Islam vs. Terrorism: Dispelling the Myths
When it comes to religion, I had a fairly broad upbringing. My nan appeared on Crossing Over with John Edwards and swore she’d spoken with angels. My school told me a man called Jesus died for our sins getting eaten by a whale in a flood, but came back to life when three wise men parted the seas with a giant cross. My mum decorated our house with Buddha statues (before they were bogan), my cousin stuck bindis on my forehead and my auntie insisted my future lay in her deck of tarot cards.
“Make up your own mind about religion,” said Dad. “But just know that there’s no such thing as God. Or heaven. Or Santa.”
Why I am sharing this with you? Because on the Gold Coast yesterday, a bunch of dickheads in a P-plated commodore threatened to decapitate a bearded New Zealander on the grounds that he looked Muslim and was therefore a terrorist. Sure – just because the fella said “fush and chups” instad of “السمك والبطاطا” didn’t mean he wasn’t Muslim, but concluding that his facial hair qualified him as a member of an Al–Qaeda splinter group was a little brash. I mean, come on: way to destroy what little reputation the Gold Coast has left. And commodore drivers, for that matter.
It seems that gross ignorance towards one of the world’s major religions is greater than ever. I can’t even be bothered discussing the anti-mosque protests that stormed through Queensland last week, or the Kevin Bloody Wilson meme making the rounds on Facebook that says “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but it seems all terrorists are Muslims.” All I can really garner from this behaviour is that Australia’s newly-instated high terror alert is well founded. Terrorists sure are out there, and they are white Australians.
As world travellers, it is our responsibility to be informed about the various religions we may encounter both at home and overseas so that we can put a stop to bigoted bullshit like what happened on the Gold Coast yesterday and save ourselves from falling into any propaganda traps carefully laid by the media.
But it’s not always easy to filter propaganda from the truth. Even Fairfax – whom I had until recently still afforded some level of credibility – was disgustingly unethical in its coverage of Tuesday’s shooting of a knife-wielding Melbourne teen by counter-terrorism police, who claimed the boy had plans to behead them. Not only did the The Age publish a photo of the wrong guy with the headline “Teenage Terrorist”, but The Sydney Morning Herald described him as being “of Muslim appearance”. What the fuck is “Muslim appearance”? Fairfax published an apology for both errors, but made no mention of Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay’s dismissal of speculation of the teen’s intention to behead police, drape their bodies in the jihadist flag and post images to social media.
Why did Tony Abbott announce that our terror alert was being upgraded instead of the chief of federal police or the boss of Australian security? Why was the media invited to the largest ever raid on Muslims or any other group in Australia’s history? The relentless fear-mongering and expansion of power is getting ridiculous, and so far their only tangible results are that extremist legislation has made it through the Senate and Abbott’s approval ratings have bounced back to pre-Budget levels. Members of “Team Australia” are hiding under their beds because four white men have been beheaded. Yes – those deaths were unwarranted and beyond tragic, but fuck me: lucky we’re not Palestinian.
Thankfully, our country isn’t only populated and run by idiots, and the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) David Irvine is well aware that our government is striving to combat terrorism, not Muslims. “It’s an outrage to my sense of being an Australian that we would claim to be fighting Islam,” he said in a recent interview with a Muslim radio program. “In my experience, the overall leadership of the community of Muslim Australians in dealing with these issues in their own quiet way has been outstanding.” If only this drama would make all Australians appreciate that the Muslims among us have perspectives different to those of the protagonists in foreign wars.
It has never been more important to educate and inform yourselves, dear hobos, as ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds contempt. In order to assist you with such a task, I’m going to finish by dispelling the three most prevalent myths about Islam I have encountered in my social media trawling so you have some ammo next time you’re faced with someone who associates having Allah as one’s homeboy with a propensity for beheading foreign journalists.
The Qur’an says you go to heaven and get 72 virgins when you die in Jihad
According to Islam, when you die, you have to wait until judgement day to find out what happens next. If that day rolls around and you make it into paradise, you can have whatever you want. So if you want 72 virgins, you can; but you are also welcome to 72 blocks of chocolate, 72 doobies or 72 long-haired male pro surfers (please).
Muslims hate the Christian way of life
Sure, some do, but most don’t. Wanna know why? Because if you break both religions down, they’re more similar than you think. Back in the golden days of youth allowance, I studied Islamic law at uni. Although I was disappointed to discover that reading the Qur’an was just as boring as reading the Bible (even moreso really, because there were less rude bits to highlight), I was interested to learn that Islam not only acknowledges that Jesus existed, but reckons he was an honourable prophet. It also speaks of the ten commandments, both in Surah Anaam, 6:151-153 and Surah Isra’, 17:23-39.
The Qur’an oppresses women
It’s not the Qur’an that oppresses women – it’s the interpretation of it by certain countries and religious practitioners that does, just as certain interpretations of the bible oppress homosexuals and anyone who isn’t a straight-edge celibate bore. As outsiders, we may condemn a religion that impeaches women to cover up, but as a child, a friend of mine who was raised by Islamic parents was given a choice whether or not to wear a headscarf. She chose to, her younger sister chose not to. If anything, the sister who chose to rock a headscarf is one of the most sexually liberated people I have met. Incidentally, neither of them are supporters of ISIS.
Hobos – it’s up to us. Check your facts, do not eat up anything the government says, steer clear of mainstream media and keep travelling to Islamic countries. It broadens your mind, your horizons, your understanding and most importantly, your tolerance.
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Gemma Clarke is the editor-in-chief of Global Hobo. She spends her time contracting tinea in foreign countries, taking afternoon naps in her van and drinking red wine through a (bamboo) straw.