Bin Laden in the Suburbs: Criminalising the Arab Other

Monograph 18

Bin Laden in the Suburbs

Scott Poynting, Greg Noble, Paul Tabar and Jock Collins
(ISBN 0-9751967-0-7)

This book is currently out of print, however an electronic copy is available here.

This book examines public worrying over 'ethnic crime' and what it tells us about Australia today. How, for instance, can the blame for a series of brutal group sexual assaults in Sydney be so widely attributed to whole ethnic communities? How is it that the arrival of a foundering boatload of asylum-seekers mostly seeking refuge from despotic regimes in 'the Middle East' can be manipulated to characterise complete cohorts of applicants for refuge 'and their immigrant compatriots' as dangerous, dishonest, criminally inclined and inhuman? How did the airborne terror attacks on the USA on 11 September 2001 exacerbate existing tendencies in Australia to stereotype Arabs and Muslims as backward, inassimilable, without respect for Western laws and values, and complicit with barbarism and terrorism?

Bin Laden in the Suburbs argues that we are witnessing the emergence of the 'Arab Other' as the pre-eminent 'folk devil' of our time. This Arab Other functions in the national imaginary to prop up the project of national belonging. It has little to do with the lived experiences of Arab, Middle Eastern or Muslim Australians, and everything to do with a host of social anxieties which overlap in a series of moral panics. Bin Laden in the Suburbs analyses a decisive moment in the history of multiculturalism in Australia.

'Unlike most migrants, the Arab migrant is a subversive will ... They invade our shores, take over our neighbourhood and rape our women. They are all little bin Ladens and they are everywhere: Explicit bin Ladens and closet bin Ladens; Conscious bin Ladens and unconscious bin Ladens; bin Ladens on the beach and bin Ladens in the suburbs, as this book is aptly titled. Within this register ... even a single Arab is a threat.

Contain the Arab or exterminate the Arab? A 'tolerable' presence in the suburbs, or caged in a concentration camp? ... The politics of the Western post-colonial state is constantly and dangerously oscillating between these tendencies today. It is this dangerous oscillation that is so lucidly exposed in this book'.
Ghassan Hage, 'Foreword', Bin Laden in the Suburbs.
Institute of Criminology Series No 18 2004

Read Joseph Wakim OAM's launch speech here