Leadership required to create calm – Australian Arabic Council

The Australian Arabic Council (AAC) today voiced concern and alarm at reports that text messages are remaining to circulate in Sydney and spreading to Melbourne and other Australian cities.

Speaking for the AAC, Chairman, Roland Jabbour said the riots, must be condemned by all, recognised for what they are as ‘racially motivated’, and long-term not quick fix solutions found.

“These events of the last few days have exposed the anti-Arab racism that exists in Australia. Arab Australians have had to cope for sometime with vilification, racism and abuse after numerous international and domestic events. We are more than anybody aware of the fringe elements of society that have racist agendas and prejudicial propensities.

“This reality must now be recognised by political leaders and government agencies as a significant impingement on the rights of Arab and Muslim citizens.

“The AAC has for some time predicted the occurrence of events over the last few days. We are now concerned that similar sentiments and ‘calls to action by people with racist agendas’ are now spreading to Melbourne and other cities.”

Denial by political leaders that racist sentiments could have boiled over into ugly violence ignores the historical context of events in Australia. The AAC through research and its racism register can clearly record the growth in anti-Arab sentiment fuelled by domestic and international events:

1. Early 90’s: First Gulf War
2. Mid 90’s: Rise of Pauline Hanson, One Nation and xenophobia
3. Late 90’s: Adoption of refugee policies by federal government, and detention of Muslim and Arab ‘unwanteds’
4. 2000: Al-Aqsa Intifada and conflict in Palestine and Israel
5. 2001: September 11
6. 2001-2: Sydney gang rape issue
7. 2002: Bali Bombings
8. 2002-5: ‘Be alert not alarmed’ campaign
9. 2004 Local terrorist investigations and arrests
10. 2005: London bombings
11. 2005: Local terrorist arrests
12. 2005: Anti-terrorism legislation
13. 2005: Warnings by police commissioners of remaining terrorist threat in Australia

Mr Jabbour added: “For some time politicians and media commentators have been fanning the flames of racial tension and finger pointing. The results speak for themselves! In the past we have raised concerns that this type of event would occur.

“It is time that political leaders and media commentators took some responsibility for the current climate of fear and hatred and show some courage to deal with the real issues in a cooperative manner rather than scapegoating communities.

“It is important that both sides of this tension keep some semblance of rationality and coolness over the next few days.

“In responding to the violence we commend the role of NSW police in maintaining an even-handed approach and neutrality that does not take sides

“While we support the introduction of new police powers, it is time governments took these concerns seriously, and found long-term solutions to the issues that addressed the causes and not just the symptoms.

“To this end we are calling on National and State leaders to convene a national conference that brings law enforcement agencies, government departments, academics, political and community leaders together to discuss and formulate responses with mutual goals.

“Real solutions that bring diverging views together must be sought with long term answers and strategies
found. It is not good enough to keep responding to these issues with short term fixes.

“The Australian Arabic Council calls for calm and restraint from all members of the community in light of recent events.”