Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism

CPDS Home Contact Culture Matters The Emergence and Advantages of Responsible Liberty  The Importance of Values Taught in State Schools  Cultural Ignorance as a Source of Conflict The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Perpetuating Disadvantage  Saving Muslims from Themselves  Even Moderate Islam Seems Damagingly Rigid Religious Education: A Big Picture View  A Bright Outlook?  Incorporating the Alienated: A Challenge to Australia's Civil Society  In Denmark a Bruising Multiculturalism  Challenging the Idea of an Islamic State  A Deeper Look at Religion   Reform of Islam is the Only Real Solution to the Refugee Crisis   Towards a Frank and Open Discussion About the Causes of Islamist Extremism   Australia's Official Misunderstanding of Muslims' Problems  A Case for Restoring Universities  The Failure of Academics and Politicians to Acknowledge the Practical Consequences of Culture   Put Indigenous People Before Political Gamesmanship   Why Muslims Don't Integrate: A Suggestion   The Church of Political Correctness Threatens National Progress   Australians with Indigenous Ancestry Deserve More than Survival  Northern Territory Child Protection and Youth Detention Royal Commission: The Risk of a Cover-up   Australians Should Unite Against the Repression of Muslims   Another Path to One Nation   What is Racism - and is Bill Leak a 'Controversialist' or a 'Realist'?  Where to Start Changing Philosophy   The Western Path to Progress
Email + Addenda

Email sent 19/8/10

Dr Miriam Giugni,
Social Justice in Early Childhood

In relation to a document that you authored on a multicultural approach to children's services in NSW, I should like to suggest that, in this and other contexts, there is much to be gained by doing more than considering culture as a component of individuals' 'identity'.

Reasons for suggesting this are outlined in more detail below because your document seemed to highlight issues that are of importance for Australia's future generally. They include:

  • culture appears to be a major determinant of a community's ability to be materially successful;
  • unless the practical consequences of cultural assumptions are considered, it can be impossible to help those disadvantaged by dysfunctional cultural assumptions and practices;
  • many current domestic and international difficulties might be reduced if those dealing with diverse cultures systematically evaluated cultures' practical consequences.

I would be interested in your response to these speculations.

John Craig


In Exploring Multiculturalism, Anti Bias and Social Justice in Children's Services (undated), which was prepared on behalf of Network, Children's Services Central and the federal Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, you defined 'culture' as part of individuals' identities. Your document stated that:

"It is important to think about what we mean by ‘culture’ because it is the main part of ‘multiculturalism’. So, multiculturalism means that there are many different kinds of cultures in our society. A very broad definition of culture is that it refers to the things we do to negotiate our identities. It is a process, a lived experience and an ongoing practice. Culture is created by individuals and groups and is passed on in some form from generation to generation. Cultural practices are created in order for people to identify with each other or to differentiate from other people and cultural groups. Culture can differ from group to group but also from person to person based on beliefs, values, attitudes and social structures. These might include: thinking, talking, acting, access to resources, beliefs, faith, practices, customs, way to live, art, sport, language, food and eating, geographical region, education, socioeconomic status, laws, class, country of birth, family structure, sexuality, languages spoken, popular culture, mass culture, media culture to name a few! In other words, culture is everything we do and are!

To some extent culture is something we inherit from society, but it is also based on how we live, what options we have and how we choose to use them. So this means that culture is not always ‘natural’ but a product of social construction. This is why some cultural groups live in conflict. We are passionate about who we are and what we believe. When something or someone challenges this belief, people work hard to protect ‘who they are’ and ‘what they believe’. "

From this perspective your document went on to draw relevant conclusions about children's services (eg about: the difficulties of changing to meet other cultures' expectations; preventing of racism requiring more than cultural harmony; and the need to value all people and avoid bias).

However, while it is reasonable to define culture as 'the things we do .... a process, a lived experience and an ongoing practice', there would be advantages in recognising that culture (in effect the things people routinely do and the way they do them) is more than a matter of individuals' identity. The practical consequences of culture (eg in terms of the material prosperity that various societies enjoy or fail to enjoy) also need attention.

