The Federal Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, made some strong claims about Lebanese-Australians this week.
He told parliament that "out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background," and went on to refer to former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s decision to accept and settle refugees from Lebanon in the 1970s as a “mistake”.
SBS has spoken to everyday Lebanese-Australians making a difference in our communities to hear how they feel about Minister Dutton’s comments. Here's what they had to say:
"Hurtful and not helpful"
Dr Jamal Rifi, General Practitioner and Community Leader
Dr Jamal Rifi has been a vocal leader within the Lebanese Muslim community in Sydney. He is an advocate for anti-radicalisation and anti-Islamophobia and was a finalist for The Australian of The Year Award in 2009.
Dr Rifi says he finds Minister Dutton's comments "hurtful and not helpful".
"He has used facts, yes, but the interpretation of those facts were misleading. He has tarnished the whole community for the actions of a few."
"Twenty-two out of thirty-three, these people are charged but not convicted. In [Dutton's] own words, they are second or third-generation which means they are Australian born. Some of them are minors and others have social and mental issues."
Dr Rifi also believes, young Lebanese-Australian Muslims are being "preyed upon" by society and has "no doubt we need to study them case by case to understand each one of them."
"We can't generalise this. And we should always be careful in the way we use language in a public debate and especially in the age of Trumpisms and Hansonisms," he says.
"Thank you for making my children and I feel like criminals"
Lina Jebeile, food blogger at The Lebanese Plate
“As a second-generation child of Lebanese migrants, I found Dutton's comments in Parliament not only disappointing but infuriating. What also topped it off is the silence that came from our Prime Minister when questioned about it,” Lina tells SBS.
The practicing Muslim and mum-of-four, also felt the Australian government was "adding to the country's divisiveness" by not admonishing Minister Dutton for his words.
"The only thing I have left to say is 'Thank you, Mr Dutton and Mr Turnbull for making my children and I feel more like criminals than legitimate, law-abiding Australian citizens. Thank you for legitimising the abuse we will now receive from randoms in the street. Thank you for making us feel less safe. And thank you for making us feel like we will never belong in our home and country of birth."
“Taking me back to the school days of being bullied that feeling of being unwanted”
Mohamad Hannaway, small business owner at Frameshop, South-West Sydney
“After what was a good, productive day at work it definitely took the wind out of my sails that day, taking me back to the school days of being bullied, that feeling of being unwanted,” Mohamad Hannaway tells SBS of the moment he heard Minister Dutton's address.
“I think internally people can be quite affected [by statements like that]," he adds, "It gets talked about in family gatherings here and there but I guess people just try to stick together and move on."
Fortunately, Hannaway's direct experience with racially fuelled bullying ended in the schoolyard, and he feels as though his cultural background and religion is being embraced more and more by wider Australia.
"I've had people ask questions seeking knowledge which is always great," he says.
“They weren’t radicalised in Lebanon. They were radicalised here”
Dr Anne Aly, Member of Parliament for Cowan, Deradicalisation expert
Dr Anne Aly has been the subject of death threats following Minister Dutton’s comments. Although she is of Egyptian rather than Lebanese descent, she has a strong connection to Australia's multicultural Muslim community.
Like Dr Rifi, Dr Aly believes Minister Dutton’s comments vilify an entire community of Lebanese Muslim Australians for the actions of just a few.
“When comments are obviously dog whistling, when comments are obviously part of the political rhetoric of division and fear, the first question I always ask is ‘What impact is this going to have?’” she tells SBS.
She also pointed out that many of the alleged criminals are from second and third generation Lebanese families, making them “Australians” in every sense.
She says, “We need to take a look at why this is happening. Yes there were 22 out of 33 charged, but you’ve got to remember they weren’t radicalised in Lebanon. They were radicalised here.”
“We should be focusing on solutions to these problems and seeing what’s influencing these young people to join in violence.”
"[He] should call the help line!"
Frida Deguise, comedian
Regularly performing in bars and comedy clubs across the country, comedian, mother-of-four and Lebanese-Australian Frida Deguise, breaks down stereotypes around Muslim women.
And while she doesn't feel she is the best person to comment on political issues, Frida tells SBS she does "worry about the sh*t that comes out of their mouth”.
In her opinion politicians like Minister Dutton are, “just f*cking depressed and they should call the help line!”