Monday, September 20, 2010

When Ignorance Equals Racism

An event involving religion, sport and gender. The Oz media were certain to get it very wrong!

We definitely live in parallel universes. Last week we only had the choice of Seven Sunrise or the Today Show for morning News/Weather. We had had the same problem the previous week. I gave up on the Today Show the morning after the two independent MPs announced their support for a Gillard minority government. Everyone on the set except the boom operator, shared their anti-labor venom about this decision. Laying claim to be the Fox Television Network of the antipodes perhaps?

At 7 David Koch's panel 'Kochie's Angels' discussed a restrictive dress code for a Ramadan event at a swimming pool in Melbourne next year. When one angel wondered if Australia is " a bit of a racist nation", Koch shared his expertise on our region:
"Every nation is racist. Every nation has an element of racism. We live in a region surrounded by mono-cultures. Talk about racism. Go to Japan. Go to Malaysia. Go to the Philippines. No comparison. We're pretty tolerant."
The video of the discussion is online:

Mono-cultures?! Indonesia? Papua New Guinea? China? Malaysia? Singapore? India? The Philippines?

Koch should visit the CIA World Factbook. Even Singapore, with its authoritarian government, has the following mix: Chinese 76.8%, Malay 13.9%, Indian 7.9%, other 1.4%.

Which brings me to "tolerance". My Global Voices post Australia: Muslim Dress Code Backlash has a roundup of some of the online comment on this issue. The 773 comments on the Herald Sun 'news' story might just test this self-image. I'm in full agreement with one of the bloggers:
Rather than smoothing the waters between different religious groups, yet another wave of discontent has been created through media misinformation.
Some light was shed on the facts by Matt Feutrill, Chief Operating Officer of the YMCA, a co-sponsor of the event:
"We've been working with the women's only swim group for the past two years in the city of Dandenong. It is a multi-faith group, multi-nationalities, multi-disabilities who feel comfortable swimming together. This Ramadan, because there are members of the Muslim community, the members felt it was such a rewards experience to share the celebration of Ramadan together that they would like to extend next year, that session, as a one-off to their broader family to join in, to join with this group of people of mixed faiths, mixed nationality, to enjoy the celebration of Ramadan."
The full post with links to these items is also available in French.

Is it too much to expect the mainstream media to find out the facts before they share their prejudices?

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