An undoubtedly inadequate attempt to identify some practical consequences of differences in cultural assumptions was presented in Competing Civilizations (2001). The latter was based primarily on considering the different paths to modernisation adopted by Western and East Asian societies. Amongst other things Competing Civilizations suggested that:

  • "culture is the principal determinant of a community's ability to be materially successful and to live in relative peace and harmony. Culture affects: people's goals and aspirations; the way they understand reality (and thus how they go about solving problems, and whether they can develop technologies); their ability to learn, to cope with risk and to change; and the institutions their society maintains.";
  • the strengths of Western societies in recent centuries have identifiable cultural roots (eg in their classical Greek and Judeo-Christian heritage as well as in the scientific revolution facilitated by the Renaissance;
  • ignorance of the practical consequences of culture makes it hard to help those who suffer disadvantage because of dysfunctional assumptions, and can even lead to conflicts when the disadvantaged are left with no way to understand their plight except in terms of blaming outsiders. In particular;
  • the political and economic failures of Muslim-dominated societies in the modern era, while partly due to unexamined defects in established international economic and political regimes, seem to be mainly the result of a form of 'communal oppression' that results from world views that (Arabic?) scholars have elaborated around the religion of Islam (see also Rising to the Islamic Challenge);
  • global economic growth is at risk (as illustrated currently by the global financial crisis and ongoing uncertainties) partly because models of socio-political-economy adopted in East Asia are based on cultural traditions that are inconsistent with the global norms based on practices in Western societies (see also Understanding East Asia's Economic Models, Impacting the Global Economy and Too Hard for the G20?).

There is much to be gained by systematically considering cultures' consequences. In Australia's case, widespread failure to do so to date appears to have:

  • led to current proposals for a national education curriculum that could disadvantage Australians in future by not helping children to distinguish between what works and what doesn't work. The National History Curriculum regards culture as the consequence of history - but does not deal with its role as the cause of history (see Proposed National History Curriculum: Information without Understanding?, 2010);
  • made it almost impossible to significantly and quickly improve the prospects of Australians with indigenous ancestry (see The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement, 2002) - a constraint that that has apparently been equally serious internationally (see UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Perpetuating Disadvantage?, 2007);
  • placed Australians generally in a confused situation in their relationships with rising Asian powers (see Babes in the Asian Woods, 2009);
  • led to proposals ("Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia", 2004) to promote religious harmony in Australia through a government-driven process to shift both public institutions and the community generally towards being a 'multi-faith' (rather than a Christian) society - without apparent consideration of: (a) the likely dependence of Australia's liberal legal and governance systems on having a community with 'Christian' expectations about moral behaviour being controlled primarily by individual consciences responsible to God, rather than by social / state pressures; and (b) the effect of state efforts to control the community's religious practices or 'values' - given the importance for individual liberty of separating church and state, and the social, economic and political advantages of that liberty (see Moral Foundations of Individual Liberty and in particular the Comment on 'Clayton-ism' - the religion you have when you are not having a religion);
  • involved Australia in shooting wars that were effectively being fought against political and economic ignorance, when the ideological issues involved might have been more quickly, cheaply and satisfactorily resolved in the academy rather than on the battlefield (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism, 2002).

It certainly is important to recognise that culture is a key component of individuals' identity, but not sufficient to deal with this aspect alone.

Notes added later: The above does not imply that individuals should not be able to believe / do anything they lawfully want to. However that the consequences of those beliefs / actions for communities as a whole, or for others should not be ignored.

In 2016 it was argued that multiculturalism had failed in Europe / UK because immigrant Muslim communities did not integrate with their adopted nations while some considered themselves at war with those nations and their values. Possible reasons for this failure were suggested in Why Muslims Don't Integrate: A Suggestion

Multiculturalism has been seen to reflect a rejection of the Roman Law tradition - ie the view (mainly in European regions that had been part of the Roman Empire) that the state has legal priority over individuals because it reflects and the culture of a society as a whole [1]. It has usually been contrasted with British Law traditions that treat states and individuals as equals before the law.

Follow ons Follow-ons

Further communications related to the above email are reproduced below.

More on 'Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism' - email sent 22/8/10

Dr Miriam Giugni,
Social Justice in Early Childhood

Further to my email of 19/8/10 (Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism), I should like to draw your attention to the another email (Some thoughts on the 'China Era') which further illustrates why there is a need to do more than consider culture as a component of individuals' identify.

John Craig

An Expert's Response

In response above one expert observer to whom the above email had been copied noted (on 23/8/10) that:

"Whilst there have been many definitions of multiculturalism or, preferably, a multicultural social and economic policy, the Australian definition that gained bipartisan support in Parliament was that enunciated in the 1989 National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia. There have been various iterations since then but never with the bipartisan support. Any debate on the topic must put this description at the centre of their considerations."

CPDS Reply - email sent 23/8/10

Thanks for pointing to 1989 definition of multiculturalism which focused on (a) culture as a component of individuals' identify (b) all individuals' rights to equality of treatment; and (c) the need for economic efficiency.

