Muslim Integration into Australia

In Australia, a recent poll found that 49% of Australian want Muslim immigration to be stopped, citing lack of integration as the key issue.

Muslim Leaders

There is little ordinary Australians can do to overcome their fellow countrymen’s fears about the lack of integration of Muslim immigrants into Australia. There is much that Muslim leaders can do to address the perception.

They could speak out about the following obvious sore points:

  1. Argue that the full face covering of the burka is not appropriate in a multi-cultural country like Australia.
  2. Argue that polygamous marriages are not allowed under Australian law, and should not be practiced in this country.
  3. Argue that payment of taxes is a good way to demonstrate that Muslims can be good citizens.
  4. Argue that work, not welfare, is the way to be a useful member of the Australian community.

Muslim integration failures = reduced immigration.

There will be no overt “anti-Muslim” rhetoric from the Australian government, but there are many actions that a democratic government will take to address the perceived fears surrounding a lack of Muslim integration.

One of the leading ways for Muslim immigration to be restricted is to cut back on the “family reunion” programmes. This can be done just be restricting the number of visa allocated for this purpose in any one year.

The government could adopt a non-Muslim bias in accepting refugees. Since there are many worthy refugees seeking asylum in Australia, even from the Middle East, there is no reason for Australia to take any more Muslim refugees.

Muslim Integration

If Muslim leaders want to overcome the perceived “bias” in Australia against Muslim immigration, it is entirely in their hands. Open days in mosques will not cut it. It really requires Muslims to act as if they really want to live in a multi-cultural country like Australia. If they don’t, they will hurt those they love the most.

Muslim Immigration – Australian perspective

An Essential Vision survey of 1000 of its 100,000 selected “eligible” Australians showed 49% would ban Muslim immigration.

This was a shock to most commentators. While it is fair to question the methodology used, it also could be an indication of just how far elite thinking has moved from what ordinary people think. Only a survey of all voters, randomly selected, would really address the reasonable methodological doubts. Nevertheless, this survey and the vote in Australia for One Nation does indicate that there could be a real issue with Muslim Immigration in Australia at the moment.

Ban on Muslim Immigration – Reasons

Surprisingly, the #1 reason cited for supporting a ban is not “Terrorism,” but “They do not integrate into Australian society.”

The perceived lack of integration has been a typical Australian comment on large numbers of new arrivals from a particular country. It has been said about 19th century Chinese immigration. It was probably said about Greek and Italian immigrants. More recently it has been said about Vietnamese immigrants and Koreans, and now about Muslims.

It is natural for people moving to a new country to live and work in places where there are many others of the same ethnic background. As confidence grows, many new arrivals find it easy to locate themselves in the wider community. This is currently the case with Chinese and Indian immigrants, who are widely dispersed in Australian cities, with sociological factors such as education and social standing playing a much larger role than ethnic identity.

While it is possible that Muslims will prove to be a different case, since Islam traditionally has had no concept of a “secular state,” secular states have more recently operated in Muslim-majority nations, such as Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Indonesia. (Turkey is not a good example, as in modern times it has been a Muslim-only nation except in Istanbul.) Also the rise of sectarian conflict in Syria and Iraq, primarily Sunni uprisings against non-Sunni governments, raises questions about the willingness of Muslims to integrate into a secular society and to accept diversity of opinions.

Muslim Response is required

While “elite thinkers” can fulminate against the lack of liberal ideas among the “non-elite,” there is little that can be done to change the community perception of a lack of willingness of Muslims to integrate, unless Muslims themselves demonstrate a willingness to integrate.

Changing perception of Muslims can be led by the diverse Muslim leadership, the Imams, mosque leaders, and so on. It could begin with discouraging the use of full-face covering clothing by Muslim women. This is a cultural conditioning that does not translate well in Australia.

Overt suppression of the place of women in our society does not only apply to those who adhere to Islam. In the religious, but not in the secular spheres, it also applies to some denominations of the Christian religion. However, it appears to be more obvious in the case of Muslims, with reports of genital mutilation, polygamy, and the “bans” on Muslim women relating directly with men who are outside of the family.

Treating women in a way that appears to relegate their role to complete subservience to men will never be accepted in Australian society. Addressing this question is something that only Muslim leadership can address. Laws can prohibit the more obvious cases. For example, a ban on burqas in public buildings and events could be introduced. Laws on genital mutilation and polygamy could be vigorously enforced. But it would be far better if Muslim leadership changed the perception of Muslims by making the case that such things are not an inherent part of Islam.

What is taught in the Mosque?

I have no idea what is taught in a mosque, although we sometimes see a glimpse of a radical speaker sowing hate, either here or overseas. Such images do not build confidence in the willingness of Muslims to integrate.

Surely Muslim preachers in an Australian context are emphasizing the need for individual Muslims to earn and income and pay taxes in order to contribute to society, and not do what Mark Latham has observed, milking the welfare system of Australia at the expense of every other taxpayer. Or are they? I would love to know. On a parallel theme, one could also expect that Muslim preachers in Australia would also be teaching worshippers to pay tax according to Australian law and not blatantly defy it, as I have personally observed.

Integration not defiance

Negative perception of Muslims in Australia can be fixed by Muslims. The Essential Research poll, even if biased, shows that they have a long way to go.