By Yassir Morsi
29 September 2016
I agree with the 49% of Australians who
polled in favour to “stop Muslim immigration”? I agree. The “Muslim” threatens
to destroy an innocent and singular Australia.
It may come as a surprise to those who know
me. But, forced to be politically sensitive, engaged, and ever conscious of my
community’s troubles and affairs, I as a Muslim and as a committed critic of
Australia’s pervasive racism, for once concur with the white paranoid
I agree mostly because in 15 years of
hearing the tired mantra about an alien and encroaching Islam, the word
“Muslim” has come to symbolise a thing beyond being Australian, a thing of
chaotic violence and a carrier of a confronting and thick difference.
So naturally, the logic follows, that
national borders should be a protection from and a purger of unfriendly
elements that threaten our assumed cultural purity. But more so, I agree
because at its core, driving its narratives, lays racism’s decrepit yet
persistent logic. Its greed. Its thirst to dispossess. For, racism is
It is the dispossession of land, of
culture, of history and of dignity and rights; it is the dispossession of
justice and of knowledge; the dispossession of even one’s own skin. For black,
brown, red and yellow are categories of a western civilisational canon; our
skins are stolen and given their inferior meanings by those who labeled themselves
a colourless white.
Some have managed to win back their labels,
but as it stands, it’s worth asking, should I understand the “war on terror” as
time when I am being dispossessed of the word Muslim?
A collation of zealots from east and west
seem determined to use “Muslim” for whatever their purpose, but I have never
lost sight to the fact that terrorism’s violence would not register a count
So, I am not interested in policing the
already over-policed Islamist, not interested in having my political voice
dispossessed so that every time I talk I must highlight that it is the
terrorists who are to blame for the plight of Muslims in the west.
No, the terrorists are not to blame for
Australia’s racism. If someone cannot tell the difference between Susan Carland
and Osama bin Laden then they are not ignorant. They are willingly ignorant.
but that’s the logic of racism, to
dispossess the racist even of their own humanity and their sense of it, and
above all to dispossess Muslim from their own lived Islam, from its own
contested cultural debates, from its own expansive and endlessly deep heritage,
from its own linguistic lineage.
The “Muslim” has come to be a hollowed,
emptied term that functions as a trigger for white anxiety. Little surprise
then, when you add Muslim next to another anxiety-laden word “immigrant”, the
result equates to half the country reaching out for the treadmill’s emergency
red stop button.
Modernity’s pace seems too quick for some,
but the keen reader would have noted that in my opening agreement I put the
Muslim in scare quotes. I do this for a reason. The word “Muslim” belongs to a
conversation born out of the “war on terror”. I distinguish it from the
quote-less everyday Muslim whose complex life is beyond the headline and
Hanson’s narrow parameters.
Any one simplified and generalising
statement about Islam betrays the religion and its communities’ diverse
contests, betrays Muslims’ internal debates on how to best articulate Islam’s
universality. Whereas, the “Muslim” functions in a pure simplicity. It simply
means them. It represents an abject figure that has to be excluded from the
circle of us so to imagine a supposed pure integrity of our culture.
In my own experience, the everyday Muslim
has no problem with Australia. In fact, they are infuriately, to a fault, in
love with this country. In love to the point that they maintain hope that its
democratic value will correct its racism.
I have little sympathy for these moderates
and their “heartbreak” at the poll’s results, for I agree with the poll
precisely for the opposite reason. The “Muslim”, not the Muslim, is a threat
because it stands for a 200-year racial paranoia that threatens to expose the
undemocratic truths of this country’s racism, threatens to unleash the violent
whiteness that lurks within, that lurks looking for an excuse to sprout its
Consider, how, in another Essential poll in
2014, only 17% of people voted that we should prevent immigration based on
one’s religion. Add the word “Muslim” the number significantly rises. Does this
increase not exactly expose how the word “Muslim” functions as a trigger to
suspend reason, suspend values, suspend realities. Who is betraying the the
myth of the secular: Muslim immigrants or those who wish to empower the state
to socially engineer our religious make up?
The poll I fear has little to do with
realities or values and everything to do with the reciting the racial scripts
that are prepping us to suspend the very thing that hinders the acceleration of
Australia’s racism: the myth we are not racist. It becomes easier to be only
after it becomes acceptable to say. So, yes. Stop the “Muslim”.
Yassir Morsi is a lecturer in politics at La Trobe University and author
of upcoming manuscript Radical Skin, Moderate masks.
The racist attitude among the Australians
will not diminish even if the Muslims’ immigration is stopped. As a fact, they
themselves are to be blamed for developing racism tendency, which has become a
part of their nature. The world has seen various examples of racist attack on
the Indians as well as other nationalities.