Solutions to the Muslim Problem in Australia
by John Stone
On 11 September 2001 the United States of America was attacked in New York and Washington, D.C. A further attack, aimed either at the White House or the U.S. Congress, was foiled due to the bravery (and death) of passengers on the aircraft involved. President George W. Bush immediately declared the United States “at war” against the perpetrators of these atrocities. Prime Minister Howard, who was in Washington at the time, invoked the A.N.Z.U.S. Treaty, ranging Australia alongside the United States in that war.
On 12 October 2002 that war came closer to Australia in the Bali nightclub bombings, involving 88 Australian deaths and injury of many others. It came even closer on 9 September 2004 with the attack on our Embassy in Jakarta, even though no Australian lives were then actually lost.
These assaults, and others (for example, the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta on 5 August 2003) were carried out by people loosely describable as Islamic fundamentalists forming part of Al Qaeda or its affiliates, such as the Indonesian Jamaah Islamiyah. They involved either attacks on Western countries by non-citizens or, in Indonesia, on Westerners by Islamist Indonesian citizens.
The London bombings on 7 July 2005 opened a new chapter in this war between fundamentalist Islam and the West. Four young Muslim men, all British citizens and three of them born in Britain, attacked London Transport, killing 52 innocent people and injuring many others. Although the British intelligence services are internationally held in high regard, they were unable to give any warning.
The great significance of the London bombings — followed, on 22 July, by attempted bombings that, fortunately, were unsuccessful — lies in their origins. For the first time, we saw an Islamic terrorist atrocity carried out by people who, previously, had been thought of by their fellow citizens as part of “us”, as distinct from a threatening foreign “them”.
It is no exaggeration to say, therefore, that the London bombings sent a profoundly important message to every Western nation having within its borders a significant population of resident Muslims, including many who had gained citizenship. Australia is such a nation, and we, like every other Western nation so situated, now have a resident Muslim problem.
After the London bombings some newspaper columnists, such as Philip Adams in The Australian, argued that the British had brought them on themselves because of the Blair Government’s involvement in Iraq. Without pursuing that particular argument here, there is a sense in which the British did bring those bombings on themselves. As I said elsewhere at the time: 1
“Successive British governments have persisted in the multi-culturalist folly that a nation can be built on separate but equal cultures. Moreover, under Tony Blair in particular, Britain’s immigration policies, and border controls against illegal immigrants, have become international jokes . . .”
Since the Tampa incident in August 2001, Australia’s own border controls against illegal immigration have been significantly tightened. Our immigration policies remain, nevertheless, largely unchanged, and under the present Minister, Senator Amanda Vanstone, their administration seems to have become dangerously “sensitive” to every passing current of Left activist opinion. As to our official multiculturalism policies, established under the Whitlam Government and assiduously followed by all subsequent governments to this day, they are no less foolish than Britain’s.
Following the London bombings the Prime Minister announced two meetings to consider their consequences. First, he convened a meeting with prominent Australian Muslims to discuss the matter. Second, he indicated his intention to convene a special Council of Australian Governments (C.O.A.G.) meeting to discuss more specific measures.
The former meeting has now been held, and yielded little or nothing (which is not to say that it should not have been held). As to the latter, its results remain to be seen, doubtless before this article appears. However, nothing even hinted at by the Government suggests it is preparing to address the two larger issues noted above, namely the composition of our immigration programme and the thoroughly malignant consequences of our official multiculturalism policies.
Beyond those two matters, however, there is a third. How are we to deal with our already self-manufactured potential problem, namely our existing resident Muslim population?
Later in this article, therefore, I propose to address these three questions. But first, I want to consider:
• The size of our Muslim population;
• The nature of the resident Muslim problem;
• The arguments about “moderate” Islam; and
• The “race hatred” red herring.
How many Muslims are there in Australia?
