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Sarwat Hassan: John Howard Slashes Muslims Again

John Howard Slashes Muslims Again


By Sarwat Hassan, Sydney
1 September 2006

The majority of people in Australia still have not gained a clear classification of what these “Australian values” are that John Howard repeatedly speaks of. Recently, John Howard speaking about Australian Muslims said “fully integrating means accepting Australian values, it means learning as rapidly as you can the English language if you don't already speak it...”

According to Mr. Howard, the mastering of the English language denotes ones acceptance towards Australia and its values. Arguably, our Australian values symbolize the embracing of different cultures, tolerance and toiling together to build a greater Australia.

John Howard, labeled the Australian Muslims as an inferior community unable to integrate as they do not speak or learn English, furthermore he placed emphasis that Australian Muslims treat their women in an inferior fashion. He said, "it means understanding that in certain areas, such as the equality of men and women ... people who come from societies where women are treated in an inferior fashion have got to learn very quickly that this not the case in Australia."

Like a kangaroo loose in the top paddock, John Howard’s views are so inaccurately put that now more Australians understand that this constant emphasis on the Muslim community is to divert attention from his political debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan and misleading the nation on many fronts including the deputation of Australian Army in Iraq.

Australian Muslim women are not different to any other women living in Australia. The Federal government has enough laws and legislations in place which give equal rights to all people irrespective of their background, religion or ethnicity. Prime Minister John Howard may run short of evidence to counter his statement as young and old Muslim women are found in all walks of life and are successful role models for younger generation Australians.

According to 2001 Australian census, 15,013,965 people only spoke English at home and the rest of the people surveyed spoke a second language. The statistics evidently indicate that with the population of only 20 million people, 80% of people only speak English. In spite of this, Prime Minister John Howard is manipulating the wider Australian public in to believing that Muslims are at the heart of each social problem we are facing in recent times. Strangely enough, Muslims being only 2% of the entire population of Australia are considered to be the highest threat to Australian values being tarnished.

All Australian citizens, no matter what religion, race or culture they belong to must be loyal to their country. Assimilation does not necessarily mean that they should automatically delve in to the mainstream culture or environment that surrounds them. One cannot blame an individual or brand a particular community for not following the correct code of culture in Australia, as there is no specific culture yet developed. However, the Universal code of Tolerance, Respect, Loyalty, Patriotism and Freedom are all a part of the Australian identity.

In Australia, as in many other countries, illiteracy is embedded in the in socio-cultural, political and economic conditions of the country. The Federal Government, in the past, has introduced Adult Literacy Action Campaign (ALAC) 1988/9 to prepare the ground for a national effort to provide better awareness, participation and infrastructure for adult literacy provision. Instead of tilting the problem towards only Australian Muslims the government could continue to fund programs such as the immigrant English learning centres and run a nation-wide English Adult Literacy campaign.

Today, where the world has become a global village, language, culture and tradition are less important to the people than their mutual economical and political interests. The states and nations want to be a part of international community. Every state is trying to create Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the other countries. Yet, our Prime Minister John Howard wants to live in the era of English colonialism where English language and culture was considered the supreme than others.

Australia comprises of peoples from more than 140 nations and encompasses world's major languages, cultures, traditions and religions where Muslims play a vital role in today’s diversified Australian society. According to the 2001 Australian census there are 280,000 Muslims in Australia, however, as claimed by some Muslim organizations the number of Muslims in Australia is as high as 350,000 comprising of people from more than 60 different countries.

It has been noticed; time and again the Australian national leaders, particularly the Prime Minister ignoring statistics continue to make flawed statements regarding all Australian Muslims as though they only belong to an Arab and Turkish background. The significant percent of Australian Muslims belong to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Iran, Afghanistan and many African States where most of the countries has first or the 2nd official language is English.

The entire Muslim community and many other Australians feel appalled by the remarks made by Prime Minister Howard. Ms Iktimal Hage-Ali, a member of the Prime Minister's advisory group accused Prime Minister Howard of threatening to further marginalize Muslims “ politicians feel like they need to bring it to mainstream attention as the only group, like marginalizing us even more then we already feel marginalized today” she said.

These latest controversial remarks made by Prime Minister Howard on talkback radio will certainly stir new issues between the Federal Government and the Australian Muslims. Some observers and analysts now count Howard’s frequent vilification on Australian Muslims as his political tool to deflect the attention of the public from the other issues and problems this government is facing on internal and external matters.

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(The writer is a student of journalism at University of Western Sydney, (Sydney) Australia).

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