Social media star, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, she of “Islam is the most feminist religion” and more recently “Lest We Forget [insert your favourite leftie cause]” (I’m paraphrasing) has found herself a valiant new champion and defender. He is Mohamed Elmouelhy, president of the Halal Certification Authority, who has recently posted this geo-political and historical analysis by way of supporting Abdel-Magied’s point:
Where to start…
The problem about the left – one of them, in any case – is that everything in the end is about them and their causes. In this case, to paraphrase Carly Simon, “You’re so vain, you probably think this public holiday is about you.” It’s not a question of compassion or the lack thereof, it’s the fact that Anzac Day commemorates Australia’s war dead and those who have served in our armed forces. That’s pretty much it. It’s not about other countries, other wars, other dead people in wars or otherwise, and other people who might be suffering for whatever reason. It’s that simple. You’re entirely entitled to mourn the dead in Syria, for example, any time you want, but it doesn’t give you a licence to try to hijack existing holidays and commemorations for your own purposes and agendas. Keep Anzac in Anzac Day. It’s got nothing to do with compassion, and everything to do with respect.
Imagine if I had written at the end of Ramadan “Eid Mubarak! And how about that terrorism, eh? And the Muslim conquest of the Christian Middle East, Africa and Spain? And the Turkish conquest of the Christian Balkans? And the Muslim invasion of India and genocide of Hindus?” Hey, what’s wrong? It’s about remembering the dead. What sort of Muslims are you if you do not feel for the suffering of others, have you forgotten compassion, have the Muslim Australians sank so low that they can only feel compassion for their dead but not the dead of others?
But I don’t, for the very simple reason that I’m not asshole, I know not to conflate various issues, I understand nuance, and I know there is time and place for discussing different topics.
I’m not going to debate history with Mr Elmouelhy, whether his contention that Australia carries some blame for what is happening in Syria, or his vision of a Palestinian idyll, or his anti-Semitism. Suffice to say I’m as unimpressed with his historical lecturing as I am with his moral posturing.
For the record, I believe that Mr Elmouelhy and Ms Abdel-Magied have every right to say what they said. And I have every right to criticise their opinions.
So this is not a freedom of speech issue, no matter how much people like Duncan Fine, Madonna King, and Clementine Ford try to misinterpret the controversy, pretending that disagreement or criticism equals censorship and bigotry.
Hence, let me repeat:
Mr Elmouelhy and Ms Abdel-Magied have every right to express their opinion.
Unlike many on the left in similar circumstances, I’m not calling for Mr Elmouelhy and Ms Abdel-Magied to be subject of official investigations and sanctions for their views (like s 18C). Their views might offend me, but I’m a big boy, and can handle that without running off and crying to the big daddy government.
Unlike many on the right, I’m not calling for Ms Abdel-Magied to be sacked from her various paid positions. I have written before about how uncomfortable I am with the idea of boycotts, petitions, protests and pressure, organised to inflict an economic punishment on a person with whom you disagree – to get them sacked or to destroy their business. This is even when those like Ms Abdel-Magied are sucking on the taxpayers’ tit through her various gigs, including with ABC.
But I’m in favour of what is called a debate. I have no illusions that my arguments will persuade Mr Elmouelhy and Ms Abdel-Magied that they are wrong, but I might be able to persuade some of the more uncommitted observers of this controversy. And that’s precisely the purpose of a free exchange of ideas. It’s not about punishment or censorship, it’s about persuasion.
P.S. The honourable mention goes to ABC’s comedian Sami Ullah Shah, who confuses criticism and debate with silencing (“minorities have been intimidated out of public spaces again” – never mind the assumption that “minorities” have one united position on this issue).
Apparently being a minority member should confer on you a magic power to express your opinion without the inconvenience of having it challenged by anyone. And of course any criticism (“white rage”) can only be motivated by “racism and misogyny”, because there are no possible valid reasons why some people might resent conflating Anzac Day with a range of unrelated leftist pet causes. Meanwhile, Ms Abdel-Magied has been so silenced that she is active on social media, her employer ABC is standing by her, and she is not being dragged in front the Australian Human Rights Commission or any other government body. Coincidentally, if you drop out of media gigs because you don’t want to talk about a particular topic, it’s not intimidation, it’s a personal decision.