One might have thought (wrongly) that there would be a ready answer to that simple question. In the 2001 Census, 282,000 people answering the “religious affiliation” question described themselves as Muslims. (This was, incidentally, 81,000 more than in 1996 — a 40 per cent increase over the intervening five years). However, that Census question is optional, and in 2001 some 1,835,000 people declined to answer it. If we assume only that the proportion of non-respondents among Muslims was the same as for the whole population, the figure for our actual Muslim population four years ago becomes 312,000. Adding rough estimates for net Muslim immigration since mid-2001, and for natural increase (births over deaths), we might arrive at a figure around 360,000. Muslim community spokesmen regularly refer to a figure of around 400,000. A half million figure is also often quoted.
In short, we have a potential resident Muslim problem, but we have no reliable estimate for its size. That is not good enough.
The Nature of our Resident Muslim Problem
Since the London bombings, extremists from both sides have sought to distort the ensuing debate over the problems arising from the presence of significant resident Muslim populations in Western countries. On one hand, the far Right suggests that every Muslim is a potential murderer. On the other, the academic Left, large segments of the media, and most of our timid politicians, suggest that apart perhaps from a very few individuals who can be left to the surveillance of the police and security forces, there is no problem. Both views are equally wrong.
A fascinating, and disturbing, light was cast on the matter by a YouGov poll among Britain’s Muslims immediately after the 7 July bombings. 2 YouGov is a reputable polling organisation and, although the poll was undertaken online and the sample involved (526) was smaller than would be ideal, nevertheless the results were, in my opinion, highly significant. Consider, for example, the following responses:
• In answer to the question, “Do you think the bombing attacks were justified or not?”, only 77 per cent said they were not at all justified. Some 6 per cent regarded them as “on balance” justified, while another 6 per cent avoided the issue by their “Don’t know” response.
• In answer to the question, “[D]o you personally have any sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who carried out the attacks?”, 24 per cent answered affirmatively, with more than half (13 per cent) expressing “a lot” of sympathy. Again, another 6 per cent took refuge in “Don’t know”.
• In answer to a triple choice question, 32 per cent agreed with the view that “Western society is decadent and immoral, and Muslims should seek to bring it to an end”. A small proportion (1 per cent) went further, agreeing with the addendum, “if necessary by violence”. The alternative addendum, “but only by non-violent means”, which attracted the other 31 per cent, was non-specific about those means. Personally, I take no comfort from the thought that Western society, including Australia, should be brought to an end in any way whatever — particularly if it is to be replaced by one based upon such Muslim cultural artefacts as Sharia law, the subjugation of women in society, and so on.
• Asked whether they believed that the bombers were or were not Muslims, only 40 per cent said they believed they were. This is a community in denial.
• In answer to the question whether “the ideas that led the London suicide bombers to carry out their attacks” could be described as “perverted and poisonous” (Tony Blair’s words), only 58 per cent agreed, while 26 per cent positively disagreed.
• Perhaps most tellingly of all, in answer to the question, “How loyal would you say you personally feel towards Britain?”, 10 per cent felt “not at all loyal”, while a further 6 per cent felt “not very loyal”. 3
A “moderate” Islam?
Another, rather different string to the bow of the multiculturalism industry apologists is the proposition that, although Muslims of the extreme Wahabi (for example) genre may be considered dangerous to the West, most Muslims are of a “moderate” persuasion. For example, Indonesian Muslims, as distinct from Arab ones in particular, represent a moderate form of Islam. Australia’s Muslim community, it is claimed, is predominantly of this more moderate variety, so that fears stated by people such as myself are much exaggerated.
There are two problems with these arguments. The first, rather like the earlier stated problem about the number of resident Muslims, is that we really do not know (although I do note that the largest single group of Muslims in Australia in 2001 were of Lebanese origin, a fact hardly supportive of the apologist thesis). The second is in assuming that all Muslims from countries whose populations may be seen as predominantly “moderate” are themselves actually in that category.
