Monday, December 12, 2005

I Predict A Riot 2: Cronulla

Elsewhere, up to 5,000 white Australians were involved in a riot on Sydney's Cronulla beach at the weekend to 'reclaim' the territory from Lebanese youths after two lifeguards were reportedly attacked by men of Middle Eastern origin. Retaliatory attacks have taken place since, incited by text message.

The police minister of New South Wales, Carl Scully, has blamed the violence on provocation by white supremacists who 'are best placed in Berlin 1930s, not in Cronulla 2005', and the prime minister John Howard has been quick to point out that the incident in no way showed that Australia is racist.

This might not bode too well for next year's World Cup, where Croatia has been drawn in the same group as Australia, one of the most important countries in the Croatian diaspora. Melbourne's daily The Age has been quick to run an op-ed that it couldn't happen here.

One aspect few of the reports so far have highlighed is that North Cronulla beach is also the site of a memorial to seven local women who were killed in the 2002 Bali bombing. The Age is an exception, and offers the most useful commentary so far on the community itself, which, being a semi-anthropologist, is precisely what I'm looking for to illuminate all this. Turns out the context involves a history of conflict between 'surf gangs' and immigrants, and a 'pack mentality' described by Kuranda Seyit of the Forum of Australian Islamic Federation as 'Kath and Kim territory'.

Whatever that pacifically entails.

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