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Cronulla – Five Years On

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The Monthly is a quality Australian magazine featuring some of our top thinkers and commentators, so it’s always instructive to peruse its learned articles. For instance, the magazine published a literary essay which was short listed for the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Essay Advancing Public Debate – Patriot Acts, by Waleed Aly - which SBS’s Jacquie Riddell pronounced “BEST Number 1”:

This article Patriot Acts by Waleed Aly and published in The Monthly in June was one of the most inspiring reads this year. Waleed, who is an Australian academic, rock musician and lawyer, beautifully contrasts the laconic nature of our brand of multiculturalism, with the patriotic United States version of multiculturalism.

So, as you can see, this magazine punches above its weight on the literary scene. 

 You probably all remember Cronulla. One of the most honest accounts was by Gerard Jackson in: Lebanese Muslim thugs spark riots and the media blame “racist” Australians

Leftwing journalists are writing sob stories about how badly Australians are allegedly treating Muslims. Yet Lebanese Muslim goons have been terrorizing locals for years without a peep from these leftwing bigots who call themselves journalists.

‘Report’ after ‘report’ on the Cronulla riots stressed Australian racists as being the problem. When it came to fingering Lebanese Muslim thugs the same journalists omitted the thuggery and described this scum as “being of Middle Eastern appearance. This lie was a shabby attempt to reinforce their despicable view that Australians are basically racist.

Let us take a quick look at what this despicable bunch of ideologically motivated hacks deliberately ignored. Three lifesavers objected to Lebanese Muslims bullying a group of women because of their bathing costumes These Muslim thugs attacked the greatly outnumbered lifesavers and badly beat them, rendering one of them unconscious.

It was this vicious incident of Lebanese Muslim thuggery that sparked the riots that these mendacious journalists are blaming real Australians for.

If the riots were racially inspired, how come only Lebanese Muslim thugs were targeted? Why were there no Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Ceylonese, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, etc., involved? Also ignored by our media guardians is the interesting fact that the Lebanese have been immigrating to Australia for more than 100 years without any kind of reaction from native Australians. Additionally, how do they explain Lebanese Catholic churches being targeted by Muslims?

Nearly all of the former immigrants were Maronites while the Lebanese scum that started the riots are Muslims who came here in the 1970s.

“Middle Eastern” is the multiculturalist’s code phrase for Muslim. So what we have here is Muslim hatred of Australia. Nevertheless, despite massive evidence to the contrary our leftwing media still insists on lying to the public. It’s true that some racists attached themselves to the mob. But to use their opportunism to smear fellow Australians as “neo-Nazis” is, unfortunately, par for the course for our agitprop journos.

It is time to recognise the extremist religious canker in our midst and cut it out –– even if it means revoking these thugs’ citizenship and deporting them to Lebanon where, I have no doubt, they would be welcomed with open arms by Islamo-fascist terrorist groups.  (source)

Most people now realize there is a problem with Islamic violence and failure to integrate. But for our leaders to admit it would be to acknowledge that the multicultural dream is an illusion.

Most, but not all, it seems. The Monthly previewed Malcolm Knox’s reflection on Cronulla in the following way:

“‘This Sunday every F*cking Aussie in the Shire, get down to North Cronulla to help support Leb and wog bashing day … Bring your mates down and let’s show them this is our beach and they’re never welcome back.’”
So ran the ‘call to arms’ text message that prompted the infamous Cronulla riots. The violence seen at Cronulla Beach on Sunday, 11 December brought Sydney’s – and indeed the nation’s – inter-racial tensions to a terrifying head. Then it all went quiet. Five years on, Malcolm Knox revisits that tumultuous summer to ask: Could it happen again?

Let’s turn to Knox’s main points:

...From Cronulla to Lakemba, two self-declared tribes took it upon themselves to settle their differences by violent means.

Howard criticised the “extreme elements” who rioted… Simultaneously, he stopped short of linking the riots to any underlying racism in middle Australia.

Could it happen again? On the northern beaches where I live, where our federal MPs are Tony Abbott and Bronwyn Bishop, localism, to say nothing of naked racism, thrives among the few thousand who are all it would take to stage another Cronulla.

Dr Amanda Wise, whose academic writing on Cronulla stands out for its percipience, grew up in the Shire. She left, she says, partly because “it was such an oppressive place for women. Sexual harassment was part of daily life.”

When, at the beginning of December 2005, she heard the situation was tense due to the anger of Anglo Cronulla boys about the way Lebanese boys were speaking to the local girls, “I guess my first response was to laugh. I mean, boys, it’s not as if you have a great track record.”
A week later, her bemusement turned to horror…after two volunteer surf lifesavers were assaulted…The media, particularly Alan Jones on radio 2GB … reported angrily on the assaults; Jones connected them with the rape convictions of Middle Eastern Australian men in Western Sydney. His comments, infamously calling on bikie gangs, Islanders and others to participate in “a community show of force”, earned him a fine for violating racial vilification codes.
Little media incitement was needed. An SMS quickly circulated: “This Sunday every Fucking Aussie in the Shire, get down to North Cronulla to help support Leb and wog bashing day … Bring your mates down and let’s show them this is our beach and they’re never welcome back.”
On Sunday, 11 December, some 5000 people rallied in the North Cronulla car park. They chased a dark-skinned man off the beach. He tried to take refuge in Northies pub, but was dragged out and assaulted. Two Bangladeshi men escaped in a car…to the chants: “Fuck off Lebs”, “Fuck off wogs”…

Then, reprisals. A convoy, estimated at 40–100 cars, headed from Punchbowl in Sydney’s south-west to the seaside that night. Cars were damaged at Woolooware, near Cronulla. Yahya Jamal Serhan was among those who stabbed a 26-year-old mechanic. A Tongan Christian church in Auburn was set on fire. The Bra Boys of Maroubra got involved, allegedly threatening to storm Lakemba Mosque before engineering a photo opportunity for reconciliation.
Eventually, police laid 285 charges against 104 people. The score was neatly even: 51 were charged over the initial rally, and 53 over the retaliation.
Then it went quiet.