As to the first problem, remember that before their crime, all four young Muslim men in London had appeared to be wholly “moderate”. As to the second, its nature and extent can be graphically illustrated by a survey undertaken last year in that “moderate” Muslim nation, Indonesia. Conducted jointly by the Freedom Institute, the Liberal Islam Network and the Centre for Islamic and Community Studies of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, it involved personal interviews of 1,200 respondents throughout Indonesia in early November, 2004. According to The Jakarta Post and Associated Press: 4
• “A large percentage of Indonesians were not tolerant towards people of different faiths”. For example, “49 per cent of respondents staunchly oppose the building of a [Christian] church in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood”.
• Although “59 per cent of respondents disagreed with the attacks” carried out in Bali, “16 per cent supported those attacks” and a further 25 per cent “did not give an opinion”.
• Huge numbers of Indonesian Muslims “support the establishment of laws based on the Koran”. For example, “59 per cent of people polled backed whipping adulterers”, while “40 per cent said thieves should have their hands hacked off” and “39 per cent said they support polygamy for men”.
Indonesia’s population is 210 million, of whom 85 per cent (say, 180 million) are Muslims. On the basis of this survey, therefore, it may be said that, leaving aside the very large number who gave no opinion, about 29 million Indonesians support the Bali bombings. As the Associated Press report said, “the findings will rekindle concerns that radical Islam is gaining a foothold in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, which has long embraced a moderate form of the religion”.
The 360,000 Muslims (at least) in Australia today include, of course, many or even most who are thoroughly law-abiding. The problem, which those seemingly law-abiding young Muslim bombers in London have revealed to the world, is not only that we do not know that they are, but also that we cannot any longer be sure that, even if they now are, they will stay that way. As formerly observed: 5
“We would be insanely complacent to assume that even those moderate Muslims now among us (and already there are those who are not) will not, over time, produce from their ranks the equivalents of the London bombers (previously, apparently, moderate to a man).”
If, for example, we complacently assume that our Muslim population is only (say) one-quarter as disaffected as Britain’s, then “only” 1.5 per cent of our Muslims would find London-type bombings here fully justified. Even on the basis of that conservative 360,000 population figure, that means 5,400 Muslims already here who would approve such murderous atrocities. Another 6 per cent (21,600) will feel sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who, one day, will commit similar atrocities here. Similarly, some 8 per cent (28,800) of Australia’s Muslims would believe that they should seek to bring our Western society to an end.
Even today, such deliberately conservative figures are not negligible; but as numbers increase, the problem is likely to get worse. A retired senior A.S.I.O. officer recently revealed that A.S.I.O. knows of about 60 Muslims resident here who have received training in terrorist activities such as bomb-making — a statement subsequently confirmed by the Federal Police Commissioner. The problem, of course, lies not with the potential terrorists already known to A.S.I.O., but with those unknown to it. Remember, both sets of London bombers were previously unknown to the British intelligence services.
The “Race Hatred” Red Herring
Over the past 20-25 years the defenders of our immigration policies, and of our official multiculturalism policies, have mercilessly played the race card against anyone daring to question those policies. The A.B.C., and its sister S.B.S., have been particularly prominent in thus suppressing debate, with the Fairfax press not far behind. Only Pauline Hanson’s emergence began to show that, for average Australians such as “the Howard battlers”, these imperial elites had no clothes.
Although, therefore, charges of “stirring up race hatred” can now, more often than not, be treated with the contempt they usually deserve, it is nevertheless important to note that nothing in this article, or in the more general debate about Australia’s Muslim problem, has anything to do with race. 6 It is a debate not about race, but about culture, and particularly about people whose culture is such that they are unlikely readily to integrate into our society. As that young Muslim man said on Channel 7’s Today Tonight programme on 15 August, “We will never integrate”: 7
“For the world’s problem today, whence the London bombings derive, is that Islam has become a failed culture. That was not always so. But for 500 years now Islam has turned in on itself and lost its way, while the post-Reformation West has forged ahead. It is that sense of greatness lost, of declining significance more generally, that loss of pride, that has evoked the bloody frustrations we now confront.”
