Students request the due respect

The New York Times  |  Article link

© St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
March 2, 2006

Students from Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre
Learning acceptance: (Students back, left to right) Kaleab yordanos 14, Ryan Zambesi 17, Rehan Masood 14, Robbie Ayoubi 16, (front, left to right) Aisha El Samouly 16 and Genevieve Libdsat 17. Picture: Jane Dyson

St George and Sutherland Shire students have criticised the nation’s leaders for further alienating Muslim youth.

Students from Menai High School and new immigrants from Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre expressed disgust about comments made by Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, who said last week that Muslims who wanted to live by traditional religious law should leave Australia.

Prime Minister John Howard stepped up the debate on Monday when he said most Australians found Muslim women in full traditional dress “confronting” .

The students met each other for the first time on Tuesday to learn about each other’s countries and dispel cultural myths and stereotypes.

Year 12 student Genevieve Lindsay, 17, said Mr Costello’s comments were irresponsible because they implied racial violence was caused by one cultural group. “There are as many Australian people doing terrible, stupid, nasty things as there are Muslim people,” she said.

Genevieve also dismissed the idea that most of her peers felt confronted by women in Muslim dress. Those who did should “grow up”, she said.

Aisha El Samouly, 16, who moved to Australia five months ago from Egypt, said she did not feel accepted here because of the way she dressed. “They always talk about Muslims like (they’re) stupid,” Aisha said.

Lebanese-Australian student Robbie Ayoubi, 16, said the comments unfairly targeted one cultural group, who already felt alienated following the Cronulla riots.

The students met at the memorial for former Menai deputy principal Ann Gacitua, who died suddenly last October from a brain tumour, aged 50. Mrs Gacitua was a promoter of multiculturalism at the school.