Recently the Australian Curriculum Studies Association and the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies issued a booklet, “Learning From One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools,” which maintains that “every Australian school student would be taught positive aspects about Islam and Muslims — and that Australia is a racist country.”
Presumably every Australian child should be taught about the fabled past of Islam and imagine the worst of Australia in order to avoid the challenges Islam poses to this peacefully integrated nation.
The report contends that there is a “degree of prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims,” conditions that Australian students should oppose as they embrace diversity as the standard of civic duty. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are mentioned as famous names synonymous with traditional Islamic ideas, but there isn’t any reference to terrorism.
The truly remarkable dimension of this report is that a largely immigrant community, comprising a small minority, is demanding that classes be taught from its perspective rather than the perspective of the nation to which most chose to come. Australia is demonized as racist while the real challenges posed by Islam are overlooked. Moreover, it is precisely the communal values and institutions in Australia that made it a worthy destination for immigrants in the first place.
Most tellingly, Australia’s so called “racist impulses” were fomented by radical Islamists responsible for the death of 100 Australians in Bali and terrorist plots in Australia itself in which at least twenty people have been jailed.
According to the report, “most Muslims are outspoken in their criticism of terrorism regardless of the perpetrator. This is because Islam only allows for a just war. … From their perspective, the enemies of Islam are the terrorists and they are the warriors of the faith.” In addition, the authors of this booklet contend that “morally, Australia is not a good place to rear children,” citing as evidence drugs and illicit relations. They argue that these conditions militate against integration. It is also an argument employed for their own system of law, sharia.
What this adds up to is a minority intent on changing the environment in which it finds itself rather than seeking an accommodation with the prevailing norms. It seems to me the authors of the report have failed to address several obvious questions: If Australia is an undesirable place to raise children, why emigrate there in the first place? If sharia is the legal code you prefer, why not move to a nation where this code is in place? Why should the Australian school system comply with the requests of this Muslim minority?
It seems to me imprudent that the demands in the booklet are made at all. Suppose a Jewish minority in Iran argued that Talmudic law should be introduced across the board for this group. By any reasonable standard this request would be rejected. There simply is no reason for the Australian government to balkanize itself and, in the process, legitimate a minority hostile to law, custom, and tradition.
That integration of minorities may tolerate a degree of loyalty and affection for the “old country” is understandable. But there isn’t any justification for altering the school curriculum in the adopted nation. If anything is the case, Muslim students will be handicapped if, by virtue of a diversity standard, they learn about Islam but remain ignorant about the nation in which they reside.
Moreover, since Western nations have made an effort to welcome Islamic immigrants through programs that engender understanding, it seems to me reciprocity is warranted. But is it possible to promote women’s rights in Saudi Arabia? Or does the school curriculum in Pakistan include a history of constitutional provisions? Do Syrian schools incorporate the history of the Kurdish minority into their school curriculum?
What the Australian Muslim minority wants is what Australia can not grant: capitulation to a state within a state. A separate Muslim school system or one that emphasizes the unique aspects of Muslim life would be a first step toward the dissolution of Australia. No wonder there is pushback. Who would expect anything else?