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Ms Hanson: How can we be One Nation if you pit Australian against Australian?

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'10 times Pauline Hanson got the facts wrong in her maiden speech'. (Story and image via http://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/09/15/10-times-pauline-hanson-got-facts-wrong-her-maiden-speech)

"Ms Hanson, we can never truly be One Nation if you continue to pit Australian against Australian," says Junaid Cheema as he challenges Hanson's anti-Islamic rhetoric and describes how it contributes to anything but "One Nation".

PAULINE HANSON has said she wants to meet some real Muslims. So this is an open letter to Ms Hanson from me, as a member of the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) executive, to invite her to meet the Muslim leadership as we represent over a third of the Muslim community in Australia.

Dear Pauline

The Aussie spirit is a beautiful thing. It inspires the best in people.

We take much pride in the fact that our national character is built on principles of hard work, a fair go and genuine freedom of speech. This Aussie spirit inspires me. In addition to my day job, I spend much time volunteering for not for profits and the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) is such a not for profit that I volunteer for. The vision of the ICV is to use Islamic values to work for the betterment of Australia.

I know you have said that you want to hear from Muslims who are not radicals. So, I would like to invite you to the Islamic Council of Victoria for an open frank discussion as we represent over a third of the Australian Muslim community.

You will find that we are not against freedom of speech. We don't want to implement a parallel law system in Australia. We fight tirelessly against all forms of extremism and see terrorism as a significant threat not only to our secular democracy but also to our faith.

You quoted a number of statistics in your maiden speech that describe the Muslim community as overrepresented in social misdemeanours and welfare. I would like to remind you that Muslims in Australia come from over 182 countries and to lump the entire Muslim community under selective statistics is not giving us a fair go.

My father came to this country during the Keating era, not from a third world country but from the richest country in the world. After completing his PH.D from the United States, he dedicated his professional life to building this country. A man with the utmost integrity premised on Islamic values, he didn't come to Australia for a more prosperous life but a fairer life. A life in which ethnic background and religious beliefs meant nothing and your contribution to this country and its people meant everything. As a man of vision, he sensed “identity politics” tearing the United States apart and saw hope down under.

It saddens me deeply that now that I have come of age with children born in this country, I see this beautiful nation being infected with the same identity politics, that is tearing the U.S. apart. Yes, it saddens me, Ms Hanson, because we can never truly be one nation if we use identity politics to pit Australian against Australian. Taking offence can be perceived as a choice but giving offence is definitely a choice.

As a political leader, I don't understand why in your maiden speech you chose to insult three generations of my family and tens and thousands of Australian Muslim families like mine who have done nothing but contribute to the betterment of this country and its people. A leader is someone who brings the best out of people and the fundamentals of leadership science tells us you can't get the best of people if you continue to knock them down. So, I don't understand why, Ms Hanson, as a political leader, you continue to knock the Australian Muslim Community down.

Being on the receiving end of ant-Islamic rhetoric, I know the Quran is often misquoted to channel any emotions of human empathy into anger, making Muslims seem less than human. Therefore, I feel compelled to touch upon this. As some one who carries a copy of the Quran, you would know the violent verses so often cited from the Quran are strictly conditional with an overt inclination towards peace. And that they are comparatively less in number than other holy books such as the New and Old Testament

God does not forbid you from respecting those who have not made war against you and have not driven you from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly. Surely, God loves the doers of Justice: 

(60:8) If they incline towards peace, then incline towards it and trust in God...

(8:61) There is no compulsion in religion... 

(Quran 2:256) and many other verses.)

We live in challenging times and it is vital we stand as one nation and an authentic "One Nation" means building bridges not destroying them. An authentic One Nation means recognising that the Aussie battler is not only of Western European descent but is also of Indigenous, Middle-Eastern, African, Eastern European and all flavours of Asian descent.

An authentic One Nation doesn't mean demonising one another. It means helping one another. A point especially important to the Muslim faithful as the Quran asks all human beings to critically ponder:

 "What is the matter with you, why do you not help each other" (Quran 37:25).

We believe in an authentic One Nation and we will support anyone that does. We are more than willing to put to action what we say and invite you for an honest conversation on Islam, extremism and the future of our nation.

We look forward to sitting down together, sharing a meal and finding common ground. Will you accept this offer to meet some real Muslims?

Best wishes,

... Junaid Cheema

Junaid Cheema is an IT executive, writer and community activist. He is also a member of the Islamic Council of Victoria executive. You can follow Junaid on Twitter at @Junaid_m_cheema.

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