I was at the Valentine's day peace rally in Melbourne
recently. This protest against an impending war on
Iraq was an amazing event for me. There were members
of the Jewish community there (Jews for a Just Peace),
members of Melbourne's Greek community, church groups,
socialists, the Green party, the Australian Labour
Party, high school students, university students,
lecturers, various unions, boys, girls, retired senior
citizens, Australian Arabs, Muslim women in hijabs,
Muslim women not in hijabs, concerned citizens - you
name it, the rally had it.
crowd spilled all the way from the State Library
of Victoria at the corner of Swanston Street and
LaTrobe Street, all the way up to the newly completed
Federation Square at the corner of Swanston Street and
Flinders Street. That's a distance of about a
kilometer, I would imagine.
streets were pregnant with peace supporters from
5pm. We were supposed to gather at the State Library
and then make our way down to Federation Square. It
was virtually impossible to even walk down the street,
because there were just too many people around. A
triumph of political organising, but a failure of
social networking! Hardly any of us even came close to
Federation Square, because it was just bursting with
air was throbbing with indignant love. When we all
observed a minute's silence to think about what would
really happen in the event of a war on Iraq, an
electric current seemed to ripple through the crowd.
Kurdish and Iraqi refugees urgently conveyed to the
crowd that Saddam Hussein is indeed a dictator and a
despot, but that we should not be fooled for a second
by the USA's motives for invading Iraq. Mostly, these
Australians were adamantly against their government
blindly supporting the USA's myopic, violent designs
on Iraq, and the rest of the world.
various placards summed things up beautifully:
"John Hunt is a Coward." (Try and correct this
yourself.) "Bush is my preshus." "'War' starts with
Dubya." "Howard, please don't swallow. Bush won't call
tomorrow." "Bombing for peace is like fucking for
virginity." "Fuck the Oil. Don't bomb Iraq."
lest the mainstream media has tried to convince
anyone otherwise, let me assure you that the crowd was
really well behaved. I know because I was there the
whole time. Given the crowd's overriding sentiment
about US imperialism and corporate cannibalism, it was
astonishing that nobody even touched the various
McDonald's, Starbucks and Nike outlets we all passed
during the march. Of course, all the outdoor benches,
chairs and tables fell prey to enthusiastic peace
supporters who just couldn't resist climbing
precariously onto anything that would even minimally
elevate their vision of the sea of people across the
normally laidback Central Business District.
I write not to gloat about the size and reach of
the global peace movement. I write because it was not
too long ago that I had to sit through a sermon on
Hari Raya Aidilfitri, where my khatib, in
propagandising for an Islamic state in Malaysia, told
all of us to be careful of big bad infidels - Jews and
Americans, specifically. They are our enemies, he
said. They don't ever want to see Islam prosper. They
will always wage war on us. They want to destroy us.
Valentine's day, I felt that if I could, I would
have dragged him along the streets of Melbourne to
show him all the "evil" church groups, members of the
"evil" Jewish community, white "infidels", black
"infidels", gay and lesbian "infidels", sexily dressed
women "infidels" - all of whom were gathered there to
support the very people he claimed they were trying to
know still more Malaysian Muslims who smugly believe
that "these people are finally on OUR side", as though
even in their deviance they acknowledge our
righteousness and our superiority. There are also
quite a few who believe these non-Muslim peace
supporters, especially those who are Jewish, have
their own "hidden agenda" in promoting peace.
this just makes me so sad. The crowd in Melbourne
was full of people who felt that they had to speak up
in support of other people, other human beings, who
were about to be killed because of some government's
hunger for global supremacy. This wasn't about
"Islam", or "Christianity", or "evil infidels".
around the world, people who know how truly tiny
and fragile our planet is are coming together and
asking these bully politicians to just let all of us
is truly tragic and frightening that the US
government is so skillful at manufacturing such
violent mass hatred towards an entire people,
personified of course by the ridiculously cartoonish
bad guy Saddam Hussein. Until very recently, it was
Osama bin Laden.
it is also tragic and frightening that so many mad
ulamas in the Islamic world are doing the exact same
thing to the United States of America. Like the guy
who preached his sermon at my mosque on Hari Raya last
year. As though we all had to hate ALL Americans and
construction of The Other, on either side of the
conflict, is underhanded and disgusting. There is no
Other. We are all in this together. If a lunatic
president of the USA wants to bomb his way into the
oil reserves of another country, it affects all of us.
If a lunatic ex-CIA-funded Islamic fundamentalist
masterminds an aeroplane suicide attack on a pair of
towers in New York, it affects all of us. If a lunatic
dictator of an oil rich, predominantly Muslim country
chooses to stir up hatred amongst the rest of the
Islamic world for the "Jews" and the "Americans",
while nonchalantly gassing and torturing ethnic and
religious minorities in his own country, it affects
all of us. It affects all of us, because it could very
well happen to any of us.
anyone ever choose the country of their birth? And
by extension of that logic, is it fair that some
people are going to be really screwed just because of
their countries of birth and residence?
I don't want Madeleine Albright to answer this
if people are going to be killed just because they
happen to be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam, as the
case was not too long ago, is it fair for the rest of
us to remain silent?
plea to all Muslims in Malaysia, as someone born
and raised Muslim here, is to stop all this "Islam
lawan kafir" crap. We are all human beings. Everybody
hurts, everybody falls in love. Let's not oppose this
war because we are Muslims opposed to an attack on a
Muslim country. Let's oppose it because we are human
beings who are opposed to any acts of aggression
against any country.
ask ourselves, if the USA were planning to
attack North Korea, would we be just as adamant? If
you think I am a fool because your answer is of course
"yes", then you have made me a very happy fool indeed.
Shanon Shah's blog at http://shanon.twofishy.net.