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Dear Weekly readers, I am addressing here some of the key points Menkit Prince made in her last letter to the editor concerning refugees. I apologize for the length of this letter, but I consider this subject too important to dismiss it with a few words.

The lady states, as a fact, that multiculturalism failed in Europe (especially Muslim immigration).

Pardon me, who says? Does not this statement reveal a completely negative outlook on an evolving situation? There would be assimilation problems with all sort of migration, especially of large number of people. In my view it is people like Menkit Prince who creates or exacerbates the problems of assimilation. If you were a Muslim person, after reading her letters, would you want to live next door to this lady, or work side by side to her in a factory or office?

Ghettos, made up of concrete buildings or of prejudice, are places of protection and refuge for people who feel unwanted and who cannot belong. Ask the Jewish people who, during centuries of persecution, lived in ghettos and hardly ever were inclined or permitted to mix with the Gentiles. Ask the de-franchised Palestinians who live or work in Israel.

Not content to call the Islamic culture ‘barbaric’ this lady seems to also imply that Muslim immigrant and refugees are beggars and free-loaders, or worse criminals.

These days, in Australia, it is unlawful and considered offensive to call people ‘names’ on the basis of their religion or ethnicity.

I am sure the opinionated nonsense expressed in the last letter would not strike a favourable chord with the Muslim business and professional community in Australia, and especially in the Tweed, and with all people of Muslim faith employed in government institutions, hospitals, schools, universities, social services, the arts, hospitality etc. The clear intent of her statements seems to demonize all Muslim, casting them in the same mould as fanatical blood thirsty extremists. Like saying all Irish Catholic were active member of the IRA, all Italians of the Red Brigade, all Cambodians of Col Pot!

The reality is that Muslims of all nationalities make up the vast majority of those victimised and murdered by the Islamic terrorists, that’s why they want to escape from their own countries in the first place.

Menkit Prince also stressed the point of being ‘educated’ about the culture of Islam. It seems to me instead that she has gathered her notions of Islam from some of the many Islamophobic, conspiracy crazed sites that are sprouting like mushrooms all over the internet. She has also embraced the concept of Hijra = the collective evil intent of Muslim people to conquer the heathen West and impose strict Sharia Law on everyone. Does Menkit Prince know that only in South Arabia, Iran and few regions in Indonesia Sharia Law is the law of the land? That could perhaps give us a clue why moderate, peace loving Muslims are not too keen on South Arabia because they would have the same problems with Sharia law that she or I do.

Nobody would and could force Australians to live under Sharia Law. The law would not allow it. This idea is so preposterous it shows clearly the dangerous mass hysteria that can take hold of the mind of some people during times of grave crisis.

After the depression years and their defeat in the Great War Nazi Germany needed to blame someone for the hardship and humiliation people suffered, and so they did. It is rather easy, I’m afraid, to make people believe anything when they feel threatened.

I would not call this woman’s misinformed and emotionally charged responses knowledge, but simply good old fashion racism.

I am surprised and saddened that, after gaining so much ground in Australia in the fight against discrimination, gender-race-creed based, there are still many people ready to blindly embrace ignorant fears and superstitions.

Racism, like malicious gossip and deadly poison, spreads rapidly within communities. One could do well to measure one’s word, for the good of everybody.

It is also highly irresponsible to ignore, on purpose, the complex historical background of terrorism, a phenomenon not confined to Islamic extremists. The history books are full of many other examples. Marginalizing, disrespecting and, like in this case, demonizing people create hard to heal resentment and discontent, ideal breeding ground for anti-social behaviour and even terrorism.

The culture described as barbaric created dazzling works of art and literature. It produced some of the most highly regarded thinkers, mystics, philosophers, scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, teachers (including a number of women scholars). Through many dark centuries in Europe it was thanks to Muslim scholars that the wisdom of the ancient world was preserved for posterity, against the bigotry of the early Christian Church. We owe the flourishing of the European Renaissance to them!

I would call other things barbaric: experimenting with atomic power on unsuspecting civilian population; dropping thousands bombs (including cluster bombs) over Iraq, or Agent Orange in South East Asia; perpetrating senseless acts of terrorism and mass murder; turning away desperate people fleeing from danger; discriminating against people because of their creed or skin tone.

In response to the invitation to read the Quran I will add my own invitation to read some (many) chapters in the Old Testament, holy writ for Christians, Jewish and Muslims alike. All monotheistic, rigidly organized religions have their fair share of incitement to violence and intolerance, no doubt about that. Here are some bright examples:

2 Chronicles 15:12: “…kill them all, anyone who will not seek the God of Israel has to be put to death, wether small or great, man or woman.”

Deuteronomy 13:13: If in a town one single person is found who worship another God “… you must attack that town and destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock (for good measure). Put the entire town to the torch, as burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town must remain a ruin forever…”

Nice stuff!

Apart from praising numerous acts of genocide and terrorism, the God of Abraham also demands animal sacrifices, over and over again. In fact the Old Testament God is vengeful, cruel and calculating, the famous ‘an eye for an eye’ character.

How many practising Christian or Jewish people, you think, would take the above exhortations (of which the old book is rife) as precepts to live by in the 21st century? By the same token how many practising Muslims abide nowadays to a 7th century interpretation of their scriptures? Only those who want to use the holy book to justify their lust for revenge and power.

I am afraid that people like that spring up in every culture, given the right circumstances, hiding behind religious or ideological banners.

It is disgraceful to cast such a dark shadow over an entire people because of the violent actions of a few. Perhaps some think that, being innately evil, Muslim people deserve what comes to them?

Talking the way she does Menkit Prince seems to understand precious little not only about Islam but also about history and cultural diversity. Cultures are not homogeneous things; ‘one fits all’ sort of thing. Cultures, living side by side in harmony (as history has shown us it’s possible) unavoidably mingle, enriching each other in the process, while still being allowed to keep their unique character, to create a better integrated and tolerant society. To assume that we Westerners cannot gain anything from the input of another culture, no matter which one, is the pit of arrogance. I rather be a dreamer of better dreams.

At this difficult juncture in history many are happy to find scapegoats (another biblical term), being unable to acknowledge the West’s contribution to the problems we are facing, in the Middle East and elsewhere, unable fundamentally to look into the darkness within. Right now is there any more suitable scapegoat than the Muslim people? Let them drawn, starve, being blown up, humiliated, enslaved. They are not us. They are tainted, I suppose, with the mark of Cain!

This exchange of opinions about refugees and migrants in general has made me more aware of a sad reality lurking within our seemingly tolerant community, a depth of racism and divisive beliefs very barbaric indeed.

I am glad I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute my views to this important debate. My words though are not really for Menkit Prince and those who are too steeped in their prejudices to value different view points, but to the great numbers who, lacking knowledge, are keen to become better informed. Opinions, mine as well, are personal. Principles of justice and equality among human beings, on the other hand, are universal.

This conversation is at an end for me. I have no personal issue against this lady or anyone who share her opinions. As the saying goes: history will judge us…

Shanti Shanti Shanti = Peace Peace Peace

Leonie Barron

 

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