Modia Minotaur

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Sheiking the Multiculturalism Debate

Yesterday, while flicking through a copy of the Daily Terror, I saw something that made me feel rather sad (yes, sadder than reading Piers Akerman's column).

Amid the record of Grand Finals Fever was a picture of the Muslim cleric Sheik al-Hilaly, perhaps best known for helping to rescue Australian hostage in Iraq, Douglas Wood. The sheik was depicted in full robes, with a Sydney Swans scarf, catching a football. The headline?


(I'll just leave a moment for that to sink in. It's almost up there with the New York Post's headline on the day America started bombing Iraq: KABULSEYE. Or, indeed, the title of this post).

This picture struck me as representative of everything I dislike about the current debate over `integration'. I don't doubt that the Sheik is a mad Swans fan, as he has every right to be. It's just that the picture was grossly emblematic of everything a Daily Telegraph reader wants to see in a Muslim. I find it sad that a leader of a major religion has to do this sort of thing to be regarded as credible and `Australian'.

It strikes me that many of my happiest memories of being Australian involve multicultural experiences. I remember attending a festival of South American culture not long ago, and being delighted at seeing a woman in a sari dancing alongside another in a hijab. Australia has, since European occupation, been a multicultural society by default. This is something I celebrate. I don't want such people to subvert their history and culture into some vague, Anglo-centric notion of `Australianism'. To me, multiculturalism is Australianism.

It's amazing how many people are quite pleased to partake of the fruits of multiculturalism - to grab a kebab or a Thai meal - while demanding an end to the very system of society that has delivered such fruits. I was quite astounded to hear multiculturalism described as a `failed experiment' upon the death of Whitlam minister Al Grasby.

There is no better way of fostering peace between cultures than celebration, or at the very least, acceptance. The current argument for integration is based on the notion that such peacemaking has failed (and the even more dubious notion that forcing young second or third generation immigrants to `choose' between one culture or another won't make them confused about their identity, angry, and resentful). Multiculuralism only fails when not everyone agrees to participate. When we blame one culture or another for not participating, we neglect the fact that the same rule should stand for Anglo-Australians as much as it does any other race or culture.


At 1:37 pm, Anonymous Mark Richardson said...

I have to disagree. Australia hasn't always been multicultural. After 1788 a distinctly national culture developed which most Australians identified with.

Second, Hilaly himself is no multiculturalist. He has claimed that the Aborigines are the descendents of Afghan Muslims. In the Islamic tradition this means that Australia is to be treated in perpetuity as Muslim territory.

Hilaly has also endorsed suicide bombings, stating that "whoever carries out a martyrdom is a pure Shahid and one of the men of Paradise".

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