MEDIA: by John MillerNews Weekly
ABC's take on Islamic school controversy
, March 29, 2008
A recent ABC Four Corners program gave the impression that the average Australian is a racist redneck, writes John Miller.Earlier this year, I wrote a rather pessimistic article on the controversial proposal to build an Islamic school in Camden, a rural centre southwest of Sydney ("A stern test for multiculturalism", News Weekly, February 2, 2008).
On March 10, the very night that the Camden City Council was due to hand down its decision, Sally Neighbour reported on the controversy for ABC television's flagship current affairs program Four Corners
Entitled "Dangerous Ground", the program commenced with Ms Neighbour's sonorous tones announcing: "One night in December, a crowd of close to a thousand farmers, business people, housewives and retirees converged on the Camden Civic Centre on the south-western outskirts of Sydney. It was packed to overflowing and there was no turning them away.
"The issue that prompted the huge turnout was a planning application for a new school catering for 1,200 students - not just any school, but a school for Muslims. And these residents weren't having a bar of it."Unworthy
What followed was a program completely unworthy of the ABC. Of greatest concern was the overall impression conveyed by Ms Neighbour that somehow the average Australian of either gender is a racist redneck.
Pictures of the roiling crowd outside the Camden Council offices soon gave way to sympathetic interviews with members of the Islamic community who were concerned about the alienation of their youth and the concomitant proposition that this led almost irrevocably to radicalisation and the seductive allure of jihadist propaganda and recruitment to terrorist organisations.
We were presented with scenes in a gym of young men, probably of Middle Eastern extraction and Muslim, being trained for boxing. The tragedy was that the occupants were being forced to leave and had no obvious premises to which to move; but at no stage was a measured appraisal of the situation made from those opposed to the Islamic school.
Rather, in a cruel twist of fate, Four Corners
showed that, after the Camden Council had turned down the proposal for the Islamic school, the next item on the agenda was favourable consideration for the licensing of a brothel.
And so it went on. Normal Australians appeared as foul-mouthed racist bigots, and inevitably archival film footage of the Cronulla riots of December 2005 was used to drive home this point.
Ignored was the fact that the vast majority of Australians are remarkably tolerant of migrants, and we have been spared so far the problems encountered in the UK, and increasingly in the US, with multiculturalism.
In the United Kingdom, political correctness holds such sway that it is now official policy not to refer to terrorists as terrorists, but only as a category of criminals.
The security and police forces of this country, however, would be well advised to continue giving priority to monitoring terror suspects, and to distinguish this clearly from routine investigations of mere criminal activity.
The most disappointing aspect of Ms Neighbour's campaign to denigrate the majority of Australia's population was that she managed to rope in Dr David Wright-Neville, an associate professor at Monash University and deputy director of the Global Terrorism Research Centre, who waxed lyrical about alienation and the part it plays in the life of young Muslims, making them vulnerable to the siren call of extremists.
He was honest enough to admit that everybody experiences alienation in one form or another during their life; but the alienation of Muslim youth was depicted, rather crudely, with a simple diagrammatic sketch, which described stages through which young Muslims might pass from alienation from society and the mainstream culture - sometimes even from their families - through to a point of susceptibility to radicalisation.
What he did not say, and what Ms Neighbour did not see fit to include, was the impact of fundamentalist Muslim clerics and their firebrand preaching on young Muslims. (Nor, for that matter, were any stories of successful immigration and integration mentioned...).
This episode of Four Corners
lacked any balance. It also manifestly failed to acknowledge the asymmetry between Australian society and Muslim countries. Freedom of religion is common to Western society in general, but the same cannot be said of the vast majority of countries where Islam holds sway.
In some of these countries Christians are tolerated, such as the Coptic Christians in Egypt and the declining Orthodox communities across the Middle East. However, in many of them, Christians are forbidden to erect churches or proselytise, and most of their activities are circumscribed by the very nature of Islamic society. There is no multiculturalism in Islam.
By its very nature, multiculturalism is a divisive policy and cannot be counted as a success anywhere that it has been tried. Countries with large unintegrated migrant communities are riven by strife, both inter- and intra-communal; and where there is a definite lack of national identity, such as in Australia - a relatively young country - the fracture lines in our community are all too apparent.- John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.