Tuesday, August 16, 2005


John Stones the Aussie Mossie

Some conservatives find it impossible to accept that non-Christian religions can teach values consistent with the allegedly Christian values of mainstream Australia. Former National Party Senator John Stone seems to be among them. He writes in The Australian on August 15 2005: “Our outstandingly successful wave of postwar immigration clearly passed that test. Equally clearly, Muslim immigrants more recently have not. Australians generally, I believe, have had enough of this.”

Perhaps Mr Stone has not spent much time with his old colleague, Tim Fischer. I will never forget seeing Mr Fischer addressing over 20,000 Muslim Australians at the Multicultural Eid Festival & Fair (MEFF) in 1996. At the time, he was leader of the National Party and would soon become Minister for Trade in the newly elected Howard Government.

Fischer was clearly of the view that Muslim Australians were an integral part of mainstream Australia. For some reason, John Stone disagrees with Fischer’s assessment. And given the shallowness of Mr Stone’s comments, it is clear he has not done his homework very well.

When speaking about Australians being sick of Muslim migrants, which Australians is Mr Stone referring to? Is he referring to those millions of Australians who continue to have accounts with the National Australia Bank even after a Muslim Australian was appointed as their CEO?

Or is he referring to millions of ARL and AFL fans who continue to watch the games notwithstanding the generous support given to both codes by Muslim Australian John Ilhan? Has Mr Stone read Mr Ilhan’s profile in the recent edition of the Australian Financial Review Magazine?

Ilhan is a mainstream Muslim and a mainstream Australian. The AFR Magazine writes that Ilhan “carries his Islamic faith with him everyday … applying what he sees as basic tenets of honesty and integrity to his business”.

And what are these basic tenets. First, there is “asking for forgiveness”. Then there is loving one’s neighbour as one loves one’s self. He won’t open an outlet next door to a competitor he knew, even if it be a former employee or a cousin.

Stone has clearly not read much about Muslim migration to Australia. Had he done so, he would have realised that Muslims have been dealing with Australia for longer than even European settlers.

Recently published research by Professor Abdullah Saeed of the University of Melbourne and funded by the Department of Immigration confirms that Muslim fishermen traded with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders centuries before the first Europeans discovered New Holland. Indeed, outlines of Australia appeared on Arab maps daring back to the 12th century.

Former Islamic Council of Victoria Secretary Bilal Cleland, himself an Anglo-Australian with ancestry going back to the First Fleet, has written and published a history of Muslims in Australia. Cleland’s book covers the period from the Makassan fishermen referred to above and covers the period of post-war migration that included large numbers of Albanian and (then known as) Yugoslav Muslim migrants.

Cleland deals at length with the Cypriot and Turkish Muslims who arrived during the last decades of the White Australia Policy. The Turkish communities have by far the largest number of mosques and Islamic centres across Australia, including in regional cities and country towns.

Indeed, one Turkish sufi dervish (elder), Professor Mahmud Esad Cosan, is known to have established the first sufi hospices in regional NSW. Professor Cosan was killed in a car accident in February 2001 after opening a hospice in Dubbo.

Professor Cosan encouraged his students to leave the traditional ghettos of Auburn and Coburg and to settle in different cities and in country NSW. His example was followed decades before his call, and country towns such as Shepparton have long-established Muslim communities making major contributions to their local area.

I personally decided to throw my hat in the political ring, running as a conservative candidate in a safe Labor seat in 2001. I wanted to show people in the Reid electorate that a conservative Australian (even a Muslim Australian) could ably represent their interests. The 5.1% swing I achieved for Mr Howard on a 2-party preferred basis is proof that my vision was not a delusion.

I had Australians of all backgrounds handing out election material on polling booths for the Liberal Party. There were Australians of Turkish, Lebanese, Greek, Afghan, Bosnian, Serbian, Iraqi, Indian, Italian, Irish, Japanese and Anglo-Australian backgrounds.

Afghans and Iraqis opposed to mandatory detention still handed out material for me. Meanwhile, a close family friend and Aussie Muslim bureaucrat, Abdul Rizvi, continued to implement the policy of mandatory detention.

Australian Muslims are an integral part of mainstream Australia. If Mr Stone insists on marginalising them, perhaps he needs to assimilate more. Or maybe he just needs to get out more often.

The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer, a naqshbandi sufi Muslim and was endorsed Liberal candidate for the seat of Reid in the 2001 federal election.

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