If that is the case, how should we feel about the Muslim population in our own country?
Just as importantly, how do Muslim Australians feel about these issues?
I found a fascinating interview with Australian Muslim woman, Fatima Deen. Her family has been in Australia since the 1880s.
In the light of the Paris attacks – and the role of a Muslim woman in the terrorist cell – her thoughts were revealing.
An excerpt from the Sydney Morning Herald reads:
We spoke about those Muslim Australians who have gone overseas to fight, or who are supporting terrorism from here.
“I find it saddening, I really do, and I find it scary. I wish I knew what went wrong or what was in their minds,” she said.
“I feel like they’ve been misled, and they are probably quite naive and don’t understand what they’re doing, or what their religion is about, either.”
It is clear that they have neither her support, nor her sympathy.
“When I first heard about suicide bombers … the first time I heard the word jihad, I was in university. I’d never heard of these things growing up. What my parents told me was that if you committed suicide, you’d go straight to hell. It was never a case that you’d kill somebody; it was just not the done thing.”
Most emphatically, she doesn’t think they are good Muslims or good people.
“I think they’re ill-guided and they don’t know what they are talking about. I feel for Muslims and I feel for people being hurt all over the world, but I don’t think the answer is to put a bomb on myself and blow up people.
“They just don’t see the bigger picture. They’re not really making any significant assistance to anyone’s plight,” she said.
I also found that Fatima and I shared common ground on the screening of supposed refugees. Like me, she believes we need to be extremely stringent in the way we assess applicants, and for a simple reason.
“I think Australia owes it to its citizens to ensure they’re protected. We are entitled to put guidelines on who comes to this country – why not? Otherwise you just open the borders.
“You have to have some criteria and guidelines, because you need to protect the people who are within the borders already.
“Don’t you have a duty to them?
“I’m an Australian, and I fear that if I’m in the public where these suicide bombers go, I fear for my children. I want that my children are able to go freely anywhere, but I’m scared of these people.”
What becomes clear fairly quickly is that the mainstream media does a poor job of reflecting views of Muslims like her, and many others.
“People don’t realise they encounter Muslims every day, probably. Some of us are more obvious than others. The media does tend to speak to people who most obviously fit the role of the Muslim because they wear the hijab or have the big beard,” she said.
Clearly the media can do a better job, and that particularly applies to how Muslim women are largely ignored by the media.
“You don’t have women priests in Islam; they are all male. The Imams, the Grand Mufti, they’re all male. So whenever anyone is spoken to about what is happening in the world they focus on them.”
Fatima believes these people represent the views of the Muslim community to some extent, but not always. She points out that in reality there are a wide range of views in the Muslim community, as there are in the Catholic community.
“You’ll find there are Muslims that are very right wing in their political views, and you’ll find ones that are very left wing in their politics and their outlook on life.”
What is interesting is the role Muslim mothers play in shaping the views of their community. Fatima reflected on the perception of Muslim women as passive: “Not the ones I know!” she insisted.
“In my mum’s family they are definitely not passive; they’re the dominant ones in the family for sure. I think all of my uncles kowtow to my aunties.”
In fact, Fatima told me her mother brought her and her sister up to be independent. So much so that when she did poorly in school her mother sat her down and said she had two options: she could either get married and have a boring life; or she could go back to year 12, put her head down, and then go to university and be independent.
Which brought me to what she would say to her own sons about growing up in Australia.
“I’m Australian, born and bred, I’m then asked where my parents came from. My children look Indian, or at least a mix of something, so I tell them of their heritage – being Indian, Scottish, Irish – but ultimately they are Australian. That is the country, culture and values that I and they will identify with.
“My husband comes from an atheist background, but we have common values, so we want to raise our children to have those common values, and that is the same if you are a Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jew, and that is be good to other people.”
I agree. Perhaps if we could all put away some of our hate, and work together for some common goals, Australia would be a better, more harmonious place. It’s up to all of us.