‘How dare he’: Q&A blow-up
THIS is the heartbreaking moment a young Australian Muslim woman broke down in tears over Donald Trump's retweeting of a British hate group.
In an emotionally-charged night on the ABC's Q&A show, where the debate was centred on the issue of free speech, Zara Bilal questioned what could be done about the US President's constant spreading of racist ideology.
The response of the panellists - and her emotional reaction to the debate - earned the young woman praise on Twitter and left Simon Breheny with egg on his face.
The debate was kickstarted when Zara shared her personal feelings about Trump's retweeting of the hate-filled, right-wing group Britain First.
"Being a young Muslim female Australian, I have been on the receiving end of many hurtful discriminatory comments," Zara told the ABC panel. "This hate was perpetuated by US President Donald Trump who retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda.
"With a 78 per cent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the US in 2017, what do you believe is an appropriate response as individuals and as government organisations to the President's constant spreading of racist and Islamophobic messages?"
Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz was the first of the panellists to speak, offering a tentative response.
Senator Abetz said he had "a problem with the US President tweeting as he does", describing Trump's tweets as "not very presidential".
When asked by Q&A host Tony Jones if he could ever imagine a US president retweeting comments and material from an extreme right-wing group in Britain, Senator Abetz admitted that he had not actually seen Trump's offending Britain First tweet but that taken "at face value", he did not think it was "advisable".
Fellow panellist and Fairfax journalist Kate McClymont weighed in, describing the tweeting incident as "more than that ... it's shocking, it's gobsmacking".
Then it was time for Simon Breheny, director of policy at the IPA, to respond.
Ignoring the thrust of Zara's question, Breheny appeared to dismiss the young woman with this curt response: "Frankly, I think it's amazing on this country's predominant news and current affairs program, we're talking about Trump's tweets."
"Frankly, I would much rather talk about the $1.5 trillion tax package that's passed the US Senate that's being debated in the House."
Breheny ignored the interjections of host Tony Jones, who pointed out that the tweets had "destabilised the relationship of the US and Britain".
Breheny responded: "I'm saying it's extraordinary the one thing we're plucking out of the US when it comes to news and current affairs is what he's tweeting. Please, can we talk about something of substance?"
How dare Simon Breheny decide what questions Q&A audience members may or may not ask? #QandA— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) December 4, 2017
It was then that Zara's friend, who was not named, hit back at Breheny with a calm and measured response that won a huge round of applause from the audience.
"I would like to say the fact of the matter is this is: those tweets, they are continuing to have after-effects in our society which is why we're discussing them," the young woman said.
"Young girls are ... having vitriolic statements thrown at them because of tweets that are happening on a different continent. That's why a currents affairs program is having this discussion because Australian citizens are being affected."
To Zara on tonight's #qanda - much of Australia still stands with you. Do not lose heart, no matter how much hated is directed at you by narrow minds.— Sir Autumn Mandrake (@AutumnMandrake) December 4, 2017
Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs said the danger in the Britain First retweets was the fact that Trump was "almost licensing the world to use social media and particularly the public context to abuse people on the basis of their race.
"And that is where we need leadership to stand up against the Trump behaviour. To say this is completely unacceptable and that we have to speak in favour of the ability for people to be in the public arena without that kind of racial and religious abuse."
Linda Singh accused Breheny of being flippant and "disregarding the questioner".
"That the President of the US, the leader of the free world is targeting a certain group within our society and that's having effects on the women here that have shared that experience with us tonight here in Australia. That's outrageous. It's terrible. And we can't be flippant about it."
Zara, you are Australian. You are loved and valued, my friend and compatriot. #QandA— Jinho Choi 🔹 (@GoldenTalon) December 4, 2017
Jones then went back to Zara, saying she was "obviously moved by something to ask this question."
The young woman broke down as she shared her story.
"It's definitely a struggle when you're living in a society where you think you're welcomed and you think the people around you are going to be there.
"When you hear about people getting, international people, who are supposed to be there to speak up about you, it's difficult to then have to justify yourself to the people who you thought were standing behind you."
Viewers were quick to respond the segment, posting warm messages of support for Zara.