Tolerance the winner

The Australian followers of Islam have emerged from the recent world-wide furore over the film Innocence of Muslims with a good deal of dignity.
While most of the world was caught up in senseless violence over a short YouTube film which mocked the Muslim prophet, the overwhelming majority of Australians of that faith did not take the bait.
There was protesting (fair enough) and some violence in Sydney last week but the potential powder keg that existed was thankfully not ignited.
Attempts were made by some radical elements on both sides of the argument to incite violence, but the long and loud voice of reason from Islamic leaders seemed to dampen the wider desire for protests.
Their constant stressing that violence towards innocent Australians against the actions of a single US citizen was not the answer no doubt played a significant role in calming the dangerous situation.
The mainstream media also played an important part and did not go down the well worn path of appealing to the lowest common denominator.
Instead it chose to act for the greater good and sacrifice the benefits that a clash of cultures in a riot would no doubt bring.
And the police made it clear they were carefully watching the social media networks for anyone who had violence on their minds.
Perhaps the greatest praise should go to the community who refused to get caught up in the hype.
Both the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who, however offended by the film they might have been, chose to let peace have a chance and also those anti-Muslim Australians who also stayed away.
The potential for another Cronulla-type incident or even worse was averted to everyone’s credit.
But the question remains: Have we, as a nation, simply dodged a bullet with this incident or have we taken a real step towards a more understanding and tolerant society?
Of course it is too early to judge but the signs are there and now is the perfect opportunity for the nation’s leaders to build a more solid foundation on which to build a better bridge between all Australians.
Now is the time to show the real benefits of tolerance. Now is the time for everyone to acknowledge the value of free speech, even if we don’t agree with it.
And precisely what makes living in Australia the envy of much of the world is that we live in a tolerant and free society.
Sometimes we need reminding of just how lucky we are and to understand that where we stand today is a result of previous generations overcoming similar problems in the past.