Camden, Islamic schools, and all that

Ructions in Boganville: the first Camden protest, back in November

A keen follower of events in Camden, I didn’t overlook the news that the Camden/Macarthur Residents’ Group, led by that great community bridge builder Emil Sremchevich, has announced plans to hold more protests if the Quranic Society’s application to establish a school there is approved. A decision was promised in February, but keeps getting postponed, because, according to the Mayor, “We’re still waiting on further information from the applicant and we’re waiting on that information to then be assessed by external Government bodies such as the RTA and Sydney Water.”

So we can expect this to flare up again soon. When it does, how should a sensible person respond?

One possibility is exemplified by Jeremy Bingham, the Society’s spokesman. In response to claims that the objections were about heritage and traffic issues, he made the point, as did many others, that the application would have attracted little criticism if the proposed school was Catholic or Protestant. But he went further than defending the organisation’s rights, and got right on the front foot:

“Obviously, it is a good thing to have a new quality private school teaching the growing population of the area,” he said. “They want their school to be in a rural area because it is the best kind of place to have a school. “It’s best for the children and also best in terms of low impact on neighbours.” Mr Bingham said it would be great for the Camden community to have a Muslim population “because one of the things that is great about the Australian society is we are very varied and able to accommodate all mixes”.”To have a sprinkling of Muslims in the community is a very good thing,” he said. “They make very good citizens. The aim of the society is to bring the students up as good members of the Australian community, not to bring them up as separate.”

Few would be persuaded by the suggestion that the school will prove a magnet for non-Muslims seeking a high quality education, but apart from that, this is a good honest statement of the standard, liberal, tolerant, multiculturalist position.

The problem is that a fair few of the locals don’t adhere to the standard, enlightened, liberal, tolerant, multiculturalist position. Consider Exhibits A, B, C and D:

MAN: If you want to go back to the heritage of the area, the farm that boundaries the property that theyve bought, Ive milked there every day or something like that, there are still furrow marks from the First Fleet, theres still ploughs and things in those paddocks from the First Fleet, and they want to build this obstrosity that we have to look at. No thanks. At the end of the day I dont want it, the community doesnt want it. What more needs to be said? We dont want it, end of story.

WOMAN: Muslims do not fit in in this town. We are Aussies, okay? We’re John – it’s the ex-MacArthur area and it still is MacArthur, and theyre not gonna take it away from us.

MAN: Were from Narellan, right, we’re from Narellan, and theyre saying this is a Camden issue. Like f**k it is mate, we live next door to Camden, right? Now eh, we dont want them here. Pretty soon mate, pretty soon you wont be able to get bacon on your f*****g hamburgers anywhere no more, you know what I mean? Because of these grubs…

MAN: We dont want them. Look how many people is here? F**k them all, get rid of them all…

These comments come from footage of the November Camden protest used in Four Corners a few weeks ago. The program was dealing, not for the first time, with the issue of alienated Muslin youth. The main argument was that police overkill probably makes a positive net contribution to terrorism, by turning vulnerable young men into enemies of society. Police in both Victoria and New South Wales seem to be mending their ways, building bridges through consultative committees, liaison officers, youth workers and the like. It wasn’t all upbeat, though, and this was meant to be an example of Muslims’ being denied a fair go.

There are, however, legitimate questions about religious schools in general and Islamic schools in particular.

The first is whether faith-based schools are desirable at all. The very idea is vehemently opposed in some quarters, on the grounds that indoctrinating children into a particular religion is a denial of their right to make intellectual choices. Nicholas’s hero, Richard Dawkins, goes as far as to call this child abuse. It’s hard to know where gentle persuasion ends and brainwashing begins. The nuns in my own high school obviously relied too much on the former: the faith had lost its grip on me even before I left the school; and I’m unaware of any ill effects. On the basis of casual empiricism, the hard sell employed in more traditional Catholic schools produces only marginally better results. However, Dawkins argues that, whether it works or not, the aim of indoctrination is itself wicked, and I think one has to step outside of one’s own experiences to see it objectively. To test your own attitude, read this passage from an academic paper on ‘the necessity for establishing independent Islamic schools in Australia’:

Every action a Muslim performs, including seeking an education, is seen as an act of worship. Education is fundamentally important to Muslims. The immense incentive to learn is evident throughout the Holy Qur’an, emphasising that God’s commands can never be fully understood without knowledge and education… In considering a curriculum rooted in Islamic values and beliefs, duality in education, that is splitting of knowledge into two distinctive types, secular and religious, with aims and objectives independent of each other, needs to be abolished… If Islam is to be entered in the students’ hearts and the total repertoire of their thinking and living, Islam must enter all student activities (Ashraf, 1994; Al-Afendi, 1980). It was observed that morning assemblies at the College fulfil a religious, social and administrative function beginning with collective worship and morning dua’s (supplications). Zuhr (noon) prayer, falls within the school day at the College and is always performed in congregation allowing the student, whose faith is still growing and developing, to understand that prayer is a combined activity, for both the student and teacher.