However the world has changed since 1989 and is changing quickly. In 1989 no one doubted the strength and sustainability of Australia's Western-style cultural identity and institutions (which value individuals and endorse equality). Now societies are emerging as economically dominant in Australia's region which do not endorse such values and institutions - and these are impacting on Australia. For example the attached email ('Looking for the Invisible Elephant') referred to (a) Australia's massive economic dependence on China; and (b) Australians' inability to understand what they are dealing with. One of the features of the Chinese system is that state-connected enterprises are enabled to succeed whereas others don't. And a Queensland federal politician was dis-endorsed before the recent national election because of (allegedly) exploiting such connections for personal benefit. Various other examples illustrate the way in which influences that are incompatible with Australia's democratic capitalist institutions may be being corrupted - a process that has now been under way for years.

John Milton Keynes famously said When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?. Thus I suggest that it makes a great deal of sense for Australia to now consider the consequences of cultural assumptions, rather than merely dealing with culture within the framework of traditional approaches to multiculturalism (ie as a matter of individual rights).

The political system is part of the process whereby a society learns. Politics reflects ideas that have become widely enough known to be acceptable to a significant segment of the population - and this generally corresponds with ideas that experts developed 10-15 years earlier. What I am suggesting is that the 'experts' need to take a broader approach to inter-cultural relations so that the political system will start to get access to progressive ideas that it might be able to implement in 2020.

John Craig

Looking for the Invisible Elephant - email sent 21/8/10

Terry McCrann

Re 'China, our invisible elephant', The Australian, 21/8/10

There is no doubt about the need to consider the implications of China's influence on Australia's economy that your article identified.

My interpretation of your article: China is critical to Australia's future, but has not been mentioned in 2010 federal election campaign. Without China Australia would have been in trouble through GFC, just as much as other countries, despite government stimulus. Without China, Australia would have faced something like Greece's austerity cuts, and the helplessness of US policymakers. However Australians have not yet started to confront the issues that China poses for their future. The China boom is simply assumed to be assured and benevolent. This boom poses more challenges than the alternative (ie involves dependence on an even narrower economic base than when Australia rode on the 'sheep's back'). This, while providing rapid income growth now, could lead to massive volatility (eg given huge rapid changes in coal / iron ore prices). China requires much broader appreciation and policy preparation. While China has been an invisible elephant in the election campaign, it is very real.

However the reason that this particular elephant remains 'invisible' is that most people tend to look at Asia generally through Western spectacles (see Babes in the Asian Woods) and these does not allow China to be brought into proper focus. Suggestions about how the implications of the 'invisible elephant' might be better perceived are in Some Thoughts on the 'China Era' - and these may be of interest.

John Craig

Addendum A: The Problem with Blinkered 'Tolerance' +

The Problem with Blinkered 'Tolerance' - email sent 13/9/10

Simon Mann
Washington Correspondent
The Age

RE: Religious intolerance spreads, Sydney Morning Herald, 11/9/10

Your article identified many adverse consequences of real or perceived religious intolerance directed against Islam in the US.

However I should like to submit for your consideration that unquestioning religious tolerance can potentially be even worse than intolerance - because a community's culture (including elements embodied in religions) can have major implication for their welfare..

In particular, it seems very likely that Muslim communities suffer huge disadvantages as a result of cultural factors that are associated with, but perhaps not actually part of, the religion of Islam. This point was developed further in Discouraging Pointless Extremism (September 2002). The latter suggested that 'oppressive' features of the broader world views that scholars have elaborated around Islam (features that Islamist extremists seemed to want to further emphasise) were the probable primary cause of the economic and political dysfunctions that have plagued Muslim dominated communities in recent centuries.

While tolerance of individuals is to be applauded, unquestioning tolerance of dysfunctional cultural assumptions may be very damaging to affected individuals. Other contexts in which blinkered 'tolerance' seems likely to contribute to social, political and economic problems, that a less uncritical approach might reduce, are suggested in Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism (August 2010).

John Craig

A Response Received 15/9/10 - reproduced with permission

Hi John

Have you seen the results of the Family Court case of the 14 year old girl who was to enter an arranged marriage - Interesting that they, perhaps inadvertently, rejected both religious tolerance and multiculturalism by refusing to allow the arranged marriage to proceed.

It is cases like this that show how silly wholesale 'religious tolerance and multiculturalism' really are and I think we can, and should, use these actual local cases to attack them both.

I thought you might like to follow up your letter below with this example.


Peter P Stokes
Co Founder & Executive Officer Salt Shakers Inc
A national organisation based in Melbourne Ph: 03 9800 2855 Mb: 0413 084 145


Addendum B: Multiculturalism?

