Dear Mr. FitzSimons,
I read your open letter today and thought it warranted a response. Let me begin by saying I find any violence to be abhorrent, and I do not endorse it, or the actions of some of the protesters here and abroad. That said, I take issue with the media coverage of the issue and in particular, your own letter.
To start with, your blithe dismissal of the root issue helps no one. The role of the media should be to inform and educate, too often these days it works to inflame and sensationalise.
“Because on the other side of the Pacific, somewhere in California, some loser has thrown together some kind of amateur internet video insulting your particular god…”
First of all, the Prophet Muhammed is not a god. It’s all in the title, he’s a Prophet of Islam and he is revered within the religion. Secondly, that the video insults Islam is not the cause of the outrage across the Muslim world. It’s that it depicts the Prophet, something which is strictly forbidden within Islam. Whether the depiction is favourable or unfavourable actually doesn’t matter, you’re likely to get the same level of outrage. I don’t understand why this point is so often ignored, with journalists and media types instead saying that Muslims are reacting to people questioning their beliefs, which simply isn’t the same thing.
Does this excuse the frankly unbelievable response? No. Should you, no matter the issue, always seek to be factually correct and to craft a balanced response that doesn’t just denigrate the people involved? Yes. Always. At least try and inform your readers of the real reason these people were upset.
“Because on the other side of the Pacific, somewhere in California, some loser has thrown together some kind of amateur internet video insulting your particular god, you think it justifiable to:
-Take over the Sydney CBD.”
I really take issue with your tone here. It’s reminiscent of the ugliness often spouted by the likes of Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman and Pauline Hanson. You make it sound like an invasion, and a hostile one at that, instead of a peaceful protest march that later erupted into violence. Whether you intended it or not, that line also has overtones of hostility towards Muslims and in a broader sense, immigration and multiculturalism. That’s the phrase often used in the rhetoric of right-wing conservatives decrying immigration, multiculturalism and even asylum seekers, they’re “taking over”. The implication being they don’t belong.
You go on to say that in this country ,”It is NOT acceptable to do that here”.
I disagree. I believe we have freedom of speech in this country and the freedom to protest, regardless of the issue or its location. I think if people are outraged the Flying Spaghetti Monster isn’t taken more seriously and want to march for it, I say good on them. I’ll laugh from the sidelines but I won’t say they don’t have the right to do it. They don’t have the right to destroy property or to be wilfully violent and I absolutely agree with you that the end result was stupid and harmful, especially in regards to the image of Muslims everywhere.
Now, you might ask yourself why I’m writing to you. Yours was not the most offensive response, not by half, and you’re certainly not on par with those individuals I mentioned earlier, so why you?
It’s precisely because yours was not a wildly offensive response, because yours is a moderate voice (unless I’m mistaken?) and it’s to the moderate voices I look to for reason, logic and accuracy. I wouldn’t bother writing to conservatives like Bolt or Akerman because they’re beyond help of any kind. I often wonder why people with a national voice don’t think harder about the influence they have, the sheer range of opinions they’re likely to affect, and why they don’t take just that extra five minutes to read what they’ve written and ask themselves whether it’s a fair and reasonable response. Maybe they do, I don’t know. Maybe they don’t. It may also be that this is a response fuelled more by the general coverage of the protests thus far and has been unfairly targeted at you, and if that’s the case, I apologise.
I’m just a little sick and tired of reading articles dismissing outright, or heaping scorn on, the beliefs of these people. For Muslims, it can be a matter of life and death in terms of seriousness. I don’t understand it, personally, I don’t think I ever will but I respect the fact that it’s something they care deeply about and if I’m talking about it, I’d try to at least be as accurate as possible in outlining the problem and refrain from being insultingly condescending. I could wish those within the protest, the leaders in particular, that were clearly and demonstrably trying to keep things peaceful and calm were being given as much credence as the angry fringe that took over – the same fringe that hijacks the vast majority of protests around the world, no matter the colour, creed, or issue being protested.
But then, I might as well wish for a media that was unfailingly clear, insightful, accurate and informative whilst upholding some kind of universal editorial standard for journalism to distinguish the news from bloated opinion. That’ll be the day.
I hope this finds you in good health.
P.S – You kind of look like a pirate. I’ve always wanted to say that…