National Ban-Them

Social media users were angered by posts claiming "Muslim children" were offended by the national anthem, not realizing the (vastly distorted) tale of outrage originated in Australia.

NEWS: In early November 2015 American social media users commented on and shared postings suggesting Muslim children had expressed that they were “offended by” the U.S. national anthem, accounts of which suspiciously lacked detail about when or where the purported offense occurred:

On Facebook, a similar number of users railed against Muslims who purportedly found American traditions “offensive”:

I couldn’t care less what American traditions, holidays, anthems, flags, symbols or anything else offends Muslims or anyone else. Don’t like it? Hit the road! If I decided to live in or visit another country, I would just deal with whatever aspects of it I disliked. They can do the same.

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When the American leaders start believing what Muslims are saying about our National Anthem being offensive to them and agree with them and decide to do away it our National Anthem like they are doing with our Holidays, then you know that America is in danger of being taken over by Muslims and will in the future run by Muslims.

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I don’t want any compatriots who haven’t pledged “allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands.” Citizenship, and even permanent residency, is a social contract. If you breach it, get out.

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Correct me if I am wrong but no one threatens to cut your head off or perform an “honor” killing if you do not sing the Star Spangled Banner and if they do not like “assimilation”, why are they here? (Rhetorical question–they are invading the country.) Maybe they should get the hell out?

Many of the outraged social media users linked to a ClashDaily post titled “MUSLIMS ARE OFFENDED AT NATIONAL ANTHEM: They Say It’s Forcing Them To …” while others shared a JewsNews post about “Muslims whine that singing the national anthem is ‘forced assimilation’ and it offends them.” The latter supplied the following out of context quote about the unarticulated brouhaha:

“It’s not enough that you obey the law, no, you have to adopt our values,” Badar complained. Uh, yeah. Because if you don’t adopt our values, eventually you will subvert the law. A nation of people without shared values will eventually collapse into dissolution and probably civil war.

ClashDaily cited notoriously unreliable anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller as a source for their item, who was equally vague in her framing of the issue:

It is for this very reason that the sharia is incompatible with the US Constitution. Muslims are instructed that the law of Allah supersedes all manmade law. For Western leaders to acquiesce to such fanatical folly can only lead to the death of the West.

Geller referenced a 1 November 2015 article published by The Australian, which described what looked to be the tail end of a controversy in that country, not the United States:

Requiring schoolchildren to sing the national anthem, and the citizenship pledge supporting democratic values, are part of an oppressive campaign by Australian authorities of “forced assimilation” of the Muslim community, a conference heard this morning. Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar told the conference the Australian government “claims to afford freedom, but seeks to impose values and beliefs” on Muslims.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Badar’s remarks from the 1 November 2015 “A Community Criminalised: Innocent Until Proven Muslim” conference in Sydney. But that piece didn’t cover why anyone was discussing the general matter of Muslim students and Australia’s national anthem:

“It is nothing more than an agenda of forced assimilation justified by exaggerated fears of a security threat. The insistence of senior government ministers that Muslim children sing the national anthem — an anthem that reflects a particular disputed view of history and celebrates particular ideological values. Why should they be forced to sing it?” he asked the crowd, gathered at The Bellevue function centre in Bankstown.

The article included additional context about the Sydney conference, which convened in part to address the Muslim community’s concerns about government surveillance and profiling. In a 2 November 2015 article published by The Age, former president of the Islamic Council of Victoria Ghaith Krayem compared the controversy to similar incidents in the United States, opining that the debate was “un-Australian” in nature. In what was perhaps an amusing twist, Krayem inadvertently predicted the controversy would be picked up by Americans banging the same anti-Islam drum:

“No one, regardless of religion or ethnic background, should be forced to sing the national anthem. That’s not what Australia id. We uphold the national anthem and we give it the respect it deserves [but] we are not America, we don’t have this patriotism-on-steroids that Americans do.”

Mr Krayem said in Australia, the national anthem and the flag did not hold the same place as in America.

“I would hate to think we would ever become so nationalistic that if someone chose not to sing the national anthem that they would be ostracised. Australian values have never been … these rabid nationalists that the Americans have always been.”

A separate article published by The Australian on 3 November 2015 provided further background on about the national anthem controversy in Australia. Per earlier news reports, educators at Cranbourne Carlisle Primary School took it upon themselves to excuse Shiite Muslim children from singing the country’s national anthem during Muharram (a month of mourning observed between 13 October and 12 November 2015).  Shia Muslim clerics later clarified that the gesture of sensitivity (extended entirely on the part of one school) was appreciated but ultimately not required:

But when it did, it started with one of the most controversial issues in education in recent weeks: the Shia Muslim students who were excused from singing the national anthem at a school assembly at Cranbourne Carlisle Primary School if they were observing a month of mourning in which the Shia don’t join in joyful celebrations. Since that school assembly a number of Shia clerics had publicly said they understood what the school was trying to do, but it was in fact unnecessary.

On 28 October 2015 Britain’s Telegraph reported on the initial controversy, an article that brought the entire debate into sharper focus. That early iteration underscored that the primary “offended” parties were Australians objecting to the school’s gesture (not Muslims who opposed the national anthem), and included comment from principal Cheryl Irving on the school’s spontaneous decision to excuse students:

Scott Morrison, a senior Australian government minister, has criticised a school which allowed Muslim students to leave an assembly for the singing of the national anthem during a religious period of mourning.

The head of Cranbourne Carlisle primary school allowed about 30 to 40 Shia Muslim students aged eight to ten to leave the assembly, saying it was the Muharram period for the children, a sacred month when Shia Muslims observe a period of mourning, and they should not be required to take part in “joyous” events.

[Irving said:] “When they came to the assembly, they were caught in a dilemma. They knew that they should not be taking part in music. They also knew that the national anthem had music, so they were caught in a dilemma and didn’t know what to do. Some stood to leave, so the teacher intervened and gave them the opportunity to move out quietly, so they weren’t confused and they weren’t upset.”

The decision angered parents, while Muslim schools said it was standard for all Muslim students to sing “Advance Australia Fair,” the national anthem.

Mr Morrison, the national treasurer, equivalent to Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, said he was offended by the school’s actions and believed it deserved the “muppet of the year award”.

While the event and the group hosting it were certainly controversial in Australia, it seemed the geographical specifics of the controversy were lost on scores of outraged American readers. It’s true that a speaker at a conference in Sydney stated Muslim children shouldn’t be forced to sing the Australian national anthem, but no such objections were raised with respect to students in the United States (nor was the initial debate even over whether anyone in Australia was being “forced” to sing the anthem).

Moreover, the controversy initially stemmed from the decision of one school (not Muslim children or their parents) to excuse observant students from singing the anthem for a specific religious reason, an accommodation clerics later explained was neither requested nor required. Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar’s widely referenced remarks from the 1 November 2015 conference directly addressed comments from Australian politicians who criticized the school’s decision. Badar wasn’t voicing an opinion that Muslim children shouldn’t sing the anthem; he merely responded to prominent assertions Muslim children ought not to have been excused. Finally, the initial controversy arose not because Muslim children were “offended” by the anthem, but because educators decided to excuse them from singing (anything) during the short period of the observance of Muharram.