Page 3264 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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division which is, of course, perpetuated by that very approach. If other countries are antidemocratic, then I think there are ways that we can work against that without going to war with them. But we have a responsibility to make sure that our own country remains democratic.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister convened a summit of selected, I think they were called, leaders. I think it is like many other communities: leaders are often self-selecting. We know governments prefer to talk to leaders and it is much more difficult to get down to the ordinary people. Yesterday a group of people representing, so the government thought, the Islamic community met with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said afterwards that intelligence agencies would be monitoring mosques, prayer halls and Islamic schools to the extent necessary as part of the federal government’s counter-terrorism policy.

Even more worryingly, education minister Brendan Nelson said that Muslims in Australia who did not want to accept local values should clear off. We can ask the question: what are local values? We have been having this values debate in Australia for a year or two. We all know that it is code for another conversation. It depends who defines what the values are. Frankly, I do not want Brendan Nelson defining my values.

In response to these comments, Waleed Kadous, the convenor of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, said that the comments were ill advised and that it makes the community feel isolated. He said that people talk about integration, but it is a two-way street; that if you feel there is hostility, then you will want to be with your own people; that hostility makes people crowd together as, under adversity, people will.

I think that the opinion piece in today’s Canberra Times by Professor Maley put a very good point. Thank goodness for people like Professor Maley. He wrote:

Muslim Australians, like all Australians, are required to obey the law. But if what they are doing does not contravene the law, there is no basis for arguing that they should be required to adjust their own values, attitudes and practises to match those of others.

I think we have seen a change in our approach to and in our definition of multiculturalism over the last decade or so. I do believe that Pauline Hanson had a bit to do with that, but I think that suited a certain agenda of Howard’s. What we have now is a definition of multiculturalism that says that multiculturalism should emphasise the things that unite us as people, our common membership of the Australian community, our shared desire for social harmony, the benefits of diversity, our evolving national character and identity.

A lot of that is really good and we can agree with it. But when we hear or see words like “our evolving national character and identity”, we should ask: are these words that leave other people out? Who defines what is our national character and identity? Is it Simpson and the donkey? That was nearly 100 years ago. I think that each generation would have their own ideas about what it was.

What we face today is a choice of community exclusion or inclusion. I would like to think that our local Canberra community is choosing inclusion. We should be celebrating

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