Is the world really going to hell in a handbasket this quickly?
My vision of Australia used to be of paradise, or as close to it as one could ever hope to come. I suppose that view will have to be modified some, considering the racial riots currently erupting across the continent.
Earlier this week, members of a Lebanese immigrant gang reportedly assaulted two lifeguards at Sydney’s Cronulla Beach. Violence erupted when young white Australians made a powerful display of force and protest at Cronulla, attacking the Lebanese and anyone else of Middle Eastern descent while wearing Australian flags and chanting racist chants such as “No Lebs,” “No wogs welcome here,” and “We grew here, you flew here!” The nearly 5,000 Aussies said they were protecting their own, defending their turf – Cronulla Beach, which they consider theirs – and said that the payback was justified.
Police have managed to quell the violence around Cronulla and other Sydney suburbs where gangs of Muslim youths smashed cars and shop windows with baseball bats. They are confiscating alcohol in the areas of unrest and increasing the penalty for rioting from five to 15 years.
Prime Minister John Howard condemned the violence, calling it “sickening,” and asserted that it was atypical of the Australian way of life. Morris Iemma, a state minister from New South Wales, declared Nicolas Sarkozy-style, “These criminals have declared war on our society and we are not going to let them win.” Caches of firebombs were found in storage on rooftops near another popular Sydney area beach and a school holding a Christmas-carol performance by students was shot up.
As with the racial unrest in France, the violence has spread to other areas of Australia, where people of Arab descent were attacked as far away as Adelaide and Perth. Text messages were sent around the Gold Coast of Queensland urging Australians to gather at the beach to “crack some Arab skulls.”
Although they are disenchanted with the War in Iraq, there is no love lost between Australian citizens and Muslims. Australians were enraged by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2002 Bali terrorist bombings. Furthermore, Lebanese immigrants had a bad profile in Australia at least a decade before the Islamofanatic attacks.
The unrest has many nerves on edge for good reasons. As Labor Party politician Harry Quick noted, “We are getting a sample of what happened in France a few months ago.” The unrest in the antipodean nation is occurring just as life in France is resuming some semblance of normalcy.
I can understand the anger and frustration of Australians in dealing with the criminal aspect of some of the immigrant communities, but a racist show of force can not be defended. It is especially disconcerting considering that the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils was one of the first Muslim organizations to admit the problems within the Islamic community in light of the July 7 London bombings.
Australia is changing, becoming more diverse with every passing year. But the law in Australia against criminals will simply have to be enforced. Thuggish behavior will not change things; it will make it worse. White and Middle Eastern gangs alike are as responsible as the other for the aggression as both have taken part in and encouraged the continuation of hostilities.
Here’s hoping this is just an unfortunate blip on the radar screen of an otherwise wonderful and gregarious nation.