Although the host is generally in a position of institutional authority and power, Jenny exhibits several signs of femininity. She has to explain why she was aggressive to Uthman when challenged by Sheikh Omran, for instance. She hedges frequently, using the word OK to bid for compliance from the studio guests. When that does not work, she resorts to repetition and requests for silence, turn taking and so on. On one occasion she loses control of the many conversations stirred up by the Sibel/Ruby confrontation and has to step back and laugh at both herself and the situation she had let happen (line 104). This momentarily caught the attention of her guests and she was able to call upon her last studio speaker, which quelled the unrest.

Among her guests, it is Khadija who uses the classical feminine double voice discourse,[ix] requesting politely rather than demanding. She is consequently less successful in getting her way than her rival, Ruby, who assertively demands “let me finish!” Ruby’s feminist background may have helped her behave assertively, or her consciously western orientation. Sibel was also recognisably assertive, and maybe this, too, was due to her educated western upbringing and her self-awareness.

Of the men, Sheikh Omran most clearly shows direct single voice discourse both in challenging and answering questions. Uthman sets himself up as judge to the topic question posed by deliberating on it (lines 23-26) and saying the word ‘central’ is inadequate.[x] He also asserts his own tangential answer rather than compliantly answering the question he judged was inadequate.

Obviously, gender does account for some of the struggle over content in the debate, yet more apparent was difference in culture, whether this was due to race or religion. If we take two of the people mentioned above, it is difficult to imagine race or religion as being the cause of underpinning conflict. Jenny actively supported Ruby in her interactions even though she was an Arab, and Sibel, racially and culturally similar in background to her, was given the floor several times, often together with Senator Bernadi, where she articulated her position comprehensively, even though she was Muslim.  Yet there were many signs of ostracism when Jenny interacted with Muslims. Uthman’s attempt at condescension was rejected and cast back on him, and Sheikh Omran was lumped with him even as Jenny reformulated the topic question for him. Khadija was left to the proxy wolf, so  to speak, and Sibel’s contribution in banishing the wolf was excised completely from the official SBS transcript.[xi] In fact, the SBS transcript shows many signs of tampering, and leaves out entirely Arabic words, such as “mashAllah”, “deen”, “masjids”, “fihqi”,  “sharia”, and “Sunni”. It leaves in place only the subject matter (“burqa”, “niqab” and “hijab”) and the word “halal.”

Coupled with the insistence on answering the question “straight”, rather than in a qualified way, and the general disregard for differences in schools of Muslim thought displayed by the host, one has to come to the conclusion that mutual hostility existed, mutual misunderstanding[xii]existed and the struggle for cultural hegemony was manifestly being played out, and won by the incumbent.

Read on: End Notes


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