Multiculturalism? (email sent 21/4/11)

Gwenda Tavan
La Trobe University

Re: Why Chris Bowen isn’t afraid of multiculturalism (but others are), The Conversation, 19/4/11

Your article implied that the federal Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, sees ‘multiculturalism’ as a new way of describing a policy of assimilation (ie the reverse of what others might regard as true multiculturalism). For example, you suggested that:

“..... Bowen [emphasizes] the (social) liberal roots of multiculturalism, and its relationship to ‘core’ values like individual freedom, justice and equity. He insisted we must provide these basic rights to immigrants who struggle with the settlement process.

Bowen was careful, nevertheless, to identify limits to liberal freedoms by emphasising a civic model of multiculturalism that balances individual rights with social cohesion. This approach does not advocate ethnic separatism. “Australian Governments do not defend cultural practices and ideas that are inconsistent with our values and ideals of democracy, justice, equality and tolerance.”

Such an approach to multiculturalism does little to contribute to resolving problems associated with cultural differences. An alternative is suggested in Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism, which advocates paying attention to the origin and consequences of cultural differences, rather than merely saying that other cultures will be welcomed here so long as they are like Australia’s traditional culture. Many problems in the world result from dysfunctional cultural assumptions (eg see Stemming Refugee Flows from the Middle East and Impacting the Global Economy), and such problems can’t be resolved by glossing over them. Australia’s core values (eg democracy, justice, equality and tolerance) have their origin in the West’s cultural heritage (see Cultural Origins of Western Strengths), and those with a different civilizational heritage do not automatically have any basis for accepting what seems self-evidently ‘good’ to Australians (see Non-Western Challenges).

John Craig


Addendum C: Effects of Religious Faith

Effects of Religious Faith - email sent 28/12/11

Natasha Klocker,
University of Wollongong

Brigid Trenerry
University of Western Sydney and

Kim Webster

RE: Does religious faith make people healthier and happier?, The Conversation, 28/12/11

Your article suggested that religion has positive impacts on people’s welfare (mainly in terms of individuals’ mental health) and that religious discrimination has many negative effects.

My interpretation of your article: Religious diversity has increased in Australia, and while religion can protect against illness, religious discrimination can harm health – so religious diversity should be embraced. Most Australians adhere to Christian beliefs, but increasingly Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu faiths are present. The federal government has signed agreements respecting religious freedoms – and discrimination is unlawful. But despite this some religious groups experience discrimination. VicHealth studied the link between this and health. This showed that religion provides health benefit (especially mental health, and perhaps longevity). However when religion is practiced as a result of external pressure rather than internal beliefs, the effects can be negative. Positive benefits may come from praying, participation in social groups and providing optimism / purpose / activity. Religious discrimination makes people unwell (eg leading perhaps to anxiety, depression, distress, paranoia, dis-satisfaction, drug abuse). Discrimination can also restrict access to resources. Thus all Australians should have the opportunity to practice their faiths, without discrimination. Inter-faith understanding and dialogue should also be promoted to advance both human rights and health.

While endorsing your appeal for freedom of religion and opposition to discrimination, I should like to submit for your consideration that religion has effects on people’s welfare that go well beyond the impact on individuals (eg it contributes to the way in which societies function, or don’t function). Thus as well as considering the impact on individuals there is also a need to consider the practical consequences of different cultures (including their religious underpinnings) on communities as a whole.

This point is explored further in Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism (2010). The latter includes reference to:

  • The importance of Christian traditions for the emergence of liberal legal and governance institutions in Western societies, and for the economic and political advantages (as well as support for religious freedom) that have derived from this in what can be seen as the ‘realm of the rational / responsible’ (see also Christian Foundations of Liberal Western Institutions);
  • The adverse effect on Muslim dominated communities of: (a) ‘communal coercion’ in enforcement of moral behavior by individuals on scope for the initiative and change needed for material prosperity; and (b) assumptions about the purposes of science that limit scope for technological progress – and the terrorism and ‘shooting wars’ that have erupted because those affected by internal dysfunctions have blamed external ‘oppression’ for their plight. [Similarly the upteen million refugees in the world (and the disputes in Australia about how to deal with the effects of these tragedies) frequently (though not only) seem to emerge from countries that are adversely affected by dysfunctional aspects of some Islamic traditions – see Complexities in the Refugee Problem (2001+) ]. In Australia it is not sufficient to promote understanding of Islamic ideals. It is also highly desirable to promote understanding of their practical consequences (see Bringing Balanced Understandings about Islam into Australian Schools, 2010);
  • The role that neo-Confucian traditions appear to have played not only in allowing economic ‘miracles’ in East Asia in recent decades but also in generating the international financial imbalances that have resulted in financial and economic instability over the last few years;
  • The adverse effects on Australians with indigenous ancestry of aspects of their cultures.

