Friday, May 12, 2006

Valuate or Perish!

Another important document to reflect on: “Europe vs. Radical Islam: Alarmist Americans have mostly bad advice for Europeans” by Francis Fukuyama in “The Slate” (Monday, Feb. 27, 2006).

I don’t want to quote slabs of this article here—I just want to draw your attention to it. I found it relevant to our experience here in Melbourne for the following reasons:

1. I have always told people that relations with Muslims differ greatly according to social and geographical context. Melbourne is not Sydney. Australia is not France. And, I might add, we are definitely not America. Something is “working” here, which isn’t working in either Europe or America to quite the same degree (and may be threatening not to work in Sydney either). Fukuyama says it has to do with assimilation—and I think he is quite right. But assimilation depends on what it is that identifies us as Australians.

2. And that leads me to the second point: Fukuyama seems to suggest that assimilation is most successful when national identity isn’t defined so much by a “blood-and-soil” tribal approach, as it is with a non-racial, non-denominational “values” approach to citizenship. That sounds awfully close to what the Howard Government is attempting with its own “values” agenda. I guess the success or otherwise of this depends on what the values are. For instance, Fukuyama cites the German state of Baden-Württemberg which
“recently introduced a test that would require the respondent to support gay marriage as a condition for citizenship, something deliberately designed to exclude Muslims.”
It would also exclude faithful Catholics. Compared to this, signing up for Howard’s “Mateship Values” seems quite desirable!

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