Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Making A New Australia
In The Making Of A New Face Of Australia
By Syed Atiq ul Hassan
The 'White Australia Policy' - the policy of excluding all non-white people from Australia - was an official policy of all ruling powers and mainstream political parties in Australia from 1890s to 1950s. The elements of this policy survived until 1973 when the "White Australia Policy" was finally & completely abolished and the official barriers against non-white race to enter in Australia were finally removed. Today, almost one in four of Australians was born overseas and the Anglo-Saxon Australian society has been turned into a multicultural nation. In the times when even many developed nations were blamed for racial and religious discrimination Australia remain carried the reputation of being a non-political non-violent and a nation of different colours. During Sydney Olympic 2000 Australia received highest reputation being the supreme sports-loving nation in the world. Nevertheless, Australia will continue to enjoy this reputation in the world as long as it would carry these characteristics.
One may not choose neighbour but friend. Longer lasting relationships between the independent States are maintained through the exchange of trade, culture and technology at peoples' level. Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the World and due to its geographical location it might be a safer and quite place for Muslim extremists as well. For Australia, Indonesia is the biggest neighbour with whom Australia shares history, trade, tourism and a long-coastal border of Pacific Ocean. Similarly, there are about 4 million Muslims of different ethnic background in Australia among 19 million of total population. Islam is considered as a second largest religion in Australia. Hence, it would be fair to say that Australia cannot afford to have ill-relations either with Indonesia or even with any other Muslim State. In response to the international situation, it would have been a wise and sensible policy for Australia to stay-away from the on-going global politics of confrontation and remain neutral to maintain good relations, at all level, with Indonesia.
When the post 9/11 terrorist attacks in US changed the face of the world's politics and the world has been hijacked by the politics of extremism, revenge and terror, divergently to Australian trend the Liberal Democrats in power opted to play an active role as an US-UK ally in the game supposedly to be in safer hands from the anti-American terrorists. In the US fight against terrorism - which is basically an ideological confrontation between US power-brokers and those Muslims extremists who once trained and prepared by US secret agencies to fight and break the Russian power in central Asia - Australian Liberal government decided to become the part of US-allied forces in the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This has made Australia under spotlight particularly among the Muslim States and consequently, Australia become the enemy in the eyes of those Muslim extremists whom ultimate dream is to defeat and isolate their old chum United States.
Consequently, in the last 4 years or so, the people of Australia have paid the cost of many innocent fellow Australians who were died in the terrorist attacks, twice, in Bali (Indonesia). Though at the peoples' level the situation is not yet very frightened, as traditionally, Australian public is very tolerate and found least concerned on international politics. Nevertheless, there is a strong feeling suspicion about Muslims is found in the government agencies. The activities of Muslims as individuals or groups are being monitored very meticulously by Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and other secret agencies. In the government circles, the threat of terrorism is so severe and growing that government is compelled to enforce those kinds of Laws to protect the so-called terrorism for which Australia used to condemn other countries.
To justify government's policies on foreign and inland matters and on the name of maintaining law & order situation, unexpected laws are being formed by the government. In Australia where the values of human rights and social justice is considered as supreme and where hang to death is ban constitutionally, new laws are being prepared where a person can be shot to kill in suspicion of being a terrorist. These laws are being copy-cat from UK and US. The US and UK style joint operations by Australian Federal Police, ASIO and local authorities in major cities are becoming a routine activities now. And evidently, Muslims are now the recipient of these terrible laws. History shows that whenever and wherever the operations conducted by secret agencies without transparent supervision it created more disharmony and hatred in the society and particularly among the targeted community or people. In addition, tougher and tougher rules are being introduced by the immigration department for immigrant and visitor applicants. Even some extreme politicians are suggesting to the government to introduce the laws of annulment of citizenship and deportation from Australia to the people found danger to the situation.
On the top of this, the style of the media coverage on police raids and operations by some print publications is so thrilling that it would be adequate to traumatize anyone who didn't have knowledge on the background of the issues. Particularly, since the 9/11 (2001) attacks in US, some mainstream media groups in Australian, without realising the damage and divisions in the society have continuously been adopting the policy of using stimulating language and such kinds of sentimental words that directly hurt the local Muslim community. Blatantly use of terms and phrases like 'Jihad', 'Islamic terrorism', 'Islamic extremism' etc by the media is creating more fear among the Muslim community. All of this, today, has reflected a different face of Australia on the international scene. Where people used to differentiate Australia by its supremacy in sports, unique natural beauty and immigration opportunities they now read more Australian stories about police raids, deportation, anti-terror laws and demonstrations.
One cannot believe that in today's Australia - a country which is based on tolerance and mutual respect and whose identity is its multiculturalism one would appreciate or support terrorism or religious hatred or the people would appreciate the laws that harm the social freedom and democracy of Australia. Mentally ill and wrongly educated people on their faith are found in every society especially in this era of global aggression and certainly there are adequate rules and supremacy of law in Australia to deal with them. One can not imagine that the people of Australia indiscriminately would like to see those kinds of laws and severity on the people which could change the face of Australia internationally. (The writer is a Sydney-based journalist and political analyst).