Failure to look inside the ‘black box’ of different cultures (including their religious underpinnings) arguably contributes heavily (perhaps predominantly) to the disadvantage and conflicts that plague human societies (eg see Ignorance as a Source of Conflict and 'Global Trends 2030' Report: Looking Inside the 'Black Box' of Cultural Differences). The lack of information about such matters also seems to generate ‘hard power’ conflicts (ie militaristic stand-offs) to resolve issues that could otherwise be dealt with much more cheaply, effectively and satisfactorily by ‘soft power’ methods. (eg see Comments on Australia's Strategic Edge in 2030).

While it is valid to consider the impact of religion and other aspects of human cultures on individuals, there is I suggest a need for those who take the narrow view to balance this with a broader / society-wide view of the effect of religion on people’s health and happiness.

John Craig


Addendum D: Bringing Balanced Understanding of Islam into Australian Schools

Bringing Balanced Understandings about Islam into Australian Schools
Email sent 12/7/10

Katherine Schoo,
Executive Director,
Australian Curriculum Studies Association

Re: Learning from One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools

My attention was drawn to your teacher resource booklet jointly published with the National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Education, through an article in Brisbane's Sunday Mail

My interpretation of that article: Every Australian school student would be taught positive things about Islam and that Australia is a racist country under a plan outlined in Learning from One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools which was published by Australian Curriculum Studies Association and Centre for Excellence in Muslim Sudies (Melbourne University). It argues that prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims requires that students embrace difference and diversity. The authors are offering seminars to teachers.('Positive Islam pushed', Sunday Mail, 11/7/10)

Might I respectfully suggest that considerable care is needed in developing any such document to ensure that a balanced perspective is provided, as there seems to be dysfunctional 'baggage' associated with Islam that wouldn't be revealed by Islamic idealism any more than it would be obvious by simply considering radical Islamism. The nature of that 'baggage' (ie politically and economically damaging practical consequences of the world views that have been elaborated around Islam) is speculated in Thoughts on Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Australia.

It is not constructive to simply provide indiscriminate information to teachers without helping them to understand what works and what doesn't work (as argued more generally in relation to Proposed National History Curriculum: Information without Understanding?). More than a 'beginners' approach is necessary in relation to understanding the Muslim world, just as it is in relation to East Asia where a 'beginners' approach seems to be considered sufficient (see Babes in the Asian Woods). Even in meeting the needs of Muslim students, teachers must be aware of more than the ideals of Islam. People are more important than ideology.

I would be interested to learn what steps your Association has taken to ensure a balanced perspective in this document, ie one which takes account of the practical political and economic consequences of Islamic assumptions.

John Craig

Addendum E: Racial vilification: It is not that simple

Racial vilification: It is not that simple - email sent 7/8/12

Professor Andrew Jakubowicz,
University of Technology Sydney

Re: Licensing hate: the possible consequences of Abbott’s racial vilification changes, The Conversation, 7/8/12

Your article suggested that removing legislative provisions that make racial vilification unlawful would remove limits to people’s ability to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ others.

While I am anything but an expert on this, I would suggest that restraints on freedom of speech (because some people see what is said as ‘racist’) can have very serious consequences. For example:

  • Any objections to asylum seekers making the dangerous boat journey from Indonesia to Australia were initially invariably ascribed to racism (see Playing the "Racism card"), though the issues involved were vastly more complex (see Complexities in the Refugee Problem , 2001) - as Australia’s political system has finally come to recognise;
  • Reactions to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation very frequently saw this phenomenon as simply or mainly a reflection of racism, whereas close examination strongly suggested that it arose primarily because poorly informed groups in marginal regions struck out blindly when they found themselves disadvantaged by incompetently managed market-liberalization methods that were used to encourage economic adjustment (see Assessing the Implications of Pauline Hanson's One Nation, 1998);
  • Most of the conflict and disadvantage that exists around the world seems to be a product of dysfunctional cultural assumptions (eg see Competing Civilizations, 2001+). The latter points to the fact that economists (validly) regard knowledge as the most important factor in economic growth, and that culture thus has a critical economic impact because of radically different assumptions that different cultures make about the nature of knowledge. However discussing cultural assumptions that are in fact dysfunctional can be interpreted as ‘racist’. And this, for example, constitutes a major obstacle to improving the position of Australians with indigenous ancestry (see The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement, 2002). And I recently circulated some suggestions that the problems that the Middle East suffers are likely to reflect Arabic tribal traditions that were carried into Islam (see Freedom and Progress in the Middle East). This drew a response from an Islamist radical in the UK (who has been known to circulate material rationalising suicide bombing) which suggested that he was offended by my remarks because he preferred to see Muslim peoples’ problems to be the result of external oppression;
  • the well-intended post-modern desire of students of the social sciences and humanities not to offend anyone requires them to ignore the practical consequences of differences in cultural assumptions, and thus the potential to reduce conflict and disadvantage. Unfortunately their resulting preference for ignorance has serious consequences (eg see Ignorance as a Source of Conflict).

