POLITICS

Muslim MP To Minister Dutton: 'I Am Part Of The So-Called Mistakes'

Jihad Dib says his community is asking why it has to prove its 'Australianness'.

25/11/2016 6:13 AM AEDT | Updated 25/11/2016 8:25 AM AEDT
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CANBERRA -- Forty one years ago, a tiny two-year-old Jihad Dib left Lebanon with his parents as it was being ripped apart by civil war.

His life re-start in Sydney in the mid-1970s -- which has led to a stellar career in education and politics -- was due to the generous refugee program of then Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. It is a policy which allowed in thousands of Lebanese Muslims and which is now being viewed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as a mistake.

Dutton has declared he has "spoken the truth" when he cites security advice that 22 of 33 terrorism offenders were second and third-generation Lebanese-Muslim Australians.

"I am part of the so-called mistakes," Dib, a Labor MP for NSW, told The Huffington Post Australia.

And the politician says he is being inundated by other "mistakes".

"They are so despondent. People have been contacting me. People have been calling me. People have been seeing me in the street," he said. "They are just like, 'How many more times do we have to just continuously prove our Australianness?'"

He is also getting calls to his office urging him to "go back to where he came from", but he insists he is taking those with a "grain of salt".


Janie Barrett, Fairfax
Lakemba MP Jihad Dib says his community is feeling despondent

Elected at the last poll in New South Wales, the former school principal represents Lakemba, the state seat with the highest proportion of Muslims, and is the first Muslim MP in the NSW lower house.

He told HuffPost Australia the immigration debate is too general and has gone too far with migrant families being "isolated" and "demonised".

"Nationalism that does not include everybody is quite dangerous."
Jihad Dib, Labor MP

"I was bitterly disappointed by the Minister's comments," Dib said. "But I was even more disappointed by the Prime Minister's lack of leadership in not condemning what was said. Really it seemed he was quite supportive of what was being said."

"This is the same Prime Minister who, when he came to office, said we must reach out to people. You don't reach out to people and slap them down at the same time."

Dib is from the Labor side of politics, so Liberal criticism can be expected, but this issue for him is above politics.

"The common theme is 'I am Australian. I don't feel like I have a sense of belonging here. I keep getting told that I don't belong'. It is variations of that conversation that I have been hearing from different people," he told HuffPost Australia.

"What's been really interesting is it has not just been people of Lebanese descent who have been talking to me about this. It is again a mix".

"I have had people from a long line of Anglo-Celtic heritage. I have had people from different cultural backgrounds. I have people from Indigenous backgrounds."

Minister Dutton insists he's being "factual" and is not going to step back from his critique of migrants.

"The point that I was making is that we should call out the small number within the community -- within the Lebanese community -- who are doing the wrong thing," he told Sydney radio station 2GB Thursday.

"If we do that, we can hold up the vast majority of people within the Lebanese community who work as hard as you and I do, who have contributed to society, who are captains of industry, people that have worked hard, provided their kids with an education."

But Dib said his community is reeling from a generalised statement that singles out one particular group.

"They feel like they are being demonised," he said. "(Dutton) is being factual in terms of the 22 out of the 33 who are being charged.

"[But] why does he not add the other bit? Why does he not talk about hundreds of thousands who have actually gone on to become outstanding Australia citizens or those who have made excellent contributions, the positive stories as well?

"If you want to tell the facts, tell the entire story as well. Don't just tell one part of the whole".

Dutton has belatedly raised the wealth of good in the Lebanese migrant community, saying on Thursday: "The vast majority of Lebanese Australians are law-abiding, hard-working, good decent people who are besmirched by the small element within the community who are doing the wrong thing. I made that clear."

But Dib believes it may be too late.

"Where are we as a society not making people feel like this is their homeland? This is where they belong? This is where the only commitment they need to have is placed?" he asked.

"It is very important to be nationalistic and have a love for your country, and I know so many people who are, but nationalism that does not include everybody is quite dangerous."

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