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'Sorry, Zaky. You do not speak for us.'

‘It’s time to stop making the rest of us pay for the comments of individuals.’

Once again, mass media is plastered with the latest ‘face of Islam’. This week, it’s in the form of Zaky Mallah, a radical whose views are representative of himself only. This time, he has made headlines after saying that Australian Muslims would be justified in joining Islamic State in Syria.

(Read about that here.)

Zaky Mallah’s momentary appearance as an audience member on Q&A has become two days of front-page media coverage, and counting.

Once again, the broader Islamic community has found itself on the defensive. We are left to condemn the views of an individual. Left to prove that our condemnation is sincere and try to convince the community that the latest, loud-mouthed radical’s comments are problematic do not represent the wider community.

Zaky Mallah on Monday night’s episode of Q&A.

Mallah doesn’t carry all the blame for this fallout. The media circus that has been created is the fault of every irresponsible news source that has taken these comments, wrapped them in an ISIS flag and splashed them on the front page. I mean, how often do we spend days talking about the comments of one misguided man?

Related: Beware: There’s an agenda behind this anti-ABC hype.

Once again, Muslims have found themselves having the same conversations with their friends, neighbours and colleagues. To explain once more that most Muslims are just regular, everyday members of society going about their normal business. That we don’t all secretly think that terrorism is justifiable.

More from Amne: ‘I’m a Muslim woman living in Australia and I’m scared.’

The most problematic part of Mallah’s irresponsible commentary is that he has taken away from some very serious discussions that must be had about Australia’s role in preventing the radicalisation of young Muslims.

Muslims in this country, like many other minority groups, have legitimate concerns about the way in which issues relating to them are handled by the media.

There are concerns that the language used by our leaders has been divisive and counterproductive. That this language fuels the fire of Muslim and non-Muslim extremists alike, crushing the everyday Muslim between two opposing forces that use the same tactics.

There are concerns that the policies being proposed are likely to create even greater feelings of isolation in the Muslim community. This feeling is particularly endemic in young Muslims that feel that they are not allowed to contribute to debates on issues that directly influence them. They’re scared of inciting the wrath of society that is brought on by the media. Instead of contributing, they remain silent. This is deeply problematic – how can we find solutions to such large problems when those with the answers are too frightened to speak up?

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Amne Alrifai

It doesn’t end there.

If men like Mallah are aware of the media circuses they incite, they definitely don’t consider the consequences of their words on the rest of the Islamic community. Days in which another angry Muslim man makes headlines are days that regular Muslims dread. It means that we are all under the spotlight and those that may usually have enough self-control to keep their nasty, bigoted comments to themselves are likely to lash out. Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab walk out of their front doors on days like today, do so knowing that they are more likely to have to defend themselves against an aggressor.

Groups like Islamaphobia Register Australia will often report a surge in attacks against Muslims.

Islamaphobia Register Australia keeps tabs on Islamaphobia.

The Muslims subjected to these attacks have done no wrong. Unlike what the likes of Mallah would have you believe, they hold no disconcerting feelings against Australia or the Western world. They are not empathetic toward the plight of ISIS. They call Australia home and consider themselves Australian.

Despite that — despite calling out radicals over and over and over again — the Muslim community is left paying for the comments of one person.

For a group that makes up approximately two percent of the nation’s population, Muslims get an awfully large amount of media coverage. We seem to be the only group whose condemnation and dissociation from radical beliefs is not accepted until proven.

Keep reading: “I wait to be yelled at. Spat at. I wait to be told to go back to where I came from.”

In much the same way that most Australians do not agree with the messages of far-right, nationalistic groups that preach violent and hateful messages; most Muslims do not agree with the views of these radicals.

It’s time to stop making the rest of us pay for the comments of individuals. It’s time to let us belong to the rest of the community.

Amne Alrifai is a 20-something year old Muslim woman, born and raised in Western Sydney. She is passionate about facilitating open discussions, with the aim of bridging the divide between young Muslims and wider society.
You can read more by Amne on her blog, unveiledthought.com.

For background on this story, try these:

Steve Ciobo tells man acquitted of terrorism charges, Zaky Mallah, that he should no longer be a citizen.

Waleed Aly takes down a former terror suspect in an interview.

Beware: There’s an agenda behind this anti-ABC hype.

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