The integrating Muslim communities

Our continued investigation identified that the Moslems in the city came from a wide range of countries including Yugoslavia, Egypt, Turkey, India, Pakistan, and the countries of the Middle East. Most were poor, worked in menial jobs, were religious, and were endeavouring to adapt fully to Australia.

They had their own mosques. And they managed their own community concerns without much government support. We were informed that the government of Saudi Arabia had subsidised the building of the mosques but was not otherwise linked to the Moslem community in Australia. We also noted that these people were not politically active. Their emphasis was on welfare and education, through their faith. There was strong evidence that the women were being assisted to adapt to Australian standards and conditions, through classes held in the mosques.

Those in need of increased access to community services were primarily European Moslems.

I met their community leaders, including their Imams. I had not met white Moslems before. Some of the leaders were well educated and spoke good English. One Imam, in particular, was impressive. He had been in Australia for as long as I had. This leader indicated that my team represented the first official interest in assisting these people. How terrible. Was this the multicultural Australia of the early Eighties?

Equal access to government services was our objective, and an excellent one it was for the time being. Those participating in the debate on the policy had, of course, been European. But so were these Moslems. It reminded me of the plight of the Aborigines.

In time, the Minister agreed to two grants to the Moslem community (including the Turks), with special emphasis on meeting the needs of their women. Then the gremlins struck. Two years after I left that job, the Turks and the rest of the Moslem community had not received their grants. As the Irish say, “It is not fish until it is on the beach.”

… … Indeed, many years later, a leading non-Muslim ethnic community leader, and an eminent person in his own right, told me of his disappointment that, with my departure from that area, the implementation of that excellent government policy had lost steam. So it was just another job or two for the bureaucrats – achieving the government’s stated objectives would be subjugated to in-fights for promotion, for power – and everybody would be so busy that they could not really tell you what they had achieved. That is what I found, in area after area of policy, for I moved around the whole scene of migrant settlement assistance in the eight years I spent in it.

Returning to the plight of the Moslems, I knew that whistle blowers usually get screwed. I therefore chose not to enquire as to why a Ministerial decision based on sound investigation can be deflected. I was to discover a few years later that the Moslems in Sydney were at that time also having difficulties in obtaining the grants they needed. One reason offered to the Moslems was that the grant sought was seen (again by junior departmental officials) as funding religious activities rather than welfare!

… … Consequently, the least able of the ethnic communities to adapt to Australian administrative structures were therefore experiencing, both in my day and later, the greatest difficulty in obtaining the assistance the government was offering. Yet they were not a complaining people, perhaps recalling that apt Persian adage: “A drowning man is not troubled by rain.”

The irony of the situation was that the Moslems in greatest settlement-assistance need were white. The brown-skinned Moslems, who arrived later, were generally better educated, had higher incomes, and needed little or no assistance with settlement.

(These extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ will suggest to the discerning that there was some religious prejudice afloat in the policy waters relating to immigrant settlement assistance. In truth, a minority of the population remains prejudiced against the successor religion, with Indonesia ridiculously seen as a potential threat to the nation. That most Muslim immigrants are integrating themselves into the multicultural Australian nation is ignored, while the antics of a minority seeking religio-cultural separation are spot-lighted.

In reality, within three generations, such inherited prejudice should be educated-out, conditioned-out, and even bred-out. In that time, changes in cultural values and practices will occur in the source-countries of the intransigent. There lies the hope of a culturally integrated multi-ethnic nation. The tide of social cohesion can be expected to keep rolling in.

However, the process of societal integration by those strongly controlled by their priesthood since Australian settlement, and their claimed religious superiority, do not augur well for the integration of recent immigrants controlled by different priesthoods.)

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