Racism is in the news again in Australia as minority groups feel the brunt of discrimination.
The incident in which a 13-year-old girl abused Sydney Swans AFL star Adam Goodes has sparked public debate on how culturally and racially sensitive Australia really is.
Novelist and Macquarie University PhD candidate Randa Abdel Fatah, a former media liaison officer at the Islamic Council of Victoria, told the Newsroom multiculturalism has failed if Australians’ view of a successful society is simply about “managing” minorities so that they do not enjoy the same or similar privileges and dignity as the dominant population group.
“We have evidence of continued discrimination against minorities at an institutional and structural level and growing evidence of ‘everyday’ racism in the public domain,” Ms Fatah said.
In a survey conducted by Macleay College journalism students about attitudes towards racism in Sydney’s suburbs a majority of the interviewees said Australia has a racism problem.
The president of an emerging political party, Rise Up Australia, Daniel Nalliah of Melbourne, spoke at Blacktown RSL about his opposition to multiculturalism. In a press release last week he said “Islam is a violent religion” and “Muslims are the greatest violators of multiculturalism”.
“In Islam, they don’t believe in freedom of speech, according to the Quran,” Mr Nalliah said. The Sri Lankan migrant applauded a broadcast by Channel 7 about the impact of suburban “ethnic enclaves” in which certain groups may not feel welcome.
Ms Fatah, a Muslim, argues that such terminology is racist, deeming people not of the white Anglo majority to be as “ethnics” who should be viewed with suspicion.
She noted that many outspoken critics who professed to be scholars of the Quran had no qualifications to understand and interpret the Quran.
Racist commentary, she said, “cut to the very core” of people’s dignity as human beings, making them “negotiated citizens in their own country”.
The chairman of the Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, plays a leading part in promoting multiculturalism through the statutory authority set up by the NSW Parliament.
“Racism is an evil which is part of human nature… [but] it is an individual’s perception…” he told the Newsroom.
“It is very important for us to ensure, however, that people collectively do not become victims of racism… In this context sometimes minorities are more vulnerable,” Mr Kerkyasharian said.
The commission works to promote harmony in a nation where almost a quarter of the population are born overseas.
“We are a multicultural society of people who are different in race, religion, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds, but we are all committed to Australia.
“If you expect someone to respect your ethnicity, your race, your religion, your culture, you have to respect theirs as well. It cannot be a one-way street.”
See the full interview with Mr Kerkyasharian below.
– Elly Kohistani and Natalija Antic