MP’s plan for senator to learn compassion

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Nepean MP Chris Brayne has suggested Senator Fraser Anning be sent to Indonesia “where, hopefully he might learn some compassion, empathy and, just maybe, come back less ignorant”.

Mr Brayne was speaking in state parliament last week after the New Zealand terrorist attacks in which 50 Muslims praying at two Christchurch mosques were shot dead and dozens wounded, Friday 15 March.

Senator Anning, a former One Nation and Katter Australia Party MP, later linked the shootings to immigration and called for a ban on Muslim immigration. He was controversially “egged” by a 17-year-old student when making his comments and a petition calling for his removal from parliament attracted 1.3 million signatures.

Mr Brayne said his first experience with people of Islamic faith was when he went to Indonesia in high school as an exchange student. 

“Prior to leaving, my friends were concerned about my safety,” he said. “So much terrorism in Indonesia, they told me. A lot of Muslims, they warned. And I was going to be living with a Muslim family in the world’s largest Muslim majority democracy. 

“Even the Smart Traveller website had warned travellers to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. I started to worry about going there.”

When he arrived it turned out the fears were ill-informed. “The moment I met my Indonesian host family I could not have been put more at ease,” he said. 

“[They] were beautiful people. My host brother Wawan was full of energy and probably one of the most unintentionally hilarious people I have met. His younger brother, Riski, was an absolute pain in the neck, and Shafa, their three-year old sister, had the most gorgeous smile. 

“This was a normal, caring family, and they cared about me and they cared about my country. [They] only wanted to provide for me while I was there. No ask was too much, no dinner request too outlandish, no question too offensive. They wanted me to leave happy about my time in Indonesia, educated about their faith and hopeful that I would return.”

Mr Brayne said the false concept of “other” – with people of Islamic faith representing the “other” – was false. 

“As parliamentarians we owe the public a constant vigilance against misinformation about our communities,” he said. “When we breed misinformation, resentment and doubt it results in real consequences.

“But when we immerse ourselves in difference, the product is an aware, less ignorant and, ultimately, more peaceful country. 

“This is why Australia should send Senator Fraser Anning to Indonesia where, hopefully, he might learn some compassion, some empathy and maybe, just maybe, come back less ignorant. 

“Indeed, all of us should make regular efforts to get out into our different communities to refresh ourselves about how great humanity is, no matter the faith or background. 

“I pay my respects to those who have been selfishly taken in this horrific way.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 25 March 2019

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