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targeting Muslims « Previous | |Next »
February 25, 2006

The conservative attack on multiculturalism is becoming clearer isn't it, with Peter Costello's call for radical Muslims to assimilate or move to another country, following on from the Prime Minister's remarks about some Muslims of bringing jihadist views and opinions about women that did not fit in Australian society. Nothing was ever said about the views and opinions of those white Australian men whose violent treatment of Australian women did not fit Australian society. It's only Muslims is the message clear and straight.

Geoff Pryor

The Muslim threat is being raised to undercut multiculturalism. It is part of a government agenda.

Now Costello's argument in his recent speech to the Sydney Institute was not that new. He was more or less building on his previous remarks. He argued that Australian values were not optional, and that migrants who did not share them should be stripped of their citizenship; that migrants should be forced to honour their pledge of allegiance to Australia or face the prospect of being deported; and that anyone who believed Islamic sharia law could co-exist with Australian law should move to a country where they felt more comfortable.

In reading the speech I could not help but think of all the Australian-Britians who regarded Britain as home, who barrack for the England sports teams when they played Australia, or intensely following English soccer. Wasn't there a big attempt to make Australia like England?

Where are the Australian values there? Where's the allegiance to Australia? So why aren't they also stripped of their citizenship and told to go back home? Or told not to come to Australia because they do recognize and respect Australian values.

This 19th century part of Australian history is forgotten (remember the Irish?) and the deep divisions glossed over. The finger is being pointed at Muslims to make the case for replacing multicultural diversity with assimilation. Assimlation is the name for all the remarks about social cohesion and national unity for Australia's conservatives.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:38 PM | | Comments (17)


The comments by Howard/Costello are nothing but political opportunism of the highest order,I think I am going to become quite ill thinking about it.They have found an issue where they can be on the same side as the chattering class,and the yobs that prop up the bar at the local.They are fully aware that most blue singlet wearing Ozzies would like to see most Muslim immigrants sent back from whence they came immeadiately if not sooner.To deny this fact is to live in a gold fish bowl.
Yea Howard/Costello they're my men.

I am old enough to remember the suttle racist remarks directed at the Italians,English,and other minority groups.Yea just in good fun you say!I don't think so.The average Muslim that comes to Australia just wants to get on with his life,and most of them come here because they have had enough of their own home grown problems.Only a fool would deny there are radicals amongst them,however any one who believes that there are no x members of the I.R.A. or other terrorist orginizations living amoung us are,for want of a better word blind.

This little exercise in subterfuge is nothing but a popularity contest for votes.The current government are masters at it,I am sure they have made it an art form.The media and the chattering class are falling for this, hook line and sinker.


I am sure there is some political opportunism but in defence of Costello, I think he is arguing against this sort of demand. Not quite the same as your Aussie yobbo or the average Muslim that lives in my suburb. Which makes Kayser Trad's assertions somewhat hollow.


well, at least that first link to some understanding of Sharia law as an ethics and the problems faced by Muslim Australians in getting a divorce.

How different is this to Catholics getting a divorce, and the disjunct between liberal secular nd Catholics views on divorce?

Surely we should be finding ways to address the problem, not saying they should go back to an Islamic country.

We sould be sensitive to problems experienced by Muslims, particularly those with dual citizenship who seek a divorce.As was pointed out a divorce was only recognised under Islamic law when the husband says "I divorce you".So a Muslim woman may obtain a civil divorce under Australian law, but she cannot remarry if her husband refuses to grant her a religious divorce.

I stand by my argument: Costello stands for assimilation: he is voverly sensitive Judaic Christian sensibilities and indifferent to Islamic ones.

Oh I know, people are going to intoduce the separation of church and state as an example of liberal) Aussie values. I would argue that the new conservatism of Howard and Costello is acually an undermining of that key liberal value.

That is why I bang on them being conservatives and not liberals. They are only liberals with respect to the economy.

re your second Bloomberg link where Keysar Trad, the president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, is reported as saying that the treasurer was stirring up racial divisions.

I don't know anyone in this country who is asking for Shariah law to be imposed and I don't know anyone in this country who has rejected the rule of law.

