Since the federation of Australia’s states into a Nation, it has always been understood that the practice of a Christian Democracy would be our principal aspiration. So, you have to be a Christian to be an Aussie, Right? Obviously not. Something which is proved true, by the simple fact that many of our most successful professionals and prominent citizens are of the Jewish faith, devotees of Shiva, Muslims or devout Buddhists. No, it’s not about our personal beliefs; it’s about how we act and think, as an Australian society. Christian teachings, of tolerance and adherence to ten fundamental laws, along with majority rule, are probably the most successful National formula so far devised. 700 years of revolution-free Westminster Rule of Great Britain would tend to bear this truth out.
So what is it that we, the citizens of this Christian democracy of ours, expect from all and any of our fellow citizens, regardless of their faith or country of birth? Certainly there are laws that govern all of us, or, at least, they are supposed to, however, they rarely, if ever, focus on the behavioural aspects of our increasingly multi cultural society. Don’t do harm to others, don’t disrupt business and don’t damage property, all fine and good. But, what about how to treat each other? What about how much space we should give, or take, in the practice of non majority customs? It is obvious to most experienced observers that many of our well-intentioned anti-discrimination laws only serve to exacerbate social division among us.
As a recipient of 23 different Nations’ working visas during my globetrotting career, I can vouch-safe that, regardless of my faith, or lack of one, I was always obliged to comply with the local laws and customs. Though never asked to wear a Kimono, I had to remove my shoes and sit on the “floor,” when visiting homes and many businesses in Japan. In order to stay, and enjoy the benefits on offer. I had to learn their language, become acutely aware of and avoid what offended the citizens of my gracious host country and go out of my way to show respect to each and every one of them. Many of my “Gygen” (non Japanese) contemporaries were unaware, or chose not to do likewise, much to their great regret. My early seventies experiences, in Japan, provided an excellent template for comparison with contemporary Australia.
If I wanted to enjoy the benefits of living and working in Japan, or anywhere else in Asia or Europe, I had to learn to communicate and conform, at least to the degree that my behaviour did not offend the people of my host Nation. Is that really so much to ask of those who wish to share our prosperous, peaceful nation? I don’t think so. The first priority of those who wish to call Australia home should be to learn to speak, read and write the English language. Once armed with our language, they can easily find out, for themselves, what we all expect of each other, and, what offends us. Though it is, no doubt, a most difficult decision for a would-be Australian, the reality is that if their customs, or religion, demand actions from them that will offend or fracture our cohesive, multicultural society, those actions must be foregone.
When ethnic or religious leaders demand that their people ignore the wishes of the vast majority of our society, it does nothing to bond them into our Australian community, quite the opposite. When new Australians are forced to maintain their old ways, even if it offends, we are barred from our National goal of a unified, prosperous and peaceful multicultural society. As is always the case, when it comes to dissent and disruption, the legislators feel they have no choice but to act, usually in some knee-jerk manner which heightens, rather than lowers tensions. Right now, our society is facing some potentially explosive misunderstandings. If, as in the case of some European countries, our law makers are forced to act, it will only make things worse.
Rather than go directly to any specific concern, let’s briefly examine a fictitious, and thus, hopefully, non offending example. A new Australian’s religious faith demands that a dog be disembowelled and its entrails offered, at a specific time, as a sacrifice to their divinity. National and R.S.P.C.A. laws would forbid it, and, the vast majority of Australians would demand those laws be enforced. In such a case, either the whole practice must cease, or the person would be jailed. Alternatively, that person could voluntarily cease the practice, perhaps finding a symbolic act to replace it, or, go to a country where such practices are acceptable. I doubt if anyone, other than that person, would consider such a demand as discriminatory in any way.
We who call Australia our home are proud of our still relatively free and open society, even if that’s not the opinion of some of our neighbours. However, the right to work, play, live and think, in whatever way we choose, must be tempered with respect for the rights of others to do the same. If one chooses to comply with a facet of their faith which requires them to hide their identity, it’s the same, to most of us, as wearing a balaclava or any other disguise. It creates distrust and it fosters division, not peace and harmony, which is what all religions supposedly advocate. Without wishing to show any disrespect or offend my fellow Australian Muslim women and despite an understanding of how significant wearing a veil in public is to some of them, I can see no option but to, with the fullest of respect, ask that they cease to continue this practice.
The reality is that assimilation and tolerance are, in fact, a two way street. In order to be accepted, one must make the maximum effort to be acceptable, to those from whom one seeks that acceptance. If Australians, whether born here or not, choose to behave in a manner that is not acceptable to the vast majority of their fellow Australians, they should expect to be asked and then ordered not to persist. If they choose to persist, they should expect to be put in jail and denied the rights enjoyed by the rest of us. We are all privileged to live in the world’s finest Nation, with that privilege comes the incumbent responsibility to, hopefully without being forced, fuse our cultures and beliefs into one magnificent truly multicultural Australia.
Understanding requires Understanding
Acceptance requires Acceptance
Trust requires Trust
Peace demands Harmony.