• Here's what Lebanese-Australians making a contribution to our communities have to say (Facebook) (AAP)Source: AAP
Because of the alleged actions of 22 Lebanese-Australian youths, the Minister of Immigration has said it was "a mistake" to have allowed Lebanese refugees into the country in the 1970s. Here are what Lebanese-Australians have to say in response.
Shami Sivasubramanian, Bianca Soldani

23 Nov 2016 - 1:07 PM  UPDATED 25 Nov 2016 - 2:29 PM

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”.

Peter Dutton says it was a mistake bringing Lebanese refugees to Australia
Immigration minister Peter Dutton has come under attack from Labor after telling parliament that a majority of people charged with terrorist-related offences are second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim Australians.

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." 

Meet the Aussie mum who wants us to spread hummus, not hate
"I want to give people the opportunity to sit down and chat to me and my family over food and just realise that we're just normal, average people going about our lives like everybody else."

“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.” 

AFP investigates death threats against Labor MP Anne Aly
Labor MP Anne Aly has received a deluge of death threats after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton criticised Lebanese Muslim immigration to Australia in the 1970s.

"[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!”


More Lebanese-Australians have been sharing their thoughts on Twitter.

And SBS The Feed’s own Jeannette Francis, a Lebanese-Australian herself, also had a few words to share with Minister Dutton.

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