Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Abbott's Team Christian Australia

Irfan Yusuf | 21 August 2014

Australia is a Christian country. We wear Christian clothes. We eat Christian food, speak Christian languages and play Christian sport. We also drive Christian cars on Christian roads. And we do all that because we say we have Christian values.

And when we're feeling a bit ecumenical and/or guilty for 2000 years of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, we say we have Judeo-Christian values.

Pardon the scepticism but I've lived here in Australia too long to believe all this 'Christian values' nonsense. And I won't be lectured about my alleged failure to integrate. I won't forget easily the 'Asians out' and 'STOP THE ASIAN INVASION' stickers on shop walls at the Blenheim Road shops. I also won't forget my then-Federal Member John Howard tell me in 1988 that Asians don't make a neat cultural fit into Australia.

I won't easily forget the kids (and in some cases, parents) at Ryde East Public School during the 1970s calling me a 'Paki' and 'nigger'.

My father's advice when I'd come home with a black eye was simple. 'If they hit you, hit them back!' My mum's advice was the same, except she preferred I use words of sarcasm and not bare fists.

'Tell them your skin is the same colour as the real Australians, the Aborigines'. The line didn't work. Now the kids at school started labelling me 'coon' and 'boong'. Logic just couldn't win.

The same bullies would grab my school bag and throw it on the road hoping a car would run it over. And the same bullies would ignore me and punch up a white kid from a different school. I never quite understood this phenomenon until one bully explained.

'It's because he's a f*cking Catholic!'

My experience of Australia as a kid was that it was a nation of bullies trying to protect their turf from anyone they perceived as outsiders. This usually meant people sufficiently different in the wrong way and for reasons beyond their control.

Perhaps this was Tony Abbott's experience growing up as an English Catholic migrant in a very Protestant Australia. Perhaps that is why he took up boxing as a young man, in the same manner as many young Indigenous and Lebanese men take up the sport. In self-defence he may have found a deep sense of empowerment. Abbott knew he had to fight his way into Team Australia.

Abbott must have known what it was like to have his faith pilloried and made the subject of public scorn. He also felt the pull of political Catholicism in the movement of an Italian migrant named Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria, whose anti-Communist views often translated into divisive positions on domestic and international politics, which many Catholics abhorred. That did not stop Abbott from sitting beside Santamaria's deathbed during the latter's final hours.

Australia's history since Federation has been dominated by the politics of exclusion and marginalisation. Minorities have been bludgeoned into joining 'Team Australia' by shedding what they could of their foreign dress, food and religion. They refused. They fought back. Since his days in the campus Democratic Clubs, Tony Abbott was amongst them.

So what now leads him to repeat the same divisive rhetoric? Why is he asking people to give up their legal rights as their price to join his Team Australia?

Abbott told Radio 2GB recently: 'Everyone has got to put this country, its interests, its values and its people first, and you don't migrate to this country unless you want to join our team'. But Mr Abbott didn't become a Protestant. He remained a Papist, part of a religious movement seen by many as putting the Vatican's interests before Australia's. He joined a movement led by a man accused of siding with dictators.

And consider this, Mr Abbott. Many Muslims did not migrate to Australia. Over 40 per cent were born here. They grew here. You flew (or perhaps sailed) here. Albanian Muslims have lived in Shepparton and Mareeba since the 1920s. Descendants of Afghan cameleers can be found across the country. Every major wave of Australian migration has included persons of Muslim heritage.

These people were, in many cases, part of Team Australia before you were born.

Our cultural warriors should familiarise themselves with the Sermon on the Mount or 1 Corinthians 13. They'll then recognise there isn't much Christian about their imbecilic 'Team Australia' yelling and chest beating.


Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and blogger of Muslim Indian heritage who recently moved from Sydney to Melbourne.


Irfan Yusuf

No comments: