Last week, Victorian Senate candidate Vickie Janson teamed with Dr Bernie Power, Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths, Melbourne School of Theology (MST) to present before the Joint Standing Committee on Migration addressing Multiculturalism in Australia. Vickie and Bernie’s submission was made on behalf of the Family Council of Victoria of which Australian Christians is an affiliate organisation. Here is Vickie’s Hansard recorded address which was followed by 30 minutes Q & A. Both representatives felt the committee was very open and genuinely seeking to understand the issues at hand.

I’m am pleased to make the following submission on behalf of the Family Council of Victoria; an organization committed to promoting and supporting the natural family.

While highly emotive, the context of the current challenge to multiculturalism unarguably pertains to Islam. There is concern both locally and internationally about hindrances to integration and whether the well-intentioned accomodationist policies Australia has adopted to foster ‘social inclusion and antiracism’ are unwittingly fostering the reverse.

I will be referring to a 2012 research paper on multiculturalism authored by British feminist sociologist Marie Macey, which I find mirrors my own observations in Australia. And as I’m representing the Family Council of Victoria, will pick up on her assessment that
the greatest impact of multicultural policy has been on ‘minorities within minorities’. Quote: “They have had an enormous and devastating impact on women’s autonomy and rights.” Duly noted, Macey points out in her summary how everyone, and democracy itself, suffers because multiculturalism is ‘antithetical to genuine equality of opportunity, encourages separation, if not separatism, impacts negatively on society as a whole and operates against social cohesion’.

According to Macey, of major significance is that we are not simply talking about accepting and respecting differences, but incorporating these into the public arena (noting this could present radical challenges to conventional ways of running liberal democratic societies, as well as privileging minorities over majorities in terms of rights).

So the focus of this short submission will be the effect of multiculturalism upon minorities and will challenge the idea that privileging minorities encourages better relationships, genuine equality, and less racism.

The idea of getting a fair go is pretty well entrenched in the Australian psyche.

Yet Macy notes that ‘Racialisation permeates multiculturalism since apparently only non-white cultures need attention’. I was advised by a fellow participant in a recent ‘antiracism strategy meeting’ that ‘white’ is not a race but a construct; clearly not on the same playing field.

My Iraqi Muslim friend says violence is part of her culture, yet if a white Australian says the same thing it is considered racist stereotyping. In the current climate, it’s not what you say but who you are that says it. We don’t want to demonise or stereotype our Muslim citizens; we just want to freely discuss the facts.

Racist crimes are those committed by whites but racially motivated crimes by non-whites are not reported as racist – though they may be. Under the news heading ‘New Clamp on Muslim Haters’ Victorian Police reported that they would develop a database on crime motivated by religion to counter Islamophobia. I believe if Police are profiling they have a duty of care to do this equitably – profiling all religiously motivated crimes whether committed against Muslims or by Muslims – because the high rates of violent crime in Europe committed by Muslims were a contributing factor in Europe’s leaders claiming multiculturalism has failed.[1]

In a report by Phyllis Chesler published in the Middle East Quarterly Spring 2010, it’s noted that in Europe 96% of the perpetrators of honor killings are Muslims and allegations of ‘unacceptable ‘Westernization’ accounted for 71% of these crimes in Europe and 91% in North America. These are girls in the West killed for unacceptable westernization.

Bad attitudes toward ‘the other’ are not solely the domain of white Australians or Europeans, which are the focus of antiracism policy. Having attended many Islamic meetings in Australia I can assure you that stereotyping non-Muslim Australians as drunk, sleezy and godless is quite common, with democracy cast as: Quote ‘an infidel’ system of government in need of replacement by sharia law. As Macy points out, multiculturalism dictates that what is acceptable for one group in the public arena is not acceptable for another. At a Darebin Council Interfaith meeting recently, it was fair game to commence with a comedy of a drunk white racist man wrapped in the Australian flag. It’s only vilification if the joke is at the expense of a minority. Yes, Australians are broad shouldered enough to laugh at themselves – yet I believe without more positive reinforcement of the western heritage, we are fostering a slow cultural suicide. Being broad shouldered will no longer be an Australian trait if we succumb to multiculturalism with its one-sided tolerance.

