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Danger in Anti Muslim Strategy

February 17, 2011

Confirmation that Scott Morrison, Shadow Minster for Immigration and Citizenship, recommended an anti Muslim tilt to coalition polices, strengthens the concern I expressed below.

A message to Tony Abbot: one part of your party is playing with fire.

There is a minority of Muslims in Australia – a telephone box minority – who say and do wild things. The self-styled Imam who took it upon himself to rebuke the families of Australian servicemen who died in Afghanistan. The Somali Imam who defended convicted terrorists. There have been others. Moreover the terrorist threat is real. Action against terrorist cells by ASIO, Federal Police and state police has been wholly justified.

All of the above mandates that we work hard to stop extremists making recruits from the youth of Islamic Australia. There are elements of paranoia and excitability in pockets of the Islamic community. We can expect to have jihadist propaganda continue to reach our shores and get some airing. If senior Australian politicians are revealed as playing with explicit anti-Islamic rhetoric, we will feed this extremism and force young Muslims into the hands of recruiters for Islamist causes.

For me, for many of us, it is a fraught issue. On the one hand I am alarmed by political Islam and will not kowtow to it or treat it as a criticism-free zone. Islamicism is opposed to enlightenment, to toleration, to diversity, to rights for women and homosexuals. It wants a monochromal totalitarian world. I will criticise these manifestations and run the risk of being called anti-Islam.

But on the other hand, I appreciate what Islamic cultures have delivered to the totality of world civilisation. I see moderate Islam – yes, I know it’s a relative concept – as being the way to counter Islamicism. I have met Muslims, including women who wear veils, who love Australia and flourish in its democratic way of life.

I will never forget meeting year 10 students from Holroyd High – they were Afghan refugees in Australia via Christmas Island and Port Headland – who talked to me in the War Museum in Canberra about Gallipoli. They had been in Australia for 13 months. I guess they are now terrific citizens.

I remember the Afghan school girl who introduced herself at an International Womens’ Day function and told me there was bird lice in the roof of her school. I visited the school and met her and her siblings, all embarked on their HSC studies.

I remember the Lebanese-Islamic-background girl who interviewed me for an Arabic newspaper and asked tough questions about my unapologetically tough line on ethnic crime. She then produced a scrupulously accurate account of our interview. I rang the editor of the Herald and suggested he give her a cadetship.

These people must cringe when they read that conservative politicians are planning to stigmatise them and their community.

What Scott Morrison seems to have suggested gives me the creeps. It represents an incursion by One Nation into Australian political thinking. It suggested that the Liberal party is moving away from one of the proudest strands of its history – liberal tolerance, opposition to race discrimination, support for Australia’s cultural diversity. The policy is high risk to boot.

  1. Brett permalink
    February 17, 2011 12:36 pm

    Well Sir,

    I think you are espousing the bare minimum expected from a political leader in this country. We often like to say the customer is always right and the collective political mind of the nation is generally right. I think the Australian population has listened to accommodators like yourself for long enough and they are saying no we think your wrong.

    Of course this area is fraught with sensitivity but I think it is time to admit we have to stop racing to beat up the telephone box full of unrepentant Australian xenophobes and start listening to the collective.

    We need to be able to call any part of our society on our concerns including Muslims. For instance we need to be able to stress our deep concern over different levels of modesty in dress required of the sexes. We understand people have different levels of modesty that comfort them but we are deeply concerned when a religion targets one sex more than the other in this regard. Australia prides itself on equality between the sexes, imposed mores that are appear sexist seriously concern us.

    I know you know there are other concerns, including female circumcision that deeply concern us.

    Please stop rushing to call or insinuate people are racist for wanting to assert values, and not just accepting the Hijab etc as the humane approach.

    • Rowe permalink
      February 18, 2011 7:28 pm

      I, for one, don’t like seeing any woman concealed under a full face veil (burqua or niqab) – they are not conducive to our open society and I do believe this garment is an unnecessary relic from the past, which discriminates against women. I’m also opposed to any skerrick of Sharia law being incorporated into our current system.

  2. Matt permalink
    February 17, 2011 12:45 pm

    I get the impression that Scott Morrison is not a genuine bigot unlike some of his colleagues like Bernadi and Andrews. Morrison is more cosmopolitan than Andrews and with a less fixed narrow worldview than both.

    Morrison seems to me as being a populist willing to sink to sleazy depths to reach out to those who feel alienated from the globalisation. There is any number of voters that fit into this category and many wouldn’t necessarily vote for the conservative side of politics either.

    The policy of cutting funding to Indonesian schools, which Morrison was apparently advocating, has to be one of the worst examples of opposition policy formation in recent times. One Nation ran an orchestrated campaign through email and talkback radio and then copy their idea verbatim.

    Hopefully the Liberal moderates win out and stop this lunacy. All those who know about the raw power of populist racism should be alarmed by these developments in the Liberal party, particularly Jewish groups who have all too often been on the receiving end of inflamed bigotry towards minority groups.

  3. Christine Longman permalink
    February 17, 2011 1:13 pm

    But where is the confirmation that he did push for this? I think this frightening debate has been started by the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that he did that. He has denied it. Continuing to fan these flames, when there seems to be no basis in truth for what Lenore Taylor claims happens, could set off a wildfire and I think it is really dangerous, without any evidence beyond what may very well be malicious hearsay, to escalate the whole thing by going on condemning something that no-one actually knows happened.

  4. Peter Pando permalink
    February 19, 2011 3:53 am

    A journalist has again ‘learned’ something (in this case of what went on in a Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet meeting) and used their high media profile to cause a negative perception to be generated. Riley did it last week. Taylor does it this week. Playing with fire might be to suggest that a great tradition of freedom of thought and speech has become so narrow that it can’t manage or dilute critical opinions, even when they are latent.

  5. Matt permalink
    February 21, 2011 4:09 pm

    I heard you talk to Bill Crews on this subject on 2GB. Thanks for tackling the issue head on. I often wish our current political leaders were as good as our post-politics former leaders at calling a spade a spade and being frank with their thoughts.

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