Malek Fahd school in Greenacre

If you substituted Catholic for Muslim in there, it probably wouldn’t sound that different from dozens of speeches my old headmaster gave. But from this distance, it sounds outrageous, and I find myself sympathising with Dawkins. Even if the religious brainwashing fails, it’s hard to see how this philosophy wouldn’t foster an insular and tribal mentality in the pupils and their communities, or how it’s compatible with the development of open and inquiring minds.

The second question relates to the potential for faith-based schools to engage in malicious political and racial propaganda, inculcate intolerant and even violent attitudes and promote practices that are antithetical to liberal democratic values. In principle any religious school, and indeed any private school, could do this. In the United Sates in particular, there are grounds for concern about cultish evangelical Christian schools that teach creationism, along with apocalyptic interpretations of contemporary world politics. Creationism is taught in some British and Australian Christian schools as well. But it is obviously Islamic schools that have attracted the overwhelming majority of mistrust as far as dangerous doctrines are concerned.

However, it’s by no means self-evident that this suspicion is deserved, and there’s a big difference between the insular and tribal attitudes I referred to in the previous paragraph on the one hand, and hateful and anti-democratic attitudes on the other. The same paper quoted above says:

Co-operation rather than competition, service to others rather than selfishness, mutual consultation rather than domination, are not only the guiding principles of an Islamic character, but resemble the Prophet Muhammad

As far as I can tell from their web sites and other material to hand, Australian Islamic schools in general teach enlightened values. Nonetheless
this story from 2006 about Melbourne’s East Preston Islamic College gave me pause, and it seems a certain Muslim Ladies’ College in Perth was closed down last year for curriculum breaches among other things.

My main point, however, is that these are national issues. There should be a national debate and a consistent national policy, even if actual legislation falls to the states; but if particular states were to take the lead in regulating private schools that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. What is absolutely clear is that what a particular school teaches or wants to teach its pupils is not a matter for local government. Whether the Quranic Society establishes its new school in Camden or in some other municipality absolutely should not depend on the local residents’ theories about Islamic education. A Camden resident who worries about the proposed Islamic school preaching jihad and breeding terrorists, should take it up with their federal or state member of parliament; if his concerns about dangerous religious doctrine are real, it shouldn’t matter whether the Islamic school is proposed for Camden or for Palm Beach.

We are told to think globally and act locally, but that isn’t a good prescription in every case. People have powerful dormant fears about strange cultures and religions, and these may sometimes have a legitimate basis, but it’s no good waiting to act on those fears until events impact on your immediate physical environment. By the time the process gets to the DA stage, the school has already passed the major hurdles of approval by the state education department and funding by the federal government.

In assessing an application to build a school, a local government may consider only issues deemed relevant under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and other state legislation. The guidelines are sufficiently rubbery that a hairy-chested council may sometimes be able to reject a controversial application knowing full well that the decision will be overturned on appeal to the Land and Environment Court.This is what happened in the infamous case of the Annagrove prayer room. At the same time, there may indeed be relevant traffic and noise issues that are sufficient to knock an application out. That seems to be the case with the proposal for another Muslim school at Bass Hill, which the Bankstown Council rejected, in a tense meeting that also featured in the Four Corners story. Mayor Patterson of Camden won’t predict whether there will be an appeal if his council knocks back the Camden proposal.

Is there some intermediate set of issues, about the cultural impact of a school, that local government should be involved in? Should there be some test according to whether an area is culturally and psychologically ready? Not just about traffic, infrastructure and heritage, but something to make sure the guy who is worried about his hamburgers, and all the concerns that comment stands for, doesn’t feel as though his rights are being stomped on? I’m yet to be persuaded. But if state and federal politicians think that planning regulations should take cultural sensitivities into account, they should say so. Meanwhile, if those same politicians, from Fred Nile the Crusader to Kevin “70%” Rudd have views on the role of faith based schools in general and Muslim schools in particular, they should put them explicitly on their respective state and federal agendas, rather than stir up the xenophobes of Camden.

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48 Responses to Camden, Islamic schools, and all that

  1. MikeM says:

    The first is whether faith-based schools are desirable at all.

    Slightly pejorative way of putting the point. Religiously-affiliated schools perhaps?

    The charter school movement in the US and the trust school one in the UK are exploring benefits from allowing community organisations, charitable trusts and the like to establish schools that, while largely funded by government, lie largely outside the traditional centralist bureaucratic control of state education.

    The state still mandates core curriculum and basic administrative framework but each school is free to control its budget, its hiring and full curriculum. Results to date are often impressive and there is no reason why a religious order (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or otherwise) should not enjoy similar freedom.

