Perhaps it was decided that the timing of such a call was not exactly optimal:
- after the massacre in Afghanistan of seven US staff, and deaths of several more people over a US pastor's burning of the Koran, incited, it seems by none other than President Karzai himself;
- the weekend story about a Sikh priest and his family being terrorized by gunfire from Muslims trying to drive them out of the Sydney Temple; and
- Taliban suicide bombings at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan that killed at least 41 people.
Over the weekend Greg Sheridan had a long piece in the Australian on why he no longer supports multiculturalism, and he makes some important points.
Islam as it is practised around the world
Firstly he points out that the reason Islam has a poor reputation is because of the problematic nature of Islamic practice around the world:
"The reputation of Islam in the West is not poor because of prejudiced Western Islamophobia, still less because Western governments conduct some kind of anti-Islamic propaganda.
Instead, it is the behaviour of people claiming the justification of Islam for their actions that affects the reputation of Islam.
In January, the governor of the Punjab province in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, was murdered [Pakistan's bishops are seeking a formal declaration from the Vatican that he was martyred] because he opposed the severity of the nation's blasphemy laws.
One of his last acts was to visit a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the prophet. The governor's murderer won wide public support.
ABC television recently showed a documentary on the killing of Ahmediya sect members in Indonesia, among the most liberal Muslim nations, because their Muslim murderers regarded them as a deviant sect. On YouTube you can watch scenes of a young Afghan woman being publicly flogged because she was seen in the company of a man who wasn't her husband or brother.
In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive cars.
In Iran, government thugs beat protesters to death to safeguard the rule of the mullahs.
This list could go on and on. It may very well be that the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims reject such actions. But it is fatuous to try to find a similar pattern of Christian, Buddhist or Jewish behaviour. You can find extremists in every religion and from every background, but there is no equivalence in the size and strength of the extremist tendency in other religions."
Are Australian Muslims different?
Sheridan argues not from his experience of living in Lakemba:
"One day, waiting for a pizza order, I wandered into the Muslim bookshop. I was astounded to see titles such as The International Jew or The Truth about the Pope, amid a welter of anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and pro-extremist literature.
The revenge attacks on white Australians after the Cronulla riots originated out of Punchbowl. A number of media crews were attacked when they went to local mosques. A large number of those charged with terrorism offences in Australia stayed in or had associations with the area.
Due to the brilliant and fearless reporting of this paper's Richard Kerbaj, who spoke perfect Arabic, we found that at a number of the mosques in the area outright hatred was being preached: anti-Semitic, misogynist, conspiratorial. Most of the time, these sermons didn't advocate violence. The speakers were what Britain's David Cameron has called "non-violent extremists".
The advent of satellite television made it easier for these folks to live a life apart. Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station was available on satellite packages. Most Arab homes you went into had Arabic TV playing in the background.
The anti-social behaviour became more acute.
One son was playing cricket with friends when they were challenged by a group of teenagers, whom they presumed to be Lebanese but may have been of other Middle Eastern origin, who objected to white boys playing cricket. A full-scale, if brief, fist fight ensued.
One son was challenged by a boy with a gun. Lakemba police station was shot up. Crime increased on the railway line."
And he goes on to describe more such incidents.
The roots of the problem
Sheridan argues that the problem is footed in the lack of a concept of separation of church and state, which means that Islamic preachers inevitably preach politics. Unemployment, alienation and a culture of welfare exploitation contribute. And all combined with the effects of funding from hardline regimes such as Saudi Arabia.
No doubt there are other contributing factors as well, but one way or another there is a rational basis for concern. But the problem it presents to Australia is only going to get more acute with the projected growth of our Muslim population:
"The Australian Muslim population is still relatively small, perhaps 400,000 or just under 2 per cent of the population.
The US-based Pew Research Centre has recently completed a big study on Muslim demographics and migration trends. It predicts that for Australia the Muslim population will grow by 80 per cent between now and 2030, to about 715,000, growing about four times as fast as the rest of the population, and reaching about 3 per cent of all Australians.
Such forecasts are always rough estimates, but this is based on fertility, migration and mortality trends, and it's highly plausible.
It may be that by 2030 we will start to have a much more European-style, polarised society as a result."
Sheridan's solutions include putting more rigor into assessing skills and English language ability in of formal potential immigrants, and put less emphasis on facilitating migration from radicalised countries. Seems sensible enough. Rather more problematic is his 'stop the boats' call (in a word, how?).
But it is not enough.
The reality is that even if we could completely shut out migration, Australia already has a home-based (and to some extent home-grown) Islamic terrorist problem that can only continue to grow as the process of radicalization that is happening in Islamic communities around the world continues.
The government's renewed embrace of multiculturalism includes a commitment to confront extremism, and those who reject Australian values. It would be nice to see this agenda being given some substance instead of the Human Rights Commission's naive push for laws to compel greater religious 'tolerance'.