Samuel Lee, OhmyNews (South Korea), December 12, 2005
Last Sunday was the darkest day in recent Australian history when one of its most famous beaches became the scene of a race riot, with an estimated 5,000 angry Australians blockading Cronulla beach.
Tensions have run high in recent years, with the media steadily reporting imminent Islamic terrorist attacks on Australian soil. Some Sydneysiders claim that Lebanese youths have been trying to claim their own territory on the beach for decades.
The tension became critical when several Lebanese youths brutally attacked two volunteer Life Guards (“Savers”) on Cronulla beach about a week ago. “Life Savers” hold a special place in Australian culture, as Aussie an icon as “shrimp on the barbe.” Locals have been demanding retribution ever since. Before these latest ugly scenes an SMS text message had been making the rounds in Sydney calling for all Australians to take the beach back from these “Lebs.” The Premier of New South Wales, fearing more violence, aggressively increased the numbers of police on patrol.
No one ever imagined that approximately 5,000 Australians would turn up to “take back the beach.” The gathering started out peacefully enough, with barbeques and beers, until a man was chased into a bistro, because of the color of his skin; within minutes thousands of locals surrounded the bistro, chanting racial slurs.
According to initial reports three men were assaulted, and the NSW State police have been forced to protect anybody with a Middle Eastern appearance. Problems have been a brewing for many years, if not for decades.
This is a volatile subject for myself and my white friends. My experience with the Lebanese community has been a mixed bag — good, bad and the downright ugly. While attending primary school I lived in a Lebanese-dominated region of Sydney called Lakemba. There was a Lebanese boy who was one grade higher than me who took it on himself to make my life a living hell. I would be bullied and beaten every time I saw him, seemingly encouraged by his older brothers.
My schoolteachers did nothing other than force these sessions of pain and intimidation underground, while the Lebanese boy’s parents seemed to show no disgust or anger with their son, as, on one occasion, he punched me in the chest in front of their house and in plain view. So for many years I thought they condoned these violent acts.
This is the darker side of Islamic religion and culture — the main headlines you see concerning the Lebanese and Islamic community, aside from terrorist attacks, are Middle Eastern youths gang-raping young girls; prominent Islamic clerics on national television saying that women who dress provocatively deserve to be raped; all the while, the majority, moderate Islamic community sits idly by, watching their darker, more radical brethren become identified as the national face of their otherwise peaceable religion.
The Islamic community in Australia keep itself isolated and seems to send the message that its religion and culture are no one else’s business. Many other ethnic communities in Australia invite other Australians to experience their culture — to exchange ideas and experience their customs — things that make Australia such a great multicultural country.
Many of my friends claim that all they see from the Islamic community are their youths, wearing baseball caps, loitering and trying to force themselves onto young girls with promises of “good times.” The most dangerous point they make to me is that every time they see a Lebanese teenager they think “rapist.”
In 2002 Miranda Devine of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote [Complete article reprinted below]:
“Yes, it is unfair that the vast bulk of law-abiding Lebanese Muslim boys and men should be smeared by association. But their temporary discomfort may be necessary so that the powerful social tool of shame is applied to the families and communities that nurtured the rapists, gave them succour and brought them up with such a hatred of Australia’s dominant culture and contempt for its women that they think of an 18-year-old girl, dressed for a job interview in her best suit, sitting on a train reading a book, as a slut.”
This quote relates to a number of cases of Lebanese youths gang-raping young, white girls. The Australian media have airbrushed racial references from their reporting. My friends also believe that being Muslim means that you cannot keep your hands to yourself, though, very simplistically, I cannot agree or disagree with that seemingly racist statement. At first I felt quite disgusted with myself for not disagreeing with it.
I believe that the Muslim culture is unintentionally condoning the raping of non-Muslim women. I do not have an intimate knowledge of how Muslim parents bring up their children, and please, if there are any Muslim readers out there who disagree with me, to please post their view.
From what I can gather, Muslim parents teach and treat their children quite differently, as far as gender is concerned. Daughters are covered from head to toe, restrictions are placed on who they talk to and when they can go out. Sons are treated better than their sisters and have almost unprecedented freedoms by comparison. Many sons act as if they are better than the opposite sex.
There is one thing that sons and daughters are taught — women who do not cover themselves from head to toe and women who wear provocative clothing are sluts and whores. This is the mistake the parents make, whereas what they should say is that Muslim women who do not dress from head to toe are sluts and whores, not women from all cultures and traditions.
“I looked in his eyes. I had never seen such indifference,” one 18-year-old victim, codenamed Miss C, told the court, remembering one of the 14 men who called her “Aussie pig,” gang-raped her 25 times over a six-hour period in Bankstown and Chullora and then turned a hose on her. “I’m going to f*** you Leb style,” he said.
You read many quotes like this in the media, you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and you realize that, although Australia may have come a long way from the “White Australia” policy, we have a long way to go yet. The Arab community has once again played the eternal victim, with Arab Council chairman Roland Jabbour saying that the AAC had foreseen yesterday’s events for some time.
