I read this article:
and this is my response:
Christian values, compassion, charity, loving thy neighbour, doing unto others, assisting the poor etc. – these are things that Christian people are supposed to do. Unfortunately, they are not the same things that many supposed Christians (such as the Prime Minister) actually do. Yes, I realise that it is the Christians doing the wrong things that we generally read about in the paper, more shame them.
Likewise, Islam, is what Muslims are supposed to do – not what some supposed Muslims do/have done in the past. Yes, I realise that it is generally the Muslims who are doing the wrong things that we see reported in the media – but let me assure you that I have never met a Muslim man, woman or child who condones the use of violence towards innocent people. In fact, they are as mortified by, and as terrified of the cruelty that has been inflicted by so-called Muslims as we are.
On the same note, Australia culture and Australia values, in my mind represent the way that Australian’s should act – battling for a better tomorrow, giving your neighbour a fair go, calling politicians out on their BS in order to “keep the bastards honest,” and above all, having a weekend barbeque with family and friends while we loudly complain about said “bastards,” without any fear that the “bastards” are listening, or likely to come after us or our families because they disagree with our political views.
Over the past year, I have been thinking about the things that are incompatible with Australian culture and values – and to be honest there are many things that are done in the name of Australian values and culture, many of which unfortunately involve discrimination, division, prejudice and propaganda which are incompatible with the values of the Australian society that I would like to believe exists. Senator Leyonhjelm’s views are certainly on the “incompatible” list so far as I am concerned. Also on this list is laws which limit our right to protest, legislation which makes it difficult for women to play an equal role in our societies, and a Prime Minister who speaks or, and treats women like ‘chattels’ (be that through statements he has made, through the introduction of various policies relating to child care and women in the workforce). One would have thought that Australia, the country which has prided itself on being a multicultural country where every man and his dog is entitled to a fair go, should, in theory, be compatible with fusing diverse cultures together to create a better, richer, more open minded community, rather than the country where our political representatives are permitted to make such inaccurate, discriminative (and let’s face it, inarticulate) racist comments such as “Islam, plus I mean there are cultures in Africa where women are treated as chattels as well.” This poorly thought out comment, clearly the words of a man who has never lived in Africa, had anything at all to do with the African community in Australia, or studied Islam in any depth, does nothing but encourage and justify the prejudices of many less open minded Australians. Further, this unenlightened individual is playing on the fears of the uneducated, fanning the fires of misunderstanding which exist between so many sections of our communities.
When our political representatives (I hesitate every time I begin to type the word ‘representative’ because this man and his views, certainly do not represent my own!) are permitted to make such comments, we are creating problems for ourselves which we needn’t. He might as well have said “I am going to put multiculturalism in the ‘too-hard basket’, and tell Australian’s not to bother trying.” Thankfully the honorary president of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils (FECCA) Pino Migliorino was quick to jump in a remind us firstly, that “migrants from Africa and the Middle East are absolutely committed to Australia,” and secondly to point out that there is absolutely no evidence to support Senator Leyonhjelm’s views on the topic.
If we tell people that certain religions or political groups, or cultures are ‘incompatible’ with our own culture then I believe this discourages Australians from attempting to build positive relations with diverse groups, “They won’t fit in, so we needn’t bother trying to work with them.” If we begin to believe that “Islam” as a blanket definition, or “some African cultures” are incompatible with Australia – then how can we grow and learn as a culture? There are elements of both Islam, and of African culture, which Australia could certainly benefit from, if we are not too narrow minded and afraid to open our eyes to any form of cultural progress. For example, are you aware, that in pure Islam, women have been entitled to vote since 632 A.D. and were granted equal rights as citizens at this time – including the right to work outside the home if she chooses to do so (yes, chooses). Australia on the other hand, in 2014, is passing legislation which devalues women and makes it steadily more and more difficult for women to participate in the workforce equally with men. Further, it is likely that an Australian woman does not have the choice to work or stay with her children – this choice has been taken away by high costs of living, education and taxes!
Although we are all painfully aware of the suffering many women are facing in some predominantly Islamic countries today, such as Afghanistan, we are also aware that refugees from these countries are looking for a better tomorrow. People, both Muslims and non-Muslims, who have been persecuted by supposed ‘Islamic’ governments (read: supposed – Islam is what they should be doing, not what they are doing) are not looking to introduce into Australia the negative aspects of countries they fled, but, if permitted, they may just introduce a few of their values, which are compatible with Australian culture – for example, did you know that protecting animals and the wildlife is obligatory for all Muslims? And that one of the messages given by the Prophet Muhammad was that “Seeking Knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.” Read: That is every Muslim – male and female, this sounds like something that is beneficial to Australians, and which is certainly compatible with Australian culture. If Australian’s were encouraged to open dialogue with new communities, with newly arrived individuals on these topics, rather than being told that they are “incompatible” it is likely that we could learn from one another, and discover that we have more in common than we had been led to believe.
On the same note, if we tell newly arrived communities that they are ‘incompatible’ with Australia, without any then what kind of encouragement are we giving them to try to fit in? Especially when Australian values and Australian culture, as it is currently portrayed by Tony Abbotts’ government, and the likes of Senator Leyonhjelm’s appears to be racist, narrow minded and uneducated. Let me give a fictional example of the experiences a young middle eastern man may have in today’s Australia. This account is based on the true experiences of various friends of mine over the past 12 months. A young man, recently arrived from Syria reads Leyonhjelm’s comments in the paper, he feels rejected by his new homeland, but he has a life to live and he gets on with his day. Later in the morning he walks down to the local supermarket, where he sees loutish youths spitting and swearing in an anti-social manner when they should be at school. He wonders why no one is pulling them back into line, and making them go to school to build themselves a future. On his way home he passes by the local pub where he cops a mouthful of racial abuse from the tables out the front where “typical Aussies” are having “a few” beers with their mates. Feeling rejected once again, he walks back to his tiny flat where he lives in isolation as all his family are either overseas or dead, and reflects on his day. It is possible that he will then come to the conclusion that Leyonhjelm is right – his culture and values are incompatible with Australian values, because he has some. When he was at the supermarket, he was polite, and social. He doesn’t drink, so he has never abused someone in alcohol fueled rage. Not that he minds others indulging however, after all he had non-Muslim friends in Damascus who enjoyed the occasional alcoholic beverage, they blokes at the pub didn’t know this however, because they never asked. While we all know that the views of Senator Leyonhjelm are not shared by the majority of Australians, nor do the actions of a few drunken louts represent us, however, one can understand how some might think they do represent us.
Australia is still a relatively young country, with a population which is still evolving and growing – which to me spells ‘potential.’ I think we should look for ways to enrich our culture rather than just assuming that we are incompatible with progress.