Yassmin Abdel-Magied sent a tweet on Anzac Day in which she said ‘Lest we forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)’. People were offended and Yassmin immediately apologised and deleted the tweet.
My father was a squadron leader in the RAF in New Guinea during World War II. He returned an ill man and died seven years later, leaving a young family, yet I was not remotely offended by her tweet. Yassmin meant no disrespect for Anzac Day but was reminding us that war is a tragedy, and pain and suffering from war continues today.
Anzac Day is a very important day to Australians, a day of remembrance of Australian servicemen and women who lost their lives or came home maimed or died too young, as did my father, but let’s keep Yassmin’s tweet in perspective. From the mock outrage of some, Yassmin’s timing and comments appeared a capital offence.
Yassmin spoke with compassion about the refugees on Manus and Nauru, and of people in Syria and Palestine who are suffering from the ravages of war, if not as refugees then because they are living in a war zone and are desperately trying to survive or escape. Many Australians are unhappy about the shameful treatment the Australian government metes out to refugees, including women and children held in camps outside Australia. That is a tragedy worth being outraged about.
My father was a man of peace. He returned home refusing to speak of war again. However, surely one of the values he fought and died for was the right to freedom of speech. Yassmin was speaking out for those refugees whose voices are silenced by our government.
What a righteous lot were George Christensen and Eric Abetz, demanding Yassmin’s sacking from the ABC and in George’s case demanding she be deported from Australia. The hypocrisy was breathtaking. These same politicians had argued vehemently to get rid of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 which deals with offensive behaviour "because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin" in Australia. They were among those demanding that absolute freedom of speech be allowed without limitations. And yet here they were demanding the ABC sanction Yassmin for her tweet on Anzac Day. Freedom of speech? Obviously only when it suited their purposes.
Unlike Amanda Vanstone (Age, 8/05/17) I believe there are people in Australia who speak with anger and hatred towards Yassmin because she is a woman and a Muslim who chooses to wear the hijab.
Yassmin has been a vocal campaigner on diversity and religious issues and was named Queensland Young Australian of the Year in 2015. The reward was for her work leading Youth Without Borders.
Recently, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke strongly in support of Yassmin as a member of the Council for Australia-Arab Relations advisory board. Bishop praised her work, saying she had made a significant and positive contribution to CAAR and its objectives, and has communicated a positive image of Australia as an inclusive, tolerant and multicultural nation where civic participation of Arab-Australians, and particularly women, is valued.
I cannot accept that Yassmin’s post was offensive. What Yassmin did was draw attention to victims of war and our shameful treatment of refugees. She had no intention of disrespecting our Diggers.
Let’s continue to celebrate our Western values of tolerance and value our right to freedom of speech.