So Roland Jabbour predicted that Lebanese youths would brutally beat volunteers, and that Australia would go into a blood-induced frenzy? While all Australia acknowledges its faults, the Muslim community once again refuses to take any responsibility for the incident and still blames everyone else. As stated earlier, when a prominent and very vocal Muslim cleric claims that all women who dress provocatively deserve to be raped, does Roland Jabbour climb back on his soapbox and passionately condemn the comment, as he did with the race riots in Cronulla? No.
But none of what the Lebanese have done could ever excuse what Australians did in response. They formed a mob and brutally assaulted every man, woman and child with a Middle-Eastern appearance. They hunted down as many as they could find, as if they were nothing but animals. That is not what Australians do. The fact that Muslims have done worse to us still does not give us the right to terrorize them.
We are not barbarians, we extend our hand in friendship, we do not go down to their level but bring them up to ours — that is the way a civilized society conducts itself. It is petty-minded to try and justify this behavior and immaterial if they slap our hands away. Australia is a multicultural society — those Muslims you attacked are Australians — we attacked one of ours. Almost every nation envies us our social stability — Sydney and other Australian cities are consistently among the top 10 cities where foreigners want to live — a place that they want to call home.
It is the opinion of this writer that the unknown breeds misconceptions and fear, and ignorance condones violent acts. In the end we react in one of two ways: either isolating ourselves or highlighting the faults of the other without looking in the mirror. Moshe Dayan, an Israeli General and politician who died in 1981, once said, “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
So now we know the facts, straight from the Supreme Court, that a group of Lebanese Muslim gang rapists from south-western Sydney hunted their victims on the basis of their ethnicity and subjected them to hours of degrading, dehumanising torture. The young women, and girls as young as 14, were “sluts” and “Aussie pigs”, the rapists said. So now that some of the perpetrators are in jail, will those people who cried racism and media “sensationalism” hang their heads in shame? Hardly.
The journalists, academics, legal brains and politicians who tried to claim last August that the gang rapes of south-western Sydney were just a run-of-the-mill police blotter story being beaten up by racists, scaremongers and political opportunists don’t ever want to acknowledge the truth about that ugly episode in Australian history. They don’t want to acknowledge the fear and tension that ran through a part of Sydney they rarely visit and can never understand.
This newspaper was the first to report the story, which had been common knowledge in police and media circles, and it has never censored the race element.
Even last week, with the conviction of two brothers for their part in the gang rape of Miss D, who was 16 when she was held at gunpoint in a Greenacre park, there were media outlets that downplayed the story and air-brushed race from it.
Yet the victims have been crying out for the truth to be told. In court on Friday, one victim gave another a card on which she had written “Truth is Justice”.
In August, when Judge Megan Latham handed out laughably lenient sentences to three men in one gang rape case, which were later more than doubled on appeal, she made a special point of debunking the race link: “There is no evidence before me of any racial element in the commission of these offences,” she said. “There is nothing said or done by the offenders which provides the slightest basis for imputing to them some discrimination in terms of the nationality of their victims.”
Except that later one of the victims complained her victim impact statement had been “censored” of any “ethnic” references by prosecutors intent on a plea bargain. She was convinced she was raped because of her ethnicity. “You deserve it because you’re an Australian,” the rapists told her during the five-hour attack.
It’s just so inconvenient of the victims to insist on telling the truth.
“I looked in his eyes. I had never seen such indifference,” one 18-year-old victim, codenamed Miss C, told the court, remembering one of the 14 men who called her “Aussie pig”, gang raped her 25 times over a six-hour period in Bankstown and Chullora, and then turned a hose on her. “I’m going to f*** you Leb style,” he said.
Fourteen gang rapists have been convicted, or pleaded guilty, thanks to the courage of seven victims who testified for days in court as their tormentors smirked nearby, the men’s families threatened them and defence lawyers suggested they had enjoyed the rapes.
“They’re very brave, very strong and very courageous young women,” said Salvation Army Major Joyce Harmer, who held the hands of many of the victims through the trials. “They knew this was something they had to do.”
There were encouraging signs by the end of the week that some Muslim community leaders were talking of “Muslims accepting responsibility that they may have failed to do things that would have prevented these things from happening”, as Amjad Mehboob, chief executive for the Federation of Islamic Councils, told ABC Radio on Friday.
Keysar Trad, vice-president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, said: “It is certainly a disgrace to our community that people who were born to a Muslim family would commit such heinous crimes.” But he went on to say it was “rather unfair” that the rapists’ ethnicity had been reported “because these boys themselves have completely disaffiliated themselves from their culture or their religion”.
Yes, it is unfair that the vast bulk of law-abiding Lebanese Muslim boys and men should be smeared by association. But their temporary discomfort may be necessary so that the powerful social tool of shame is applied to the families and communities that nurtured the rapists, gave them succour and brought them up with such a hatred of Australia’s dominant culture and contempt for its women that they think of an 18-year-old girl, dressed for a job interview in her best suit, sitting on a train reading a book, as a slut.
These were racist crimes. They were hate crimes. The rapists chose their victims on the basis of race. That fact is crucial to this story. If the perpetrators had been Anglo-Celtic Australians, the furore would have been enormous. No newspaper would have left out that fact and you can bet the guilt and shame would have been spread far and wide.