“John Howard has singled out Muslim migrants for refusing to embrace Australian values,” the lead story in The Australian reports today, “and urged them to fully integrate by treating women as equals and learning to speak English.”

Fair enough. It’s impossible to participate fully in our society without English language skills. We regard equality among the sexes as a fundamental.

The Prime Minister’s remarks reflect the legitimate concerns about the infiltration of Muslim communities by radicals. Last month’s British bombing arrests provided further evidence that British Muslim communities are proving fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist extremists. Niall Ferguson observed in the London Daily Telegraph earlier this week the distressing trend that it is the “disaffected sons and grandsons of Pakistani immigrants who are most susceptible.”

Ferguson referred to the much quoted Pew global survey that found 81% of British Muslims consider themselves to be Muslims first and British second. “Only Pakistan has a higher percentage of people who put their religion ahead of their nationality,” he said.

These are concerning findings – but there’s a second set of Pew research that’s also worth acknowledging. In the wake of the historic elections in Iraq last year, Pew reported on attitudes to democracy in Islamic countries:

The vote in Iraq indicates that support for democracy in the Muslim world observed in surveys is genuine and holds up under challenging conditions. Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys conducted in 2002 and 2003 found receptiveness to democracy in nearly all of the 17 Muslim populations in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa covered by the polls…

Muslim publics attach considerable importance to specific democratic principles, especially the freedom to criticize the government. Honest multi-party elections, a fair-handed judiciary and a press free to report without government censorship also are valued…

The American Spectator is scarcely some pinko publication. It observed the Pew research suggests:

Muslims desire democracy where it doesn’t exist, and support it where it does, no matter what their preachers preach… Overwhelmingly Muslims believed democracy could work in their country. What’s more, they clearly favored democratic government over “a leader with a strong hand.” In two Muslim countries – Lebanon and Turkey – the number preferring democracy over a strong leader is about the same as in the US.

Granted many Muslims believe religion should play a prominent role in politics, but so do many Americans. In fact, more Turks (73%) and Lebanese (56%) than Americans (55%) say politics and religion should be kept separate…

And as the Prime Minister knows, democracy and respect for liberal values begins at home.

Peter Fray

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