    As for the pernicious effects of religiously sponsored schools which worry Dawkins, the US has some 190 tertiary institutions affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, many of which have first class academic reputations. It is possible for occasional non-state sponsored institutions to veer off into fundamentalism or into partisan politics such as this one.

    But if we are going to use a few poor examples to condemn the lot then logically all the inhabitants of Australia should be consigned to jail because a few of them are criminals.

  2. MikeM says:

    My comment a few minutes ago received the following response:

    Submitted comment 260396 to Akismet.com as spam (Akismet said it’s ham)

    But it wasn’t.

  3. NPOV says:

    Is it true though that religiously affliated private schools in Australia are still forbidden from forcing students to attend obviously religious classes and services? Certainly that was my memory of being at an Anglican private school many years ago. Would that also be true for a Muslim school?

  4. rog (bring back the meadowbank mauler) says:

    Tell me, is “boganville” a standard, enlightened, liberal, tolerant, multiculturalist position.

  5. James Farrell says:

    MIkeM: I see your point about the terminology. Faith-based is apparently standard terminology, but I’ll think twice before using it next time. On your substantive point, we seem to be agreed that there is a spectrum between harmful indoctrination and innocuous suasion. I don’t know exactly where the line, but It’s clear you do either.

    NPOV: I’ll wait for someone else to answer that definitively, but it doesn’t seem likely. They don’t have to accept students who don’t profess the faith; therefore they can presumably expel students who don’t. Whether, say, a Catholic school would force kids to attend Mass and so on, is another question. Given that they do in practice accept non-Catholic students, I can’t see that obliging attendance would make any sense.

  6. gilmae says:

    At my daughter’s school – Catholic – the attendance at Mass is compulsory but the non-Catholic kids don’t receive communion.

    I suspect the school’s response to complaints about compulsory attendance would something along the lines of “Sarah Redfern High School is that-a-way”.

  7. Thanks for this James. It’s too hard for me I’m afraid. If I’m to nominate which of my instincts this arouses it is the (Burkean small ‘c’) conservative in me. At a gut or intuitive level I have no problem with Christian schools and even ones that you and I would consider fairly loopy. It’s true that a few tip over into violence at least in the US – but the US is a pretty violent place generally so perhaps that should be associated with the culture as much as or more than the religion.

    I suppose the idea of some curriculum to try to make life hard for creationists is a good idea, though of course in some US states, this has I think led to the instruments of the state being politically coerced into promoting creationism. So that’s a tricky one.

    But, I’m afraid I do feel differently about those words of extreme Muslim devotion that you quote above and certainly in the context of radical and violent Islamism.

    The beach near here has become a hangout for a large number of Muslims. I think they congregate there from miles around – as there are not a lot in nearby houses from what I can see. Not surprising since it’s a beautiful spot – especially on warm summer nights – when they’re thickest on the ground.

    I think it’s great that they’re there. At least as far as I know they are well behaved. They’re not gangs of kids but large groups of families with lots of kids. Lovely really. Except for one thing. They don’t clean up their rubbish. The public bins remain largely empty and there’s rubbish everywhere around the groups as they congretate. I guess it’s cleaned up next morning.

    It pisses me right off. If that is their approach to public spaces, that’s fine in their own culture, but this is the point at which I assert my conservatism and say that they are in our country. They must twig that it is not appreciated. If I were an immigrant in a foreign country, I’d try hard not to offend the sensibilities of the citizens of my new country. I don’t get it. It really wouldn’t be that hard for them to clean up.

  8. swio says:

    Having gone to public schools in western Sydney that were about as multi-cultural as you can get I saw the benefit of a high quality public system that let kids from every conceivable background grow up together as Australians, rather than growing up seperately as muslims, anglicans, catholics, greeks or whatever group someones parents feel they should be part of. I am so glad that experience in school made me into a person who can look at a Vietnamese Austalian, or a Serbian Australia, or an Anglo Australian and not have the background of that person affect how I feel about them. I am genuinely sorry for the people like those described above in Camden who did not have the chance to do what I did and now become scared and worried at the thought of people who dress and worship differently wanting to set up a school. In a world where globalisation is bringing every culture closer together (whether they like it or not) its a very confined and limiting way to live.

    Issues like this are the flip side the long undermining of the public school system in favour of private ones that was carried out under Howard. Howard talked about Australia and spent his whole time as prime minister finding ways for the part of Australia he lived in to cut itself off from the rest of the country. And now people get upset when new Australians take advantage of the systems he set up to try and do the same. Its so disappointing.

    The long run solution to this is very simple. Build as good a public school system as we can possibly afford so that people feel they turn to the state and country as a whole to educate their kids rather than having to turn inwards to their own community. That applies right across the board, not just to muslims.

