10 April 2014

Racism, Religion and Internalism


There has been a lot of debate recently over the Australian Government’s decision to look at amending section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.  The amendments proposed include removing the provisions making it unlawful to “offend, insult or humiliate” based on a person’s race.  This would be replaced with a new clause that bans racial vilification.  In brief, a large number of Australian’s feel that the proposed changes will, in effect, allow people to be more racist to others.

Since the debate about section 18C has started there has been a couple of incidents, most particularly in multi-cultural Ryde, where a poster was displayed with the words “No more Asians.  It’s not the face of Australia.  We speak English.  Save our Aussie culture”. Under the proposed amendments a number of migrant groups fear that they will incur more racist incidences like this one.

Before I move on, I would point out that every country has elements of racism.  This can be along the lines of hierarchy, culture, religion or even social groupings.  Australia is no different to any other country. There is, and always will be, an element of racism from a small group of Australians.

Since the tragic events of 9/11, Muslims and other religious groups, have had to cope with racist attacks – both verbal and physical.  John Howard, the then Prime Minister, hardly helped racial tensions in Australia by announcing, in the lead up to the 2001 election, that “we will decide who comes to our country, and under what circumstances”.  Four years later and racial tensions reached boiling point during the Cronulla riots.

Fast forward to today, and a search on Twitter will easily show racist tweets here in multi-cultural Australia.  These tweets are normally aimed at Muslims, especially those who can easily be identified as such.  Women who wear the hijab (headscarf) are particularly vulnerable to attack. 

The main issues that some Australians have are that we could allow asylum seekers who are terrorists into our country who would then attack our beliefs and also look to hurt and kill innocent Aussies.  Others feel that migrants are generally ‘dole bludgers’ who don’t want to assimilate. In addition, some feel that there is a plan to take away ‘our’ Christian values and make Australia a Muslim country through stealth.  Note that at the last Australian census in 2011 Muslims made up a mere 2.2% of the population.  Christians, on the other hand, made up a total of approximately 63%.

The media certainly plays a role in swaying our views on subjects.  A number of right wing commentators often make reference to the danger of letting asylum seekers into Australia.  Is this fear valid?  Or do we need to look at how our Christian faiths and values stack up against other religions.  Is our real enemy, from an historical point of view, ourselves and not religious groups who make up the minority?

A quick search on the internet shows that Christians, as a rule, have a long history of decimation and destruction.  Consider these examples:

·         Between the 10th and 12th centuries it is estimated that more than 20,000,000 non-Christians were killed.

·         The 30 year war in Germany in the 17th century saw approximately 40% of the population of the country decimated.

·         With the arrival of the Spaniards to the Americas in the 16th century it has been estimated that 60,000,000 locals were slain.

·         During the Second World War, 6,000,000 Jews were killed in concentration camps and roughly 600,000 non-Catholics in Catholic Extermination Camps.

·         During the Vietnam war 80,000 locals were killed whilst in concentration camps.

In the last two decades we have also witnessed mass murders in Bosnia and Kosovo as well as Afghanistan, as the Allies went searching for Bin Laden.

Certainly it can be seen that Christians have been responsible for many atrocities in our history.

Before, I conclude I am certainly not saying that other religions are ‘holier than thou’.  Certainly there has been many atrocities in a number of Muslim countries.  Especially in the Middle East and North Africa.  To this day this continues to be the case.  Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have also been involved in aggressive campaigns that have left many thousands dead.  It is part of the Human psyche that we attack and kill each other regardless of any God that we may worship or not.  Historically this has been the case and this will no doubt continue in the future.

So let’s remember that Australia is blessed with migrants from all corners of the globe.  Over the past two centuries they have brought their culture and way of life into this country.  How many of the people reading this drink cappuccinos (Italian), enjoy a kebab (Turkish) or love eating burritos (Mexican)?  It is important we sway the argument away from the phobia that is attached to migrants and recognise the role they have played in giving us a rich and well founded lifestyle that we are proud of.  

We need to embrace our multi-culturalism with open arms and learn from each other.  You may find that we have similarities that you never realised before.  Remember too that the vast majority of people are just like you- friendly and peace loving!