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Engage not Isolate

09 December 2014

It was just an invitation to speak at a forum to discuss ways to tackle Islamophobia within West Australia arranged by the Racial Ethnic and Equality Labor. Beside myself as the lead person for Ethnic Communities Council of Western Australia (ECCWA), other prominent speakers were Senator Sam Dastyari from NSW, Hon. Margaret Quirk , Yasmin Majid from Youth without borders and Aziz Khan the Secretary General of Islamic Council of WA.

As a routine practice the news was posted on ECCWA facebook and within a day the backlash from community leaders was surprising with comments like ECCWA should not engage in this discussion and the President should take the consent from the Management Committee as well as provide a brief what she is going to say at the forum.

On reflection, there are two interesting aspects, one the backlash was from the leaders who are not even on ECCWA facebook page www.facebook.com/ECCWA and as they mentioned they heard it from someone who is on facebook and the second aspect is that ECCWA is the peak body of ethnic and migrant communities and its core values include;

  • Human rights

  • Equity

  • Social Justice

  • Participation, Inclusion, representation

  • Integrity, respect and responsibility

  • Empowerment

  • Harmony

Based on these values, the member organisations have identified that ECCWA will  increase awareness of and address issues relating to racism, discrimination and Community harmony within ethnic and the wider communities as mentioned in the ECCWA Strategic Plan 2014 – 2016.

Yet not so interesting but rather sad aspect is this backlash that I faced, was coming from the leaders of community organisation. Was it because of me as a woman, me as a Muslim woman or me as a Muslim woman leading the peak body in WA is not clear?  All the  ethnic communities’ councils have been very vocal in raising their concerns with support from their member organisations.

The evidence present in form of recent research supports that neither the national identity is formed nor national engagement occur if the ethnic minorities face discrimination.  One should be very clear that a safe Australia is everyone’s business however we have seen that it is only left for Muslim communities and Muslim religious leaders to DO and ACT to counter react with Islamophobic segments. While it seems that the relevant groups are engaged yet truly speaking this approach is creating segregation rather than social inclusion.

The ignorance on part of the leader of communities as to their role in issues like this  further supports as they can play a vital role in the process if they agree in principle what we aim to achieve through social inclusion. This means that we need to search for an inclusive model that could address what we as a nation want to achieve keep in in view that the safety of Australia and Australians is paramount to everyone.

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