  9. swio says:

    If that is their approach to public spaces, thats fine in their own culture, but this is the point at which I assert my conservatism and say that they are in our country. They must twig that it is not appreciated. If I were an immigrant in a foreign country, Id try hard not to offend the sensibilities of the citizens of my new country. I dont get it. It really wouldnt be that hard for them to clean up.

    You’d be surprised how hard it is for people new to a coutry to pick up on even things that are as obvious as this. Let try and put you in their shoes. If you lived in Japan most Japanese would consider our standards of cleanliness the same way you describe those people at the beach. They would be disgusted at the state of a football stadium or even a movie theatre over here. Other things that would have a typical Japanese shaking his head and muttering “gaijin” are getting up in the middle of a domestic sporting match to get a drink, pulling a business card out of your back pocket, or using chopsticks with your left hand. I know that if you had decided to live there you would do your best to change and fit in but it would alot harder than you think, especially if you struggled with the language and spent most of your time talking to fellow Aussie expats in English. Your best hope would be your kids, but until they are old enough to give you some help it would not be easy, especially if you did not have any close Japanese friends.

  10. NPOV says:

    There is a fairly substantial difference between leaving rubbish lying around in an area that everybody uses and customs regarding chopsticks and business cards – rubbish is potentially dangerous, a health hazard, and enough of it would be surely universally agreed to be unsightly. Hence, littering is actually illegal, rather than simply being considered poor manners. Nicholas, have you reported the behaviour to the police?

  11. Gummo Trotsky says:

    If that is their approach to public spaces, thats fine in their own culture, but this is the point at which I assert my conservatism and say that they are in our country…

    If you lived in Japan most Japanese would consider our standards of cleanliness the same way you describe those people at the beach. They would be disgusted at the state of a football stadium or even a movie theatre over here…

    Interesting – maybe those immigrants down on the beach are making too much of an effort to fit into our local customs. Having observed the way we treat our other public spaces, they’ve concluded that the Aussie way to demonstrate your love of a local beauty spot is to litter it copiously.

    What’s evidently needed is a patient explanation of the different standards that apply to beaches and shopping-centre food courts (example only). The existence of two such contradictory standards may not make a lot of sense to them, but if they’re serious about fitting in, they’ll learn to apply them properly – or their kids will.

  12. David Rubie says:

    James, an excellent piece.

  13. John Greenfield says:

    A sensible person should respond by getting their own local council – Leichardt, Mosman, Woollahra – to offer the school a site in Paddington, Cremorne, or Balmain. ;)

  14. conrad says:

    “theyve concluded that the Aussie way to demonstrate your love of a local beauty spot is to litter it copiously.”

    I agree with this. When I went to Canada, I was amazed at how amazingly clean it was. I didn’t notice a single straw on the beach in Vancouver. More amazing was that people not only put their rubbish in bins, they tied it in plastic bags so it couldn’t escape. Some even took their own rubbish away with them.

    Incidentally, I don’t think these little cultural differences are hard to fix — I imagine its just a matter of pointing it out in some circumstances. Two decades ago, Victoria street in Melbourne used to be filth city thanks to the Vietnamese, but these days its not too bad. Given that I imagine it still gets new arrivals who come from places where its okay to litter, obviously someone’s telling them not to do it.

  15. James Farrell says:

    David: thanks.

    swio: A healthy public school system is part of the answer, I’m sure. Andrew Norton argued not long ago that public schools don’t necessarily contribute to social cohesion. He’s right that in cases mixing ethnicities and religions can exacerbate existing tensions. But in those cases I think the ethnic tensions are a symptom of deeper social problems that should be addressed in their own right. The little thugs that ran amok in Merrylands school the other day may have been on a mission to punish members of some rival ethnic gang (actually, we don’t know the details yet) but they are also up to their eyeballs in drugs, crime and general hopelessness as well. Take away those factors and we have a world more like the one you reminisced about.

  16. swio says:

    Andrew Norton’s piece and the research he’s talking about are relevant to outback towns with aboriginal students but decidedly not relevant to the situation we are talking about here. They are talking about only two ethnic groups involved which is totally different to the highly multi-ethnic nature of most schools in places like western sydney.

    If grade sizes don’t get too big and you have 10+ ethnic groups, which is pretty normal at a western Sydney school, then it becomes a bit hard seperate along the ethnic lines as most groups don’t have enough members to be viable. Instead students tend to seperate along the lines you find at any school such sportiness, bookishness etc. That’s not the case at every school as there are places where ethnic concentration is quite intense and when these places also have more normal problems of crime, jobs and drugs you get the kind of ethnic gang stories the Daily Telegraph loves to put on its front page.