Social inclusion is a desired outcome of multiculturalism yet it so often fosters exclusion and segregation. One of the supporting arguments for an exclusively Muslim prayer room at the Fiona Stanley Hospital by the group Aussie Muslims was the need to ‘avoid idolatry’. (Presumably sharing with non-Muslims of a different tradition put them at risk of this) Their submission noted that ‘performing prayers next to someone with diametrically opposed rites and beliefs will be uncomfortable, to say the least’. This just makes a complete mockery of notions of tolerance. When in Malaysia recently I told my Muslim friend that in Australia we have Muslim only swimming and she looked at me incredulously and asked ‘why?’ Why won’t Muslim women share the pool with non-Muslims? Yet to ask the question here assumes ‘intolerance’.

As we see increasing evidence of Muslim only space in the form of prayer rooms in hospitals, airports, schools and universities, Muslim only toilets, swimming sessions, and government funded material promoting Muslim doctors and dentists at the expense of other professionals, (perhaps non-Muslim migrants with the same language skills), we should consider how this lines up with Australia’s commitment to ‘social inclusion’ and the theological basis for segregated public space. Is social inclusion actually an Islamic value?

Having read the previous testimony of Ms El-Matrah from the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, I agree with her that funding for a Muslim women’s refuge should be more important than funding an interfaith event. However, why only for Muslim women? What about other non-Muslim migrants, indigenous people or just women generally? Sharing experiences can be very unifying. Why the exclusivity?

I believe the answer is in theology and one needs only look to Islam’s Most Holy Place; Mecca which is so holy it forbids non-Muslims entry altogether. Theologically ‘most holy’ equates to Muslim only. While the world shows great tolerance toward this exclusivity, imagine the international outcry if the Vatican City banned all non-Catholics from entry?

Saudi is the heart of Islam and the guarder of their scriptures and yet forbids the practice of any other religion in its borders. Dr Mark Durie states, ‘dominance is hard wired into Islamic texts’ and this is evidenced in the treatment of minorities in Islamic nations. Despite this intolerance of other faiths in Saudi, the OIC headquartered there are campaigning against intolerance toward Islam, calling for the worldwide criminalization of speech against Islam. As the OIC represent 56 Islamic states wanting to effectively introduce an international blasphemy law, this is not a fringe element. This is a global initiative demanding special recognition, and greater rights for Islam. Is resisting this really a matter of racism or a legitimate and responsible position in a liberal democracy?

With 17,000 British women experiencing ‘honor related violence’ including death every year, the Family Council of Victoria believe it is absolutely reckless of Western governments under the guise of multiculturalism to promote Islam. Until such representative bodies as the OIC renounce punishment for speaking against or leaving Islam, promoting Islam in our schools, councils and communities is merely inviting people to accept a faith that has yet to find a way of releasing people freely from it; a faith that birthed the Cairo Declaration of human rights, subject to sharia, rather than the UN Declaration of Human Rights. As Europe has already discovered, and the appalling treatment of women all over the Islamic world attest to, sharia does not provide women the freedom, equality or protection they should be receiving under Western law. To conclude allow me to restate Macey’s comment that multiculturalism has

“ had an enormous and devastating impact on women’s autonomy and rights.”

It is not the cause but a facilitator.

[1] With reports that 95% of women in British refuge homes are Muslim, Sweden’s Muslim population associated with one of the highest rape rates in Europe, Norway politicians advising women on how to dress to avoid rape and a high assault rate on homosexuals and Jews. These are some of the disturbing elements that have led European leaders to say ‘multiculturalism has failed’ – the common denominator is Islam.

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