For all the wrong reasons, Islamists hog the headlines. Numbers of this hateful crew recently drowned their fellow Christian asylum seekers. How low can you get? What’s behind their barbarity, their terrorism, their intolerance, their hateful preaching? Is it post-colonial resentment, alienation, disadvantage, unemployment? Be not confused; it comes straight from their holy scriptural playbook.
Those living in liberal democracies have different levels of concern. Some are mostly concerned about ‘Islamophobia’. And they have evidence. Recall Tony Abbott suggesting that we should back Team Australia. The hide of the man!
As ignoble as it seems, others are mostly concerned about people being beheaded or burnt alive or being forced into obeisance to a bunch of religious nut jobs. Regrettably, sometimes this does lead to ill-mannered behaviour. I want to try to put this into perspective without at all excusing it.
I start with a case covered on the ABC’s 7.30 program. A young Muslim couple was verbally hassled on a suburban train. They were obviously Muslim. He had a full beard. She was dressed in a black jilhab (full body covering) and hijab (headscarf). I don’t want to comment further on the particulars of this case. However, as matter of civility and good manners, people minding their own business on public transport should not be hassled by others. Life would be insufferable otherwise.
But, there is no getting away from it, a woman dressed from head to toe in black, enveloping robes, without a hint of style or shape, is confronting. Or, at least, to many it is confronting. I suggest two legitimate bases for this reaction. Neither is rooted in bigotry.
One is a perception that the clothing is an outward sign of an intolerant and oppressive movement, with designs on expansion. Wearing a brown shirt in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s is an historical example. The other is a perception that numbers of women are being coerced into dressing in this ‘unflattering’ way.
These two separate perceptions come together as one when a particular characteristic of an oppressive and intolerant religious movement is the subjugation of women.
At issue is how an open society should tackle such a religious movement which is suspected of harbouring ambitions to overturn its values.
Switch to the UK and Liverpool football club.
A supporter recently ‘tweeted’ a picture of two Muslim men praying at half-time at the bottom of a stairwell at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium. He captioned the picture with the one word ‘disgraceful’. Someone complained. The police were called – it’s 2015. They referred the matter back to the club. It is “determining the appropriate action to take” against the supporter in question. It’s 1984 and Room 101 awaits the miscreant?
In the meantime, the club reminded “its supporters that it does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is committed to ensuring that the club and Anfield provides a welcoming and safe environment for all fans regardless of race, religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation”. Of course, Jews, gays and lesbians, and short-skirted women are welcome at Anfield. Yes, indeed, but would the religion of those praying at the bottom of the stairwell be so welcoming of the aforementioned groups; if it were ever to have the final say?
Someone asked whether the supporter would have taken equal offence at Christians praying at the bottom of the stairwell. I doubt it; but then seeing a prayer mat replete with two prostrate men in the middle of a football match when you’re buying your pork pie (get one while you can) may be more aesthetically confronting than seeing someone signing the cross or bowing their head? Not that anyone has yet reported seeing that at the bottom of the stairwell.
Aesthetics aside, two Muslim men praying may be the thin end of the wedge. Next there might be more men praying. Next demands for a prayer room – already in place the MCG and other sporting stadiums. And next, given time, the segregation of men and (modestly attired) women. After all, something of the kind has already happened at public swimming pools.
What is absolutely clear to me – from the two examples I have cited – is that ordinary people going about their daily affairs should not let their legitimate concerns affect the way they deal with other people who by their dress or actions heighten those concerns. Expressions of concern are understandable – so let’s not get too self-righteously condemnatory – but good manners dictate that we live and let live. The issue has to be dealt with at a political level.
It should start at the start. ‘When in Rome’ should be a mandatory tutorial for those applying to move from Muslim societies to those based on liberal-democratic values. Let’s not be mealy-mouthed about it. Migrants are not pouring out of Islamic countries because they are desirable places to be. We don’t want to become like them by allowing their patently intolerant and impoverishing values to make inroads.
How about this for a ‘radical’ prescription? Only migrants willing to uphold liberal-democratic values should be admitted. Those who subsequently fail to support them should be deported. The application of religious law to secular matters should be proscribed. Women’s right to absolute equality should be vigorously prosecuted within Muslim enclaves. Promoting liberal-democratic values should be mandatory in all schools receiving public funding. Muslim cultural and religious sensitivities should not be imposed on the way of life of mainstream society.
The question is whether the political class will ease legitimate community concerns by staring down charges of ‘Islamophobia’ and taking appropriate action to protect our way of life? By the way, the answer to the question is ‘no’. The political class are MIA. Where does that leave us? Presently up the creek with milksop leaders. Better leaders are bound to emerge? Inshallah!