'Sonia Kruger is not evil': Waleed Aly defends Today Extra host, calls on Australians to stop 'cycle of outrage'
Waleed Aly has spoken out in defence of Sonia Kruger saying she isn't "evil" and admitting he shares something in common with the Today Extra host - fear for Australia's future.
In a moving plea, Aly calls for Australians to empathise with one another during what he calls these "dark times".
"Sonia Kruger is not evil - she's scared," The Project host said in an editorial on Tuesday evening, in which he called for an end to the "cycle of outrage".
"Yesterday she [Kruger] admitted to not feeling safe. And how do you think she feels now? How do you expect her to react? It's this cycle of legitimate fear that's met with hostility or derision that's led to more than 500,000 Australians voting for Pauline Hanson two weeks ago.
"Where we're presented with something that we perceive to be an outrageous opinion we can consider what motivated that person and try to understand their fear. Because the truth is that what motivates them is fear, and fear is the one thing we're all sharing right now because I'm scared too. I'm afraid for this country."
Kruger sparked an intense media storm on Monday after suggesting that Australia's borders should be closed to Muslims due to the recent string of global terror attacks.
The issue polarised Australians, with Kruger both roundly applauded as a voice for the "silent majority" and vigorously attacked for her "racist" stance.
But Aly said he would stand in neither camp, saying the continual controversies over the latest outrageous statement by a public figure were only pushing Australians further apart.
"I can't escape the thought that how we deal with our fear is becoming the defining measure that determines us as a people. Awful news leads to fear which leads to an outrageous statement, which leads to a pile-on, which leads to a hardening of positions," he said.
"I kinda feel like we're on a Gravitron and spinning around and around and no one is interested in getting off. We're all in this cycle and as the year wears on we're spinning faster and faster and we're all pushed to the edges and it is harder and harder for us, like it takes superhuman strength, to meet in the middle. Eventually, someone is sick and this is what that looks like."
In drawing attention to his own fears about the nation's future, Aly highlighted a letter that was printed in The Australian newspaper this week, in which a Malcolm Martin from The Entrance in NSW appeared to suggest that Muslims be locked up.
"Eventually, the secular world is going to have to decide if it's going to accept these outrages [terrorist attacks] as the new normal, or if it's actually going to do something other than lay flowers and mouth pointless platitudes," the letter to the editor said.
"The solution is radical. We will have to consider internment. Outrageous? See if you can come up with an alternative."
Aly said it was attitudes like this that made him afraid for his friends and family and "scared about where I belong".
"This is presumably an Australian man talking about locking up Muslims. People like me. Without trial or even allegation, in camps. And this comment was published in a national Australian newspaper," he said.
"You know, I get it. I get that this stuff is concerning and it's dangerous and the stakes are high and I'm right in the middle of those stakes. And we're afraid. Sonia, Pauline, Malcolm and me. We're all afraid.
"But it's how you deal with that fear. You don't have to be calling for the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be acting destructively. You might just be angrily tweeting at someone who said something outrageous. But what I'm suggesting is, while it feels good to choose destruction, right now I think we need to try construction."
Aly said people should not be silent in the face of bigotry, but when engaging with someone you disagreed with, "show generosity in the face of their hostility".
"And this is the much harder choice because it demands much more restraint and patience, and so much more strength," he said.
"I've lost count of the number of times I've seen outrage go viral. Wouldn't it be amazing if just once we could send forgiveness viral? These are dark times. But the best thing to do is reach for a flashlight and not start a fire."
Watch Aly's full address here:
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- Sydney Morning Herald