Aware of the strong sectarian religious divide then clearly evident, I have stressed that I am a Hindu since my arrival in Australia in the late 1940s; and a formerly devout temple-attending one. I am pleased that no one has ever denigrated Hinduism (or Buddhism or the other ‘forest’ religions) to me.
There were, however, a few comments which were quaint. ‘Why do Hindus pray to stones and trees’? ‘If God had wanted us to eat spices, he would have built them into our food.’ ‘Would you like to join my church – for your salvation’?
Such ignorance did not surprise me. I had already read that Indians, fearing the water, were not seafarers; Alexander (the Macedonian) had allegedly conquered all of India; the Japanese, being short and myopic, could not defeat Britain, although Japan had colonised Korea, established the state of Manchukuo (in Manchuria), occupied chunks of China, and driven the French from Indo-China.
Since ignorance, especially chosen ignorance, is very much a normal human attribute, one puts up with it, or ignores it as best as possible. My father’s favourite saying was ‘The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.’ Before social media encouraged the public display of one’s proclivities, side-stepping ignorance was quite easy. For example, all of us seek the same God, but travel by necessity on different tracks, although some will claim possession of a sole path.
However, there is a strong antipathy, in my assessment, against Muslims. This prevails in spite of ambitious Muslim asylum-seeking economic-migrants being supported by opportunistic single-issue politicians; hip-pocket sensitive lawyers; heart-on-sleeve individuals, and the rent-a-crowd crew, all of whom are presumably unaffected by the resulting long-term taxpayer burden.
The underlying prejudice began, I believe, when the white man’s paradise was set ‘in coloured seas filled with foreign faiths.’ A collage of causes can be identified.
An initial fear of non-survival in a harsh terrain, unprotected, so far from home; a consequent un-articulated fear of coloured foreigners; possible subconscious guilt arising from the killing of the Aborigines; and the arrogance of the colonial supremacist and his priesthood; these would all have contributed to the antipathy. More recently, to expand the Catholic vote, the Australian government set out to free Christian East Timor from Muslim Indonesia.
Then, through what must have been a faulty immigration selection process, Australia acquired immigrants who seek to change their new home according to their understanding of Islam, but obviously without an adequate understanding of the intellectual and artistic depth of their religion; so we have home-grown jihadists. It will not be possible to encourage unhappy new Australians to move to countries where the lifestyle is more in keeping with their view of their cultural needs; not while Western neo-colonials are busy constructing a ’New Jerusalem.’
In the meanwhile, almost all of our Muslim settlers, like all other settlers, go about enjoying the Aussie lifestyle; and contributing to it as well. We have all blended into one nation peacefully. There is really no basis for religious prejudice.
What we need is more maturity of spirit, recognising that, at the of an Earthly life, we will (lacking form and substance) not be different from one another. As well, in a new Earthly life, a different cloak of religious faith will probably cover us from birth.