Time to Tell the Positive Stories About Muslims

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I have a friend who is a pastor in one of the most fundamentally Islamic parts of Indonesia. A few years back he was in Australia for a conference when news broke of an outbreak of violence against Christians in his hometown. Churches were being burned to the ground and an angry mob was bent on destruction. My friend, worried for the safety of his wife and newborn child, was about to set off for the airport when he received a phone call. It was a neighbour from up the road, a Muslim neighbour. She had good news for my friend. She and her husband were staying with my friend’s family to protect them and the local Imam had promised that if the violence escalated he would shelter the Christians in the mosque. In the years since, my friend said there had been many episodes where Muslim leaders acted to protect Christians from violence. “But you never hear these stories in Australia” he commented. “All you hear are the bad stories.”

Over the last 18 months I have spoken in churches across the country about Australia’s response to refugees and one of the recurring things I encounter are people suspicious and frightened of Muslims. Rarely do they know a Muslim and not one has recounted a story of a violent or abusive encounter with a Muslim, yet they are terrified by the thought that increasing numbers of the population are Muslim. They experience aggression or violence in their own community and recognise it as an aberration, but they hear of aggression or violence in Muslim communities and regard it as the norm.

Reinforcing their fears are false and misleading rumours. This week I was forwarded an email that claimed 1/3 of all ration packs the Australian army served its soldiers are halal, a sure and certain sing that we are becoming islamicised. Yet a cursory look as the sources made it clear that the data had been misread. The document the author cited as his smoking gun identified 12 types of ration pack, four of which were halal certified. It said nothing about the quantity of packs ordered.

We’ve got to stop peddling these fear-creating falsehoods. Rather, we non-Muslims need to tell positive stories of our encounters with Muslim people.It matters because the shape of our future and the future of Muslim/non-muslim relationships in this country will be strongly influenced by the narratives we tell. If all we have are narratives that breed fear, suspicion and loathing, we will see our communities divided rather than uniting around mutual respect. So if you have a good story to tell I invite you to share it in the comments section below.

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7 Comments on "Time to Tell the Positive Stories About Muslims"

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scottjhiggins
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Time to Tell the Positive Stories About Muslims | https://t.co/6loqoJ5z3s https://t.co/c5ufKFrZBy

Jenny Dundas
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We had Muslim neighbours for a few years when we lived in Merrylands, the women wore the niquab when outdoors. Muslim Mums & kids were also part of our playgroup – all were peace loving, law abiding citizens.

Martin
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It was not so long ago, that people in our pulpits, church suppers and church newspapers railed against the Papists, warned us to mix with the Micks and told us horrific stories of Catholic attitudes, practices and beliefs. I was a late teen before I actually allowed myself to listen to a Catholic!

Undisclosed
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I’m wondering if this was maybe the same place and time when we were in Indonesia… we had to leave our house when the riots broke out. We went to another island for a couple of weeks until calm had (somewhat) been restored – the churches got burned down and many houses inhabited by believers got totally trashed, including ours. The neighbors in our street (both Hindu and Muslim) guarded our house as best they could while we were away, but finally couldn’t resist the perpetrators. My husband returned ahead of us with some friends to help clean up the… Read more »
Richard Middleton
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Provocative in all th right as Scott. Where did the bad attitudes come from?

kathleen Moody
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I taught English to refugees and migrants for many years and many were Muslim. They were hard working, courteous and admirable. It is very sad to see that racism has been ramped up by some political policies – since the Tampa, Asylum Seeker rejection, 9/ll,the Iraq wars

Dick Clarke
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Fair call Scott, though the counter point would be that violence still happens, which demonstrates the some Muslims are bent on it. Sadly a small minority – even minuscule – can do a lot of damage. Same in any society or religion – yep, even here!

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