Dr Wise said “One of the more worrying trends was a desire by Sydneysiders to collectively disown the racism expressed [that] December. Those outside the area were at pains to point out that the riots were a curiously ‘Shire’ thing: parochial, uneducated people who don’t represent cosmopolitan Sydneysiders. Representatives of the area, meanwhile, pointed out that many of the Anglos arrested during the riot were from outside the area. Racism exists in the Shire, but it is by no means just a Shire phenomenon, nor is it just the domain of the ‘uneducated’.”
She ascribes the key underlying tension to “inter-ethnic habitus”, or different ways of behaving at the beach
. Beach customs were established in Australia in the mid-twentieth century, she says, when British influence was unquestioned…this meant small friendship groups of mixed gender; specific beachwear, such as swimsuits and, later, board shorts; preservation of zones of personal space; quiet sunbaking on the sand and more vigorous activity in the water. By contrast, the typical “habitus” of “young Middle Eastern men” was to gather in larger, male-only groups, to wear football shorts, and to play vigorous ball games on the sand.

The University of Melbourne anthropologist and social theorist Ghassan Hage proposed that what the Lebanese Australian boys were doing at Cronulla was not asserting their difference but rather embracing Australian culture enthusiastically. Hage says the behaviour of the Lebanese boys at the beach was a product of ten years of the Howard government’s encouragement of white mono-culturalism; these boys were mimicking what they perceived to be Australian traditions. “They were at ease on the beach being sexist, being macho, being vulgar and being aggressive,” … And this is where the whole political hypocrisy of assimilationism emerges, for beneath the complaint that the boys were not well-assimilated and well-integrated was really the fear that the boys acted as if they were completely assimilated and integrated despite their cultural difference.”
In other words, the Anglo reaction was not to scream, “We don’t expect you to act like this on the beach,” but rather, “Can’t you be a bit shy, for God’s sake?”

Dr Jamal Rifi, president of the Lakemba Sports & Recreation Club, won a Human Rights Medal for his work after Cronulla. Over the next few days, as news of more assaults and vandalism emerged, Rifi developed an idea with police and members of the NSW government. “Three months before,” he says, “we had taken 22 boys and girls from the Lakemba Sports Club down to Cronulla to train with the pool guards at council-owned pools. So we asked, ‘why don’t we get them to train with the Cronulla surf lifesavers?’”
Rifi got a pledge of $400,000…to fund Surf Life Saving Australia’s On the Same Wave program. It was a public relations triumph: dark-complexioned boys in yellow and red caps, smiling young women in burqinis…On the Same Wave, which had a finite funding period of two years, folded once those funds stopped.
…The end of On the Same Wave, says Dr Wise, indicates a problem with government responses to social issues generally. Commissioned by the federal government to write a report on strategies to improve relations between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians, Dr Wise concluded that “by and large, local councils in Australia are doing relatively little to build bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians”.
It is a depressing narrative: riot sparks government response; photos are taken of Lebanese girls in red and yellow burqinis; Lakemba kids get lifesaving certificates; but three years later, the participants have moved on and nothing has meaningfully changed.

But there’s hope. In mid 2009, after visiting Cronulla a few times, Hythem Damouny decided to establish a new store in North Cronulla…he
is happy to give examples of redneck localism, not because he sees it often but because it’s so rare. “On New Year’s Eve a young guy came in and said, ‘Is this Lakemba or Cronulla?’ My partner said, ‘Mate, it’s Cronulla on the outside, Lakemba on the inside.’ A couple of times we’ve had [Middle Eastern] girls say that local boys have been rude to them. I’ve seen boys fighting outside the shop. But, you know, the problem isn’t racism, the problem is alcohol. These boys, they drink to get drunk and that’s what caused the problems a few years ago.”

Hythem Damouny’s story is a useful yardstick. Out of the Cronulla riots – albeit indirectly – a Palestinian-born retailer has been encouraged to come to the heart of the battleground and set up a business. He has done so without any victimisation and is happy in the area. “Look, where I come from, that’s a war, that’s a bad area. When people say there was a war in Cronulla, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
The truth is that nobody knows quite what triggered Cronulla, how deeply racial tensions are running, or how close we are to a reprise. But Hythem Damouny knows not to push things too far too fast. “I tell my staff, when you’re in the shop, don’t talk religion, don’t talk politics. You might say something that is taken the wrong way. We don’t want things to get nasty.” 

Don’t you just love Dr. Wise’s theory of ‘inter-ethnic habitus’, only matched by Ghassan Hage’s theory that the Lebanese boys at Cronulla were merely ‘embracing Australian culture enthusiastically?’ It takes a special sort of academic mindset to make these theories up.

And it seems that the answer for Knox is more Muslims in Cronulla to add a civilizing touch and counter our racism!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 20:34  

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