Q&A: Anger over ‘cheap’ Muslim dig
TONY Jones has copped criticism on tonight's Q&A; after seeking to clarify a Muslim panellist wasn't looking to incite violence during a passionate rant.
Speaking as a guest on the panel, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, author of The Lebs, was railing against racism and Islamophobia, saying bigots "should be afraid of him" and "the majority of people" who will "stop the bigotry and hatred that they're spreading".
Jones interjected and said: "In your case, you're talking about with your pen or your typewriter, correct?"
Ahmad fired back: "What, because you're worried that I'm implicating some kind of violent action?"
"I'm giving you the opportunity to say that you aren't," said Jones.
"Of course I'm not," said Ahmad. And then, in a dig at Jones' request for clarification, he added: "I just find it really cheap when there's a concern that Muslims are inciting violence, because if you looked at the foreign policies of the West they are the most violent people on the planet."
The tense exchange did not go unnoticed on social media, with many Twitter users deeming Jones' remark "offensive" and "unbelievable".
Tonight's panel featured five authors, including The Australian's Trent Dalton and Tomorrow series author John Marsden, discussing racism, immigration and speculation over Peter Dutton's leadership aspirations.
When asked whether a Dutton leadership would help or hinder the Coalition's chances at an election win, Ahmad spoke of the negative effect the Home Affairs Minister's remarks had on his community.
"Will it be harmful or not? Because I still am not sure just how much the influence and the rise of white supremacy has infiltrated the minds of Australian citizens," he said.
"But I will say this about Peter Dutton, that two years ago he made comments about Lebanese-Australian Muslims, specifically second-generation Lebanese-Australian Muslims. That's me. He said that we're a mistake - that it was a mistake for the Fraser government to allow our parents into this country.
"And I have to say that when I heard those comments it was the first time that I probably felt extreme proud to call myself a Lebanese - extremely proud to call myself a Lebanese-Australian Muslim."
He later went on to say that bigots "should be afraid of him".
"This kind of hysteria, the language about reinstating a White Australia policy … to ban immigration and people of colour … has a cyclical model.
"Every time the Muslim community hears it, there's a script that we have to follow. We have to say, 'Stop being racist towards us. Stop stereotyping us. Don't be afraid of us. We mean you no harm.' How does that work out for the Muslim community when we follow that script?
"How did it work out for Yassmin Abdel-Magied? Anyone who's met her will tell you she's the nicest person you've ever met, and still she was treated like a member of ISIS.
"It makes no difference what kind of a Muslim you are. Good Muslim, bad Muslim, ignorant Muslim, moderate, radical, still Muslim. At this point in time I'm not interested in reassuring bigots not to be afraid of me.
"My position is quite the opposite. My position is this: if you're a racist, if you're a white supremacist, a colonialist, an Islamophobe or a xenophobe, you should be afraid of me, because I'm in solidarity with the majority of people on this planet who will say no to you and we will stop the bigotry and hatred that you're spreading."
Ahmad also hit out at Australian author and fellow panellist John Marsden, who wrote the popular children's series Tomorrow … When The War Began.
An audience member asked Marsden if he believed his novel "raised a generation in fear of invasion".
When asked to remark on the series, Ahmad said: "It is about 20 years old and I remember growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney where there was tremendous xenophobia towards Vietnamese-Australian community.
"With all due respect, the language of the book and the implications in the book genuinely impacted and damaged the lives of a lot of the young people that I grew up around.
"For me reading, it's not about the ability to put words together, it's about the ability to pull words apart. And when I pulled the words apart in the Tomorrow series, I did interpret a paranoid white nationalist fantasy about a group of coloured people illegally invading this country. And I always find that narrative deeply ironic because that's what the white population did to the indigenous population."
Marsden hit back, saying any book that "explores difficult topics will alienate some people".
"Throughout history almost every country has been constantly invaded and reinvaded and colonial Australia has been pretty lucky to go 200 years or more without another invasion happening. But I've written elsewhere and I've eluded to the European invasion of Australia in 1988.
"I'm happy for anyone to react to my work in whatever ways they react. I'd rather have that than just write a bland book which people read and forget."