Australia is a multicultural society and welcomes all as long as they obey the Australian law.
It is up to the Islamic and Muslim community to integrate into the community and making sure that radicalization does not spread.
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Is the Australian Liberty Alliance the next One Nation?
27 minutes ago – Charis Chang – news.com.au
THE launch of an anti-Islam party in Australia has raised concerns about whether multiculturalism actually works.
Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders launched the Australian Liberty Alliance in Perth this week, promising to stop the Islamisation of Australia, as extremist groups like Islamic State stoke fears of terrorism and distrust within the community.
It’s not a unique development with Mr Wilders noting that “like-minded parties” were enjoying great success in Austria, Sweden, France and Switzerland.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen her approval rating drop to its lowest level since 2011 and there have been attacks on places housing refugees. A recent anti-immigration rally in the country attracted up to 20,000 people.
Earlier this year a headline in Germany’s weekly newspaper De Spiegel asked the question: “Is the ugly German back?”
Australians could be asking the same question of themselves as anti-Islamic sentiment sees the re-emergence of divisive figures like Pauline Hanson. A recent Facebook post from the One Nation leader opposing “mosques, Sharia law, halal certification and Muslim refugees” was shared more than 25,000 times in just two days.
But despite the apparent growing public backlash, experts believe organisations like ALA will continue to appeal to just a small number of people, and that multiculturalism still enjoys wide support, especially in Australia.
“There will always be a segment of the community that is not happy with change,” Professor Andrew Markus told news.com.au
“We shouldn’t be surprised that there is a group in Australia opposed to cultural diversity and immigration but what makes Australia different is that the size of that minority is very small.”
Prof Markus of Monash University has been tracking changes in Australian attitudes towards immigrants and asylum seekers since 2007 as part of the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion Project. He said the last two surveys showed strong support for multiculturalism.
When asked whether multiculturalism was good for Australia, 84 per cent of Australians surveyed in 2013 agreed that it was, and 85 per cent agreed in 2014.
“It’s quite an amazing number and was consistent across Australia, it was hard to find anywhere in Australia, including those in rural areas, where support dropped much below 75 per cent,” Prof Markus said.
But the situation in Europe or even America was very different.
Prof Markus said a British study found 75 per cent its population wanted immigration reduced in 2014 but a comparable study in Australia found only 35 per cent believed immigration was too high.
Prof Markus said Australians saw multiculturalism as being good for the economy and for the integration of immigrants.
“I think people understand and accept it’s who we are,” he said, adding that 45 per cent of the population had at least one parent born overseas.
He said he would be surprised ALA got much traction within the community, and this could also be a sign of the times.
“This country has undergone very significant change over the course of a generation,” Prof Markus said.
“Young people today have grown up in a world very different to their parents,” and their attitude towards immigration or cultural diversity is likely to be “it’s life, this is it, get on with it”.
While this was not true for everybody, Prof Markus said the issues that were significant for their parents were not as prominent for their children.
Even though groups such as One Nation had managed to gain support in the 1990s, Prof Markus said that was 20 years ago and there had been a lot of water under the bridge since then.
“At its peak it got 22 per cent of the vote in the Queensland state election and since that time (leader) Pauline Hanson has struggled to get even one tenth of that,” he said.
BUT CONCERNS ARE REAL
UNSW Associate Professor Geoffrey Brahm Levey, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in Political Science, agrees that parties like the ALA only appeal to a small number of people, but he acknowledged that the group did reflect genuine concerns.
“There is a genuine problem within the Islamic and Muslim community with radicalisation … and that naturally provokes anxiety among populations,” Prof Levey said.
“People are right to be concerned when they see members of the public act violently or unacceptably but the problem is a relatively small one.”
On the ALA website, the group asserts that Islam is not just a religion but a “totalitarian ideology with global aspirations”. While Prof Levey acknowledged some strands of Islam took a more fundamentalist interpretation, there were many others that would reject this.
He said the overwhelming majority of the 300,000 plus Muslims in Australia had integrated into the community.
“There isn’t any crash of civilisations here, Muslims are well integrated and have been for some time,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of Muslims within Australia are peaceful, law abiding and productive citizens and this also needs to be remembered.”
He said problems were created when every person in a faith community was presumed to be guilty because of the deeds of a small minority, which created a sense of marginalisation and estrangement.
It could also be counter-productive and fan the flames of radicalisation.
“Any group that feels itself unfairly marginalised or targeted will breed frustrations that can turn into forms of hitting back at the community,” he said.
