The Project presenter Waleed Aly has urged Australians to end the ‘cycle of outrage’ by showing ‘radical generosity’ in the face of hostility.
Mr Aly was speaking in response to comments from television personality Sonia Kruger, who said she would like to see a ban on Muslims entering Australia. Her comments sparked a fiery social media debate, with many people accusing her of racism and bigotry.
Speaking during a segment on The Project, Mr Aly said a familiar narrative emerges in the aftermath of atrocities like the Nice attack.
“Awful news leads to fear which leads to an outrageous statement, which leads to a pile-on, a hardening of positions,” he said.
“I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve seen outrage go viral. Wouldn’t it be amazing if just once we could send forgiveness viral?”
According to Mr Aly, Ms Kruger is not ‘evil’ – she is afraid. He believes responding with “horrendous personal attacks” only serves to create further fear, hatred and division in the community.
Mr Aly said when an “outrageous opinion” is aired in the public space, be it on national television or in everyday conversations, people can respond in two ways: destruction or construction.
“We can react emotionally and carelessly and with little genuine critical thought and we can destroy a perceived enemy in the hope it will neutralise a perceived threat that’s making us feel unsafe –that’s the destructive option,” he said.
“Or we can do something that’s much more difficult than that. When we’re presented with something we perceive to be an outrageous opinion we can consider what motivated that person, try to understand their fear and then empathise with how they came to that conclusion.”
Mr Aly clarified this does not mean people should be silent in the face of bigotry. But it requires engaging in constructive dialogue with people who hold different views and opinions. This is the harder option as it involves demonstrating “restraint, patience and strength”.
The segment has generated a mixed response on social media, with some praising him for his message of unity while others believe he has oversimplified the issue.
“Love, understanding, and forgiveness are the only ways forward,” one user tweeted.
“Instead of feeding the seeds of hatred, we need meaningful sincere conversations,” another user commented.
Others said Mr Aly’s call to show understanding and empathy shifts the onus on addressing racism from the perpetrators to the victims.
“I am sick and tired of having to make excuses for the fact that privileged white women with a platform in mainstream media get away with racism because ‘they are scared’,” one tweet said.
“At what point do we start asking racists to show empathy and understanding?” another user asked.
Christians are called to stand up for the oppressed while also showing forgiveness and mercy. The challenge to ‘love our enemy’ is perhaps one of the most difficult messages in the Bible, but it is a central tenet of Jesus’ ministry.
What do you think is the most effective way to respond to bigotry?