Abu Dhabi and Sydney – a tale of two cities

The Muslim community in Australia has the perfect right to express any concerns it has with its alleged treatment.

A view of the Sydney Opera House (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A view of the Sydney Opera House
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
An Australian woman – Jodi Magi – has been arrested and jailed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates after being found guilty of “writing bad words on social media about a person” – reportedly a cybercrime in the UAE.
Her crime? Taking a photo in February of a car in her apartment block that was parked across two disabled parking spaces without any disability stickers, blacking out the number plate, putting the photo on Facebook without any other identifiable detail and drawing attention to the seemingly selfish act.
Someone in the apartment block apparently complained to police and the case went to an Abu Dhabi court in June.
Magi – who has lived in Abu Dhabi with her husband since 2012 – said she was forced to sign multiple documents in Arabic without any translation.
Two weeks after her conviction she was told she would be deported.
Last week Magi tried to voluntarily deport herself and pay the approximately $3,600 fine – but Abu Dhabi authorities would not allow her to leave without presenting herself to the court.
When she did she was jailed – spending 53 hours in custody, shackled at the ankles, strip-searched, blood tested and sleeping on a concrete floor without a mattress or pillow – before being deported.
Meanwhile in Sydney an online petition signed by hundreds of members of the Muslim community has successfully resulted in the cancellation of an Id al-Fitr dinner organized by the Australian Federal Police to mark the end of Ramadan – but apparently not a similar dinner organized in Melbourne.
This petition – urging invited Muslim community leaders, imams, representatives and prominent personalities to boycott the Id dinners – made the following charges (among others):
1. The Australian government has over the past 12 months executed a concerted and prolonged campaign of anti-Muslim hysteria, pulling out all stops to demonize, marginalize and victimize the Muslim community. Under the pretext of international developments and a supposed impending domestic threat, many tranches of counter-terrorism legislation have been passed that ostensibly target Muslims specifically.
2. Federal and state government bodies such as police forces (including the Australian Federal Police) and intelligence agencies (such as ASIO) have been a key strategic component in the Australian government’s deliberate targeting of the Muslim community, used to execute phoney raids that have often amounted to nothing.
3. An Islamopbobic atmosphere is directly resulting from the actions of police and government agencies.
Regrettably the petition failed to note that the “many tranches of counter-terrorism legislation” were adopted with the support of the Opposition and after extensive consideration of amendments proposed by the bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Making this petition an attempted political “cause celebre” against the Australian government will elicit no sympathy from the alternative government.
The Muslim community in Australia has the perfect right to express any concerns it has with its alleged treatment. However, it needs to document and substantiate the generalized allegations made in the petition if they are to have any credibility whatsoever.
That such a petition can appear online and its authors and signatories not be subjected to the kind of treatment visited on Magi in Abu Dhabi is something they should seriously reflect on. So too should those Muslim community representatives who spurned the Australian Federal Police invitation – rather than attending the function and repudiating the statements expressed in the petition as representing the views of the Muslim community.
They should all dwell on Dicken’s words in his Tale of Two Cities: “Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; – the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!”