Being English-born, I was watching the England versus Pakistan test match on Monday evening. Lunchtime arrived. I casually flicked through the channels, saw that Q&A was afoot, and once again despite unnerving experiences of the past, threw caution to the wind and pressed ‘select’.
Gillian Triggs immediately appeared. In that instant I knew I’d made a mistake. But, as in the past, I was stuck like a rabbit in headlights; paralysed and seemly incapable of switching to another channel. Worse was to come. At that stage I did not realise the awful truth that Ed Husic (Opposition innovation spokesman) and Craig Laundy (Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science) were waiting their turns.
When I joined the program, the discussion of the Four Corners’ exposé of the Darwin detention centre was nearing its end. No doubt everybody on the panel had tried to find the most condemnatory adjectives. Ms Triggs used “shameful” and “appalling.” OK, fair enough, the video seemed ‘damning’ — another pertinent adjective. But, as an aside, and without wishing to be thought of as a barbarian, being a prison officer (or whatever they are called) in these detention centres must be hell. I’d rather clean latrines.
What do you do with, say, a teenage boy who refuses to obey instructions; who hits, kicks, bites and spits. I will be interested in the Royal Commission’s answer. I trust the Commission will also ask what type of men are best able to handle the pressures inside such detention centres and how they can be persuaded to take the jobs. Life, as life constantly reminds us, is far from perfect.
But I digress from my theme. It was the next question and its aftermath that quickly sent me over the edge. “How can we keep the political sentiment focused on anti-ISIS rather than anti-Islam and, in so doing, support the Islamic community, who are also under threat form ISIS,” the lady in the audience asked. I try to be gallant. But, madam, this question is monumentally idiotic at its core.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of ISIS in April 2013. This followed 1400 years of Islamic wars, conquests and villainy. And in recent times, the London, Madrid, Bali and Mumbai bombings, to name just a few, well predated ISIS. What, pray then, should we have focused on before ISIS, and exactly what do we focus on after ISIS is routed?
Enter Muslim Ed Husic who, when first elected, tells us that he swore his oath on a Koran. Bully for him. He went on to say that a Jewish friend had suggested he use the Koran. Presumably his friend asked him to redact verse 9:29 from his personal copy and many others instructing violence against non-believers? Husic continued, “It’s about recognizing that, yes, we need a clear path to those people that want to cause us ill, hurt us through violence [ed: slit out throats] but we need to do it in a way that brings the country together. We don’t need extremists and radicals on either side acting as vigilantes; one saying religion is the cause of the problem and the other saying – the other extremists saying, see you don’t belong, you need to join our cause.”
You see it don’t you, albeit with the incoherent use of the term ‘acting as vigilantes’? The equivalence theorem is being played, beloved of post-modernists. To wit: those who say Islam is the cause of the problem are extremists, as are those (the other ones) who favour mowing down children in Nice. Both are extremists; not a scintilla between them, don’t you see!
My belief is that saying this kind of thing is designed to send infidels, and in fact any grounded person, quite mad. I wanted to switch off at this point but Anglican minister Peter Kurti (research fellow with CIS) was next up and offered the prospect, I thought, of sanity and reason. Kurti said that he thought Muslim leaders could do more to build cohesion. This prompted Virginia Trioli, acting as Tony Jones, to chide him and defend Muslim leaders. Give him his due, Kurti hit back by reminding Trioli of the Grand Mufti’s recent equivocation on homosexuality. That’s a way to stymie the ABC. Catch them between the rock of defending Islam and the hard place of extolling homosexuality.
The show’s coup de grâce came in the guise of ‘Friend of Palestine’, Craig Laundy.
“I got into politics to try and help people,” he said. “That’s the only motivation for me, to try to make our country a better place for our kids.” Thank God he isn’t like those other self-serving politicians whose motives are suss. Some of his and his wife’s best friends are Muslims, he told us. “My kids are at school with Islamic kids. None of us identify each other in Sydney’s west through religion. We just see ourselves as fellow citizens.” Hmm, I kinda doubt that.
And what’s this, in a region dripping with kumbaya? “We have a certain section of our population that has a problem and our country has a problem as a result and they’re not hiding from it…” On and on he went in inchoate fashion about this problem. Here is a sample.
“They are putting up their hand to the local state members, federal members, state police and federal police. Ask Commissioner Colvin about this. They are putting up their hands and saying we need help. And I know as a public official we have a responsibility – we’re given a platform when we’re a public official, whether it’s a politician, whether it’s a journalist, a commentator, we’re given a platform. If we are going to commentate in the space – and I’ve been hopelessly paraphrased and taken out of context with a radio interview I did with Fran Kelly. I understand not the ideological side of the argument. I understand the grassroots, front line’s problem that sits within a section of my local community as a local member.”
I have to stop quoting him at this point. Only so much uneducated drivel can bearably be reproduced. The Liberal Party really has to look at the quality of its preselection processes. And, by the way, never did we discover the name of the problem from Laundy. Islamic fundamentalism? Extremism? Radicalism? The problem that dare not speak its name.
As Laundy dribbled on, panic finally engulfed me. In all, I’d lasted maybe nine minutes or so. I realized that I had to get away. I just couldn’t continue to watch and listen. I needed to escape. Please, God, I needed a safe space.