Monday, August 17, 2009

When racism and Islamophobia come to our ghettoes: My story with DSA management!

We all know that the first step for recovery from any medical, social or economical problem is the recognition of the existence of such problem. Any denial of existence would mean a lack of proper diagnosis, which in turn implies a lack of strategies to solve it.

This is exactly why we are witnessing increasing racism and Islamophobia in the society. The worrying trend is that the racism and Islamophobia is coming to “our” ghettoes. We are hearing now not only racist opposition to build Islamic schools in white dominant suburbs of Campbelltown or Liverpool, but also in the heart of Bankstown. We are not only witnessing attacks on veiled women in the north shore or Liverpool, but in the heart of Merrylands and Bankstown.

My story with DSA is very clear example of racists and Islamophobic people invading “our” suburbs. This invasion is currently going unrecognised and unresisted, mainly because of lack of multicultural representation in decision making bodies at all levels.

The story began when I was offered job with non-for-profit organisation called Disability Services Australia to work with people with disabilities. The job involves trying to find them suitable job, or at least prepare them to enter employment market by identifying their barriers and put strategies to address these barriers until they become job ready.

I was offered the job on mid April 08. After offering the job, the assistant manager told me that the manager had asked him to clarify 2 things before commencing of work at 21 April:
1- What are my views on homosexuality: as many of the managers and colleagues are “lesbians and gays”.
2- Would I have trouble visiting client at their workplace if they are working in pubs and clubs?

Both comments were related to my religion of Islam. I was deeply shocked. I thought it was either mistake or joke, but made me more curious to explore the kind of organisation in the heart of predominantly Muslim and highly multicultural suburb of Bankstown.

While the questions in themselves are non-discriminatory (clearly we cannot discriminate against lesbians and gays) – the fact that I in particular was asked them was indicative of potential issues in the future. Nevertheless, despite these early comments, I had no trouble with this organisation. The organisation is truly full of lesbians and gays, as I was told initially by assistant manager – but that is something does not bother me generally, anyway. The problems with the organisation arose from other sources.

The first serious trouble happened when I was quoted by Sydney Morning Herald in the case of Aminov family demanding their grant of permanent residence immediately. I thought that the management and colleagues would be very proud of me. At the end of the day, I was helping family which included people suffering from multiple disabilities. It was within the declared objectives of the organisation. What happened is the opposite.

I was interrogated and questioned and asked to explain why on my day-off I would help marginalised people with disabilities.

Then at the end of the December 08 I was asked by assistant manager (on behalf of the manager) about why I am talking Arabic in the office. This was the peak of any discriminatory act any citizen can be subjected to:
1- We are operating in area where more than 20% of the residents do not speak English – a large proportion of these are Arabic speaking.
2- The area also has large proportion of Muslim faith – the majority of whom speak Arabic.
3- I have a few clients who do not speak English at all, and so I communicate with them only in other languages (Arabic or Russian)
4- Even if there is suspicion that that some of my time on the phone speaking in Arabic is not with clients, the fact is that other co-workers are talking the whole day about non-work related issues, and in English. No one had targeted them to tell them to speak only about work-related issues in the office. We need to be judged on our outputs – not on assumptions about how much time we spend working directly with clients

These acts of racism, Islamophobia, bullying and intimidation went on and on until I could not take it anymore.

I asked myself why these acts were committed from first place. Why has it dragged on and on unabated?

The answer is more simple than you and I can imagine.

The reason is that the officials in all decision making bodies inside this organisation are “imported” white Anglo-Saxon privileged people who never lived in these ghettoes. They only have more prejudice about “us” and “our” “funny for them” way of life. And maybe they think that they are on “holy” mission to “teach” us how to be “civilized”.

The moral crisis inside the DSA is a true copy of the moral crisis in Australia and other western countries. This is why our parliament and parliamentarian are in one valley, and the rest of us are in other valley. They are more concerned about homosexuals’ marriage or increasing the politicians’ allowances, while we are terrorised in our ghettoes, suffering from unemployment or discrimination, and lacking the access to Australian society that will in fact make our country truly multicultural.

Unless there will be enough of us in all decision making bodies, including the management positions, the situation will go from bad to worse, maybe to the extent of social explosion and serious unrest.

But we cannot remain silent. I will not be intimidated by Anglo-Saxon managerial team who was born with spoon in their mouth. And I am considering all my options in this regard, including making this issue an issue of public interest.

We need to unite our efforts to get rid of these racist and Islamophobic elements from our beautiful multicultural suburbs.

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