In my view the issue is not as simple as your article suggested, though I don’t pretend to know the answer. However I do suspect that Australia’s traditional approach to multiculturalism requires rethinking (eg see Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism, 2010).

John Craig

Addendum F: Should Mindless Criticism Be Tolerated?

Should Mindless Criticism Be Tolerated? - email sent 7/2/13

Dr David Swanton
ACT Chapter Coordinator for Exit International

Re: Discrimination must not be tolerated, Online Opinion, 7/2/13

While the equality of all humans should indeed be a valued principle, the issue of discrimination is vastly more complex than your article suggested because failing to reasonably identify / discriminate against / warn about features that can be dangerous or disadvantageous to affected individuals / groups is hardly ethical.

This point can be illustrates by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, where a well-intended effort to benefit indigenous peoples turned into a disaster because: (a) there was no clarity about whether the goal was to benefit indigenous people or their cultures; and (b) these aims are incompatible (see UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Perpetuating Disadvantage?, 2007).

Your article referred to unreasonable discrimination on the basis of (for example): religion; sexual orientation; and race.

However failure to discriminate between beneficial and disadvantageous beliefs / practices is inappropriate. Reasons for suggesting this are outlined in Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism. This refers amongst many other things to the effect that dysfunctional assumptions can have in limiting the prospects of Muslim dominated communities (see also Saving Muslims from Themselves). The latter raises concerns about the repression of initiative (and thus of economic and social progress) that arises from traditional concepts of ‘guardianship’. A leading advocate of Islam in Australia indicated strong agreement with the latter point – a point that would not ever be made if one adopted a naïve / unquestioning approach to religious assumptions.

Likewise failure to discriminate amongst sexual practices can be morally indefensible for reasons suggested in Gay Marriage . And there can be a risk associated with glib claims of discrimination on the basis of ‘racism’ when the issues involved are far more complex (eg see Complexities in the Refugee Problem , 2001+ and The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement, 2002+).

Thus while it seems that your heart is in the right place, I respectfully suggest that it might be useful to engage your mind a bit more in working out when discrimination is reasonable.

John Craig

Addendum G: After the Wilders' trip, multicultural Australia needs a reality check

After the Wilders' trip, multicultural Australia needs a reality check - email sent 26/2/13

Tim Soutphommasane,
University of Sydney

Re: After the Wilders trip, multicultural Australia can take a bow, Brisbane Times, 25/2/13

Your article suggested that tolerance of the vile views Geert Wilders expressed about Islam was a triumph for Australia’s multiculturalism.

However, while your article validly drew attention to the relative civility of the way his visit to Australia was treated, the issue is more complex than you indicated. Wilders’ views, while extreme, are touching on problems that Islam seems to create for affected communities. This possibility needs to be explored rather than simply being labeled ‘wrong’. And the ideal of ‘multiculturalism’ arguably needs to be rethought to facilitate this.

My interpretation of your article: Geert Wilders visit reminded Australians that they live in a liberal democracy. Disagreement is tolerated. Even the intolerable is tolerated. For most Australians Wilders’ views are intolerable (eg viewing Islam as a dangerous totalitarian ideology that is incompatible with liberal freedom and Muhammad as a ‘warlord, terrorist and paedophile’). He has suggested that Australia should not allow Muslim immigrants and ban new Mosques. This is a message of hate and division. The proper response is not to prevent this being said, but to show that he is wrong. His visit demonstrated the success of multicultural Australia, as Muslims ‘tolerated the intolerable’. However Wilders is wrong. He (and those like him) speak of liberal freedoms, but are illiberal. Free speech is endorsed, but not for those who disagree with them. Wilders and his Q Society supporters are proponents of thinly-disguised racism. Most Australian political leaders reject Wilder’s views. The Netherlands and other countries in Europe have had trouble with migrant integration – because they took a ‘pillarisation’ approach (the same approach they used to deal with religious and social differences) without ensuring that new arrivals would be equipped to participate in Dutch life. Australia has a balance between rights and responsibilities – and accepts practices that are consistent with parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and individual liberties. Official multiculturalism has never been about cultural relativism – but rather about ensuring that immigrants make a smooth transition to becoming citizens. Europe has a lot to learn from Australia.

