On Thursday 13th of February, A Current Affairs broadcasted a story on the increasing number of young Australians who are converting to Islam.
At face value, it seems like good story. It gave a nice, but small insight into the Muslim world. More importantly, it helped us, to an extent; understand the reasoning behind the decision of many Young Aussies in converting to Islam; a religion that is more often than not, associated with violence, terrorism and extremism.
But of course, this is A Current Affairs we’re talking about. When does a story that’s 100% positive about Muslims ever come from them?
It seems like a story that is insightful and informative and one that is helping Australians to understand and be more accepting of Muslims. But in reality, they’ve actually managed to create an even bigger gap between, for want of a better phrase, the “two worlds”.
Throughout the segment, reporter Brady Halls continuously refers to two important things; the “western lifestyle” and physical appearance.
Right at the beginning of the segment, Halls refers to young converts as “blue eyed, fair skinned Aussies”, as if that made any difference to or should have any effect on their faith or choice of religion.
Upon seeing an old photograph of the interviewee and convert Rebecca, Hall remarks, in quite a surprised tone, “she has blonde hair”.
In saying this, Hall has not only differentiated between what Muslims and non Muslims look like, but he’s also, intentionally or not, made it clear what a young Australian should look like. And based solely on this story, it seems that an Australian can only be one thing; a white, blue eyed and blonde haired person who is definitely not Muslim.
Hall also refers to this “Western Lifestyle” that these new converts have all apparently “given up”. But what does this lifestyle consist of?
Well, according to Hall, a true western lifestyle is really only made up of drinking, partying and dressing however you want. Anything outside this narrow “acceptable” code of living is considered “non-western” and “un-Australian”. Since when was drinking and partying the only things that made someone Western? Apparently getting shitfaced and club hopping on a Saturday night is the only thing that makes a young man or woman truly Australian. A western lifestyle apparently has nothing to do with loving your country, being proud of the nation you live in or enjoying the freedoms that come with living in a democratic and multicultural country.
Hall has somehow managed to turn what should’ve been an insightful and informative story into one that has somehow created even more of an “us and them” situation.
Muslims are constantly portrayed as being associated with terrorism and extremism. We know this. We know how to deal with this. But it’s frustrating to see that when a “news” program such as ACA is sharing a seemingly “good” story about Muslims, one that doesn’t involve violence or extremism, they’ve still managed to make Muslims look like outsiders. They’ve managed to portray young converts, who were born and raised in Australia as “non-western”, whatever that means.
The language used in sharing information and news is paramount. ACA knows this. And with that knowledge, they’ve managed to exacerbate the differences between Muslims and “western Aussies”, all the while coming off as the “good guys” for sharing a diverse and “positive” story.