At a time when people are prone to saying stupid things, I sometimes look to the Herald Sun to get some idea of the stupidest things people might say. A highlight is often Andrew Bolt.
True to form, in his reaction to the arrest — not conviction — of Somalians accused of planning a terrorist attack, Bolt wrote what we might call a five-point manifesto. Point five was the highlight. He says we should "rethink immigration intakes".
So which immigrants should we reject? Well, Bolt tells us that "we keep making the same mistake, particularly in taking in people from war-torn, tribal and backward countries". As an example, he points to the Muslim Lebanese people who now live here, "too many" of whom "ended up on welfare … or worse". And apparently a tendency to adopt a life of crime is "not just a Muslim thing". Bolt reckons that the Vietnamese, Tongans and Samoans have elevated crime rates too. Plainly, the arrests are not so much a threat for Bolt as an opportunity.
So if we are to stop taking in immigrants from backward countries — in Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa and the Pacific Islands — which continents have immigrants Bolt considers appropriate?
Bolt doesn’t bother saying. In his list of countries which have sent dangerous immigrants to Australia, Bolt doesn’t include any from Europe — including those Europeans who devastated Indigenous Australian societies across this continent. Is Bolt saying that he regrets the end of White Australia?
Bolt notes that Howard’s immigration minister Kevin Andrews was "monstered" for reducing refugee intake from Africa. Yet, he holds, we should insist on "frank talk". Well, if Bolt thinks he should be free to advocate his immigration policy borrowed from the 1950s, I would hope that he would also support the "frank talk" of those who call his views racist.
Bolt’s warning about the crime rates of Lebanese Muslims and so on was likely an incomplete list of those from countries Bolt considers backwards. He warns that we may be "importing problems we don’t need". Such rhetoric makes me think of Australia in the 1930s. At the 1938 Evian Conference held in France, in response to the rising number of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, Australia explained why it would not take in Jewish refugees, saying, "as we have no real racial problems, we are not desirous of importing one".
It is time that we tell people like Bolt that all communities are equally human. We all produce our own criminals. For example, there is a community of people in Australia, let us call them Community X. Community X produces far more rapists and woman-beaters than the rest of Australia. Not only this, they have a marked tendency to get off scot-free when they commit crimes, at least partially due to their influence and domination of the judicial system. Community X has also consistently blocked the necessary funding to stop violence against women.
If the group I am talking about were Muslims, Bolt would presumably advocate we send them back to wherever they come from. But Community X is, in fact, men.
The fallacy here, of course, lies in the view that some arbitrarily chosen group of people is less Australian than the rest of us, and "we" need to be "protected from them". The irony is that Bolt complains about "ethnic ghettos" in the same article in which he advocates restricting immigration from everywhere but Europe (although he doesn’t mention the Americas either).
If we were to take Bolt seriously — and I hope few do — we should conclude that he is seeking to create ethnic ghettos of his own. Bolt doesn’t consider them ethnic ghettos because they would be white. Perhaps we could attribute this to the view that ethnicity is something "they" have, whereas Anglos are just normal.
As it happens, I live in a predominantly Jewish area and went to an exclusively Jewish school. Would Bolt complain about the Jewish "ethnic ghetto"? Or will he only pick on the most marginalised and poor elements of Australian society?
The chief commissioner of Victorian Police, Simon Overland, wrote an interesting article in The Age three days after Bolt’s spray, basically warning against the view that there exists a Muslim "them" who are out to get "us". Plainly, the head of police recognises the need to dispel the theory — propagated by Islamist extremists and anti-Muslim polemicists — of a unified West at war with the Muslim world. Overland recognises that the fight against terrorism must include addressing Muslim grievances. He says that "we need to continue to counter the message being perpetuated by terrorist groups and their supporters at all levels." He suggests that the major problem is "social isolation and disengagement" coming from things like racism and stereotyping.
Bolt immediately dismisses this view. "If young Muslim men want to kill us, it’s our fault. We must ask: what evil have we done to provoke such anger?"
Bolt is serious. He apparently cannot imagine any reasons why Muslims would be angry with Australia. But, as I’ve written in the past, such reasons are certainly not hard to find.
Right now, it is not enough for us to challenge Australia’s Andrew Bolts. We must insist that human rights are not negotiable and should fight to claw them back. We must insist that multiculturalism, contrary to Bolt’s view, is non-negotiable and, if anything, we should be more welcoming of people from across the world.
We must also insist that there is no such thing as a united West clashing with a monolithic Muslim world. The worst elements of both have often collaborated, and it is always the innocent people who suffer for it. The West has supported Islamist theocrats and terrorists like Zia ul-Haq, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the House of Saud and many more. The very real grievances Muslims have against Western governments can be exploited by Islamist extremists — if they do not feel anyone in the West cares about them, and if they do not think there is another way of changing Western policies.
It is true that there is a small group of Muslim extremists who have committed terrible crimes against people in the West and would like to commit more of them. But there is also a small group of Western extremists who have committed terrible crimes against people in the Muslim world and would like to commit more of them. They’re presidents and prime ministers, people like John Howard, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and many more. We must create a space to reject them all, to stand for human rights and against the slaughter of innocents.
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