Hardly any week goes by that I do not reflect on my Australian identity and my religion - and, every time I reflect, I feel proud that I am an Australian citizen and that my religion is Islam.
Although this pride takes a hit every now and then due to the negative statements of a few non-Muslims - which then become newsworthy when politicians and media people see something in it for themselves.
In the last few weeks there have been two disturbing events:
AdvertisementAn apparently Anti-Muslim petition was tabled in Federal Parliament.
A surveyconducted by the University of Western Sydney was supposed to prove that more than 40 percent of Canberrans (residents of my own city) identify themselves as being anti-Muslim.
Soon after the survey results were published, it was discussed on ABC 666 radio in Canberra where I was invited to share my thoughts with Dr Paul Kelly.
My input in that discussion was that I don't believe that Canberra is a racist city as I do not believe that Australia is a racist country. The answers to the questions in the survey did not prove the respondents to be anti-Muslim. It would have been less sensational had the newspapers put the reported answers into the context of the actual questions.
The petition tabled on 15 February 2011 also called for a 10-year moratorium on Muslim immigration and a proposal to undertake 'a review of the immigration policy to ensure priority is given to Christians'. I believe that the petition took the great majority of Canberrans by surprise.
Freedom of speech is an essential right in a democracy - but when a point of view which could be very upsetting for 350,000 Australians and which is spread by the media throughout the width of the country, there must be care taken that the report is not based on incomplete information or misinformation.
There were only 380 interviewed. Who were they? The media should realise that there is not a society on earth which does not have a percentage of the population feeling threatened by some nationality, race or creed. What is the point of reporting on some aspect of human nature as if it was news?
So, it would have been good if the petition ‘in the interests of free speech’ was discussed with Muslim community leaders prior to it being tabled and the consequential jumping on it by the media.
Then there are statements by MPs which get an immediate media coverage.
It becomes extremely painful when Cory Bernardi, using a very broad brush, describes Islam as a ‘totalitarian, political and religious ideology’ and immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison attacks the government for paying the airfares for asylum seekers (and spoiling the goodwill shown by the government on behalf of the people.)
However, some leading members within the Liberals, publicly announced that they did not support Cory Bernardi’s nor Scott Morrison's views and publicly praised the contribution of Muslims in Australia.
What is the motivation behind these statements by Bernardi and Morrison? Is the call for an absurd moratorium the chasing of working class votes for the Liberal Party? In my 20 years in Australia I am yet to experience a tradesman who has shown any hostility towards me - or, any Australian woman who has ever hesitated to leave her kids with my wife for care at our home (my wife was a child care worker in Canberra for sixteen years).
Statistics shows that 40 % of Australian Muslims were born in Australia and 67% are under the age of 35 years. Has anyone imagined the affect of this on these people who have all their allegiance only for one country, the country in which they were born, Australia! And, what effect do such petitions have on Muslim school children?
Australian Muslims have a higher percentage of university qualified graduates that the general population. We in Australia should believe in ourselves and have confidence in each other. Australia should continue its policy of bringing people into Australia without any discrimination of colour or creed, religion or belief.
Let us show the world that we Australians believe in equality and a ‘fair go’ for all.
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