By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
10 November, 2014
(This is a sequel to: Identity Crises of Muslim Diaspora
The ideological acceptance of the diverse cultural differences in Australia is stated in the Official statement of the Government as:-
The Commonwealth Government Has Identified Three Dimensions Of Multicultural Policy:
• “Cultural identity: the right of all Australians, within carefully defined limits, to express and share their individual cultural heritage, including their language and religion;
• Social justice: the right of all Australians to equality of treatment and opportunity, and the removal of barriers of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, gender or place of birth; and
• Economic efficiency: the need to maintain, develop and utilize effectively the skills and talents of all Australians, regardless of background”.
And the limits placed on the citizens within this policy are:-
• “Multicultural policies are based upon the premises that all Australians should have an overriding and unifying commitment to Australia, to its interests and future first and foremost;
• multicultural policies require all Australians to accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society - the Constitution and the rule of law, tolerance and equality, Parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language and equality of the sexes; and
• Multicultural policies impose obligations as well as conferring rights: the right to express one's own culture and beliefs involves a reciprocal responsibility to accept the right of others to express their views and values.
As a necessary response to the reality of Australia's cultural diversity, multicultural policies aim to realize a better Australia characterized by an enhanced degree of social justice and economic efficiency.”
And under its Section 116 Constitution, Australia is a Secular State.
In general these can be said to be the policies of many Western countries, to which migrants from so called developing countries flock. Precisely because of these principles, they act as the ‘pull-factor’.
And of course the violent ‘push-factor’ of their home countries is an added incentive.
But once they land there, these principles are often stretched to limits of the general tolerance of the local populace.
There is no hard and fast Data to collaborate this statement. Social attitudes cannot be always measured by statistical figures, bar charts and graphical curves. Social science, the same as political science can hardly be called sciences.
Examples can be sited to demonstrate the statements made. The Asian community in Africa; particularly with reference to Uganda: from where the entire community of Asians was given the marching orders in 1972/73
It is now universally accepted them that their attitude vis a vis the locals was wrong. While the colonial government was there to protect the so called rights of the migrants, the community at large made hay.
There were no statistics to warn of the impending reality that affected the whole community; irrespective of the few individuals and sub-groups in the community working hard to do the right thing by the nation.
The Jews did not have the advantage of statistics when they were shunted from pillar to post from Egypt and Europe over the millennia. But the evidence is there.
The large influx of migrants and their ‘demands’ make ‘rapid changes’ in the established norms. That is often the cause of resentment of the locals.
Not long ago on a Radio talk-back programme an elderly Australian was heard saying that he was born in Ballarat and had lived there all his life. In a regretful but apologetic tone he said he loves Asian and exotic food, but cannot even recognise the place now as “it not only looks different but sounds and smells different too”.
Mind you, every community here, including the indigenous people, has gone through the resentment by the earlier resident migrant population in previous times. The Irish, Germans, Italians, East Europeans (Wogs), Chinese and Japanese (Asians) and ironically the English too (whinging Pohms) all have had their share.
But the migrant Muslim community en block stands out like the proverbial sore thumb in the despised environment of today.
The constant political debate in the parliaments, the media presentation of the events from all over the Muslim world has generated fear among the migrants and resentment among the locals.
The hateful graffiti splashed on the houses of worship, not only of Muslims but others as well; irrespective of them having nothing to do with Muslims, is one glaring example of how one section of migrants can cause others to suffer as well.
Ban the Burqa, Down with Sharia and Go back to where you came from and recoded harassment of girls with Hijab, let alone the taunts of ninja Niqab, does not need statistics to prove that the mood in the nation is not the same as it was say four decades ago when one was greeted with “welcome to Australia” at the airport immigration!
The overriding and unifying commitment to Australia, accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society and beliefs involves a reciprocal responsibility is misconstrued and obligations that are placed on the migrant community, in particular the Muslim community, is largely misused.
The demand for separate Sharia—a demand for two tear legal system in the one country is foolish. Particularly when the country’s existing legal codes are far fairer and just compared to the misogynistic and unjust and degrading religious customs, brought from back-home are falsely claimed as Islamic.
On the ground the hideous garbs of the religiously inclined-- garbs never seen by the locals till only a decade or so ago, must be and is often stated as confronting to local senses of fairness.
This is not only so on the basis that it is something new to them but because it is clearly seen by Australians as unfair to the fair-sex, and hence the protest in the name of equality and fairness on their behalf.
It is also based on the evidence they see that of the larger migrant community where only a minority of the newly arrived adopt some of these garbs as religious requirement. When this is coupled with the daily news from Muslim world of brutality of slaughter, honour killing and abduction of girls, it sharpens their sense of disgust.
Generally the majority and enlightened Westerners place importance to such matters, and to dismiss it as quixotic tilting at the windmill is utter arrogance.
It is understood that The Jewish community, both in UK and Australia have a complex legal arrangement for religious marriage and divorce proceedings. But the public hardly ever is exposed to it.
It is what the larger population observes and hears is perhaps the crux of the resentment. And here is the essence of the obligation and responsibility imposed on the migrants not to arrogantly display their strange customs to the public as ‘better than thou’.
On the other side, is the responsibility and obligation of the State to ensure that the migrants and the public are given the knowledge and awareness of the different cultures.
This is not to say that the problem is so simple to solve. There obviously are many complex factors and one of them is undoubtedly news of the State sponsored and individual terrorism that is raging in their home countries, that gives rise to the much feared home grown terrorism! The major source of the push factor.
The selection criteria for migrants should therefore be to ensure harmonious integration of the communities.
Hence it can be argued that the ‘rate’ at which new cultures and different norms are introduced in the country as a whole, needs to be adjusted in order to give everybody a breather.
Politically the authorities are caught between a rock and the hard plate. The National strategies, treaty alliances, international treaties and sometimes the perceived and real moral obligations, place them in a dilemma that is so difficult to extricate it from.
Some of this no doubt has profound effect even on home grown second and third generations of migrants. But that is not the subject for further discussion here.
So, in the light of experience gained, good intentioned multiculturalism is in dire need of “rethink”, for the saying goes that ‘the path to hell is paved with good intentions’.
The highly broadminded Dutch Government is thinking along these lines:-
“A new integration bill, which Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on June 16, reads: The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people".
Why so? Have the migrant communities there no responsibility to ask that question and find an answer to it?
Askant view is from USA, from where, to its credit, the Multicultural policy was supposed to have come, as it acknowledged long ago that the nation is a “nation of migrants”.
A book by Victor Davis Hansen -Mexifornia, explaining how immigration - both legal and illegal was destroying the entire state of California. –“it would march across the country until it destroyed all vestiges of The American Dream”.
And the lecture titled:-“American Suicide” a speech by former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm can be accessed at - http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumours/l/lamm.htm#.VFy38cm0SYk. It presents a view many Americans are thinking along the lines. And yet some Americans are highly critical of it.
But it will be a folly on the part of all parties involved in the immigration and multiculturalism debate, in all countries, under the present climate, to ignore it as some fringe phenomenon that will disappear soon if ignored!
The citizens’ children and their children’s children will pay a heavy price, if ignored. It is an obligation that cannot be and should not be ignored. It is a “contract” all migrants make when becoming citizens of the new country. The universal tenet urges Muslims to always fulfil their contract 2-177 as a matter of Faith.
National harmony is essential to ensure a safe, secure and prosperous world for their children’s children to live in.
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer