Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Who is Afraid of Multiculturalism?

The federal treasurer, Peter Costello, has bluntly warned the radical Muslims and other migrants to accept Australian values, respect the laws and liberties of the land or lose their right to citizenship.

And the treasurer’s position is well supported by the Prime Minister, John Howard, who is on record as saying: “I don’t believe you should ban wearing headscarfs but I do think the full garb is confronting and that is how most people feel”.

Come to think of it, the good treasurer (like some of his cabinet colleagues) believes those who want to live under the Islamic sharia law should move to countries where they would feel “more at ease”. He is obviously concerned with the emergence of what he describes as “mushy and misguided multiculturalism”.

Muslim leaders, who came here as migrants and refugees, have accused him of promoting “Islamophobia”; misunderstanding the real meaning of the sharia law.

But there are other points of view on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbot, is on moral high ground when he argues that the advocates of sharia law should not be dismissed as un-Australian. And that, by accepting difference, multiculturalism is likely to be the most effective long term antidote to the antagonisms evident in the Australian society.

Essentially though, multiculturalism strives to avoid confrontation of the type seen during the Cronulla race riots in this country. And by stressing harmony and respect, multiculturalism aims to foster the kind of dialogue that diminishes the potential for conflict – a point recently emphasized by Mr. Abbott.

Thus, in the scheme of things, multiculturalism as an organising principle should be seen as an effective solution to the problem of cultural diversity.

It seems to me, quite clearly, that multicultural life is not the main problem. It is the fear of multiculturalism (in all its manifestations) that poses the greatest danger.

In fact, Abbot puts his Christian values into practice when he argued that multiculturalism is an invitation to try to understand others’ ways of thinking and living – he is, absolutely, right on this score.

Now, all hands must be on deck! We must deal with the problem of cultural diversity at the local, state, and federal levels, by building bridges across cultures!

Moderation is the name of the game of politics in the 21st century. There is absolutely nothing to fear but fear itself.
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