Fighting racism in Sydney's south-west

Issue 

BY AARON BENEDEK & ANDREW MARTIN

SYDNEY — Around 50 people met in the south-western suburb of Yagoona on June 13 to discuss how to combat racism and police harassment in the local community.

The evening, organised by Bankstown Books Not Bombs, began with an inspiring documentary, All Power to the People!, which charts the rise of the Black Panther Party, an organisation of black Americans formed in the mid-1960s that successfully stood up to police brutality and racism.

The meeting then heard from Ghiwa Hannouf, from the United Muslims Australia, who gave a moving account of how racism and "Islamophobia" has affected her personally, as well as the Islamic community as a whole.

Participants also heard from Farouk Kassar, chairperson of the Muslim Council of NSW; Keysar Trad from the Lebanese Muslim Association; Rihab Charida from Sawiyan-Coalition for Palestine; and Kuranda Seyit, editor of Australian Muslim News.

Speakers touched on a range of ways racism is felt in the community, including media depictions of Arabs, physical attacks faced by Muslim women, and police harassment of young people of colour.

Seyit, an ex-police officer, explained how police rely on public ignorance of the law to intimidate us, and offered to assist with local "know your rights" workshops.

Other proposals included a "know your rights" pamphlet, monitoring and recording police harassment in the community and developing a strategy to combat racist media reporting.

"Like the Black Panthers... we need to empower ourselves and have the confidence to speak out against police harassment... and the targeting of certain ethnic groups", commented Bankstown Books Not Bombs high school activist Robba Rai after the meeting.

From Green Left Weekly, June 18, 2003.

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