There’s a tiny minority of migrants resisting integration. They don’t accept Australian values, don’t treat women as equals and won’t learn English.
I know elderly Indian Sikhs who’ve lived here for decades but can’t speak English. I know Lebanese Catholics who’d disown their daughters for marrying outside their ancestral village. They’re a tiny minority. But they do exist.
So why does Mr Howard only mention that segment of this multi-faith church? Why focus on such people from “the Islamic population”? Let’s apply his tests of integration.
This weekend, Muslim women from across Australia gather in Canberra for a Federally-funded national women’s conference launched by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Goward should brief Howard on how oppressed delegates are forced to work in demeaning fields like academia, legal practice, primary and secondary education, journalism, publishing, social work, film production and police.
Delegates will discuss unAustralian topics like film production, law enforcement, publishing and women in business. Conference proceedings will be in that foreign language called English.
Such women are the rule, not the exception, in Muslim communities across the Western world. Muslims in North America have just elected an all-American woman to lead their peak body.
Howard’s term “Islamic community” is as meaningless as speaking about a “Christian community”. What kind of Christians? Christadelphians? Low-church Anglicans? Roman Catholics?
Migrants have many layers of identity. Religion is only one of them. Usually the most important identity layer is the one where they feel most vulnerable. My parents arrived in Canberra in 1965. My mum’s first friend here was a Hindi-speaking Jewish woman. Language was the primary source of my mother’s identity. It was also the area where she felt most vulnerable.
What possible gains in national security or integration are achieved by singling out one group from the multi-faith broad church of insufficiently integrated Australians? Why identify this group according to one aspect of their identity? And why make ethno-religious heritage a vulnerable point?
Millions of our tax dollars are spent on national security. John Howard frequently says that Islamist terrorists fight us because of our way of life. But when he singles out Muslims for adverse comment, he manufacturing a larger pool of marginalised Muslims. This only benefits extremists in the long run.