He said groups like ALA had always existed in western democracies and it was interesting to note that in the 1960s, Australians had an issue with Irish Catholics in particular.
“They were the target of hostility and marginalisation and then with the arrival of Asian refugees and immigrants in the 1970s, Irish Catholics became identified with the core culture.”
At this point, Australia began describing itself as being an “Anglo Celtic” population, instead of “Anglo Saxon”. “So to some extent, each new wave initially excites these exaggerated responses among locals,” he said.
Past experience with groups like One Nation may have also shown Australians that they did not have the answers to many people’s questions.
“They are the great pretenders, they are voicing all sorts of frustrations that are misguided in most cases and ill informed,” Prof Levey said.
“When it comes to solutions they don’t have much to offer except exclusion and nastiness, which I think most Australians have seen through and is not the sort of place they want Australia to be.”
MULTICULTURALISM V INTEGRATION
While some people believe multiculturalism is different to integration, Prof Levey said multiculturalism was actually a form of integration, especially in the way the concept was applied in Australia.
He said some people thought of integration as “full assimilation”, which involved the complete loss of a person’s prior identity when they became a new Australian.
But experts generally had another view that sees it more as a two-way process
“In contrast to assimilation, you are not expected to lose affection for traditions of the old country,” he said. But it did involve embracing parts of the new culture, and this could include learning the language, abiding by local laws and socialising in a new way.
This two-way approach relies on the dominant society accommodating newcomers, and instead of them being absorbed into the dominant soup of the multicultural “melting pot”, the addition of newcomers change the soup and a new identity is created.
Prof Levey said he did not believe it was reasonable for someone to give up all their old habits and traditions.
“It goes too far and is a violation of our freedoms but it is perfectly reasonable to insist on integration into society, and for immigrants to be full and productive citizens in society,” he said.
For example, on the issue of child brides, he said it was not unreasonable for Australian law to prevail because it was a publicly defendable position and backed by sentiment in the community.
“But for other practices that don’t involve some obvious harm, it’s also reasonable that institutions be more accommodating,” he said.
This could involve for example, allowing Sikhs who work at train stations to wear a turban, instead of a cap as part of their uniform.
“There can be reasonable adjustments to uniforms and this becomes a mechanism of integration rather than just excluding people.”
When it comes to halal meat, Prof Levey said the reasons why people objected to it, needed to be understood. Some could be concerned about funding terrorism, while others may be concerned about slaughtering being inhumane. These types of fears could be alleviated if evidence was produced.
“If people are simply concerned that the meat is halal, this is really nonsensical, it’s simply a custom,” he said.
He stressed that multiculturalism did not have to mean the denial of established majority tradition or public celebrations of occasions such as Christmas. Instead it could involve making them more inclusive, simply by acknowledging that not everyone celebrates them.
In the US, which Prof Levey said did inclusion well, instead of wishing people a “Merry Christmas” they said: “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”.
“This signals to others that you are aware they may not be celebrating it,” he said.
“The attitude in Australia is, ‘you’ve got to be joking, bugger off’ but I think there are ways of handling this.”
Celebrating other faith festivals throughout the year could also help others feel more included.
IS MULTICULTURALISM A FAILURE?
While some have suggested multiculturalism was a failure including German chancellor Angela Merkel, former UK prime minister David Cameron and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Prof Levey said it was interesting to note that two of these countries did not have multicultural policies and Britain’s was very different to Australia’s.
He said the way Britain practised multiculturalism was to encourage communities of minorities, which seemed to have developed parallel lives that did not interact much with each other.
“The Australian model is very different, it’s not about recognising group rights or segregation.,” he said.
He said no other language had been given the same status as English and Australia had always insisted on respect for its parliamentary institutions and liberal democratic norms.
Prof Levey said he thought there was confusion about what multiculturalism was and how it was applied in Australia.
“Because it has, for so long, been presented in terms of ‘celebrating diversity’ or ‘valuing all cultures equally’,” he said the fact it was based on Australian liberal democracy principles which respect the liberty, equality and inclusion of all Aussies, struggled to shine through.
This was one of the main difficulties with ALA, Prof Levey said, which claims to represent the authentic values of the Australian way of life, but did not recognise that this included the principles of being a liberal democracy, which is part of our British inheritance.
“If one truly believes in liberty, as ALA claim they do, one must also allow for cultural liberty,’ he said.
“This includes freely expressing your religion, and culture up to a point, within the law.
“Democracy must include all citizens and allow for different voices to be heard.”