Recently there was an article about the case of a judge ordering that a trial involving a man who had plead guilty to “detaining” his sister-in-law “for advantage to intimidate and assault” after denying and having dropped an attempted murder charge; be made a judge only trial.
Certainly the approach is not the best way of dealing with the problem, however the judge was responding to a legitimate problem – Islamaphobia. The decision was essentially that Australians are too anti-Arab and anti-Muslim to judge a trial fairly and there is plenty of evidence to suggest the judge may be right, as uncomfortable as it is for many of us in the “land of the fair go” to accept it.
In the mid 1990s, when John Howard saw that Pauline Hanson was successfully winning over what can only be described as the “redneck” vote; John Howard Jumped on the bandwagon, famously declaring
We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.
Indonesia was arguably a huge part of this as for years we in Australia have feared invasion from our northerly neighbours, and as Indonesia has for many years now, been a Muslim country, there has always been a subconscious association there of our country being perpetually under threat from an “Islamic Invasion”.
September 11 2001 merely amplified the problem, resulting in anti-terror laws which had us as a citizen body “alert but not alarmed”. A couple of points here – September 11 associated terrorism predominantly with Muslims, while ignoring the fact that the only difference between counter-intelligence and terrorism is that the later is unofficially state sanctioned. It also ignored the histories of armies like the Israelli Defence force who as history tells us, was formed in 1948 by the amalgamation of 3 terrorist groups, the Irgun, the LEHI and the Stern Gang.
The leading terrorist group the Irgun, was admittedly an officially recognised defence force for Jewish settlers, however that recognition had only come about in 1936 because the British used them to suppress the Arab revolt – much like the US used Al Qaeda to depose Qadafi in Libya. This raises the saying of “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s insurgent/terrorist”.
However to get back to the issue of Islamaphobia, it meant in laymans terms, that people should be afraid [of Muslims] but not to panic.
In short, we had created a bogeyman in the form of the Muslim, specifically an Arab Muslim in our post 9/11 world.
However Islamaphobia has been conveniently used as a cover for our Post Modernist and imperialist colonial operations for some time now. The reality is that when you look at the legally sanctioned rape and child abuse, the shoot to kill orders against unarmed civilians, the apartheid, and other bigotry and oppression against Palestinians; you begin to see what such an ideology has become a cover for and the hypocrisy considering the parallels between it and the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis.
Raised an Orthodox Jew and a Zionist, Veteran British MP Sir Gerald Kaufman made that point so eloquently when he made this speech to British Parliament in 2009.
There are 2 books I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in the history of these atrocities – Hushed Voices: Unacknowledged Atrocities of the 20th Century and Hamas: Unwritten Chapters, by Azzam Tamimi.
A question must then be asked of why such Islamaphobia has been perpetuated in the case of Israel. Sir Gerald Kaufman raises the issue of “gentile guilt” over the Holocaust being used as a political weapon, however the other issue is that Israel functions as a Western outpost and foothold in the Middle East. Israel’s interests trump human rights issues because it trategically benefits America and her allies, including us.
In fact most telling is the fact that Afghanistan has proven to be nothing more than a War for Opium and Iraq, a War for Oil.
Through it all, our supposed “heroic” “true colours” have been revealed in all their sinister blackness as demonstrated by scandals such as Abu Ghirab and civillian massacres such as in Baghdad and Afghanistan. That is ignoring the use of white phosphorus in the region- a nasty incendiary chemical weapon, which 88 countries have signed a convention banning as a chemical weapon. The 2 most prominent countries refusing to sign that convention however are, you guessed it, the USA and Israel.
So the next question has to be; how has such a disgusting blight affected us as a society. This article on Global Research makes the point nicely, discussing the impact of the media, political opportunism and neo-Nazi political parties amongst other problems.
However a study and report it quotes, from 2003 and 2004 respectively are highly telling.
The study conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 2003 found that:
one in eight Australians interviewed admitted they were prejudiced, particularly towards Muslim Australians. The study, conducted by a team led by geography senior lecturer Dr. Kevin Dunn, also found some Australians were living in denial of such prejudice though 80 per cent of those surveyed recognized racism was a problem. When asked if they ever met a Muslim. ‘NO’, they said.
What is most telling there is the numbers of Australians the study found to be in denial of the problem. Is this what happens when we, who consider ourselves to be so deeply concerned with the values of mateship and the “fair go” find ourselves acting in a manner contrary to that?
The report, entitled ‘Respect and Racism in Australia’, prepared in June 2004 by Racism Monitor Group of the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) reveals that:
Australian Arabs Muslims community “has been and continues to be unfairly targeted” specifically, and that racism is so frequent that “it has become almost accepted” and Muslims do not feel ‘entitled’ to make complaints. Racism against Muslims is openly promoted, and continues to contribute to decrease in the process of integration. It is propagated by politicians as a tool to instil fear in the community and justify draconian policies.
