The Australian government's rather moderate attempts to strengthen national and social cohesion and identity -- such as recently renaming the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and proposing toughening up citizenship tests somewhat -- were the subject of a bizarre attack in the International Herald Tribune last January 28.
Written by one Tim Johnson, the article starts by claiming that: "Prime Minister John Howard has always had reservations about the concept of multiculturalism....he has led the country for more than 11 years ..."
I would have thought the International Herald Tribune employed fact-checkers. John Howard became Prime Minister of Australia on 11 March, 1996, less than 11 years ago. The article continues:
"In the past he has made significant gains at the ballot box by appealing to the insecurities of middle Australia, particularly over immigration. Migrants constitute a relatively small part of his coalitionâ€™s support."
No evidence for these statements is provided. And there is in fact no evidence that Australians voted for John Howard primarily because of his alleged appeal to "insecurity." Good economic management, high levels of economic growth and employment, and low inflation may have had something to do with his coalition government's consistently winning elections. Of course, it may have been inconsiderate of Bin Laden towards the left-of-center Labor Party to stage 9/11 shortly before the 2001 Australian election, which Howard won, but most people do not see that as Howard's doing. Recent surveys suggest that middle-class and professional people of immigrant background actually tend to support the coalition more than they support Labor.
Johnson himself, with no apparent regard for consistency of argument, points out that 25% of Australia's population were born overseas, so the coalition could not possibly win elections without very substantial immigrant support. In any case, Australia is an immigrant nation, and until now has had an outstanding record of settling waves of migrants peacefully and without trouble.
The article continues: "The debate [over multiculturalism and citizenship] became more than academic in December 2005. A mob of white Australian youths, incensed by what they saw as sexual harassment of women and violent behavior by groups of Australian Lebanese youths, gathered on a south Sydney beach and went on a rampage, beating up anyone they could find of Middle Eastern appearance. The riots left deep scars on the national psyche."
Note the phrase "what they saw as sexual harassment" with the insinuation that this perception was false. Actually it was sexual harassment, including racially and religiously-motivated gang rapes by Muslim youths of mainly Lebanese and Pakistani background, and it had been going on and getting worse for a long time, with Australian families and other migrants, including Lebanese Christians, being targeted and driven out of whole areas.
Without condoning the riots, it is correct to say that they were the result of aggressive and on-going provocation. Nothing similar had occurred before in post-war Australia.
The father of four Pakistani-born gang-rapists said of the Australian rape-victims: "What do they expect to happen to them? Girls from Pakistan don't go out at night."
The North Sydney riots began on a hot day on the beach when Australian beach-goers finally retaliated after months of provocation, including insults to the Australian flag as well as continuing harassment of swimsuit-clad Australian girls. Before that, Australians of all ethnicities had been using the beach peacefully for a couple of hundred years. As for the phrase "the riot left deep scars on the national psyche," the use of such loaded but meaningless, pseudo-mystical, pseudo-psychological, nonsense jargon speaks for itself. What is a "national psyche"? How can "deep scars" on it be measured? What sub-editor let such a pointless cliche by?
While the article refers to "groups of Australian Lebanese youths" the point is omitted that Lebanese Christians have settled peacefully and successfully in Australia and have never been identified as a group with violence, harassment and sexual assaults. They have contributed some outstanding business, community and professional leaders to the country.
The article further claims that many migrants (but with numbers and ethnicity unspecified) think that: "...the Australian flag and nationalism have been hijacked by white Australians of European extraction ..." A correspondent on the blog run by Australian journalist and nemesis of leftist cant Tim Blair noted of this: "Excuse me, but I thought we 'White Aussies of European extraction' actually settled and developed Australia under the British and then Australian flags."
The article continues:
Speaking at a citizenship ceremony last Friday to mark Australia Day, Howard outlined some of what he thought were typically Australian values: democracy, the rule of law, sexual and racial equality, and a common language, English.
But his words carry little comfort for people like Keysar Trad, a Lebanese immigrant and the head of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia. "I love these values, but when he talks about them, they are little more than cliches; they tend to be exclusive," he said. "They are encouraging racism through national pride. It's a recipe for a highly polarized society."
One of the things this fails to mention is that Keysar Trad, who is by no means accepted as a spokesman by the whole Muslim community, is notorious for defenses of Muslim extremists, including the Mufti Sheik Hilaly, who has claimed women not wearing burkas or who leave the house are "uncovered meat" for cats to steal, suggesting their rape was understandable, and who made jokes about the rapes of Australian girls by Muslim gangs. Mr. Trad said the Mufti's comments comparing women to cats' meat were "not meant in a derogatory way." He added that the Arabic word for meat -- lahm -- could also be translated as "flesh."
In a lecture at Sydney University Hilaly accused Jews of using Freemasonry, Baha'ism, Rotary Clubs and "sex and abominable acts of buggery, espionage, treason and economic hoarding to control the world." He also advised that: "The two cheapest things in Australia are the flesh of a woman and the meat of a pig."
Trad has emerged as the main Muslim spokesman prepared repeatedly to defend Hilaly, another point the International Herald Tribune omitted to mention when quoting him.
Trad's repeated claims that statements by one Muslim "firebrand" after another were "taken out of context" have become a standing joke for many in Australia.
Further, as the International Herald Tribune again did not mention, Trad is alleged to have worked previously as a translator for a pro-bin Laden and pro-Jihadist publication. This advocate of muliculturalism is said to have written of Australia: "The criminal dregs of white society colonised this country ... and the descendents of these criminal dregs tell us they are better than us." He is also alleged to have compared non-Muslim Australians to sewer-water. Trad's latest public activity has been to sign a letter, in company with John Pilger and others, praising Hugo Chavez and urging him to visit Australia.
The International Herald Tribune did not quote any of the countless immigrants who are proud of Australian citizenship and accept and agree with Howard's advocacy of citizenship and shared values. And it has made itself a laughing-stock, to put the matter no higher, by publishing this piece.
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