While Geert Wilders overstates the case and proposes repressive remedies, he is also touching on a valid point - namely that the way Islam has been enforced seriously disadvantages affected communities. Reasons for concern about this are outlined in Saving Muslims from Themselves. The latter particularly concerned the consequences of suppressing the initiative that is needed for social, political and economic progress.

The possibility that Wilders may actually be on to something (even though his ‘solution’ is highly suspect) is also illustrated by Islamist views of problems in the Muslims world and the West that were put forward on behalf of Hitz-ut-Tahrir Australia in response to Geert Wilders’ visit. Comments on this follow this email, and suggest that:

  • Islamists seem always to assume that others are to blame for the centuries of backwardness by Muslim dominated communities, and show little or no interest in analyzing what is needed for practical progress;
  • While Western influences and intervention in the Muslim world have created problems at times, domestic cultural obstacles have arguably been a more important factor:
  • the ‘Arab Spring’ (a side effect of demonstrating the feasibility of more-or-less democratic regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan) has made it necessary for ‘Springtime’ countries to: (a) cease simply blaming outsiders; and (b) belatedly concentrate on finding ways to achieve practical success;
  • The separation of church and state (the opposite of Islamists’ political agenda) can enable governments to be far more effective. However this separation can only exist where ‘responsible liberty’ by individuals can be presumed (as it has been where there is widespread Christian adherence in a community) so that there is no pressure on the state to claim moral authority associated with religion.

I also submit that it is unwise to ‘play the racism card’ (as your article seemed to do) without considering whether ‘hate’ is all that is involved. Reasons for suggesting this are also outlined in Complexities in the Refugee Problem and Assessing the Implications of Pauline Hanson's One Nation.

Likewise there is a need for a reality-check on multicultural idealism because it is also unwise to refuse to discriminate amongst beliefs and practices on the basis of whether they have beneficial or disadvantageous practical outcomes (see Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism).

I would be interested in your response to my speculations.

John Craig

Comments on Hibz-ut-Tahrir’s View of Problems in the Muslim World and the West

The significance of the constraints that Muslims impose on themselves because of the way Islam is enforced can be further illustrated by a commentary on Geert Wilders’s Australian visit that was used as a way to introduce an Islamist view of the ‘clash’ between Islam and the West.

Outline of ‘Wilderian far-right an instructive nuisance’ (by Uthman Badar on behalf of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, Online Opinion, 22/2/13): Geert Wilders spoke in Australia on ‘Freedom, Islam and the West’. The Immigration minister had to decide on the Government’s approach to hate preachers so there was a delay in hearing his fantasies (such as Muslims embracing Christianity or atheism). In the past Wilders has called for banning the Quran, taxing the hijab, banning Muslim immigration / mosques; knee-capping Moroccan youths who commit crimes – in the name of the western value of freedom. These views (and the Occidentalist fiction on which they are based) should attract mockery rather than intellectual engagement. However they raise two issues: (a) the far-rights’ need to look closer to home to find the problems it accused Islam of (ie totalitarianism, encouraging violence, social disharmony, discrimination against others) as these characterise secular liberalism. Liberalism does not tolerate anything but itself. The far-right talks of imposing values (ie Muslims could be equal citizens if they embrace our values). There are also: citizenship oaths that require adopting western values; lectures to Muslims about these values; and a state-sanctioned version of Islam (‘moderate Islam’). Countering ‘radical / extreme’ ideas (ie those not in line with liberal views) is part of western state interaction with Muslims. And in terms of encouraging violence, that against weak states such as Iraq and Afghanistan needs to be recognised, as do the hundreds of military bases around the world. Muslim soldiers don’t occupy western capitals – quite the reverse. Wilders’ claim that western politicians won’t deal with the ‘problem’ of Islam (the ‘Eastern question’ again) because of political correctness is dumbfounding. Liberalism has failed to address the problems of minorities in a satisfactory way. And anti-terror laws in all major Western states in practice if not in theory create different laws for Muslims. However the right-wing (such as Wilders) is only of nuisance value, as in the broader Islam / West conflict the main act is dominated by the mainstream political establishments and media. It is the mainstream (rather than the right wing) that portray negative images of Islam and seek to Westernise Islam and dominate the Muslim world economically and politically. At its extreme (eg in the case of Brevik) the right-wing can generate violence. But the mainstream dominates entire nations. The protestations of mainstream politicians against the far right are mere good-cop bad-cop tactics. The Wilderian far-right is thus useful because it shines a light on deep problems in the West.