    I doubt the recent problems in Merrylands are an example of that. Its just down the road from so I know it reasonably well. It is certainly not a mono-ethnic area and my guess is that the problems there had nothing to do with ethnicity. In fact its a 50/50 chance the group of troublemakers are themselves multi-ethnic. You’re probably getting your information about it from the Sydney media which is a bit problematic. Most Sydney journalists think western sydney starts at Glebe and couldn’t find their way around it without a Navman. They are about as qualified to talk about it as I am Queensland politics which is why they reach for the ethnic angle every time something violent happens here. Its the only thing they know about the place. Its very frustrating that when you have a riot on a largely Anglo Macquarie Fields estate people talk about unemployment but when you have attacks in multi-cultural Merrylands people talk about immigration, but I guess that is how the world works.

  17. Helen says:

    there are still furrow marks from the First Fleet, theres still ploughs and things in those paddocks from the First Fleet

    And this gentleman is indigenous I presume. Otherwise…

    …and they want to build this obstrosity that we have to look at

    I can’t decide whether this guy is completely illiterate or is being verbally clever – Monstrosity + obtrusive = Obtrosity. I like it!

  18. Helen says:

    That should be Obstrosity.

  19. John Greenfield says:

    The Fairax Luvvie types who fulminate against these events would not have a clue what life in the Multiculti nirvanas of Mt.Druitt, Auburn, and Holroyd are like. While the bourgeois Loud Denouncers are safely sequestered in Mosman, Glebe, Balmain, Killara, and Woollahra, those most negatively effected – poorer working class families – are denied the opportunity to excercise a choice about whether or not they wish to stay put at those schools.

    This is a travesty of social justice

  20. James Farrell says:

    swio, enough of your pretense of first-hand knowledge. John Greenfield has unmasked you. You are a Fairfax Luvvie living in Killara, and never even crossed the Harbour Bridge. I’m in the same boat — can you believe I imagined I lived in Wentworthville? But after reading John’s shrewd comment I realise it’s actually Wentworth Avenue, Vaucluse.

  21. Patrick says:

    my guess is that the problems there had nothing to do with ethnicity.

    Except, via Tim Blair, the SMH suggests that they are all Pacific Islander. Obviously, your point about Sydney media is valid, but I assume they aren’t actually lying.

    I take your point about multi-ethnicity, but I have to say I don’t see any truth in the apparently implicit claim that multi-ethnic areas are unlikely or less likely to have ethnic conflict. Logic suggests that ethnic conflict really becomes an issue when the second (or third, etc) ethnic group is big enough to present a conceivable challenge to the first – witness Black Americans and Hispanic Americans.

    Instead students tend to seperate along the lines you find at any school such sportiness, bookishness etc.

    In my experience, which does not include West Sydney but does include low- and medium- income areas in a few parts of the world, these traits are ready proxies for ethnicity in some circumstances.

    Eg:
    Sportiness: Islanders, Anglos.
    Bookishness: some Asians, Sub-Continentals.
    Yobbo-ishness: discrete groups of Middle Easterns, other mediteranneans and anglos. Some limited mixing aroundLebos, Anglos and other mediteranean.

    I am not positing that as a universal truth, btw. But at least as likely as your thesis.

  22. John Greenfield says:

    Patrick

    The level of ethnic/racial enmity and conflict in western Sydney is very high and one the great Australian Silences.

  23. gilmae says:

    The level of ethnic/racial enmity and conflict in western Sydney is very high and one the great Australian Silences.

    The greater majority of which is people turning a blind eye to their own ethnicity engaging in the very same activities they claim to revile in other ethnicities. I turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to that kind of hypocrisy day in and day out here in Campbelltown. Or even just people from outside of the 1 square kilometer they live in.

  24. John Greenfield says:

    gilmae

    I think I have a much more menacing understanding of “conflict” than the mere turning of blind eyes. It invloves violence, verbal abuse, harrassment, and threats.

  25. gilmae says:

    Perhaps you do, but none of that seems to happen in my part of Western Sydney. Oh right. Great silence. I guess they rush in the cleaners to hush it up every morning.

  26. swio says:

    From that SMH editorial.

    The children at the school had no doubt that most of the alleged attackers were of Pacific Islander background.

    If that word “most” is correct then I should have put money on my guess the gang was multi-ethnic. See, even the gangs are successful examples of multiculturalism ;)

    Because such a large proportion of western Sydney has an overseas background its almost impossible for one person to hit another without it being an example of inter-ethnic violence. I punch my next door neighbour for absolutely no reason and, bingo, we have half a Tim Blair blog post. Now we could sit down and examine the cultural backgrounds of me and my neighbour and seek solutions from conflict resolution experts at the UN or the wisdom of Pauline Hanson on why Islanders/Chinese/Indians/(who was it again?) are always a problem. But when you get right down to it the problem is nothing more complicated than me being an asshole. And the solution is to stop me being an asshole, probably with a good kick up the bum. Of course if I was a skip and my neighbour was a skip all this would be obvious. We get all tied up in knots when its not that simple.

