“Europe is burning” and multi-culturalism is our enemy. This is the collective message of several pieces in The Australian newspaper print edition this past weekend that allude sympathetically in one way or another to the pitfalls of accepting Muslim immigrants.
The lead news story on page one was headlined “Church fear over Syrian refugees.” Written by Dennis Shanahan, the “comment posing as news” says that the “Turnbull government’s plan to take a majority of the 12,000 extra refugees from persecuted Christian groups is in danger of being derailed.” As if this were the policy. Perhaps Shanahan hopes it is. Of note, the online edition of the newspaper amended the lead sentence to include a reference to “other religious minorities” but still left the emphasis on Christians as in the original.
It was not Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who led on the decision; his predecessor, Tony Abbott, was in charge on September 9 when the cabinet apparently made a decision on a preference for persecuted minorities. Abbott commented publicly at the time that there would be no religious test: “There are persecuted minorities that are Muslim, there are persecuted minorities that are non-Muslim and our focus is on the persecuted minorities who have been displaced and are very unlikely ever to be able to go back to their original homes.” This view, that there would be no purely religious test, was backed by a senior Immigration Department official on November 18.
The preference among some Australians for Christian refugees over their equally brutalized and displaced Muslim brothers and sisters is justified with some half-truth logic that Christians are by definition “more” persecuted in the Middle East than Muslims. Such a claim in respect of Syria has no basis in fact. Islamic State and the Assad regime both target Muslims who refuse to support them as much as they targets Christians.
Any attempt to introduce a preference in Australia for Christian refugees from Syria based exclusively on their religion would be a legal and ethical minefield for officials involved, not least the Muslim (or Hindu, Jewish, or atheist) employees of the Australian Immigration Department. We are, after all, a multi-cultural country with a multi-cultural civil service in spite of the ideological prejudices of journalists.
In his article, Shanahan went on to say that Australia’s “Christian leaders fear they are being blocked” in recommending co-confessionalists. He said that “government sources believe drafting of the September 9 decision [on taking an extra 12,000 refugees] has undermined the clear intention of cabinet.” Shanahan appears to be stoking an imagined split between a conservative Christian zealot in the Cabinet, Treasurer Scott Morrison, and the new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
Greg Sheridan, fellow conservative to Shanahan at The Australian, writes in the same issue that Western civilization is under threat. This is surely exaggerated. A contrary view might be that terrorists do not threaten our societies with collapse. They do undertake horrific, but occasional violent attacks. Look at Pakistan today ─ more bloodied by terrorists than all of Europe and the United States combined in the past 20 years, and equally unbowed.
Having stated bluntly and falsely that terrorism exists in “all Muslim societies” (and “all Western societies”), another false statement, Sheridan mentions two books that he says “detail the overwhelming failure of integration of North African and Middle Eastern Muslim populations in France and in Europe generally.” This is his code for pandering to those who oppose Muslim immigration into Australia, even though he says Australia is better placed to integrate them because of its allegedly superior “ethos.” But he should know by now that religious pluralism (multi-confessionalism) and multi-culturalism (as opposed to “integration”) are as much a visible and permanent reality in Europe as the sun and the moon. Multiculturalism exists. It is not defined by what governments or pundits say it is.
Mark Durie, an evangelist Christian pastor, writes in the same issue of The Australian that France could have avoided terrorism by defending its borders and “could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism.” He says European states could “insist” that Muslims “engage in constructive self-criticism of their religion.” This is a demand verging on the fascistic. In the same issue, Brendan O’Neill writes of what he calls the Islamophobia industry, suggesting that its effect is to “convince Muslims that the world hates them.” Douglas Murray warns that “After Paris, we can no longer afford to promote the myth of multiculturalism.”
The journalists mentioned above are entitled to their mono-cultural delusions. Rupert Murdoch, one of Australia’s most decorated conservative Catholics, a man who prides himself in his ability to know a “real black” when he sees one, and the person who founded the paper 51 years ago, appears to be prepared to subsidize this unprofitable newspaper precisely because of its apparent ability to churn out such propaganda.
Though the authors mentioned above would deny it, their articles in The Australian this past weekend help to inflame a national mood of foreigner hate in Australia that should have died long ago but which is, sadly, ever-present, waiting for any new crisis as an excuse to re-emerge as if it were respectable.
There were glimmers of good journalism in The Australian this weekend, including a balanced editorial on responses to terrorism. But the most refreshing contribution was the comment piece by a British Muslim liberal, Maajid Nawaz.
The newspaper sub-headed his article with a reference to the “squeamishness of liberals.” This was mischievous. Nawaz identified himself in the article as a liberal. He could not have been more careful in his article to warn of misjudgments by both sides of politics (liberal and conservatives). In the same sentence as he called out “President Barack Obama and many liberals … who shy away from calling this [insurgent] ideology Islamism,” he called out “those on the political right” who may “begin to blame all Muslims.”