The ‘Young Muslim Man’ in Australian Public Discourse
Through an analysis of two highly mediatised recent events in Australia this article seeks to interrogate the intersections of gender, ethnicity and culture in the construction of Australian national identity. A series of gang rapes in the early 2000s attracted widespread public outrage and the harshest ever condemnation of acts of sexual violence in Australian history. Linked to these events, in December 2005 a series of riots at the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla led to further questioning of ethnic relations and the state of Australian multiculturalism within media and political discourses. While many of the responses to the gang rapes and the Cronulla riots have drawn on the language of ‘women’s rights’, a closer look at the discourses suggests a different story. Responses to the gang rapes have often characterised the attacks as being against the Australian community, rather than against individual women. It is also interesting to contrast the outrage surrounding the gang rapes with the general silence regarding the increased racist violence committed against Muslim women in recent times. Furthermore, the linking of the gang rapes with a particular religious/ethnic community can be contrasted with the discourses on the alleged gang rapes involving Australian sporting teams, such as the Bulldogs and more recently the Wests Tigers. Finally the manner in which the events of Cronulla have been recast and linked back to the ‘threat’ posed by young Muslim/Lebanese/Middle Eastern men to Australian women suggests that ethnicity and gender both play an important and mutually reinforcing role in the construction of Australian national identity.