Comment: 'Mussie' is a term of endearment? Hardly.

Eddie McGuire at the Million Dollar Lunch annual fundraiser for the Children's Cancer Foundation in Melbourne, Friday, Aug. 6, 2015. Source: AAP

Don't lock it in, Eddie.

Oh, Eddie McGuire: powerful AFL figure, Australia’s highest paid broadcaster, and someone who seems to have a perpetual foot-in-mouth problem.

If he’s not comparing Adam Goodes to King Kong, he’s dismissing Sydney’s Western Suburbs as the “land of falafel”.

And now he’s landed himself in trouble for referring to Victorian Sports Minister, John Eren, as a “Mussie” – short for Muslim - and he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it. 

Why?

“Because ‘Mussies’ [is] the way that my Muslim friends refer to themselves,” McGuire explains.

Well, here’s the thing. I’m Muslim, all of my family are Muslim, we grew up here in Australia and I’ve never come across anyone using the term “Mussie”. Never. I’m not the only one.

So what I would really like is for McGuire’s so-called “Muslim friends” to come out of the woodworks and actually confirm they use such a term to refer to themselves.

Because I’m betting they don’t. 

In fact, McGuire’s excuse that his “Muslim friends” are okay with it harks too closely to comments that start with “I’m not a racist because some of my best friends are black/brown/Muslim (take your minority pick).” 

To prove that not all Muslims share the same view, the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) has come out backing McGuire’s use of the term “Mussie”.

In fact, Kuranda Seyit, the secretary of the ICV said: “the term 'Aussie Mussie' was "a fun way" of breaking down misconceptions about Muslims and making them more acceptable to mainstream Australia.” 

It seems odd that the ICV felt the need to defend Eddie McGuire’s comments, but hey, we are a vast community with differing views and perhaps the ICV are fans of McGuire’s. 

Some Muslim users on Twitter, including MP Mehreen Faruqi voiced their unhappiness with McGuire’s comments and some like me were also confused by the ICV’s involvement.

Overall, the main reason people like myself are concerned is because Eddie McGuire is a big media personality in Australia. He has a huge following and commands a lot of interest.

As a result, he needs to be careful with his choice of words. John Eren himself said, “This is a timely reminder that leaders in the community need to be careful about how they express themselves.” 

McGuire should be aware of the power of words – the AFL is currently embroiled in a racism row that is impacting the game like never before. All because of words that some fans directed at Goodes, which some claim were used “in fun” and were “part of the sport”. 

It doesn’t need to be said that words have a big impact. If the members of a community you are referring to have a problem with a term you are using, even if you believe it is inoffensive, perhaps you need to listen to what they are saying and be big enough to admit that you made an error of judgement. It’s okay to admit that you were wrong.

When you think about it, “Mussie” uses the same number of letters as Muslim – it’s not really an abbreviation at all, as for example Aussie is to Australian.

The big difference between Muslim and Mussie is that one is a respected, acceptable term, and the other most would agree is not.

The one you decide to use reflects highly on the type of person you are.

Saman Shad is a storyteller and playwright.

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