Now is not the time to reject multiculturalism

 

It’s vital that the Sydney cafe siege doesn’t affect harmonious relations with people from different ethnic backgrounds.

By Pallavi Sinha For SBS

The ghostly images of hostages’ hands being pressed against windows and fleeing Lindt Café in terror have been broadcast across Australia and the world. Countless images of the man who held innocent people hostage, Man Haron Monis, and people fleeing in terror have also been broadcast repeatedly on television channels.

But the media also needs to make sure it is not an accessory to the fear campaign of the Monis, a self-proclaimed cleric and refugee who was granted political asylum in Australia. It’s imperative to focus on solutions and a preventative approach, so that such an incident never happens again and Sydney can retain its peaceful, inclusive and harmonious way of life.

Man Haron Monis has been described by his former lawyer Manny Conditsis as a “damaged goods individual”. It is suprising and disappointing that Monis, who has been charged with more than 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault, and was charged in November 2013 with being an accessory before and after the fact to the murder of his ex-wife Noleen Hayson Pal, was released on bail. This signals an urgent need for review of legislation and procedures relating to bail applications.

It’s imperative to focus on solutions and a preventative approach, so that such an incident never happens again and Sydney can retain its peaceful, inclusive and harmonious way of life.

Monis was disgruntled with the Australian government’s policy of sending troops to Afghanistan, and claimed to have been mistreated while in prison. Voicing opinions is one thing, but using innocent hostages to convey a message is disturbing extremism. It also highlights the importance of addressing possible mental health problems in such individuals and society, especially with figures indicating that almost half the Australian population experiences depression.

It has been reported in the media that Monis had a history of “mental instability”. When I was on the Q & Apanel earlier this year, I spoke passionately about the need for school curriculum to incorporate mental health teachings as well as the need to increase awareness of the resources available to people who experience mental health problems.

Monis’ history of being charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife is very concerning. According to a report prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology, one woman is killed every week in Australia by a current or former partner. There are other statistics that indicate that domestic violence is the highest cause of death or serious injury for women under the age of 45 in Australia. I have previously written about the serious problem of violence against women.

More attention needs to be diverted to addressing the perpetrators of violence, and rehabilitating them. Such individuals should receive education and training in areas such as anger management, conflict resolution and communication, so their feelings can be expressed in constructive rather than destructive ways, which in this case, tragically led to the loss of two innocent people. One of these innocent victims is my University of Sydney Law School colleague, who I greatly admired and will miss.

It is refreshing that campaigns such as #Illridewithyou have emerged as a community response to the tragic incident. Monis was a sole operator, and does not represent the Islamic population. It’s a critical time for the people of Australia to stand united in their grief, and not respond in a way that blames Muslim people or genuine asylum seekers who seek refuge in Australia. I’m proud to call Muslim people my friends. Australian values are about ‘mateship’ and giving people a ‘fair go’. Almost half the Australian population was born overseas, or has a parent born overseas.

It’s vital to the success of Australia as a whole that this incident does not happen again, and does not affect harmonious relations with people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Pallavi Sinha is a lawyer and academic.