As events unfolded yesterday in Sydney, Dr Yassir Morsi of the International Centre of Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding based here in Adelaide was already looking ahead to the ramifications.
“Once the flag came up I knew that there would be a series of conversations to be had,” said Morsi. “(But) mostly my concerns were for the care of the hostages.”
Morsi works at the centre focusing on the position of Muslim minorities within western liberal countries and the problem of Islamophobia.
He says that while the gunman was a “lone wolf”, in that he was not part of an organised group, he knew that he was part of a society that linked Islam with violence.
“The conversation is made of Islam as a place for opposing the West, of Islam as a place of violence,” said Morsi. “Whether that narrative comes from the community is one thing but it also comes from the way we collectively have been speaking about it.
“Over a set period of time the conversation’s really about a religion. Yes, you will have the clauses and disclaimers that not all Muslims are alike – the fear of making generalisations. But nevertheless there’s still an assumption that the source of violence is coming from a particular way of thinking and I think that’s only partly true.
“(Man Haron Monis) knows that putting that flag up, there is a media watching and it is just going to go crazy. He knows. And that’s what’s interesting about it. He knows now that the symbolism of Islam brings you a particular audience, brings a particular conversation and that’s where we collectively are felt, as counterintuitive as it is, our conversations have given the right to use Islam in ways to associate with their own personal grievances.”
Morsi believes now we need to focus on how innocent people will experience the hatred that comes of such an event.
“One of the conversations is what will happen to innocent people who have nothing to do with this and what kind of hate they will receive,” he said. “The other side is what kind of support will people offer up. I don’t have an overly bleak view of Australia but I do think that our conversations about violence in the public space at least are a little lacking.”
The outpouring of support on social media for the Muslim community has given rise to some optimism.
“I was heartened by it but at the same time I think the public response, as heartening as it is, is reacting to being let down by the media, by politicians,” said Morsi.
“Look I’m a young bloke I don’t know what it’s like to be a Muslim woman wearing a hijab going to catch public transport so I think they would see that support in a different light and I’m grateful for it.”
More so, he hopes we can find new ways to consider the place of Islam in our society.
“There maybe an opportunity for us to depart from standard lines and look for ways to take back what has been taken from us – that is, from a Muslim perspective, the use of Islam for any grievance or any political legitimacy they be given authority by violence.”
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