    I’m not saying that ethnic based violence is not a problem. What some of the Leb gangs are up to really worries me. But I am saying that just because violence involves people of different ethnicities doesn’t always mean the violence is based on ethnicity. We should be careful to distinguish between the two as the solutions are different.(and again I’m not saying we don’t have problems with ethnic based violence in Sydney, but that’s another very long story). Sometimes people are just bad people and we know how to deal with that.

  27. Patrick says:

    But I am saying that just because violence involves people of different ethnicities doesnt always mean the violence is based on ethnicity.

    Agree. But sometimes, just because violence doesn’t involve clear-cut ethnic divides doesn’t mean it isn’t ethnic.

    Sometimes people are just bad people and we know how to deal with that.

    Are you sure?

  28. John Greenfield says:

    swio

    I am not making any of those assumptions. I am talking about the very real and widespread existence of proper gangs of young men AND women, who identify explicitly as Maori, Islander, Aboriginal, White, African, Lebanese Muslim, etc. and actively seek out, plan, and initiate group violence against racial/ethnic gangs and often non-gangs. It is absolutely racially/ethnically focused.

    gilmae

    I am not familiar with Campbelltown, though I understand it has become quite a magnet for middle class “aspirationals” and McMansions so maybe it has improved since the old days of Miller.

    If this ethnic/racial conflict/tension and violence is foreign to Campbelltown then well done! Perhaps community leaders and police from Mt. Druitt, Bidwill, Plumpton, Blacktown, Holroyd, Auburn, and Merrylands should look to you for advice.

  29. Nabakov says:

    Shock horror! Mini-J (John Greenfly) discovers young people band together by ethnic/cultural/locality groups and pick fights with other such constituted groups.

    This shit has going on like forever throughout big cities that attract lots of immigrants. You thought “Gangs of New York” was just imagined out of thin air?

    Far more people were killed for racial, ethnic and cultural reasons during civil city breakdowns like the NYC Draft and Gordon Riots, suppressing the Paris Communards, Berlin in 1918 or the LA Watts and King riots than all Australia’s cities have ever seen in total during the same period.

    And if the host culture is basically tolerant, free market and economically stable and growing, this kinda stuff just absorbed back in and eventually recycled as heritage.

    The thing that gets me about about twits like Mini-J and Jack Strocchi is just how naive and unworldly they are – while constantly accusing their own straw-built bete noires of being unrealistic. They come across like maiden aunts shocked!, just shocked I tell you! that big cities can sometimes be rather volatile places.

    Australia’s metropoli have had a dream run by global standards when it comes to ethnic, racial and cultural clashes. Perhaps only Canada and NZ have done better. But I don’t see Mini-J et al threatening to move there. On the other hand, offered an a sturdy opportunity to seek their fortune in Paris, London or New York…well OK, those cities are buyer’s markets and the Johns and Jacks ain’t even got nothing to sell in local markets.

    So I guess they’d rather just be here in one of the world’s most comfortable and secure environments – titillated and occupied by constantly looking under their beds for the islamo-commie-lefties-wetties-luvvies coming to take their teddy bears away.

    Y’know, the more I see of the blogosphere, the more I realise how much it is a reductive microcosm of unchanging elements of human nature. EG: If you’re monomaniacal whinger, unable to contribute anything except your pathological pissweak polemics to threads, then it seems clear you’re not having a good life yourself. Are you Greenfly?

    On the other hand, someone who suddenly goes off OT with a link like this one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKESo2ofEcw
    obviously doesn’t take anything seriously, especially his own comments.

  30. Patrick says:

    We’ve done better than NZ I think. Can’t speak for Canada except for the number of Canadians I meet over here, if that means anything ;)

  31. patrickg says:

    Slight sidetrack, but Nicholas, seriously, what gives you the idea that littering is somehow a cultural trait of being Muslim?

    I mean seriously, wtf, dude, I would be really offended if was Muslim and I read that – I’m not Muslim and I find it pretty offensive. If I felt like you were making a qualified comment about Muslim culture from the perspective of someone who knows it really well, I would be put off, but at least open. But it sounds like you don’t really know _anything_ about Muslim culture, and have equated the 50-odd people (presumably Muslim, though let’s face it, you haven’t stopped to ask) you see at the beach on some weekends with the entirety of Muslim culture in Australia.

    That’s ridiculous, and you should know better. Would you go round saying that alcoholism is cultural trait of being aboriginal? That beating up Muslims is a cultural trait of being white?

    I’m genuinely surprised no one else has commented on what I see as a pretty blithe racist statement. Am I being over-sensitive here?

