On Monday night’s Q&A program, a young woman directed a question at the panel about the anti-Muslim propaganda espoused by President Donald Trump. Following the response of one of the panellists, and a reflection on her own experience, she was brought to tears.
Zara Bilal shared with the ABC panel, “Being a young Muslim female Australian, I have been on the receiving end of many hurtful discriminatory comments.
“This hate was perpetuated by US President Donald Trump who retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda.
LISTEN: Amelia Lester and Mia Freedman recap everything that has happened in the world of President Trump in the last week, on Tell Me It’s Going To Be OK.
“With a 78 per cent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the US in 2017, what do you believe is an appropriate response as individuals and as government organisations to the President’s constant spreading of racist and Islamophobic messages?”
Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz was the first to address the question, conceding, “I have a problem, I must say, with the President tweeting as he does, I don’t think it’s very Presidential.” Ebetz skirted the subject of Islamophobia.
Simon Breheny, director of policy at the IP, said, “Frankly I think it’s amazing that on this country’s predominant news and current affairs program we’re talking about Trump’s tweets…
How dare Simon Breheny decide what questions Q&A audience members may or may not ask? #QandA
— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) December 4, 2017
“I’d much rather talk about the 1.5 trillion dollar tax package that’s just passed the US senate… that’s an extraordinary piece of legislation… please can we talk about something of substance.”
As the conversation continued, Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs argued that Trump’s use of Twitter is normalising the abuse of people based on their race. Labor politician Lisa Singh accused Breheny of “disregarding the questioner, and the hurt…” before he sarcastically interjected, “that someone else’s Tweets have on them?”
#qanda Zara’s question brings me to tears
— James F Lindsay (@k2hike) December 4, 2017
Host Tony Jones then turned back to the questioner.
Bilal began crying and explained, “It’s definitely a struggle when you’re living in a society where you think you’re welcomed and you think the people around you are going to be there”.
A friend to her right wiped tears from her eyes, as Bilal continued, “When you hear about international people, who are supposed to be there to speak up about you, it’s difficult to then have to justify yourself to people who you thought were standing behind you”.
Breheny continued to look rather unfazed by the response.
People at home, however, were moved by Bilal’s insight into what effect it has when the leader of the free world uses a public platform to propagate anti-Muslim sentiment.
To Breheny, it might just look like a Tweet, but to the minorities whom President Trump is targeting, his message is far more terrifying.