Sydney Siege – Zoe Mikulandra, Australia

At 9:45 am on the 15th of December at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney, Australia, 17 hostages were held by a self-proclaimed cleric, Man Haron Monis. Monis held these hostages for over 16 hours, and at some points, at gunpoint.


The floral tribute to the victims of the Sydney Siege in Martin Place – John Donegan

Monis had hostages holding, what appeared to be, the Shahada or The Black Standard flag, a flag commonly used by Islamic extremists, as they stood in the surrender position facing Martin Place against the glass. Later, three male hostages came running out, one at a time, followed by two women a few hours later, who were workers at the cafe.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn confirmed that negotiators have spoken with the gunman and were told that, at that stage, no hostages had been harmed. They stayed in contact with the gunman and did all that they could to keep the hostages safe. At 8:30pm, Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and NSW Premier Mike Baird stood at the front of a media conference on the unfolding siege in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Finally at 2:07am, a man came running out with his hands up before a crowd of hostages followed, fleeing from the cafe. It was followed by the sounds of a short burst of gunfire, yelling and flash grenades being heard as police moved in, attempting to rescue the hostages as Monis shot at the police. They shot back and the gunman was shot dead along with two other hostages and at least three others were seriously injured.

Police confirmed that Tori Johnson, the manager of the Lindt Cafe, and Katrina Dawson, a 38 year old mother of three, were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Four others were taken to hospital with non-life threatening wounds.

Although many say that this event was a one off, Australia has increased security, and are more alert for any suspicious activity. It was only after this event had occurred, that it hit Australians that Islamic Extremists or ISIS may be closer to home than we think.

Since the occurrence of the Sydney Siege, there have been reports of a rise in Islamophobia and an escalated fear of ISIS in Australia. It is said that Australia may be a racist country with 1 in 4 having a negative view of Muslims. This rise in Islamophobia has been fueled by large groups such as the Australian Defence League.

Islamophobic comments have become common on Twitter and Facebook, with social media users calling on Muslims to be beheaded, deported or blown up. Despite the Islamophobic comments, #illridewithyou has been a way Australians have united to support those being discriminated against.

Although the most the government has done so far is raise terror alerts, Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to increase gun laws and immigration laws. This has been popular with the public, however, the immigration laws are already too tight for those fleeing persecution, with some detention centres not allowing any asylum seekers into Australia.

Islamophobia is something that is common throughout Australia with many children being islamophobic due to influence from parents. Through campaigns like #illridewithyou, teens have been affected by the anti-islamophobia groups and have had their ideas challenged.

As a country, it may take a tragic event such as the Sydney siege to join together, support each other and lay thousands of cards and flowers to show our support of the family and friends affected. Although Islamophobia has increased, so has support for the muslim community affected by those who are open to voicing their islamophobic views.

I think that the categorization and discrimination of humans is wrong and too prominent in our society, whether it be just Australia or all over the world. Islamophobia is part of a far wider problem and I believe we should join together and support those in need, such as those being discriminated against. Now that we’re finally globalized, we need to unite and stop discrimination all over the world and we can start in our own local community.

Islamophobia is a wide problem all over the world, and the media are only reporting on the bad things that these people do. This creates a greater negative stereotype and discrimination within society towards those who follow the Islamic religion. This is not the only negatively viewed group in Australia, but in particular the media have greatly emphasized and taken advantage of this minority. Other groups such as boat people and the mentally and/or physically disabled are also discriminated against. It is only through personal experience that these prejudices are shattered, which means that we should try to experience them, to verify them and to look at them critically. Mostly people can retain stereotypes only against categories that they haven’t personally experienced before. The media take advantage of these stereotypes, of these illusions we create, and use and reinforce them. This all provides an excuse to discriminate against these people, as they are always seen in news as cruel criminals. We, not only in Australia but in all countries around the world, need to change by not conforming to media and seeking out those who are different to learn who they truly are. It’s time to stop discriminating people and grant everyone the human rights they deserve.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

-Article 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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