Imagined Reality not the Clash of Cultures
Imagined Reality not the Clash of Cultures
In December, the former Director General of Security, David Irvine, cautioned Members of Parliament on the danger of expressing speculative opinion following the Paris massacre. This advice implies how ill-informed some politicians are on the nature of Islamic jihad and the irreversible demographic trends changing Australia. The apparent short term political focus in Canberra is concerning since long term policy is required to deal with the changing religious character of Australia.
An ‘elephant in the room’ regarding long term immigration from the Middle East is the strong ‘imagined reality’ of Islam compared to the declining strength of ‘imagined reality’ within the Christian community. The belief and practice of each faith may be considered inappropriate or heretical by devout members of the other faith.
Despite the low population number of Muslims in Australia, within segments of the Australian community there is concern at the increasing visibility and influence of Islam. The facts below place this concern into context. The 2011 Census showed that 61 % (67 % in 2001) claimed to be Christian. The ‘No Religion’ cohort was 22 % (15 % in 2001). Minority religions are Buddism 2.5 %, Islam 2.2 %, Hinduism 1.3 % and Judaism 0.5 %.
The 2011 Census recorded 476,300 Muslims (2.2 %) living in Australia. The projected population increase between 2010 and 2050 for Muslims is 75 %, but for Christians (Caucasians) is 35 %. (SBS News, November 2015) The Census also forecast that during this period (2010 – 2050) growth trends for Christianity were 3.7 %, Islam 39.9 %, and No Religion 29.4 %.
A significant issue facing the Australian government in the coming decades is the declining ‘imagined reality’ of Christian belief while ‘imagined reality’ in Islam will remain strong. The power of ‘imagined reality’s’ ‘collective fiction’ should not be underestimated. All tribes, nation states and ancient and modern empires were created and ‘glued’ together by myth, legend, deity and religious belief. Arabic immigrants are maintaining a strong ‘imagined reality’ of Allah while Caucasian Australians are losing theirs in relation to God. It is belief in a fiction or legend (embellished history) that draws people together to become a creative strong unified population. There may be a problem if two dominant belief systems are operating in the same social and administrative tribal or national border.
In the early 21st century. increasing numbers of Australians are questioning their religious belief; in its place the Government is seeking to create a national ethos by invoking the ‘Spirit of Anzac’. With an increasing proportion of the population, there can never be a wide acceptance for this Memorial Day. In the same way, Australia Day will never be accepted by the First People. A day that commemorates the birth of an Immigrant Nation might have wider acceptance, that is, 1st January, 1901, Federation Day. Looking towards mid-century, Australia will require a belief or a legend that a population of immigrants and the First People can rally round. The concept of ‘Team Australia’ is derisory.
In 2014, the Australian population was estimated at 24 million. (ABS) The 2011 Census revealed that 54 % of Australians had both parents born in Australia while 34 % had both parents born overseas. This ratio is increasing in favour of new immigrants. There is possibly an unspoken unease among Caucasian Australians as the declining birth rate continues below the replacement rate of 2.1 per female since the 1970s. (The Conversation, 2013) In 2013, the ABS announced the national fertility rate was 1.88, down from 3.1 in the 1950s. By 2026, the ABS has forecast a decline to 1.8. By contrast, the Pew Research Centre (June 2015) announced the Australian Muslim birthrate is 3.1 which supports the 75 % increase by 2050. This has implications for religious diversity for Australia by mid-century.
Against the background of a relative Muslim population increase, the Australian Muslim Party was registered in November. (SMH, 18 November) The proponent, Diaa Mohamed, is a Paramatta business man who manages ‘ My Peace’, an organisation dedicated to bringing Muslims and Christians together. The objective is to obtain 500 members and contest a Senate seat at the next election. In the 2013 election,there was a 23 % vote for the minor parties. Currently, 18 Senators sit on the cross benches. Just 2 % of the primary vote is enough to win a Seat. However, some sitting Senators with only 0.04 % of the primary vote have won Seats, namely Stephen Conroy, Julian McGauran and Judith Troeth.(www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore)
The Muslim community may well support this Party as it will be viewed as supportive of Islam. The Party name will have negative repercussions in the population at large for the following reasons:
- Australia purports to be a secular society; a party with religious overtones will irritate the electorate.
- The name implies a favoured faith for its members and may deter Christian membership.
- Whatever the Party’s manifesto, it will be viewed as more interested in matters of faith than economic policy and social improvement.
- The Party name will tend to perpetuate lax reporting and political comment due to incorrect use of secular or religious terminology. In public statements and news items Indians, Chinese and Sudanese are reported by nationality but frequently, there is no mention of Syrians, Iranians or Iraquis – more frequently the term Muslim is applied. This is sloppy thinking.
