Sonia Kruger, who has a history of racism, won the Golden Logie over the weekend. I wish I was surprised, but as a Muslim, I lost faith in the Australian media years ago.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?
In 2008, during an episode of Dancing With The Stars, Sonia Kruger joked about her Melbourne Cup outfit being made by a “sweat shop of illegal immigrants”, and then said to Malaysian-born musical director Chong Lim: “How’s the family, Chong? All right?”. Channel 7 had to issue an apology for her flagrantly racist comments.
In 2016, during an appearance on Nine’s Today, she openly called for a ban on the immigration of Muslims into Australia, who she said made her feel unsafe.
“Personally, I would like to see it (Muslim migration) stop now for Australia,” she said.
“For the safety of our citizens here, I think it’s important.”
She refused to apologise for her comment, insisted she wasn’t racist, but was found to have vilified Muslims by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Her career, clearly, remained unscathed.
And in 2023, she won a gold Logie.
I remember Sonia Kruger’s comments on Today. July, 2016 — I was in year 12 and close to graduating. I had already been accepted into a journalism degree. And I remember the frustration at hearing how “unsafe” Sonia Kruger said she felt, when it was me that was being yelled at and heckled on the streets by Islamophobes while I walked home from school.
As someone who grew up post 9/11 in Australia, feeling safe was a luxury I was never afforded. I distinctly remember the first time a stranger was racist to me: a white man in a Ute who yelled at me when I was walking across Flemington Markets’ car park. I was around eight years old.
Throughout the years, incidents like these only grew more common. I remember being at Bundeena beach, in Sydney’s south, as a tween and watching locals hurl derogatory and hateful comments at my aunty who wore a hijab. I remember the fear I would feel any time we stopped at rural gas stations when my family would go on road trips, vastly aware of how alien — and dangerous — the people here thought I was.
In 2012, my friend offered to sell me her spare ticket to a One Direction concert. I was so excited as a 14-year-old to go to my first concert — only for her to rescind the offer the following day because her dad said she couldn’t go with a Muslim.
In 2014, a friend’s mum offered to drive me home from school with her kids as part of the #IllRideWithYou trend following the Sydney siege, because she was concerned about rising Islamophobia and was worried someone would attack me.
The year after Sonia Kruger’s inflammatory anti-Muslim comments, Muslim media personality Yassmin Abdel-Magied called for more compassion for refugees, asylum seekers, and those suffering in Syria and Palestine in a tweet about Anzac Day.
Somehow, this was considered far more offensive and divisive than any of the racist things said daily in Australian media. And even more frustratingly, unlike Sonia Kruger, Yassmin apologised profusely — yet still didn’t get to keep her media job and industry connections after she was attacked, either.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied was vilified, attacked, and trolled beyond belief. People sent her videos of beheadings and rapes and threatened to commit these very crimes against her. A pig’s head was dumped at her former school. Media personalities said live on air that they’d like to run her over with their cars. She ended up having to flee the country.
The same year Yassmin was attacked, I began studying journalism at university. I remember the deep anger I felt on her behalf, but also the deep sadness, and the fear of what this meant for me, too. This was the industry I was about to enter. I was watching my career crumble before it even began. I made it through my degree telling myself that things would be different, maybe even better.
And then, In 2019, I was denied entry into a restaurant/bar in Sydney after the bouncer told me to take my hijab off, and the virality of the story really showed me just how awful people can be.
I received my own relentless trolling: people telling me I deserved it, that I didn’t belong in Australia, that I should take that tea towel off my head. I received rape threats, death threats. I received messages from strangers telling me that if they saw me outside, they would jump me, assault me, rip my hijab off. My phone was lighting up every minute for days, and I had to deactivate my social media to escape. I genuinely feared for my life, and my only crime was being a hijab-wearing Muslim woman in Australia.
Fast forward a few years and now, I work in Australian media — which only means trolling is just a common part of my life. Getting derogatory and racist emails/DMs has become a normal part of my career.
While I receive plenty of support from other ethnic folk who feel seen by my work, I also continue to be shat on by the white-majority of the Australian media. Just last year, 2GB’s Ben Fordham recorded an entire (quite nasty) segment about me because I wrote about the racism Muslims were experiencing at the now gentrified Ramadan markets.
Australian media may have come a long way in recent years — some would wave the diverse nominees of this year’s Logies awards as proof, and my own appearances on radio might suggest so — but we’re also living during a time were Stan Grant stepped away from media because of the relentless racist trolling he had to endure, and Sonia Kruger won a Golden Logie after airing views that perpetuate that very stem of racism.
On one hand, marginalised folk are being accused of divisiveness for standing up for ourselves and calling out racism. On the other hand, white media personalities are forgiven and then celebrated after literally vilifying Muslims.
Yes, I know, the public votes for the gold Logie — but Sonia Kruger is only eligible in the first place because she continued to be allowed on our screens after her comments.
Racism is alive and well in Australian media, and if we keep celebrating people like Sonia Kruger despite her horrific comments, it’s not actually going to change.
Image: Getty Images via Don Arnold/WireImage