Sunday, October 11, 2015

SPORT/RELIGION: We can slap away Eddie McGuire's 'mussie' comment. The real problem is the use of 'footy'

Australian Muslims have a sense of humour and no problem being likened to insects; what gets me is calling Australian rules "footy". 

What on earth was Collingwood boss Eddie McGuire on about when he described Victorian Sports Minister John Eren as a "Mussie"? Or should that be "Mossie"? Or is this the new slang for "Muslim"?

And why should non-AFL people like myself care?

Because apparently McGuire was being racist. And racism affects us all. Apart from Muslims, of course. Muslims aren't a race but rather some invading alien species from the Planet Gsjhtr%$hj.

Personally I don't see what the big deal is. It isn't the first time I've been named an extremely annoying insect.

At my all-boys Anglican Cathedral school, there were three non-Anglicans who wore our non-believing hearts on our sleeves. Brian was Jewish, Tim was an atheist though his Catholic heritage made him a non-believer among super-low-church Anglicans. I was the Muslim.

We'd give our school chaplain hell, but we also happily threw dirt at each other using unfortunate stereotypes. When the stereotypes no longer stuck, we had to use more novel approaches.

One morning, Tim approached me all excited. "I killed one of your type in the shower yesterday. I slapped him dead just as he was about to bite me and suck my blood." I was confused. Tim clarified with a question.
Aren't you a Mossie?
Brian made sure everyone in our year knew Tim's new terminology. Soon blokes would find a mosquito buzzing around in the playground, point to it and ask my permission.
Do you mind if I flatten one of your cousins
? Another would remark:
How come you never seem to have mosquito bites? Oh yeah, I forgot. They never attack their own.
Some years later at university, I befriended an Anglo-Australian Muslim convert. Dave who had been around the mosque and religious organisation scene for more than a decade. Like many converts during the 1980s, Dave was not made to feel very welcome in a scene dominated by "ethnic" Muslims who treated converts with disdain or distrust.

Convert experiences were very similar to those of young Muslims like myself who resented religious spaces that treated Islam as cultural relics of life "back home".

I mentioned to Dave about how I was referred to as a "Mossie" at school. He had a good chuckle.
Mate, that's nothing. One of the earliest converts in Sydney was a bloke named Yusuf. He was doing a PhD and was organising activities for converts.
Yusuf understood that converts were often subject to pressure from fringe Muslim groups. He knew converts needed educational programs that reflected Australian norms so he produced a newsletter which was sent to more than 500 converts across the country. It was the 1970s and with no email or Facebook back then, it was all cut and paste and licking stamps onto handwritten envelopes. The newsletter was for Australian Muslims, for Muslims who saw Islam as something for Australia and not just a carbon copy of whatever was happening in Ankara or Lahore or Tripoli.

And the name of this publication? The Aussie Mossie.

Apparently the subheading was: "Watch out or we'll bite!"

Yes, Australian Muslims had a sense of humour, an understanding of Australian abbreviation and even an ability to rhyme. Muslims have been happily describing themselves as "Mossies" for more than four decades. So much for not integrating.

Nowadays, the biggest group of Muslims here are those born in Australia. Most of us are Aussie Mossies.

Thanks to events happening overseas, we're getting a rough ride. We're told to say our faith is one of peace like we really mean it. Our ladies are subjected to both domestic violence at home and non-domestic violence on public transport. Across the country, crowds of thugs and neo-Nazis are holding rallies to reclaim the country from us.

There are some real haters out there. But I'm not sure if Collingwood boss Eddie McGuire is one of them.

For starters, spotting the Sports Minister as a Turk isn't something that should come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about McGuire. Seriously, McGuire grew up in Broadmeadows. He knows a Turk when he sees one.

But there is one thing I'm deeply offended about, not so much as a Muslim and as a decent human being. The story about McGuire's comments was placed on the Fairfax website headed "REAL FOOTY".

Fancy describing a game where huge men wear tiny shorts as footy, let alone real footy. I'm deeply offended and demand an apology.

And if it's true that the minister prefers to play "soccer", well I'm happy he leads by example. Because REAL footy is played throughout the world with feet, not hands.

Irfan Yusuf is a PhD candidate at Deakin University and has no interest in AFL. He is the author of Once Were Radicals: My Years as a Teenage Islamo-Fascist. This article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 August 2015.

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