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Signing on to Australian values is part of the deal

Editorial, The Australian 

3 November,2015

Uthman Badar, the spokesman of an organisation that agitates for nothing less than a global caliphate under sharia law, claims to find offence in our national anthem and citizenship pledge. These amount to ?forced assimilation? and are part of an attempt to make Muslims less Islamic, Mr Badar said at Sunday?s Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting in Sydney?s west. He sided, of course, with the Victorian school principal who last week excused Muslim children from singing the anthem.

Migrants choose a country and the country accepts them; this creates a social pact. Migrants get benefits such as an Australian passport; the right to come and go; and, if needed, access to a welfare safety net that is the envy of many nations. Bigotry and racism exist in Australia but at the fringe; the mainstream story is one of multicultural success. Folk from the Middle East (such as Lebanese Maronites) and from war-torn Indo-China (the Vietnamese) are among those to have settled and prospered. Some Muslim migrants have struggled to fit in, assuming they wanted to. An Australian fond of drinking beer would struggle for acceptance in a Gulf state.

In return for the benefits of becoming Australian, new citizens make a pledge giving explicit form to key aspects of the social pact that underwrites public confidence in immigration and multiculturalism. The pledge demands loyalty to Australia, belief in its democracy, respect for its rights and liberties, and obedience to its laws. It?s implied (and it makes sense) that new citizens will be receptive to the values of the nation that they found attractive enough to join. John Howard was criticised for wanting new Australians to learn about Don Bradman, but the idea of a general knowledge citizenship test is a good one. It gives new citizens ideas about possible points of connection as they find their way in Australian society.

Our national anthem is part of the deal. Contrary to Mr Badar?s insinuation, there is nothing divisive about the anthem. Its old-fashioned English may be quaint but it is a perfectly good expression of Australian unity and optimism. The US anthem, theStar-Spangled Banner, is more martial than ours but it is unimaginable that American school students would be excused from singing it. New citizens there are certainly expected to sign up to US values. The conspicuous head coverings on display at Hizb ut-Tahrir?s Bankstown meeting, by the way, are rarely seen on the streets of New York City, that melting pot of diversity. What is represented as a confident expression of identity sometimes points to insecurity. France has restricted the wearing of headscarfs in the public sphere and, as the birthplace of the Enlightenment, expects new citizens to embrace French republican values.

Material handed out at Sunday?s Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting said co-operation with counter-terror agencies was ?outright haram (forbidden)? and referred to ASIO agents as cockroaches. This is unacceptable. By urging all Muslims not to co-operate with counter-terror agencies, Hizb ut-Tahrir sends the erroneous message it otherwise seeks to condemn: that all Muslims sympathise with Islamist terror. Does Hizb ut-Tahrir?s fatwa against co-operation condone the October 2 murder of Curtis Cheng, an innocent police employee? Does Mr Badar dispute the fact Mr Cheng was killed by a 15-year-old Muslim from a radicalised milieu?

Mr Badar?s vague assertion is that all troubles can be traced back to the foreign policy of Western powers that, in de facto alliance with Shia militias, seek to eliminate Islamic State. By focusing on the reaction, he ignores the problem. But is it any surprise that such a coalition has lined up against Islamic State? How much more graphic evidence has to be endured as Islamic State revels in the slaughter and abuse of Shia ?apostates?, Christians, other minorities and captive women? Australians are appalled at the cultural and sectarian genocide taking place, and want it stopped. If Mr Badar cannot accept that very human truth he is in the wrong country.

A curious feature of Mr Badar?s patter is that it seems light on religion and heavy on politics. It has the feel of undergraduate anti-colonialism. It may well be that he is pitching to those on the secular Left who don?t mind a repressive religion as a fellow traveller as long as it allows them to condemn together the greater evil: the West. Perhaps these opinion leaders of the Left would like to chance their arm with Islamic State and sample the civil liberties on offer in its makeshift capital of Raqqa. Its murderous intolerance of dissent reportedly struck across the border on Friday to the Turkish town of Urfa, where the bodies of Ibrahim Abdul Qadir, an activist who documented Islamic State atrocities, and of his friend Fares Hamadi were found. They had been shot and beheaded. They had conspired with the Crusaders, according to Islamic State. In reality, they took the side of humanity against barbarism.

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