There are many good arguments for and against allowing the Lebanese Hezbollah-run TV station al-Manar to be broadcast in Australia. One good reason not to allow al-Manar to be broadcast is the possibility that programs inciting racial hatred or racist violence could be broadcast.
Hence Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), pointed out in The Age last week that
[t]he station broadcast a 30-part series in 2003 during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan based explicitly on the famous anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The broadcast of myths about ethno-religious groups is hardly a good idea.
Yet sadly, just as Jews are vilified in Arab media, similarly persons of Arab and/or Middle Eastern heritage are vilified in Hollywood and in television. As Dr Jack Shaheen illustrated in his book and documentary Reel Bad Arabs, for over a century American movie goers have been subjected to a barrage of images portraying Arabs as violent, ruthless, savage, evil. He says:
Arabs are the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood. They are portrayed basically as sub-humans.
Such stereotypes are repeated in print. Last week Andrew Bolt wrote on his blog:
The rise of yet another Islamist terror group suggests there is something in Muslim or Arabic culture peculiarly susceptible to the call to violence … While false, there is yet a grain of truth in the maxim that while not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim.
And today that same ignorant stereotype is repeated by Bren Carlill, an analyst at Colin Rubenstein’s organisation. Writing in The Australian, Carlill claims:
…while a majority of Muslims aren’t terrorists, the majority of terrorists are Muslim, an uncomfortable fact that shouldn’t be ignored for the sake of political correctness. It is rare to find a Muslim terrorist who acts only for a secular, nationalist cause.
Yes it is if you’re selective about whom you label terrorists.
Like all stereotypes, Carlill’s analysis doesn’t quite make sense. Most Muslims aren’t terrorists. Most terrorists are Muslim. Most Muslim terrorists are terrorists because they are Muslim. The logic is too warped to be even considered circular. And so we have one AIJAC person telling us that we should ban al-Manar for promoting ethno-religious stereotypes while another AIJAC person tells us we should ban al-Manar on the basis of an ethno-religious stereotype. Go figure.
First published in Crikey on Tuesday 11 August 2009.