    People have a shocking tendency, in my opinion, to be arseholes regardless of which vaunted culture they come from. When the Indian students two floors above me are partying at 2:30am on a Tuesday night, as they have done for the last several months, I don’t think it’s a cultural trait of being Indian – our building is full of Indians – I think they’re thoughtless dipshits caught up on being young and able to get falling-down drunk on a weeknight.

    I think you should really think more carefully before jumping to conclusions and making frankly bullshit comments about “our country” and “their” culture vs “our” culture.

    You have no idea how long these people have been in Australia, for start. They could have been here for generations, and – even if they only got citizenship yesterday – it’s their country just as much as yours or mine, or your fictional “ours”.

    But mainly, why would littering be a Muslim trait? That’s so weird, man. I’ve never heard that before.

  32. John Greenfield says:

    patrick

    I would agree about NZ. They are just entering an ugly period with the New Zealand First Party Leader Winston Peters ‘doing a Pauline.’ Helen Clarke and Labour are pretty impotent largely, I would guess, having learnt the Australian lessons of what I call ‘Keating Blowback.’ Also the charms of multiculti were quickly shown to have no clothes following Sep.11.

    The relative cases of Australia and Canada require an appreciation of the different histories and also acknowledgement that our Aborigines are relatively integrated across Australia’s urban centres particularly its large cities and particularly Sydney and Brisbane. OTOH, Canada’s eskimoes are much more sequestered among the reindeer in the northern tundra. Australia’s open immigration policy with New Zealand has imported a significant source of inter-racial conflict in western Sydney which is not met with any similar migratory flows the other way.

    Nabakov

    Wassup my brother? Why the long-face, snarky tone, and anger? Need a hug? Rather than projecting all your hostility onto straw Strocchi, Greenfield, and the reductive microcosms, why not take a deep breath and learn about western Sydney from those of us who actually know something about it from you know, like, er, actually like LIVING there and stuff?

    Luvvie, I am sure that around Margaret, David and the gang your insights into 2008 western Sydney gleaned from West Side Story and My Fair Lady are met with rapturous applause and sharp intakes of breath at your insight, your wisdom, your experience, your perspicacity, and of course, your humanity. But outside the Luvviesphere there is a REAL western Sydney, whose reality has been raised by this posted by James Farrell. You would do well to read it.

    In the meantime, always remember sweetie that Jesus loves you more than you will know, whoah, ho, ho!

  33. NPOV says:

    patrickg, to be fair to Nicholas, he did say “If that is their approach to public spaces, thats fine in their own culture”. I suppose that carries something of a hidden assumption that one of the cultural norms that characterises many Muslims* is likely to be “disrespect for public spaces”, but Nicholas’s point seemed to be more “it may not be universally accepted that public spaces should be kept tidy, but it is in Australia, hence everyone here should abide by that principle”.

    * who, of course, actually come from a very wide range of racial and cultural backgrounds, making the word ‘racist’ problematic.

  34. James Farrell says:

    John, I think it’s pretty clear who first brought anger and sarcasm to the thread. ‘Ho! ho! ho! What’s this I smell? Some more lefty lies and double standards!’ seems to your default approach to any topic. Why not give it a break altogether, and if that’s too hard, what about a holiday from ‘luvvie’?

    In any case, this whole question of whether there are or aren’t ethnic gangs and violence in Western Sydney is a bit off topic. This was a post about Muslim schools. The gang business came up because swio was proposing multi-cultural public schools as a device for cohesion. I suppose your implicit position is that both scary sectarian schools and strife-prone public schools are manifestations of some underlying root problem (non-European immigration? Multiculcularism? Socialist public housing policies? All of the above?) created by mad leftists. If this is the case, perhaps you could outline the argument more explicitly, and provide a few facts and figures on the ethnic warfare that you’re evidently so knowledgable about.

  35. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    Also the charms of multiculti were quickly shown to have no clothes following Sep.11

    WTF??? The S11 hijackers were Saudi nationals you dope. And US ‘multiculti’ is different from Australian or UK ‘multiculti’

  36. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    Oh yeah and spot on what Nabs said. The spark of ressentiment animates the comments of JG.

    and before JG starts going on about ‘luvvies’ again, my parents live near Blacktown, my sister teaches in a westie high school and my father is a journo for the metropolitan west community papers.

  37. NPOV says:

    Jason, there were attacks on mosques in Australia following Sep. 11. Of course all that proves is that human beings will tend to act irrationally in extreme circumstances. JG apparently sees it as rock-solid proof that the world really would be a nice happy place if we just got rid of all that “multiculti”.

  38. Nabakov says:

    Damn, it’s amazing how John “Western Sydney is the navel of the world” Greenfly can so constantly mistake his mirror for a window.

    I assure you, you silly little man, that what I actually feel is mild and amused contempt for someone with such a small mind inside such a big head with such a large hole at the front.

