opinion

'Waleed Aly being a Muslim is hugely relevant, now more than ever.'

The road to Waleed Aly’s phenomenally dignified speech at the Logies was a long and arduous one.

We have had to tolerate a lot of bad writing, delivered by people with no discernible comedic abilities, to get to what was perhaps the most anticipated Logie moment in recent history. We are Australians, so we never take our achievements seriously.

The Logies, and every other entertainment industry award, are routinely derided and undermined, because we are unable to believe in our talents. It is not only the tall poppy syndrome that rears its head at each of these occasions but also, we simply cannot ever believe that Aussies could be anywhere near as good as Hollywood, or our founding/invading fathers in Europe.

Author Suzy Wrong. Image source: supplied.

We have to stop cutting each other down. We have to learn to honour Australians in all industries the way we celebrate our sporting heroes. If we want our nation to progress in order that all of us may fulfill the greatest of our potentials, we have to encourage each other in the most enthusiastic ways possible, and we have to create role models so that our children can see what they could one day achieve.

"I think it's fair to say that I never anticipated that I'd win a Logie, not in a sort of, I thought I'd fall short kind of way... I couldn't conceive of this happening," Aly confessed during his speech.

Photo source: 9News

Waleed Aly, the most high-profile Muslim Australian man, winning this year's Gold Logie is exceptionally meaningful because our society is fractured, and we need symbols to show us that we can be better. We need to know that we value each Australian for their contribution, and acknowledge that we all have a part to play in making everyone's lives better on this fair land.

In Australia, we are uncomfortable associating success stories with religion, but Aly's faith is hugely relevant, because it is undeniable that we have all made Islam a big issue in how we talk about the way we live today. For the bigots among us who get a kick out of demonising all Muslims, Aly's sensational win drives home the fact that some of our best brains and biggest talents are indeed Muslim, and we have to remove the ceilings of discrimination imposed upon them. For all people of colour, who have had to whitewash our identities to get ahead in life, Aly's win is evidence that things will get better.

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Waleed accepts his gold Logie award. Post continues below...

Video by Channel 9

"When someone who's in this room, and I'm not going to use the name that they use in the industry, came up to me, introduced themselves and said to me, I really hope you win. My name is Mustafa but I can't use that name cos I won't get a job. He's here tonight, and it matters to people like that that I'm here."

Author Suzy Wrong. Photo source: supplied

We have all heard stories about people changing their names from Lee to Leigh on resumés, and women removing head scarves on public transport. This country has problems, and we need people like Aly to make a change. It is deeply unfortunate that the burden always lies on the very ones who are unjustly oppressed, but the strongest of our species are often discovered under those circumstances, like diamonds that emerge from preposterous pressure.

"There have been a lot of people in the past week or two who made it really, really clear to me that me being here right now, really matters to them," Aly explained during his acceptance speech.

Waleed Aly and Susan Carland. Photo source: Getty 

We have come to think of television stars as frivolous and downright embarrassing, but Waleed Aly is a renaissance superstar whose persistent prominence in our media landscape is neither self-serving nor narcissistic. Aly and his wife Susan Carland have the unenviable task of fronting our gaze literally everyday, as public faces of an abused community, without the luxury of simply being themselves, but having to take on the grave responsibility of being beacons that will guide us to a collective enlightenment.

They have taken it upon themselves to change the tide, in our tsunami of prejudice and intolerance, and we must celebrate them for the champions that they are. The Gold Logie is just the beginning.

Suzy is an Australian transwoman of colour. She is Sydney’s most prolific theatre reviewer, publishing independently at suzygoessee.com.

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