Sunday, 16 September 2012


a quick couple of links tonight.  first, i was interviewed for this piece in the human rights commission newsletter to the media & diversity network.  the piece is about the dom post coverage of the exhibit at the dowse museum - one part of which included a video of no more than a few minutes which was not available for viewing by men.  i posted my thoughts on the whole thing at the hand mirror.

i've probably written this before many times, but one thing i notice most about the people who use the "freedom of speech" argument to support hateful, bigotted or discriminatory speech are usually the people who are not going to face any significant consequences as a result of the particular piece of "speech" they are so defending.  it's not going to be their kids bullied at school, it's not going to be them harassed at the supermarket or on the street, it's not them who is going to have to feel fear & anguish as the wider community is inflamed by that particular piece of speech.

for those people it's a theoretical argument about principles, but one that has no real and immediate impact on their daily lives.  because they don't live the reality of the consequences, they don't even consider the possibility of those consequences, and when someone points it all out to them, they either disbelieve or dismiss it because it's not part of their direct experience.  i wonder how much they would be prepared to use freedom of speech as a defense after they had been subjected to this:

An unnecessarily large police force – many of them very heavily‐armed – was sent to conduct the raids at the break of dawn. From the outset, it was quite obvious that a significant part of their role was merely to intimidate and frighten. In one example, up to thirty police officers, many of whom looked like military commandos with their heavy armour, barged into the house of a local family, shouting orders and intimidating the occupants. The family inside this house consisted of six young children, aged between three and fourteen, and their frightened and confused mother; the father was overseas, and the police were aware of this fact....

Carpets were torn out of the floor in the house of another family and ceilings damaged; cash – not belonging to the suspect – confiscated in yet another; a woman was denied the right to leave her house; children were forced to dress and undress in the presence of police; some women whose houses were raided were asked to become spies for ASIO; and general degrading treatment and language was experienced throughout. Importantly, most of the houses raided contained children, who, having been violently awoken at dawn by gun‐wielding police – armed with semi automatic military style weapons – were obviously traumatised as a result. Many of the other family members also reported feelings of shock, anxiety and trauma, and are too scared to even seek professional help. One mother, whose house was raided, suffered a stroke and was taken to hospital for treatment.

this happened in australia, a democratic country where there is supposed to be a protection against human rights abuses by the state.  i'd strongly recommend you read the full release by al-furqan which gives further details of these events, asks some pretty important questions about the lack of evidence & pre-judgement by the australian attorney general, and makes this point which i strongly agree with:

We have little doubt that these raids are directly connected to the problem of Islamophobia, and this is evidenced by the fact that, had any other group been exclusively targeted by the police as the Muslim community has been, there would have been much outrage and backlash – and rightly so.

this is not the first time i've heard of this kind of incident happening in australia.  there was one incident i heard of in perth some years back which was very similar: a woman whose husband was overseas had her house raided, property damaged to the extent that she was unable to even lock her front door, all while her children were watching on with her.  the authorities showed no interest in paying for the damage nor even any concern about where she might spend the night when her home was no longer secure.  and they found no evidence of anything whatsoever to justify the raid.

as the al-furqan press release states, many of the people subjected to this kind of treatment have little knowledge of their rights and are too afraid to go to the media for fear of further backlash.  when the state & its institutions are your enemy and are exercising their power against you without cause, then where do you turn?  who is there to go to for help?  how do you begin to fight back?  and where is the "freedom of speech" for these people - how does their story reach the public when the mainstream media are refusing to put it forward?

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