  39. patrickg says:

    I see where you coming from NPOV, but as you say, why tie littering into cultural background at all, ifs or not ifs?

    I would also say, that clearly the idea public spaces should be kept clean in Australia is _not_ widely accepted, if the people littering are Australian, regardless of how they look, who they worship, what they speak, etc.

    When I see hordes of skips throwing butts and wrappers on the ground at the station, it pisses me off, but I don’t think “you’re in Australia, Madisun and Dazza, you should know and act better if you want to fit in”.

  40. FDB says:

    When I see hordes of skips throwing butts and wrappers on the ground at the station, it pisses me off, but I dont think youre in Australia, Madisun and Dazza, you should know and act better if you want to fit in.

    The difference is that with one group you can say “they’re different to me”, and with the other it’s “they’re like me, but fuckwits”.

    For the xenophobe, a fuckwit is easier to tolerate than someone with different values.

  41. jc says:

    Good comment at 29 Nabakov. Are you sure you’re not a closet libertarian?

    I don’t even think the term multi-cultural is even used to any great extent in the US.

    Last year some time the WSJ was praising US Muslims during the time of the French riots. US Muslims have twice over the US median income and are quite a successful immigrant “group”.

  42. jc says:

    And if the host culture is basically tolerant, free market and economically stable and growing, this kinda stuff just absorbed back in and eventually recycled as heritage.

    However this idea doesn’t seem to be working in Europe very well. It’s silly to ignore the problems going on there which I feel spring more from the economic side of things than anything else. There is reportedly 30% unemployment rates in some areas of European immigratnt communities. Nothing breeds resentment like close to zero economic growth.

    The other interesting thing is that most attacks and attempted attacks have really been European based since 911

  43. NPOV says:

    patrickg, I suspect most of us have a tendency now and then to notice undesirable behaviours or personality traits in an individual or small group, and if that individual/group also happens to belong to a minority ethnic group, to associate the trait/behaviour with the ethnicity. But I think it only becomes problematically “racist” when you start publicly assuming that all members of that ethnic group tend to exhibit the undesirable trait or behaviour in question.
    E.g. “I don’t mind Lebanese people, except that they’re all litterbugs” is obviously ‘racist’, and not likely to encourage social harmony.

  44. Yobbo says:

    John G: “Eskimo” isn’t a word you are supposed to use any more. It’s not outright offensive, but considered inappropriate, similar to “Negro”.

  45. Nabakov says:

    Eskimo isnt a word you are supposed to use any more. Its not outright offensive, but considered inappropriate, similar to Negro.

    And just try calling an Inuit an “icecube” and see how you get on.

  46. Nabakov says:

    “Are you sure youre not a closet libertarian?”

    I’ve think I’ve made it fairly clear over the years of the Aus blogosphere that I’m basically a Whiggish centralist technocrat with high Tory tastes, a nice head of Social Democratic hair and an Anarcho-Libertarian ferret stuffed down my trousers.

    “However this idea doesnt seem to be working in Europe very well. Its silly to ignore the problems going on there which I feel spring more from the economic side of things than anything else.”

    Perhaps. Economically depressed localised circumstances do generate gangs of young men with spiteful and idle mayhem on their minds. But race, culture and ethnicity are not catalysts but additional stimulants. EG: Trying walking through a Glaswegian housing estate in the clockwork orange seventies.

    And I certainly agree that the current massive of emigration into a porous EU is causing no end of friction. But when was it never the way? “New York for Nativists!”, “Kill the Huguenots!”, Lambing Flats, “No dogs, blacks or Irish.”

    The quite remarkable thing about Australia is how we’ve absorbed so many waves of immigration without a tenth of the aggro of bigger, older and presumably more experienced countries.

    Hell, we even let the Italians in and they generally turned out to be nothing like the Fascisti, the Mafia or the Borgias (OK, the latter were originally a Spanish dynasty – but still Latin basically – if you get my drift).

    My basic point, as made earlier, is that the colour of money will always trimuph in the long run over the colour of skin.

  47. Patrick says:

    an Anarcho-Libertarian ferret stuffed down my trousers.

    So you are one hell of an agitated grumpy old man? ;)

    Hell, we even let the Italians in and they generally turned out to be nothing like the Fascisti, the Mafia

    No, by all appearances the ones that made it out here were far too incompetent!! The Grollos aside.

  48. FDB says:

    “And just try calling an Inuit an icecube and see how you get on.”

    Try calling a non-Inuit ummm… inhabitant-of-those-shitty-cold-places-up-north an Inuit and you’ll get pretty short shrift too. Bummer that ‘Eskimo’ has become pejorative (simply by being used as such – who’da thunkit?), cos it was pretty convenient not to have to learn the names of the different groups.

    Spose we could call em elves?

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