“Sydney erupted in a second night of racial violence last night as Middle Eastern mobs fired shots into the air, attacked women and smashed shops around Cronulla, while up to 600 young men – armed with guns and crowbars – prepared for a battle.”
al-Jazeera wonders why:
“…Tensions between youths of Arabic and Middle Eastern descent and white Australians have been rising in recent years, largely because of anti-Muslim sentiment fuelled by the attacks in the United States in September 2001 and subsequent bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali.”
A combination of machismo, racism – on all sides – and an Australian community that has never fully come to terms with immigration from the Arab world, especially in a post 9/11 environment, all contribute to this unhealthy situation. Prime Minister John Howard might argue that the riots do not reflect deep-seated racism but he knows full well that a great many non-Middle Eastern Australians feel distinctly uncomfortable with the Arab world and its myriad of problems. The Howard government itself stands partly to blame for whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment during the asylum seeker debate.
The issue, however, is far more complicated than that and requires a great deal of self-reflection within the Muslim community and the wider community. Australia’s multiculturalism is not yet a completed picture.