Nothing about this young man’s [Zaky Mallah] appearance on this show [Q&A] worried me. Nothing about his reply to the Minister worried me.
What did worry me was the assumption that a young angry Muslim man could not be making a good point badly, he could only be making a bad point well.
This assumption was evident immediately from Tony Jones and confirmed by subsequent commentary and media, including an interview with the Muslim Waleed Ali.
You need to take a very stilted view of his amateur communication to derive some sort of threat. Angry with the Minister’s dismissive opportunistic and melodramatic role abuse, Zaky got hot in the head and tried to explain that it is precisely that kind of automatic dismissal without adequate facts, that feeds the radicalisation of some. He stated this in the positive present tense as an actuality. If he had had media training (like everyone on the panel) he might have stated it in the future conditional and with a qualification. (‘It is statements like the Minister has just made that could see radicalised young people make the mistake of going to join ISIL.’)
I have read the transcript of his trial and I find nothing to indicate that he was acquitted of previous matters on a technicality. On the contrary, I find the court’s record of this young man’s life profoundly sad and moving. He was orphaned early and got gradually onto the wrong side of the tracks where young men (of many cultures) develop, through experience of authority, a mistrust and anger for it. He developed a specific attitude towards ASIO and immigration officials when he was denied a VISA to go back to his country of origin to attend a wedding and to meet the woman who had been selected for him according to custom, as his wife. (The custom being that both parties have a right of refusal of each other.) Things went from bad to worse and he served a term in gaol for the threats he made.
I have been meeting young men like this throughout my life as a youth worker. They are angry at their parents, angry at police, angry at teachers and angry at everyone who crosses their path. But their anger is not the sum total of their humanity. It is a symptom of a combination of events, misplaced elements of temperament, unmet attachment needs, immature emotions and the unpredictable lighting of a fuse. And yes, rarely…once in a thousand times, it is a symptom of something I can’t really identify…that looks like pure evil.
What we saw on the program was a tiny microcosm of how I think some radicalisation happens. This damaged angry young Muslim man was confronted with a Christian white power figure who, without access to anything other than, as he admitted, a vague memory (which was wrong), pronounced that young man’s guilt and announced his punishment of banishment from the country Zaky says he loves. In front of a national audience, and without a shred of shame. It was a shocking and appalling display by the Minister.
And so a nation bears witness through the lens of our now-distorted view of people like this young man. We respond as Germans responded to young Jewish men in 1939. We respond through the prism of the lies we have been told and the stereotypes we have been fed. We couldn’t hear his humanity because his Muslim-ness was shouting too loudly at us. To our bent minds when Muslims get angry they don’t speak more truth, they only speak more terrorism.
I am ashamed of this country at the moment. I am ashamed at the (mostly) white, suited, male, middle-class politicians from the LNP/National/Labor coalition who now rule this country with one mind, informed by the bigotry and cruelty that they all fostered in us. I am ashamed that we have become both blind and deaf to fundamental truths. I am ashamed that, in the quest for the populist vote of misinformed xenophobia by ‘stopping the boats’, we have also managed to stop up any remnants of our national spirit of empathy and compassion.
Legislation that by-passes the oversight of the courts to condemn someone on the basis of ‘intelligence’ is wrong, but will be passed because it supports the oligarchy of the powerful on both sides of politics. Intelligence of course, is the same unblemished reliable kind of truth-telling that assured us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and Dr Muhammad Hanif was a terrorist. Intelligence would be the commodity that completely failed to observe that a man named Man Haron Monis, whose madness and violence was hardly a secret, was still walking the streets…until he took people siege and ended two innocent lives. Intelligence is the raw data for drones carrying death. Intelligence resulted in Guantanamo Bay water-boarding.
It’s lucky I’m a white Christian middle-class male saying this. If I was a young Muslim boy the foot of the ABC and the nation would be down my throat by now.”
I have nothing further to add, beyond “Well said, that man”.