'imposed' may be the key word here re the differences of opinion. Is the religious sharia court being imposed? Or advocated? Advocated surely.

Costello starts off fine with his claim that immigrants needed to accept Australian values of democracy and secular law, just as visitors to a mosque needed to take off their shoes. Or accept Christian practices around their church for that matter.

So why not show some recognition and respect for Sharia law as an ethics governing marriage and divorce? I do not see how that calls into question Australia's secular law, or says that Sharia law should be imposed on Australia and make it a theocracy.

Yet Costello is reported as saying that people who want to live under Shariah law, or the code of Islamic, or the rules based on the Koran, should consider moving to Iran or Saudi Arabia.

That says Australia is a Christian country since many Australians live their life according to rules based on the bible or their churches teachings. Costello is saying that those religious Australians who are not Christians or adher to Christian values should get out, be stripped of their citzenship, or not come to Australia.

Just how is that an affirmation of the liberal separation of church and state? Well, its not, is it?

Costello and Howard have affirmed a conservative Christian concept of marriage as part of secular law that undermines the liberal separation of church and state.

The inference I draw? Australian values are Judaic-Christian ones --not Enlightenment ones-- for these "liberal" conservatives. We are seeing a religious conservatism that speaks the language of liberalism but is actually opposed to it.

Gary.For what its worth I agree with your comments,for mine all of this anti Muslim feeling has been generated by outside influences,such as the war on Iraq,and a few drunken Lebonese and Aussie testosterone filled youths whooping it up in Sydney.As simple as that.Of course what has happened now,is it is getting out of control and becoming an election issue,and Howard,Costello et al are jumping on the side of which, unfortunate as it is,is a winner.A first year psychology student can see the manipulation that is going on here.

I can't see why it is not possible to have laws that deal with problems that are exclusive to Islam.After 200 years of white Judaic Christian settlement,we are finally coming to terms with the fact that our own Aboriginals have a whole different concept of justice and punishment,and although slow, a move is on to accomadate their laws and ours.To use that hackneyed"Some of my best friends are Muslim"well in my case that's true.And most of them take as much notice of their fire brand clerics as I do the Arch Bishop of Canterbury.


good point about aboriginal law.

I fear that we may well see the following scenario develop in Australia due to the ethno-religious stereotyping that is currently trying Australian Middle Eastern communities in the tabloid media court of public opinion.

Australian-born children of Middle Eastern ancestry will be bullied by, not only by their peers, but also by their teachers in schools whilst their admissions into universities and professional schools and professional opportunities will be increasingly jeopardized.

We are going to hear the stories in these immigrant communities of a systematic pattern of discrimination for jobs or promotions, simply because some in positions of power reckon that these applicants are "different and so guilty by association" with Islamic extremists and international terrorists.

The Australian government, along with the US and UK ones, will continue to justify the erosion of domestic civil and human rights at home on the basis that this is an essential element of the state of exception of battling international terrorism.

Gary.Again I agree with your comments.Being an old cynic myself(and not a conspiricy theorist)I believe there is an hidden agenda with all this anti Muslim rhetoric.The war on terror has been an unmittigated disaster,the innocent people that have been caught up in this so called war has been incalculable.The pictures of dead and mutilated men,women, and children for all to see in the Middle East is censored from we the very people who started this mess(Iraq).

I truly believe the western powers have dug themseles in so deep they are looking to justify their actions by collective guilt of Islam.And as the U.S. does not want another Viet Nam scenario,by cutting and running, they have painted themselves into a corner.However having said that,it has come to the attention of governments that they can't get all of their populace to hate the Muslims(the dissadents) and get on board for the great victory,hence the deal with the Emerites to run U.S. domestic ports,and rumours of secret talks with the so called terrorists.I can work out what is going on here and I left school in grade 7 (it probably shows in my grammer and spelling).it is palpable.

You are either with us or against us,so the mantra goes.Well you aint got me Charlie Brown I will do my own thinking.


judging from Costello's speech against "mushy misguided multiculturalism", he was attacking the view advanced by a state MP that new citizens can legitimately retain a deep attachment to former homes.