Let us not forget either, the blight of the Cronulla Riots, the recent “War on the Burqa” here in NSW or the fact that the same type of shock jocks who fueled the Cronulla riots are still filling their mindless vict- I mean listeners, with xenophobic propaganda. For every retiring John Laws or Alan Jones, there’s a Steve Price waiting to take their place. In fact, it was Steve Price who only a few weeks ago expressed outrage at refugees being processed in the community after their background checks had been performed and they had deemed too pose no threat to the community whatsoever. Steve’s argument was one “security concerns” when they had already been cleared by immigration as posing no security concern whatsoever. It’s tempting to consider this a small number of people, but the reality is that the “shock-jocks” in question have very large followings.
Furthermore at the risk of shattering Islamophobia’s ignorance about illegal immigrants; the numbers of illegal immigrants who outstay their visas, far exceeds the numbers who come by boat.
And people want to believe we don’t have a serious problem with Islamaphobia here? The question has to be, who are they deluding other then themselves and those of similar mind?
However is removing the jury system the answer to the problem? That’s highly doubtful, and I have no doubt that the only reason the decision was overturned on appeal was because it set a dangerous general precedent. However it is clear that when a problem of racism or creedism is so deeply entrenched; there is a very real danger of creed and ethnicity being judged rather than the evidence of the case.
I’m reminded of a couple of quotes from the movie “A Time To Kill”.
The first by Judge Omar, when denying the request to change venue due to concerns over racism affecting the trial is:
I’ve thoroughly reviewed your brief request and… …a change of venue. And I agree with you. It’s impossible to find an impartial jury in Canton. I think it’s impossible to find an impartial jury anywhere in Mississippi. As such… …a jury here would be… …as fair as a jury anywhere else. So I decided to deny your request for a change of venue.
The other telling quote is by the character Jake Brigance in his closing argument:
I tried to prove blacks could get a fair trial in the South… …that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That’s not the truth. The eyes of the law are human eyes… …yours and mine, and until we can see each other as equals… …justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will only be a reflection of our own prejudices. So until that day… …we have a duty under God to seek the truth… …not with our minds… …where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice… …but with our hearts… …but we don’t know better.
One need only look at the Salem Witch Trials as the most damning evidence of how twisted and perverted the entire system of justice can become when prejudice replaces the principles of justice and law as established by Plato and Aristotle, effectively degenerating into nothing more than a legally sanction lynch mob. Granted, racially tainted trials do not result in individuals being burned at the stake or drowned. However in capital punishment cases, this is irrelevant.
Whether an innocent man or woman is burned at the stake, hung, drowned, given a lethal injection or electrocuted, the fact is that an innocent man or woman has been unjustly murdered through a perversion of the system of justice. Even if you are talking imprisonment and not the death penalty, you are still wrongfully imprisoning someone who is innocent. The principle of the presumption of innocence, arguably the most fundamental principle of our legal system, states that
It is better for 100 guilty men to go free, than for 1 innocent man to be convicted.
The whole notion of our jury system is one of people being judged by their peers, or their equals as it is implied. However when prejudice skews the entire judicial system to a judgement on the individual and not on the evidence, then how equal, how fair, can the process truly be.
The jury system, including jury selection, was set up when we were an homogenous society. Multicultural societies are anything but homogenous, so then what is the solution?
Logically, as the jury system is sound in theory and as this is an issue to do with its practical implementation; the system itself should not be discarded. However it is the practical implementation which needs to be altered.
Similar to aptitude tests, some kind of psychological screening test would be the answer. Such a test would require research and careful design, but if done in such a way so as to elicit whether someone is racist towards a group in question, without being blatantly obvious about it; then it would be an extra layer of protection in there to prevent this problem from happening.
Granted no test is perfect, just as no system is perfect, however it stands to reason that if we are truly interested in a just society, then we need to not only accept that our system is imperfect, but look at ways of addressing those imperfections when they arise.
Someone, admittedly in mockery, raised an interesting point. If psychological screening was mandatory for those called up for jury duty, then the flow on should be psychological evaluations for police, law enforcement and those passing laws – our politicians. I would support such a move, provided such information was not publicly available for abuse by opportunists.
However such a change to the system is highly unlikely – if politicians are allowed to serve when facing corruption allegations such as Craig Thompson, and if pay rises by our politicians are never voted against by them; then they chances of them actually proposing and passing laws which make them more accountable have a snowball’s chance in hell of being passed.
Furthermore, while Muslims, and specifically Arab Muslims, continue to present such a convenient source of media sensationalism (which sells headlines) and a convenient political bogeyman, we will continue to be a racist country, rather than a “fair” one.