Ultimately, only Islam can reform itself. But as that Indonesian survey (and much other such evidence) illustrates, in the present struggle within Islam, moderates have been steadily losing out to fundamentalists (particularly those financed by Saudi Arabian, and to a lesser extent Iranian, oil money). It is anybody’s guess how that struggle will eventually play out, or how many decades that may take. It is however the thrust of this article that, while that struggle is proceeding, Australia would be wise to minimise the problems it is exposing.
Some specific proposals
In devising specific proposals to address our Muslim problem, note first that Muslims in Australia at any time comprise four categories, namely:
• Those born here;
• Those who, while not born here, have become naturalised Australian citizens since arriving;
• Those non-native born Muslims yet to acquire citizenship; and
• Those here illegally.
So far as the first category is concerned, there can be no question of deporting those born here, and the primary need therefore is to try to ensure, so far as possible, that they are integrated (that is, assimilated) into the broader Australian community. The same is true, broadly speaking, of the second category (naturalised Australian citizens), although those in this category who are found to have committed terrorist-related offences might possibly be stripped of their citizenship and removed to their countries of origin.
The following measures address that general issue of integration:
(1) Our official multiculturalism policies, involving the fostering of “separate but equal” cultures within Australia, should be abandoned outright. All the appurtenances of such policies should be wound down and discarded, including the publicly financed S.B.S. radio and T.V. services, government grants to ethnically based “councils”, and so on. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs should be re-named as Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. At the State level, special treatment of Muslim women applying for drivers’ licences should be abandoned.
(2) To get a better handle on the magnitude of the problem, the “religious affiliation” question in the 2006 Census should be made compulsory. The feverish protestations of the civil liberties groups notwithstanding, there is no more sensitivity in responding to a question about one’s religious affiliation than to a question about one’s income.
(3) Ban the funding of Australian religious institutions (mosques, schools, religious media outlets) from any countries which themselves deny the exercise of genuine religious freedom.
(4) Government spokespeople, federal and State, must abandon Political Correctness and start referring to ethnically-based crime, such as is rife in many parts of Sydney (and not only there), by its real name. The people involved cannot be allowed to shelter within what have become, in effect, the police “no go” zones of their ethnic ghettos. (It is fair to note, incidentally, that the Muslim gangs involved have their equally criminal Vietnamese, Samoan, Tongan, and Chinese counterparts 8).
(5) One barrier to the integration of Muslim women into our society, and also to acceptance of the different mores of that society by Muslim men, lies in the “exclusive” garments that many Muslim women are forced to wear. The burka and the chador are not required by the Koran, but by Muslim men imposing subservience on Muslim women. State governments (whose jurisdiction this is) should therefore follow the recent lead of the Italian Parliament, and forbid the public wearing of such identity-concealing garments (which incidentally, as the Israelis have tragically learned, can also cover bomb belts).
(6) As the last in this bracket of measures, replace both the present Minister (Senator Vanstone) and her junior Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs (Mr. John Cobb), who have both shown themselves to be totally unfit to occupy these vital portfolios, particularly at this time.
While these measures would also bear upon the third category of our Muslim population (those who have not yet acquired citizenship), additional measures addressed to that category would be desirable:
(7) First and foremost, we should stop adding to their numbers, by sharply reducing, to the point of virtually halting, further Muslim immigrant inflow. We are under no obligation to allow into Australia people who are likely to form a distinct and alien group here. Or, to put the point more positively, we are fully entitled to operate our immigration policy so as to discriminate between those we judge likely to integrate into our society, and those whose culture renders it unlikely they will do so. Here it is worth recalling the well-considered words of the late Sir Harry Gibbs, formerly Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia: 9
“While it would be grossly offensive to modern standards for a state to discriminate against any of its own citizens on the grounds of race, a state is entitled to prevent the immigration of persons whose culture is such that they are unlikely readily to integrate into society, or at least to ensure that persons of that kind do not enter the country in such numbers that they will be likely to form a distinct and alien section of society, with the resulting problems that we have seen in the United Kingdom.”
Halting Muslim immigration need carry no implications for the overall size of our immigration programme. Any reduction in Muslim immigrants can easily be offset by more non-Muslim ones.
