PETITIONS – Edited extracts
7 May 2012
Statement on behalf of the Signatories from the Islamic Community
Attention: Meggie Palmer, Producer, SBS Insight
We understand that you have contacted various individuals andcommunity organisations within the Muslim community about participating or assisting with your research for an upcoming Insightprogram regarding polygamy and plural marriages/relationships.
A number of the individuals and community organisations that you have contacted have come together to discuss this upcoming Insightprogram, in light of previous Insight programs involving Muslims in Australia.
For all of the reasons detailed below, the signatories of this letter wish to inform you that not only do we wish not to take part in your upcoming program on polygamy and plural marriages/relationships but that we are concerned about the direction that Insight is taking from an editorial point of view and the adverse implications this has for the Muslim community in Australia.
We are struggling to understand why Insight has shifted its attention to the issue of polygamy. In the scheme of things, this topic is not, by any stretch of the imagination, deemed an important topic that requires rigorous discussion and debate worth national public attention at present.
As far as we are concerned, polygamy or plural relationships are hardly practiced within the Muslim community in Australia.
We note that recently Insight focused on the issue of ‘Forced Marriages’ interviewing amongst other members from various communities, a young Muslim woman. Arguably this show may have been justified because at a Federal level the Australian government was looking to introduce legislation on the issue. Insight’s focus on polygamy however, doesn’t appear to have any real underlying rationale which serves the public interest.
We cannot help but feel that this is an attempt by Insight to sensationalise what seems a non-issue in a bid to increase ratings, rather than add anything constructive to the public discourse.
Previous Insight Programs
Whilst we can appreciate that our stance may come as a surprise and perhaps be viewed as a drastic move to Insight’s producers, we remind you that our sentiments and feelings regarding Insight and its depiction of Muslims have been seriously concerning for a while.
… Insight’s programs … have focused on Muslims in Australia and as you may have noticed already, some Muslim community organisations have either shown reluctance to actively participate inInsight’s programs or have treaded with great caution when agreeing to participate.
Previous Insight programs, including those which focused on the burqa and niqab and on Islamophobia have not done either of these topics any real justice. Instead, Insight’s producers have carefully selected guests from the Muslim community that they can pitch against one another in an attempt to show a diversity of opinions. While we welcome representations that acknowledge the diversity of opinion among Muslims, Insight’s producers have manipulated this diversity to create an environment that produces on-air conflict among Muslim guests. The end result is not audience appreciation of Muslim diversity, but rather further misunderstanding, negative perceptions and alienation of Muslim communities in Australia.
Against that background, Insight’s invitation to members of the Muslim community to participate in a program about polygamy is therefore received with much reluctance. The topic which Insighthas chosen to focus on has served to strengthen our view that the producers of Insight are not strictly adhering to the objectives that SBS as a multicultural broadcaster prides itself on – promoting social cohesion and harmony and seeking to broaden cultural understanding.
Impact on the Muslim Community and Social Cohesion
We feel that Insight‘s focus on the Muslim community is disproportionate. Irrespective of Insight‘s stated good intentions, the end result is further alienation of the Muslim community….
Signatories of this letter firmly believe in engaging with media, so to take an action like this highlights the seriousness of our concerns….
In the long run we recognise that it is not feasible for Muslim community organisations to have a blanket boycott of Insight. We wish to develop a more constructive relationship with Insight‘s producers and researchers. However, at present and with the current editorial line adopted by Insight, we have come to the conclusion that it is not constructive for the signatories of this letter to take part in your upcoming program on polygamy and plural marriages/relationships.
We are happy to meet with representatives from SBS and discuss the issues outlined in this letter in further detail …
Statement on behalf of the below Signatories from the Islamic Community
7 May 2012
Mariam Veiszadeh, Australian Islamic Voice
Maha Abdo, United Muslim Women’s Association
Samier Dandan, Lebanese Muslim Association
Tasneem Chopra, Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights
Imam Haisam Farache, Minister of Religion
Mehmet Saral, Affinity Intercultural Foundation
Sherene Hassan, Islamic Council of Victoria
Mehmet Ozalp, ISRA Australia
Hameed Attai, Shias in Australia
Shakira Hussein, National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies,University of Melbourne
Hany Amer, Islamic Egyptian Society of NSW
Kuranda Seyit, FAIR
Hanan Dover, Mission of Hope
Sara Saleh, Australian Youth Forum Chair 2012
Mal Mac Rae, Islamophobia Watch Group
Maria Bhatti, Lawyer & Community Advocate
Nora Amath, Australian Muslim Advocates for the Rights of All Humanity
Lisa Worthington, Academic UWS
Silma Ihram, Australian Muslim Women’s Association
Khaled Sukkarieh, Islamic Council of NSW
Malikeh Michels, Local Government Councillor
Dr Louay Abdulbaki, Hikmah Institute
Siddiq Buckley, Australian Islamic Mission
17 May 2012
Attention: Meggie Palmer, Producer and Angus Llewellyn, Executive Producer, SBS Insight
Following on from our Statement dated 7 May 2012 and the subsequent meeting between our representatives… we would like to clarify our position with respect to the upcoming Insight program regarding polygamy and plural marriages/relationships.
We would like to begin by extending our deepest gratitude and appreciation to Meggie and Angus for making time to listen to our concerns and engage in an open dialogue. We were very pleased with the outcome of the meeting and felt that it was a mutually beneficial and constructive discussion.
We have discussed the issues raised in the meeting with the rest of the signatories and in response we would like to clarify and reiterate our position.
Participation in Upcoming Program on Polygamy
We wish to reiterate that polygamy is not widely practised amongst Muslims and in our view, not deemed an important topic that requires meticulous discussion and debate worth national public attention at present. The technical aspects of polygamy are complicated and are not able to be properly explained in sound bytes. A poor or inadequate explanation of such principles leads to confusion and ultimately misrepresentation… This in turn will lead to mistrust and increasing levels of Islamophobia being displayed in the Australian community.
Our participation in the upcoming Insight program would inadvertently and incorrectly imply that polygamy is high on our list of priorities and practices when it is not ….
Against that background we would like to exercise our right not to participate and provide an opinion on this topic as we do not feel that it is in the interests of our community to do so.
Whilst we appreciate that Insight is designed to be an ideas forum where debate is encouraged, we sincerely hope that the upcoming program does not disintegrate into a visual spectacle of conflict and turn into a debacle as was the result when the ‘Ban the Burqa’ and ‘Fear of Islam’ programs were aired as this would lead to further polarisation and ultimately alienation of the Muslim community.
Participation in Future Insight Programs
… our position with respect to the upcoming show does not imply a blanket boycott against all future Insight programs and was not intended to create an impression that Insight has any ill intentions or has an anti-Islamic agenda. We understand that Insight’s producers are exercising their best endeavours to remain true to the SBS Charter and promote social cohesion and community harmony by providing a platform for Australians of all backgrounds to voice their opinions.
We believe that the best way to engage the Muslim community in the future is to extend an invitation to them to participate in an individual capacity as Australian citizens discussing topics that impact all Australians rather than be asked to participate solely because they are Muslim and being asked to comment on Islamic principles and practices as community leaders.
Whilst we wouldn’t be participating in the upcoming program about polygamy, we would carefully consider participating in future Insightprograms which better served the interests of our community.
17 May 2012
Signed: [Twenty-two signatories as before]