Suzy Hanna: The elephant in the room – Indigenous Middle Easterners & North Africans.

Suzy Hanna

Suzy Hanna is a regular contributor. Suzy’s background, education and personal interest in Human Rights and Politics have seen her on the front lines of elevating her passions. Suzy has fronted an array of media outlets including SBS Broadcasting and Sky and presented papers at University.  

As an Indigenous Egyptian, I find Arabs demanding rights for the Australian Indigenous utterly fascinating. Particularly fascinating is when these same people never demand these rights for the Indigenous Middle Easterners in their native homelands.

I put up a (public) status on my personal Facebook page which started a much heated debate, particularly timely as Australia celebrates NAIDOC week.
The status questioned why high profile Arabs in Australia complain about lack of Indigenous Australians’ rights and criticize British imperialism, yet they never once call for rights of Indigenous Middle Easterners in their homelands or use the term Arab Colonisation.

Although I never once mentioned Islam in my status, I got called a bigot, racist and Islamophobe (amongst other insults). I tried to have a dialogue with the gentleman who called me those things and during this dialogue I decided to
write this article and bring up a few points.

The Western desire to allow a revisionist understanding of the world and the development of Post Colonialism and Postcolonial studies, seems to have become hijacked by Progressives with a hidden agenda.
Post Colonialism is not and should not be exclusive to critiquing British Imperialism. Other Empires also colonized territories and as such, there are Indigenous people all around the world, even those who were not subjugated by
“whites”. In particular, I am referring to the Arab colonization of the Middle East and North Africa. This gentleman whom I argued with, tried to define colonialism and racism as always being related to “whiteness”. As such, my questioning
of Arab occupation of the Middle East and calling for Indigenous Middle Eastern rights as being racist and incorrect because it is not related to whiteness and made me the racist.

Whiteness may be one aspect of Post Colonialism, but how can Postcolonialist Studies be simply about whiteness when imperialism was practiced by many empires around the world? Did the Ottoman Empire never exist, or is their colonialism any less harmful than the British/French/Spanish insert which ever Empire here? Why should the Indigenous Middle Easterners be denied rights in comparison to other Indigenous, simply based on the fact that they were colonized by Arabs?

Is this not the epitome of racism?

If racism can only exist in relation to whiteness, then was the attempted genocide of Tutsis by the Hutus or the Armenian genocide not constitute the ugliest forms of racism because the victims/perpetrators were not white?

Even the idea that racism is related to whiteness- which is not an accepted definition by any standard- is based on the notion of institutionalized racism and inequalities at the institutionalized level, which in the Western world may
be related to whiteness, but this definition is irrelevant when speaking about the Middle East or Africa.

Perhaps in their rush to condemn the imperialism of the British empire, Western society has forgotten Indigenous Middle Easterners who have been colonized multiple times by empires within empires (e.g. Indigenous Egyptians being
colonized by Arabs; in turn colonized by the British etc.)

But we haven’t forgotten. And we will remind the world.

My critiquing of Arab Colonisation has as much to do with Islamophobia as critiquing British imperialism has to do with Christianophobia. Should I not be allowed to cannot call out the hypocrisy of high profile Arabs in their insistence
on using the idea of racism being an institutional one, in countries where they are the minority and the majority? Which is it? Is racism only referring to institutionalized racism or not? Let’s pick a definition and stick to it.

When I was first called Islamophobic I was mortified as my definition was a person who has a hatred towards or fear of Muslims or Islam. I didn’t realize that to some people it meant anyone who criticizes the hypocrisy of specific
people who happen to be Muslims. And I want to stress at this point that there are many Muslims who fight for Indigenous Egyptian rights such as Mohammad Abu Hamed, Fatima Naoot and my numerous Muslim friends who support me when I say these things. And this shows me that it is nothing to do with Muslims or Islam and so it will not detract from my feelings towards Muslims or Islam.

There are plenty of Egyptian and Middle Eastern Muslims who are honest about history and admit that while in Australia we publicly start everything with an Acknowledgment of Country, there are some who won’t even internally acknowledge that Arabs are colonisers like everyone else. This means that Indigenous Middle Easterners like the Copts will never receive the rights granted to other Indigenous peoples.

Middle Eastern history states that the Arabs invaded the Middle East and North Africa. Just like the British invaded Australia.

If the West or Arabs in the West who pick every opportunity to attack imperialism and ask for Indigenous rights in Australia, who say that their criticism of imperialism stems from their desire to protect Indigenous rights,
then I think it is only fair to allow such rights to all Indigenous.

Suzy Hanna is an outspoken member and writer for The Australian Coptic Movement Association.  With a Bachelor in Law/Arts, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, Bachelor in Arts (Honours) and  Bachelor in Secondary Teaching, Suzy’s education and personal interest  Suzy has fronted an array of media outlets

Follow Suzy on twitter @suzyhanna1  

 

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The Team at the Australian Coptic Movement Association is also seeking support to continue its advocacy work by opening a fully resourced office in Canberra.

The Australian Coptic Movement Association Ltd (ACM) was founded in 2010.

The ACM is a community advocacy group that fights for human rights in Egypt by exposing the persecution suffered by Copts, advocating for greater political and civil liberties, and calling for the justice and security of Copts.

By closely working with the wider Australian community, government bodies, the media, and other human rights organizations, ACM has quickly grown to become one of the most active Coptic organizations in Australia, accumulating nationwide support. This status is reflected and recorded in Hansard records and numerous national and international media reports.

The ACM has achieved many milestones, which has brought it to the forefront of the struggle for freedom. These achievements include organizing rallies, lobbying the Australian government to pass motions in the Federal and NSW Houses of Parliament, conducting letter-writing campaigns, releasing media statements, publishing material (including our own book) providing support to Coptic asylum seekers, and encouraging Copts to assimilate into the wider community. We are currently in the process of introducing younger members to our board in leadership roles and hope to open an office soon. Please help us fast-track our plans and donate to help us fully resource this initiative.
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