Australia’s multicultural policy is here to stay. The original planners probably never envisaged a need for a multi-faith policy but this omission will need to be addressed, bearing in mind history and the requirement for social accommodation and restraint. This is not a Protestant-Catholic or a Shia-Sunni fault line, this is an interface between Islam and Christianity that will require inspired leadership.
Considering the low Australian fertility rate and the declining immigrant arrivals from Europe, the immigrants from other regions are having an increasing impact on multicultural diversity. The Conversation, Canberra (June 2013) quoted immigration figures for 2011-12 as Chinese 25,000, Indian 29,000, English less than 25,000, Arabic (Muslim) less than 8,000. (Tables B4 & B6, Markus, 2014) The Tables below indicate immigration trends which, if continued, will clearly alter the ethnic mix in Australia.
Table1. Permanent Additions to Australia’s Population. Top seven countries, percent of annual intake. Caucasian intake in decline. (Dept. of Immigration, www. immi.gov.au/media)
Table 2. Off Shore Humanitarian Visa Grants. Top seven countries, percent of annual intake. (Dept oI Immigration. immi.gov.au/media)
The ABS (June 2014) record resident population figures as Chinese 447,400, Indian 397,800 and Muslim (Middle Eastern) 476,300. Chinese and Indians, in public comment, are clearly identified as such, however, the religious term Muslim is used and not country of origin, this is sloppy reporting. The battle for Caucasian ‘hearts and minds’ will be the ‘imagined reality’ of Islam. Throughout history, there has always been a fault line between Islam and Christianity living under the same power base unless controlled by a dictator.
In Australia, concurrent with the policy of identifying radicalisation in young citizens, the Government must introduce a policy promoting hope, a place for them in Australian society and reducing the sense of marginalisation. The difficult long term political policy will be to promote religious tolerance alongside multicultural policy, despite a 2 % – 98% ratio, possibly 5% – 95% by 2050. The fault line in the nation is religion not culture, There can only be one ‘Law of the Land’. According to Dr Ghena Krayem, Faculty of Law, Sydney University, Muslims wish to see principles of Sharia Law integrated into the Australian legal system. This is not practicable – immigrants and established settlers alike must be treated absolutely equally. Other minority groups with with a 2 % influence may also wish for special treatment, such dispensation would quickly lead to legal chaos.
To summarise the issues:
- Australian internal security is currently seeking to identify suspect individuals within 2.2 % of the population, a very small number. Viewing this situation objectively, any random terrorist shootings or bombings will never approach the 1,153 road fatalities or the 32,500 serious road injuries recorded in 2014, with similar annual repetitions. (Dept. of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics)
- With estimated Muslim fertility rate of 3 and an estimated 75 % increase in the Muslim population it will approach 850,000, that is approximately 2.6 % of the population in 2050 within an estimated Australian population of 31 million.
- Australia’s multicultural policy requires overhaul. Much more attention must be given to the integration of young Muslim citizens into an increasingly secular Caucasian society.
- The source of friction between Christians and Muslims is not culture, it is the difference in ‘imagined reality’ between two incomprehensible beliefs and the subliminal dominance sought by each faith.
- A factor that may require more managed immigration is the increasing imbalance between Muslim males and females. The 2001 Census recorded a male – female ratio 53-47%, Australia 49-51 %. Social scientists will have to advise on potential social instability. If there are Muslims in Australia with more than one wife then the published gender imbalance (53-47) with respect to unattached males is even worse. A social problem looms.
With Australia’s transition to a Republic, the Head of State will administer a vastly different Commonwealth to that governed by the British Crown at the time of Federation. Due to the changing ethnic mix in Great Britain, the reigning Monarch remains ‘Defender of the Faith’ but in 2012 the Queen, in a speech at Lambeth Palace, signalled a change in emphasis. The Anglican Church now has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in the United Kingdom. So too, the first Australian President will probably be invested with a similar responsibility as ‘Defender of the Faith’. This is a totally new canvas; for the first time in 1,400 years Christian Heads of State will have the responsibility for protecting Moslems. Saracens and Crusaders will no doubt be turning in their graves.
A quiet coffee on the verandah under a cloudless blue sky. A roaring from the direction of the setting sun, trees at the edge of the garden suddenly in whiplash convulsions, air full of dust and leaves as a 50 metre wide ‘willi willi’ tore through the air just in front of me, it crashed into a ridge like a mini-hurricane with a howl that subsided to a rustle of leaves leaving the gum trees in a state of shocked immobility. A tremulous bird song warbles the ‘All Clear’.