Not Racism, Non-Assimilation
‘Not Racism, Non-Assimilation’
By Tony DeLorger © 2010
Australians pride themselves on being a tolerant society and by circumstance we are a melting pot of many nationalities, creeds and religions. The nature of our historical past is one of constant change and assimilating migrants to build a strong, prosperous country. Historically there has always been resistance, some vilification but eventual acceptance. In the end we are all Australians and in the past we have managed to meld together into a multicultural society that is enriched by its diversity with more understanding of other cultures, foods and beliefs. So where do you draw the line on immigration and when does cultural differences negatively impact on our society, enough to say no, that’s not our way?
Of late there has been more and more controversy about cultural differences and racial slurs have become more prevalent throughout our society. The real problems arise not from differences alone but from a lack of intent to assimilate to our society. The ‘burqa’ is a perfect example. This headdress is a tradition in Muslim society and represents an important personal modesty and concealment from the attention of men other than family. However it is seen as suspicious to western society, the face an important verification, not only of identity but also of manner, demeanour and intention etc. We see unshrouded as ‘open’ and shrouded as ‘something to hide’. It’s like wearing a ski mask around the street; people would not respond favourably and it would create feelings of mistrust. This is simply how we are brought up, our social perspective.
It is simply unfair to brand all Muslims as terrorist, as some people do. The Muslims I know are peace-loving, warm and caring family people, who love Australia just as I do. But should their cultural traditions cross those of their host and chosen country? I think not. If we chose to live in Iran or Iraq, I would guarantee that we would have to bow to the cultural demands of that country without question. So why do we bend over backwards trying not to offend people who have chosen to live here. In questioning these issues, we are pronounced racists. But I contend that this is an issue about non-assimilation, or at least about immigrants who will not modify their cultural beliefs to adapt to life here in Australia.
I believe in the freedom of ideology: political, religious or whatever. However, we must conform in a social sense to the laws and societal practices of the land. Diversity of thought and ideology can only expand our understanding of the world and should positively contribute to a society, especially one as multicultural as ours. But when beliefs or customs contradict the social construct then there will be problems. This is not racism, just an expectation that those who chose to leave their own country and settle in Australia should be willing to adjust to our way of life, to our code of social behaviour. This is a simple, and not an unreasonable request, one would think. But many fundamentalist Muslims feel this attitude an affront, a racial slur against their religious beliefs and rights.
In Australia we are free to believe what we wish, but society by nature must have structure and to some extent conformity to survive. Racism doesn’t even enter the argument; immigrants must be able to assimilate or they become marginalized and isolated and can in no way contribute to their adopted homeland.