that I get upset like anyone else at vilification. It’s not something I take lightly. Having been racially/religiously vilified myself, I know what she’s talking about and how she feels.

Back to what the sister was saying…  How is it that the “Jews are a race and why can Muslims not be a race. It is the same. They are religion, we are religion it should be same”. Her voice is raised at this point. Well she is passionate about what she is speaking about. The Commissioner then answers, saying that he isn’t qualified to answer but that he’ll answer as best as he can and then he can always get more information for her. She interrupts to say,”No, no you answer me”.

He goes on to say that it isn’t a police issue and that it is something that needs to go through Parliament and that an application would need to be submitted and that the Jewish community did it a long time ago. He believes that there is something like that happening in Australia at the moment for the Muslim community but he doesn’t know how far it has gone. He went on to say that it is not something the Police can do anything about but they can support the bill if it comes to parliament.  I was happy with his answer. He told her how it is. But obviously that was not enough. She just didn’t let up. She kept going on and on asking the same thing in different ways demanding that he must give her an answer. There was no stopping her and so I decided to take it upon myself to.

I said she raised a very important point and I agree that something needs to happen and told her which organisation was leading the charge of getting Muslims to be be recognised as a race and I told her that they were looking for someone from the Muslim community to liaise between them and the community and I think it would be great if it was her and that after the morning tea, she and I could talk.

Well that ended there and after the morning tea, she wasn’t there.

The point of my post is not necessarily about her. She’s a nice women with good intention. But nice people with good intention is not everything that we need.

The last consultation we had with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, we were meant to be giving feedback on projects that were run in the Muslim community. No community “leader” had a clue about any of the projects. What are yo doing here then!, was what I thought. I had feedback, heaps of feedback but the meeting was hijacked. We spent the entire time talking about how the media is the cause of all the Muslims problems in the world. I had to organise a separate meeting to give feedback which is what the department wanted.

We need to start educating ourselves about what is happening around us. We need to be informed about what is happening in our community before we decide to be spokespeople. It isn’t right to keep making us sound like ill- informed people who need to rant at every meeting. We cannot keep sitting in our little cocoons playing victim all the time. At some point we need to start to take ownership for what is going on in our community and put in strategies to move forward. We cannot keep looking to the government and saying, sort it out. We need to be a partner at the table with them, willing to work together.

We are NOT victims! We have so much at our fingertips to change our condition as a community. We can, only if we are all willing to stop talking and start doing.  And, if you are talking, make sure you know what you talking about, because when you wearing the name “leader” you represent the rest of us and you make us all sound as ill-informed and ignorant as you and some of us aren’t. Thanks.


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