Australian Premier Steve Bracks launched a campaign to defend multiculturalism and warned that the country’s political leaders risk “a new era of sectarianism" by alienating the Australian Muslim community.Reply
In an indirect reference to Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello, Bracks called on all Australian leaders to apply the same standards to Muslim Australians as they do to the broader community.
He said that just as Howard said that the criminal actions of those involved in Sydney’s riots last December didn’t mean that all Australians were racists, the extremist actions by some Muslims didn’t mean that all Muslims were extremists.
"No community should be alienated and segregated on the basis of the faith they practice or the clothes they wear," he wrote in an article in the The Age.
"To suggest otherwise sets a dangerous precedent — and runs the risk of inviting a new era of sectarianism at a time when, if anything, our nation needs to be more open and tolerant."
Bracks also said that recent remarks by top Liberal and Labor politicians about multiculturalism and Muslim Australians represent a failure of national leadership.
Costello, in a recent speech to the Sydney Institute last week, criticized "mushy misguided multiculturalism" and said that Muslims who cannot embrace Australian values should be stripped of their citizenship.
NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma described Costello’s comments as right and reasonable.
Earlier Howard said that some segments of the Australian Muslim community were "utterly antagonistic to our kind of society", and this week he described as "confronting" the "full garb" worn by some Muslim women in Australia.
In his article, Bracks said that Australia has always been a land of many faiths, languages and cultures, and "our heritage does not belong to any one individual or group".
“We are all Australians, and, as such, we each have equal rights and responsibilities… rights to practice our faith, speak our mind, celebrate our cultural diversity and live without discrimination or vilification, and responsibilities to respect the rights of our fellow Australians and respect the democratic and legal principles of our nation,”
“That is the bargain that Australia strikes with all its citizens, new and old. Live as you choose, wear what you choose, speak your mind, practice your beliefs — and allow your fellow Australians to do the same."
Bracks said in his article that thousands of Muslim Australians are fulfilling their part of the bargain, but adds: "Our national leaders must ensure they live up to their side of the compact."
He also stressed that he is not suggesting that "we should give a free pass" to extremists, "but neither should we characterize an entire community by the actions of a few".
Source: The Age
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