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It shouldn’t be Australia’s job to liberalise Muslims

By Gary Johns - posted Wednesday, 26 April 2017


There is a fascinating struggle taking place in Australia over the soul of Islam. The women of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, acting out their pantomime of “permissible” discipline in a Muslim marriage, set tongues wagging.

I say pantomime because surely no one believes the event was not set up to mask the true level of male control in Islam. If you doubt it, look at the laws on marriage, or succession, or rape in marriage among our key migrant source Islamic countries: Lebanon, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia. A striking feature of the laws is that they distinguish the application of the law by religion. Religion first; the rule of law second.

The struggle over the soul of Islam in Australia is taking place in the mosques, in the universities and in public life.

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In his book Islamic Exceptionalism, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institute argues that “because the relationship between Islam and politics is distinctive, a replay of the Western model — Protestant Reformation followed by an enlightenment in which religion is gradually pushed into the private realm is unlikely … We aren’t all the same but, more important, why should we be?”

Hamid’s call to “respect” Islamic exceptionalism was taken up by the darlings of theABC, who gave it plenty of coverage.

Hamid also wrote: “If it were destroyed tomorrow morning, the Islamic State would still stand as one of the most successful and distinctly ‘Islamist’ state-building projects of recent decades.”

This is a liberal scholar from a US think tank. Is this the liberal society’s burden, to suffer those who would do us harm?

But even the enemy can reveal truths. Hamid made the point that hoping for the liberalisation of Islam is false. “Liberalism … needs liberals to survive and prosper.”

In this, Hamid is dead right. Importing illiberal minds is not smart. While Muslim immigrants to Australia may want to escape Islamic laws, to what extent do they carry the habits and mindset of authoritarian Islam?

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Why should Australia take on the burden of liberalising Muslims? In a multicultural policy setting and amid identity bellicosity what happens when they tell us to get stuffed?

A 2014 study of Muslim communities that have settled around Brisbane’s Holland Park mosque, reported “a marked shift” in the community following the large-scale migration of Muslims from the 1990s. They observed a more conscientious practice of Islam, and a tendency to “Arabise everything”. Some of the (Muslim) participants resented the overt Islamist identity and hostility towards Australia.

A 2014 study in Melbourne reported that 18 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds conducted their daily life “strictly in accordance with sharia law”.

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This article was first published in The Australian.



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About the Author

Gary Johns is a fellow of the Australian Institute for Progress and an adjunct professor at QUT.

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