Hence Costello's warning that Australian values are not optional and that migrants who do not share them should be stripped of their citizenship.

Yet that state MP was right. Some Australians do have dual citizenship and some new citizens don't have to renounce their former citizenship.

Nor do global workers coming to work in Australia because of the skills shortage.

Mushy multiculturalism is anything but misguided. It is grounded in public law.

Gary, Phill - time doesn't permit me to give you a full and complete answer (not that I have all the answers anyway) so just a few somewhat simplistic thoughts.

"How different is this to Catholics getting a divorce, and the disjunct between liberal secular and Catholics views on divorce?"

I would suggest no different in one way, but profoundly different in another. The Catholic church - or any other church within the Christian tradition for that matter - may not want to grant a divorce and/or permission to remarry, and they have every right to do so. BUT they cannot stop a person from getting a civil divorce and remarrying. They cannot impose any civil penalty. Quite simply they can refuse to recognise a person as a Catholic Christian for doing so or a person themselves can leave the Catholic church if they are not willing to accept its teaching. Sure, some sectors of Christendom took a few years to work that out but that is in essence the heart of Christianity: God does not want robots, he wants those who love Him freely just as He freely loves us.

Muslims however have no option, because they can't apostasize. And *some* are essentially asking for parallel religious courts whose rulings are legally binding to prevent some from their midst from apostasizing. I for one can't support that.

My own simplistic test for a "free society" centres on two basics: equality for women and freedom of religion. On the latter I don't mean to say that all religions should be afforded equal credibility (there are good and bad religions, as well as good and bad expressions and practices of certain religions and a society ignores making those distinctions at their peril). On freedom of religion I pay attention to freedom to convert and apostasize. On these two acid tests, the teachings of Islam itself are internally opposed to freedom as I define it, not only by denying equality to women in the civic sphere (eg inheritance laws) but also by denying true religious freedom to both their own and those outside of Islam.

Having said that, I am not sure that I would go down the citizenship path which Costello advocates either. But then that just demonstrates how limited and ineffective politics and law really are in dealing with what are fundamentally theological differences.

As for Aboriginal law/culture. Same deal. Just because some people have different customs/understandings does not make them right. Concepts of payback in some Aboriginal nations are just a pseudonym for punishing the innocent. I don't feel the slightest need to apologise for opposing such punishments as spearing etc. I also can't say acquiescence to traditional Aboriginal justice has been an astounding success either. Neverthless, I would say that comparison with sharia religions courts is inappropriate. Finally, you may also be surprised just how many indigenous Aussies are in fact Christian and are not overly enamoured of some of the traditions of their forefathers.

As to gay marriage. My biggest regret about the passing of the amendments to the Marriage Act was that there was no widespread open discussion or debate, an opportunity for people to think (perhaps for the first time) and perhaps learn about the meaning and value of marriage in a modern society and the relationship between say marriage as understood by Christians or other religious groups and marriage as recognized by law and civic institutions. Even the Americans managed that and some of the best debates were also in the religious press with an incredibly wide range of views and options presented.

For our marriage amendments you may thank two activist couples - one gay, one lesbian - who ran off to get married overseas at the first possible opportunity so they could return to lodge a test case in the Federal Court. Naturally some family and church groups got wind of it, mobilised, organised a few invite only sessions and got it cut off at the pass. Easy to do when
a. you have key government ministers (Ruddock, Howard) who have consistently expressed a hatred for activist judges making law or behing held to ransom by such cases and
b. despite the rhetoric only a very few in our communities really think gay marriage is a pressing issue, certainly not enough to lose sleep over and
c. most "injustices" can be and have been redressed by state and federal laws on inheritance, super etc and a good will and
d. the GLTB community itself is divided on whether they want marriages "just like the breeders" (and of course there are no derogatry undertones in their characterizations of heterosexuals by such terms) and
e. most people are smart enough to realise that marriage is not a "right" as some activists would have us believe. You do not have a "right" to marry my husband or wife while they are still married to me; you do not have a right to marry my underage son or daughter; you do not have a right to marry your brother or sister or mother or father, you do not have a right to marry my dog...and
f. most Australians are older and have maybe wised up to the impetuousnesses of their youth and are quite socially conservative in outlook even if they have failed to live by those values themselves etc etc.