(8) Apart from simply declining to grant residence visas to Muslims, we should also take other measures to effectively reduce Muslim demand for them, namely:
• In our immigration policy generally, enhance the emphasis on English-speaking ability. Today, English language proficiency earns points towards an applicant’s overall score. It should be made an absolute requirement (including, in other than exceptional cases, for our humanitarian intake: there are plenty of English-speaking humanitarian cases, and they should be given preference).
• Cut back hard on giving welfare benefits to immigrants (genuine refugees excepted). The most powerful inducement to Muslim (and other) immigration into Britain has been the sheer lavishness of social security benefits available on arrival, compared with the countries of origin. (In any case, why should Australian taxpayers be required to foot such bills for those who, having voluntarily sought to live among us, then batten upon us?).
• Draw up an official document, to be given to all applicants for residence visas (and signed for by them at the time as having received it), which sets out in plain language both the obligations which Australia expects from its residents (for example, equal treatment of women, the right of any person who wishes to marry a person of another faith — or no faith — to do so, the unacceptability of aspects of Sharia law such as polygamy, and so on) and the requirements for those intending to seek future citizenship — see (9) below. To the extent that such a procedure were to result in deterring immigration applications from Muslims, that would relieve the pressure on Immigration Department officials and would be all to the good.
• Serve notice on the United Nations that Australia proposes to withdraw from the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Article 44 of the Convention provides that “any Contracting Party may denounce the Convention at any time by a notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations”, which then becomes effective 12 months later. This treaty, which came into effect more than 50 years ago to deal with an international refugee situation bearing no relationship to today, is well past its use-by date and merely provides a playground for refugee activists, including above all lawyers of that persuasion, who have become a blight upon the community.
(9) The valuable possession of Australian citizenship should be rendered much harder to obtain — not only for Muslims, but for everyone coming to live among us. Our present official approach to citizenship values it so lightly as to be demeaning: we can hardly be surprised if those who receive it do not take its obligations seriously either. Some steps that would address that deficiency might be:
• The present derisory two years residence requirement should be amended to (at least) the five years previously required before the Labor Party decided that it needed more citizen “ethnics” with which to stack its branches. Even a somewhat longer period (seven years? ten?) might be desirable.
• Nobody should be able to acquire citizenship without first becoming reasonably fluent in English, with appropriate testing at the time of citizenship application. Nothing does more to perpetuate ethnic ghettos (particularly for women) than the inability to speak the language of the general population. Protests that this would amount to re-imposing the dictation tests of the White Australia policy should be dismissed for the dishonest inaccuracies that they are.
• Applicants for citizenship should be required to pass a reasonable test of its meaning: parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, respect for the rights of other citizens, some small knowledge at least of Australian history, and a general understanding of the Australian values to which new citizens profess to swear commitment. Lining up (non-individually) to take a meaningless oath (with, so to speak, one’s fingers crossed) after only having been in the country for two years is a grossly inadequate basis for bestowing the precious gift of citizenship.
• The enactment into the law some years ago of provisions permitting dual citizenship should be repealed. It is not possible to be loyal to two sovereigns, which is what dual citizenship implies. It is bad enough, for example, that 16 per cent of Britain’s Muslims should feel not at all, or not very, loyal to their adopted country. The real question is, would they fight for it against a Muslim adversary?
Finally, there is the fourth category of Muslims resident in Australia today — those here illegally. In respect of these I suggest two further measures:
(10) The Australian Defence Force should be ordered to put more resources (and given the necessary extra funding) into sealing our wide open back door from Papua-New Guinea across Torres Strait. At the right time of year (essentially, the non-monsoon period) Torres Strait is little more than a mill pond, navigable by small craft readily acquired on the P.N.G. side by anyone who can bribe his way into that country. We would do well — the protests of our “blue water” Navy notwithstanding — to establish a strongly resourced, localised “Coast Guard” on Thursday Island (which would also provide jobs for some of its residents). Anyone who thinks this fanciful should recall that this was the route into Australia taken by Peter Qasim seven years ago. His only error was to get caught after arrival.
