Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mariam Veiszadeh: Shedding Light and Hope on Islamophobia in Australia

'Islamophobia in Australia', Mariam Veiszadeh's address to the Castan Centre's Human Rights Law conference on 22 July 2016, had a heightened sense of urgency given the international situation. She is the founder and President of the Islamophobia Register Australia which "seeks to provide a means for incidents of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim sentiments to be reported, recorded and analysed".

This video contains her presentation and the question session that followed:

Mariam's speech was blunt, personal yet conciliatory:

My relationship with islamophobia over the years has taken many forms – from being an advocate against it, to becoming a victim of it and everything in between.

...My message is for the backyard bigots and the backyard sheikhs and everyone in between.

...The utter irony is that all of the parties involved on each end of the extreme spectrum cling on to the false hope that their words and actions are actually tackling and thereby reducing endemic and institutionalised Islamophobia and global injustices (in the case of the young disillusioned souls, falling prey to radicalisation) or in turn, reducing and countering radicalisation, terrorism and/or the perceived Muslim threats (in the case of the islamophobes - both at an individual and institutional level).

...Put simply, there are far too many disaffected and disillusioned people amongst us on both ends of the spectrum.

We need to work together to bring them into the fold. Both the ones on this end of the extreme spectrum and the ones on the other end of the spectrum.

Nevertheless, Mariam did not shy away from the horrific consequences of what she calls normalisation of islamophobia:

Of particular concern is the fact that our data contains in it an alarming number of incidents in which mothers are harassed in the presence of young children.

Mariam discussed the impact of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party with her anti-Muslim policies, and the rise of Donald Trump's islamophobia.

She also tackled growing of dehumanisation in Australian society:

When you oppress me by sending me threats of death, violence and rape, simply because I speak out about the islamophobia that my community and I are facing, a process of dehumanisaton is taking place.

However, Mariam finished on a positive note:

Let the reasonable voices unite and let us expend our energies into trying to inject love and compassion into a world that is being increasingly filled with destruction and despair for the forces binding us together are stronger than the forces pulling us apart.

And when we lose hope, as I sometimes do, let us look down at the face of our future generations, reflect on their futures, reflect on our hopes and dreams, and pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and light that damn candle again, for darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.

The transcript of her speech can be accessed here. In addition there is an video interview with Mariam:

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