OPINION: by Philip AyresNews Weekly
Why don't we speak clearly about Islam?
, July 23, 2011
While I agree with many of the policy positions of News Weekly, and in particular its concern over the increasing Islamicisation of Western Europe, I have to say I don’t admire its apparent reluctance to answer the question “What Is to be Done?”— to quote the 19th-century Russian writer Chernochevsky.
Much hand-wringing, many cries of “O tempora, O mores!”, get us nowhere. We need to be both fair and frank in regard to Islam as it impinges on Western society as a result of Europe’s increasingly open borders: we need to advocate the re-closing of those borders (the old Soviet Union had thousands of miles of apparently impermeable borders, so why can’t Western Europe?); we need to be fair in what we say and write about the fundamentals of the Islamic faith, for there are many intelligent people amongst us now, people we welcomed here, who are attached to that faith and can easily rebut simple-minded assaults on it; and we need to be frank about how to avert the cultural clash that looms.
First, we need to be fair, and admit that, yes, Islam is indeed a great faith, with well over a billion devout followers, one of the three Faiths of the Book (the “Old Testament”); and, yes, that in certain important respects it is closer to Christianity than is Judaism (above all in the recognition of Christ, not only as one of the outstanding prophets, but as the final Judge at the End-time, and the recognition, too, of his Virgin Mother in her Virginity). And that, yes, Islam respects the life of the unborn, and the value of the family, and is in many ways closer to Christianity in its preferred mores than is secular Western society.
And that, yes, many (not all) of the Shuras in the Koran are beautiful things, insights into the glory of God. And we need to understand, as Thomas Carlyle understood in his famous essay on Mahomet, that Mahomet was doing his utmost to bridle an extremely primitive Arabian religion that allowed a hundred wives and was as barbaric as hell (read Carlyle’s essay). Moreover, when we cite passages in the Koran that seem barbaric to us, we ought to remember those passages in the “Old Testament” that are equally barbaric, and there’s a wealth of them (we all remember the appalling things they say: for just one instance, justifying genocide down to the last woman, child and animal — and of course the devout can “justify” those passages). “Our” book.
But then we also need to be frank. We need to say, out loud, that we will not accept, into our Western societies, immigrants who wish to set up enclaves in which the law of our land does not run, who wish to alter the fundamentals of our societies in accordance with their religious preferences. Otherwise why did they come to the West? We should encourage people who are unhappy with our society to leave it, and if they can’t afford to do so, to assist them to leave it.
President Sarkozy ofFranceis correct, and should be congratulated, on his policy in regard to the banning of the burka from the streets ofFrance. Those who wish to live inFranceshould accept the rules and civil constitution of the country.Francehas a constitutional principle that religion is a purely private thing and has no place in the civic sphere.
The Swiss are correct too, from their cultural point of view, in banning any further construction of minarets in their land. They have a more direct democracy than ours, and the will of the people is final. Geert Wilders in theNetherlandsis also correct in advocating a reverse migration for those immigrants who have shown themselves hostile to Dutch society.
We should endorse all this out loud when we write of the European scene — it’s not enough simply to bewail the situation over there.
The question comes down to this: What is to be done? If we don’t think anything much can now be done inEurope, if we think it’s too late, we should say so.
My own view, for what it’s worth, is dark, but not in the sense that I foresee an Islamic dominance inWestern Europe. Quite the contrary. Every two hundred years or so Europe goes to extremes (1492 and the expulsion of the Moors from Spain after they’d been there for six or seven centuries; the French Revolution and its export all over Europe; the horrors of the early 1940s, including the Jewish Holocaust; the expulsions of millions of Germans from the East in 1945-6; the ethnic circumstances attending the break-up of Yugoslavia).
It’s highly likely thatEuropein a hundred years’ time, probably less, will go to extremes again, and simply fly its tens of millions of Moslems out. The sufferings involved will no doubt be sheeted home to the bureaucrats who created the problem. Only a fool would bet against such a dark scenario. In fact, the greater the proportion of Moslems in European societies, the greater the likelihood of such an eventuality in the long run. Put it this way: it’s an historic tendency, and not a subtle one.
The problem for us in Australia is that the countries of Europe are not settler societies, as are the United States, Canada and Australia, whose populations, while (so far) mainly Western in culture, are almost wholly immigrant across just a few generations. It’s unclear how we, in our settler societies, based as they already are on a wide variety of immigrant cultures, can deal, in the practicalities of the present, with similar problems.
How, in regard to our immigration intake, do we go about discriminating against people of a particular religion? What would be the mechanics of that? And all of them? Some of them? Can attitudes be tested on scraps of paper?
These questions, and others of a related kind, require careful consideration by journals such as News Weekly. Hand-wringing won’t do any longer. Again, in Europe it’s possible to argue thatFrance, orBritain, orItaly, are “full”. That doesn’t apply to settler societies, or at least it hasn’t applied up to now.
We need to think about these issues, and speak and write clearly. It’s not enough to complain.
Dr Philip Ayres is former head of English at Monash University and has written biographies of Patrick Francis Moran, Douglas Mawson, Owen Dixon and Malcolm Fraser.