(11) That leads to the question of introducing a national identity card. As one principally involved in defeating Labor’s Australia Card proposal in 1987, I fully understand the civil liberties arguments against that. But circumstances alter cases. We already possess several forms of personal identification, such as photo-bearing driver’s licences, tax file numbers, Medicare cards and so on. More importantly, national security considerations today are infinitely more important than they were in the innocent days of 1987.
National identity cards would probably not help much in forestalling London-style attacks here, although they would be one more hurdle for the attackers to surmount. They would however help appreciably in subsequently apprehending the culprits when Australia suffers similarly.
There is also a particular aspect of our illegal immigrant presence (which the Government puts at around 70,000 persons, but which is almost certainly significantly larger) where a national identity card would be very useful. If the law were amended to make it illegal to employ a person who did not possess a national identity card, and significant penalties were imposed on the employer for doing so, we would go a long way to wiping out those practices, presently rife, whereby employers effectively “import” fellow ethnics (not only Muslims) using tourist visas, whom they then employ as sweated labour under the blackmail threat of reporting them to the immigration authorities. Such a measure would presumably have the support of the trade union movement.
The gravamen of this article has been that we must fundamentally rethink our immigration policies and our official policies of multiculturalism. Future immigration policy should focus on whether those concerned are culturally capable of assimilating into Australian society. The outstandingly successful wave of post-war immigrants clearly passed that test because their basic culture was, essentially, our own. In my opinion, not only have more recent Muslim immigrants not done so, but there is also growing evidence (not only in Australia) that they are unlikely to do so.
Australians generally, I believe, have had enough of this — a view shared at least as strongly by non-Muslim immigrants as by native-born Australians.
After spending the first 45 post-War years in fighting the Cold War, the West then settled back to enjoy “the peace dividend”. We took our eye off the ball throughout the 1990s, and now confront an equally formidable enemy in fundamentalist Islam which, as one of its spokesmen has said, may not (yet) have the nuclear bomb, but does have “the population bomb”. This is the war on which we are now embarked — a war likely to last at least as long as its Cold War predecessor
As usual, our politicians (on all sides) seem reluctant as yet to provide real leadership, although the continued presence of John Howard as Prime Minister provides some reassurance in that respect. Time, however, is of the essence. The problem will not go away, and refusal to confront it now will only render it harder to confront later. There is no doubt about public feeling on the matter. A government which goes on trying to play down that public feeling will ultimately pay a heavy electoral price for doing so.
1. The Australian, 22 July 2005, “One nation, one culture.” In that article, and a subsequent one, “The case for assimilation” (The Australian, 15 August 2005), I initially advanced some of the arguments developed in more detail here.
2. The raw data were weighted to reflect the Muslim population of Great Britain by age, gender and country of birth.
3. These six points represent only a small part of the much more extensive poll material. Full details can be found at www.yougov.com/archives
4. The Jakarta Post, 12 November 2004: “Intolerance is still high”; and Associated Press, 12 November 2004: “Survey shows significant support for radical Islam in Indonesia.”
5. The Australian, 22 July 2005: “One nation, one culture”.
6. Of course, some real racists may also seek to inject themselves into the debate, but their advocacy also, along with that of the multiculturalism industry, should be set aside if we are to reach sensible outcomes.
7. Loc. cit., note 5.
8. Fairfax press editorialists deploring such “ethnic stereotyping” (that is, truth-telling) should read their own Natasha Wallace’s chilling report (The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2005) on the series of carefully planned and brutally executed gang rapes in the Sydney suburb of Ashfield in 2002 by four Muslim brothers, the sons of a Pakistani G.P. practising in Sydney.
9. Australia Day, 2002 message to members of The Samuel Griffith Society. The full text is given at Appendix II to Volume 17 of Upholding the Australian Constitution, available at www.samuelgriffith.org.au
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John Stone is a former Secretary of the Australian Treasury and Senator, and is the Honorary Secretary of The Samuel Griffith Society.
National Observer No. 66 - Spring 2005