Friday, March 02, 2007

CRIKEY: Aussie muslims are no Londonistanis

Alan Jones was fired up last Friday, arguing that the fact Easter eggs were being sold as early as January at Woolworths (or Safeway for Mexican readers) and Coles supermarkets was evidence of the demise of Australian Christian culture.

"It is legitimate to ask how far we will go to accommodate those of non-Christian faith when we live in a predominantly Christian country," says Jones.

Melanie Phillips argues a similar line (minus the chocolate) in her recently released book Londonistan, a favourable review of which is found here and an unfavourable one here.

Phillips spoke at a Quadrant dinner in Sydney and was earlier hosted in Melbourne by the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council (who also were going to host the tour of Raphael Israeli). Avidly opposed to multiculturalism, Phillips argues the war against terrorism must go beyond security measures.

She argues Britain (and by implication, other Western countries) has been bending over backwards to appease religious, ethnic, linguistic and even sexual minorities.

I could always condemn Phillips' argument as racist and Islamophobic. But to some extent, she is spot on. There are radical Islamists, i.e. proponents of a politicised ideology which wants Muslims to wage war on the West.

Phillips states her book offers no opinion on whether political Islamism is consistent with orthodox theology. Her disclaimer becomes meaningless when she states that political Islamism is the dominant strain of theology in nominally Muslim countries. When even experts in the field aren’t prepared to make such claims, it takes extraordinary hubris for a tabloid columnist to make them.

Phillips also says British multiculturalism allowed the Islamist xenophobic agenda to foster and grow. Presumably, that means pre-multicultural Britain didn’t take a hard line against hostile xenophobic ideology.

But as Israeli reviewer Michael Fox (hyperlinked above) notes, George Orwell was hard-pressed to find a publisher for his satire of Soviet Russia Animal Farm. Even TS Eliot (then at Faber & Faber) knocked the book back. Monocultural societies are often the first to adopt xenophobic politics.

Even if Britain’s Muslims have been radicalised, of what relevance is this to Australia? British Muslims are largely from South Asia and (to a lesser extent) the Arab world.

Aussie Muslims are from over 60 different countries, the two dominant ethno-religious groups hailing from a former French protectorate and a deeply secular state knocking on the doors of the EU.

First published in the Crikey daily alert for Friday 2 March 2007.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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