But how do I know that your words are the same as mine? I don’t of course and it is unlikely that given time to come to our own conclusions, thinking back on our own experiences and ideas and prejudices that we would think the same thing about a photograph. But what if that photo was printed on the front page of a newspaper along with commentary telling you what the reporter/editor/sub editor thought the photo was about. How would that change your thoughts about the photo? What if you hadn’t seen the photo before, if you aren’t a big user of Twitter as a lot of people aren’t. How many people would accept that definition without thinking about it?
I’m talking about the photo of a small child at the Sydney protest yesterday. He is a child of ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’ or a child with tan skin, brown eyes and brown hair. If he wasn’t standing near a woman in a headscarf you’d probably be pushed to assign a definite ethnic or religious identity to him. He is holding a sign saying “Behead all those who insult the Prophet”. The current meaning being given to this photo is that Muslim children are being taught to hate young.
Is this necessarily true? I won’t link to the photo, a google search for the Sunday Telegraph will find it for you. The things I am wondering about the photo are: is this child able to read the sign he is holding? Does he really believe this or is he holding up the sign so someone can take a photo of him? Did he want to hold up the sign and have his photo taken because other people around him were having their photos taken or holding up signs? I assumed the young woman in the headscarf near him and the child in the stroller next to him is their mother. But I don’t know this for a fact. She may be a sister, friend, family member, carer or completely unrelated. She might just have seen the little boy standing there and asked him to hold the sign while she took his photo. Did his family bring the sign with them or did he find it discarded by someone else? Just like my tweeps every so often say “A RT is not an endorsement” how do we know that a small child holding a sign is an endorsement of what is written on it? How can we look at one child and assume that he is representative of all children whose parents are Muslim?
I also wonder if he consented to having his image used, sold and commented upon by thousands of people. Did his parents? What far reaching effects will this photo have not only on this child but other children who might look like him? How are people whipping up hate around what they think this photo represents any better than the handful of protesters who got violent yesterday?
Make no mistake, the majority of people at the protest yesterday were peaceful. Others who were around but not involved said up to 1/3 were women and children who left quickly when the small group of troublemakers started causing trouble. A member of the protest who got up to chide the troublemakers for causing trouble in the name of Islam was attacked. The troublemakers were there to make trouble. They do not represent the Islamic community, just as the troublemakers at Cronulla aren’t representative of people who go to Cronulla.