Frankly whether people like it or not, a little group of smart arse gay activists got out manoeuvered because they were too impatient. It may have been a different story if they and their supporters were a bit more united, and able to engage the public and made their case instead of trying to railroad the process and turning out the same tired litany of homophobia every time someone disagreed with them. This is why those amendments barely rated a raised eyebrow once they were passed except for a shrill few, and why I think there was bipartisan support for them. (I had kept a long list of links on how the events leading up the passage of that legislation was reported both in local and overseas press but sadly a hard disk crash meant I lost the list. However it was interesting to see the differences between Aussie and overseas press reporting).

Also despite my disagreement about using citizenship as some stick or carrot, I am also not sure that Costello is saying that anyone who is not a Christian should get out. By that standard 90% of the population should start packing their bags even if over 70% still self identify as Christians.

And who the hell would be the judge of that anyway.


You should say something I don't agree with other readers will think we are having an affair.Yes you are correct again multi culturalism is what makes this country the great place it is to live.And at the risk of repeating myself Costello et al know exactly where they are going with this,it is nothing but opportunism of the highest order.The protection of Australian citizens,born overseas or on the tucker box at Gundagai is as you say, enshrined in law.And thank God it is!.

I don't know how old you are Gary?but as a child growing up in Adelaide in the fifty's and sixty's I remember only to vividly the racism that was prosecuted against Australian Aboriginals especially by the Police.Any Aboriginals found within the city limits were rounded up like cattle put in paddy wagons, and taken out of town.They themselves have only been regarded as citizens since 1967, yes I remember it well.And NO i havn't got a black arm band bias,my opinion wasn't formed by some historians perspective,Ive seen it with my own eyes.I have worked in the out back all of my life and I will not negotiate my position on the treatment of Aboriginals period.And of course white Australians now wonder why they want their own little place in the sun.You see the elders amongst them have good memory's to.The trouble for the government here is they can't deport them(or can they?)A test case in the United Nations would make great reading.(something for Amanda to work on)

The blame for all of this unease in the community I lay at the feet of the government,comments made by ministers of the crown should be to encourage people to be more accepting of our differances not exasperate the problem.Taking sides is o/k at a footy match,not to this debate.

My first job as the Minister for Cultural Affairs would be to shut the shock jocks of Sydney up.Free speech the masses cry.Yes we do, and with that comes responsibility,this does not include stoking the fires of racism.I am seeing shades of Chytal Nact 2 here,but that couldn't happen again could it?By the way my Grt Grandmother was a Jew,fortunately an English one that's why I can and will defend minoritys any where any time,from the shallow rhetoric of racists.


Saint.Keep it simple,well for me Im glad you did I can only digest simple,not having been to a university simple is my middle name.You make some very valid points and if I should be so inclined(anti gay and anti marriage)I would agree with you.But Im sorry I aint.Western concepts of marriage I agree with,and believe it is the best way to nurture children with in a stable family unit.As for gays they should have the same rights as the rest of the community,Marriage for gays?well I don't lay awake at night thinking about it.But if gays want to marry who cares?not me.

As to the social mores of other cultures,if Muslims want to have four wives I could care less.So long as one of them is not mine.Is Australia's economy going to collapse because we let them pray six times a day?I think not.Even the most devout Muslim wouldn't demand his prayer rights during a concrete pour.I would have thought compromise was the order of the day.(this silly scenario for kicking the Muslims out I over-heared in my local,and my wife wants to know why I drink)

Aboriginals.Most people judge this race on our own concepts of right and wrong, and the Protestant work ethic.Now one may say they have had two hundred years to change their mind set,and to totally assimilate with us, however in the scheme of things two hundred years is miniscule to change a culture that has existed for thousands of years.And at the end of the day who is to judge which culture is superior?.Certainly not me.I will leave that to the Aboriginals after all it is their culture, and they were here before me.

In finishing the most sad aspect of all this anti Muslim feeling,is in most part generated by the ignorance of my own class.This in turn is then capitilised on by people in power who know this and manipulate it to their own advantage.Who was it said (Satre/Roussseau I think I may be wrong)The more things change the more they remain the same.


