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Sara Haghdoosti, an Iranian-Australian campaigner, has created a five-step messaging guide for communicators and campaigners in non-profit organisations who want to talk about Christchurch terrorist attack. A full PDF version of the guide can be found here.

 

1. Say their names, tell their stories.

A lot of organisations are sharing their sadness and solidarity with the community right now. This is excellent, but please, when doing so — don’t just cast the people who were in the mosque as victims. So often stories about Muslims are told as us being helpless and needing saviours and especially in this moment – let’s highlight the agency, humanity and bravery of the people who were impacted. For example:

Instead of: These are the faces of the Muslim men, women and children whose lives were cut short by Islamophobia, hate and violence.

Try: Naeem Rashid, a 50-year-old teacher, tried desperately to wrest the gunman’s weapon from him in a heroic bid to save others. This is just one of the stories of incredible bravery that are coming out of Christchurch. Our thoughts are with Naeem’s family. We will honour his courage by also standing up to hatred, violence and bigotry (Straits Times, 2019)

 

2. Don’t reinforce Islamophobic tropes.

Even with the best of intentions, trying to reinforce that ‘this is the home of Muslims’ only underlines the idea that they’re outsiders, their home isn’t a matter of their choice but the grace of others. This widely shared cartoon is an example of that. The tragedy this week is beyond words and it’s important to remember that this isn’t the first nor will it be the last time that Muslims haven’t felt safe.

This widely shared cartoon is an example of this. A better focus would be ‘White Nationalism has no home here.’

 

3. Beware of insidious white savioUr memes or expressions of solidarity.

This is a moment to centre and amplify the voices of Muslim people. Beware of cartoons or narratives that cast white people acting in solidarity or taking important but basic first steps as heroes in this narrative. That takes away the agency from the real heroes in this story and silencing their humanity and instead turns them into objects to be pitied. The history of the middle east, of Islamophobia is littered with people with white saviour complexes.

Here are examples of memes and cartoons that fall into this narrative. Note: Please also don’t share anything that vilifies the women who took action around Chelsea Clinton — even if you disagree with it, keep in mind that many people in the community right now are angry and feeling particularly triggered.

 

4. White supremacy isn’t limited to the fringe of politics, it’s been core to Australia’s history and government policies.

For many in the community this wasn’t the first moment they’ve felt unsafe, face abuse or violence. From the Cronulla Riots to the debate around refugees Islamophobia is something that’s been at the heart of Australia’s public debate for decades.

White supremacy in Australia is part of our history, from the stolen lands to systematic violence that First Nations people faced and continue to face — it is clear that white supremacy isn’t a problem contained to the fringe of politics, but one that has been core to government policy from terra nullius and persists till this day.

 

5. Start making asks.

Thoughts and prayers, donations are crucial first steps and they need to be followed up with concrete asks and action so that this moment of solidarity isn’t just limited to grieving but to systematic change. Please consider going the next steps and either taking action or sharing it, again many in the community are hungry for systems change.

Here are some asks to consider making:

  • News coverage to centre on the stories and agency of the people involved.
  • Campaigns around shutting down mandatory detention and showing how our debates around immigration have fuelled Islamophobia for a decade.
  • Taking action to get the Australian Government to stop allowing the US to treat Australian Citizens differently based on where they were born.
  • Actively recruiting more Muslims to hold positions of power in your organisations (from the board, to high level management).
  • Push companies like Facebook, Twitter etc to do more to counter Hate Speech.

 

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