Monday, February 20, 2006

Muslims becoming the new Slopeheads?

It’s official. John Howard doesn’t like some aspects of “Muslim culture”. Or at least that is what that American newspaper calling itself The Australian would have you believe.

It’s hard to know how to respond to such suggestions. After all, I haven’t read exactly what Mr Howard has said. But I’m pretty sure of what others will say and write.


I’m sure The Ameri … woops … Australian will be publishing a fair few op-eds on the subject. One of their regular columnists will hone in with theories about gang-rapists being inspired by "migrant Muslim culture" (whatever that means). Another will probably have another go at forming his Adolf Hitl … woops … Queen Isabella Society. Mark Steyn and Daniel Pipes will write about how this proves Muslims are trying to take over the Milky Way. And I doubt any sensible voices will be allowed into the debate.

In the tabloids, Uncles Piers and Andy Bolt will be having a field day. In the Fairfax press, the usual suspects will probably repeat their usual mantra about “Muslim” gangs.

The reality of Muslim migration

Today’s edition of the Oz reports that Mr Howard has come out and “strongly criticised aspects of Muslim culture, warning they pose an unprecedented challenge for Australia's immigration program.”

Apparently Muslim migrants are just different to everyone else. They just don’t integrate. In this respect, I have a few questions.

Which Muslim migrants? We have had numerous waves of migrants who have come from Muslim-majority countries. In the 1950's and 60's we had Turks from Cyprus and Anatolia. We also had migrants from the Middle East. Turks are well-settled, and the Turkish community manages the greatest number of mosques in Australia.

Then in the 1970's, we had more migrants from the Middle East, as well as from Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the 1980's, we had a large wave of Afghans and some Lebanese following the civil war and the Israeli invasion.

After the first Gulf War, we had a fair few Palestinians migrating from Kuwait. Most of these were highly educated and skilled migrants.

We also have had waves of Muslim migrants from countries where Muslims are a minority (e.g. India, South Africa, Fiji). Many have been highly skilled.

Aussie Mossies no longer a migrant phenomenon

The Howard government funded a study by Professor Abdullah Saeed of the University of Melbourne in 2004. That study showed that the largest ethnic group of Muslim Australians were born in Australia. Most were brought up in Australia and went to school here.

According to the Oz and its reporting of Mr Howard’s views, Muslims just don’t integrate enough – at least not yet. But now that Muslims are (in at least some cases) into their 4th and 5th generation, how can this be the case? You might be able to say that about some gang members and criminals who just happen to come from nominally Muslim families. But that's a bit like arguing all Catholics are paedophiles.

So what’s the problem with Aussie Mossies? Why do pseud-conservative leaders and commentators go on about them so much? Is it the fact that Muslim women refuse to take abortion pills? Are they having too many babies? Or has John Howard just read too many Mark Steyn editorials?

The alleged difference - "Muslim culture"

Somehow the "culture" of Muslim migrants makes them different from every other wave of migrants.

“You can't find any equivalent in Italian, or Greek, or Lebanese, or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem.”

Excuse me, mr Howard, but in what way does mainstream Indonesian or Bosnian or Turkish or Nigerian or Sierra Leonese or Bangladeshi culture teach people to rave on about jihad?

Muslims - the new Asians?

Mr Howard, I have a few questions for you.

You seem to be suggesting Italians and Greeks and Lebanese and Chinese are OK. Really? Sorry, John, but I do recall you saying something back in 1988 about how Asian (i.e. Indo-Chinese) migrants just don’t integrate.

Those comments haunted you for a long time, didn’t they, John? In fact, you wanted so hard to project yourself as an ethnic-friendly (and particularly Asian-friendly) leader that you even approached myself and a few other people from the Macquarie University Liberal Club to form an ordinary branch at Boronia Park in 1995. I distinctly recall you chairing the inaugural meeting at the North Ryde RSL Club yourself.

Then in January 1996, you were quite happy when Bankstown Liberal Party branches joined forces and organised a dinner for you at a Chinese restaurant across the road from the Bankstown Sports Club. On that occasion, you happily allowed yourself to be photographed with a hundred or so representatives of our Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and other communities.

Your attitudes toward Chinese migrants soon changed. Why is that? Did they suddenly start looking different? Was the integration factor going up? Or was it just that they started donating to the Liberal Party?

Now, it seems the nips and slopeheads and gooks are no longer a problem for you. Now it’s those damned ragheads. And what is their problem?

Actually, they have quite a few problems. Most of them speak fluent English. They have a higher rate of tertiary education than the rest of the population. They come from over 60 different countries. Many of them are into their 4th and 5th generation.

In fact, a huge chunk of Muslim migrants and their kids don’t even identify Islam as the primary source of their identity. Like most Australians, they regard religion as a private matter. They have other sources of identity – race, nationality, language, etc.

Muslim migrants are not a block or a monolith. Why are you projecting them as such? What on earth is “Muslim culture”? Why are you making people who happen to be born into Muslim families feel on the edge of society? And who benefits from your attempts at marginalising them?

In the short term, perhaps the Liberal Party might benefit. But in the long term, the chief beneficiaries are radical Muslim groups outside Australia who are trying to convince some young impressionable Muslim kids that Western governments (including our very own in Canberra) will never accept as part of the mainstream people who just happen to have been born into Muslim families.

Yes, Mr Howard, if what the Oz reports is correct, you are doing al-Qaida and all the other groups proscribed by your anti-terror laws a huge favour. And so is The Australian.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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