The traditional ‘Liberal Party’ does not exist anymore. The ‘onenationalisation’ of the Liberal Party is now complete.

I think that Costello is skating on really thin ice here. There should be no difference between citizens who were born in Australia and those who became citizens by naturalisation. By doing what Costello is proposing you create a ‘second category’ type of citizens. Where the Australian born if he or she goes out of this ‘compact’ stays a citizens, while the other is stripped of his citizenship and basically loses rights enshrined by law.

The naturalised citizen would have less rights than those who were born here and would have the threat of citizenship loss that the the native born does not have. This is not right in an advanced democratic country.

Imagine the situation of someone who migrated with his parents when he was two. How fair would be to strip him of citizenship and deport him to a country he would not recognise and not even speak the language? (and may have a family here). How unfair when someone who did or said the saime thing but was born here could keep his citizenship and stay in Australia?

Greg Egan pillorised this "Australia" in his novel Distress by calling those that practised it Professional Australians. That was in 1995, it as valid today as back then.

I like what he calls Australian values. The rule of law, liberty, etc etc. Like those are uniquely "Australian". It matches Egan's commentary to the point of stereotype.

Saint----hmm good post. Lots of issues have been raised.

I do have a difficulty with what you say because you tacitly equate a fundamentalist Islam with Islam when you do not equate Christianity with a fundamentalist Christianity.

Why the difference? Why not grant the existence of a liberal Islam--one that accepts modernity and living a religious life in a secular liberal polity? Just like one does with Christianity--not all Catholics belong to Opus Dei, for many are liberal catholics.

I was under the impression that the Islamic diaspora in Australia was in the process of accepting that religion is a matter of personal preference, and that they have little time for those who advocate a theocracy or a fedual patriarchy.

Are not the liberal Muslims the ones who are working out the complex links between their individual religion, their personal freedom and equality.

Guido.From what I can gather even being born in Australia is no guarantee of tenure.Some years ago a family living in Perth W.A.who overstayed their working visa by some eight years,were caught by the Immigration Department and deported.This included two of the children of this family who were born in Australia.If my memory serves me well, the children were eight and nine yrs old.The father who was a trademan, employed three men,owned his own home,and was a model member of the community. The people of Perth were very sympathetic to the family concerned and heavy lobbying by a well known shock jock,and other members of the community saw the family return to Perth after approx two yrs.The responce of the Immigration Department at the time was "The two children born in Australia were conceived illegally so were not classified as bona fide Austalians".(I kid you not).Now how a person is conceived illegally I will leave to the learned men of the High Court.Now I neither condemn or condone this type of queue jumping,because some would say I have a warped view of this debate,because I beieve I was born on planet earth (and although not possible)should be able to come and go around the place as I please,as so should others.(Yea crazey I know).The other incident was of the Kiwi who has lived in Australia most of his life and went back to New Zealand to see his sick Mother.He forgot to renew his visa and was consequently detained in the Perth airport and later deported.What the end result in this case was I have no idea.But here's the clincher, this man was a Viet Nam vet who served in the Australian Armed Forces.With the anti Muslim debate going on,Tampa,children overboard,resignations of immigration public servants,the list goes on,I think I am starting to see a pattern here.And what I see is begining to worry me.


an article from The Guardian on the limits of multiculturalism in the UK by Madeline Bunting that may be of relevance to us in Australia. She says:

This is how Britain does multiculturalism. It creates community leaders and then expects them to organise their fiefdoms. At an institutional level there is plenty of tea and biscuits and gallons of polite goodwill to speed them on in their task. But the message is clear: Islamic extremism is your problem, not ours. There's the loud splashing of water, washing and hands.

And the consequences:
The indifference is incubating a sense of impotent rage within many sections of the British Muslim community that believe they have no traction on the established mainstream; neither on the political system nor on that other bugbear, the media (the fury directed at the latter is daunting). The old alliance with the centre-left is fraying to breaking point; old allies in the battles against racism have jumped sides, and now routinely present arguments more Islamophobic than the centre-right.

Is this happening in Australia?