While the above raises important points, it suffers from a major defect in that it does not consider that there may actually be practical obstacles that Muslim dominated societies experience as a consequence of the way in which Islam has been enforced. It is easy (and convenient) to presume that the problems facing the Muslim world are a product of oppression by others. It is also easy to be wrong about this if one’s response to centuries of failure is to focus on resisting / blaming perceived oppression rather than seeking to understand the requirements for practical social, political and economic success. And there are clear signs that there is a strong preference for blaming others, rather than seeking to find practical paths to progress in: (a) the Muslim world (see also Discouraging Pointless Extremism ); (b) Uthman Badar’s analysis above; and (c) the responses of the many Islamists with whom the present writer has exchanged communications over the past decade.

Other points in relation to Uthman Badar’s observations are:

  • There is no doubt that Muslim-dominated societies have experienced problems as a consequence of unconsidered features of the dominant Western-sponsored international order (see Problems with Conventional Wisdom). Of these the poor economic leadership that tends to result from foreign investment in resource-rich regions is perhaps the most serious – and this has particularly affected the oil-rich Middle East. None-the-less counter-productive cultural traditions have arguably been an even bigger constraint on societies that have experienced ongoing disadvantage (see Culture Matters and Constraints Due to Cultural Traditions);
  • Coercive Western efforts (which Uthman Badar referred to) to try to help Muslim-dominated societies must be ineffectual, because they generate resistance and a belief that such societies’ problems are the result of external intervention. Military intervention in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan were unlikely to really improve the position of those countries (see Fatal Flaws). While intervention in Iraq (for example) apparently sought to introduce something like the liberal-market democratic system of political economy that has been the basis of success in Western societies, this was done without recognizing that: (a) those systems can only work well in societies with complementary cultural and institutional preconditions; and (b) those preconditions did not exist in Iraq. Communism was not ‘defeated’ until those trying to implement Communism (eg in the USSR) recognized that it did not work well in practice. A similar approach to the ideologies of Islamist extremists (ideologies that would seem to amplify the practical constraints on initiative / and social-political-economic progress associated with Islam’s communal repression of Muslims’ initiative) will undoubtedly be more effective;
  • Despite the inadequacies of interventions in Iraq / Afghanistan, the establishment of rudimentary democracy in Iraq has stimulated the emergence of the ‘Arab Spring’ across north Africa and perhaps elsewhere – and, though this is producing considerable transitional stresses, it is forcing various Muslim-dominated societies that have been freed from past authoritarian rule to: (a) cease simply blaming outsiders; and (b) confront the practical question of how to be successful. This seems likely to lead (perhaps after experiments with ideologies such as Islamism) to the conclusion that ‘Islam is not the political answer’;
  • Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s proposals in relation to Britain illustrate the deficiencies of the Islamist case (see A Response to Hizb-ut-Tahrir Britain's Manifesto). Earlier Thoughts on Hizb-ut-Tahris in Australia may also be noted;
  • The issue of ‘secular liberalism’ is more complex than Uthman Badar suggested. ‘Secular’ traditionally refers to all aspects of society other than those dealing with religion. The existence of a ‘secular’ component in society can be very beneficial (see Why the Separation of Church and State Allowed Government to be More Effective). However a secular state is only viable where it is underpinned by the reasonable presumption of ‘responsible liberty’ (ie that moral / ethical behaviour by individuals can be presumed to be sufficiently promoted without state coercion). It is also noted that Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations advocated a liberal market – but pointed out this required a foundation of ‘moral sentiments’ in the community. This has been available in the past by reliance on individual consciences responsible to God under Judeo-Christian traditions (see Liberalism in Society). Without this the state will find it impossible to avoid moral authoritarianism (and thus cease to be secular – a transformation that Australia is risking);
  • There are deficiencies in the state-sanctioned view of ‘moderate Islam’ that has been approved for teaching in Australian schools (see Bringing Balanced Understandings about Islam into Australian Schools). The latter suggested the need to emphasize, rather than continuing to ignore, the practical consequences for affected communities of suppressing initiative.
Addendum H: A Challenge to Australia's Churches?

 A Challenge to Australia's Churches? - email sent 4/7/13

Patricia Karvelas and Ben Packam,
The Australian

Re: Koran MP warns of extremism, The Australian, 3/7/13

Your article drew attention to responses to a Muslim Labor frontbencher, Ed Husic, being sworn in on a copy of the Koran.

My interpretation of your article: Muslim Labor frontbencher, Ed Husic, who faced a torrent of Islamophobic condemnation after he decided to swear on the Koran rather than the Bible, defended Australians’ right to question his decision while warning against extremism. He warned against those who seek to find ways to divide people. The Governor General declared his decision to be a great day for multiculturalism in Australia. But some internet comments were critical. Mr Husic expressed concern about extremists within Islam and elsewhere. Liberal MP, Josh Frydenberg, defended Mr Husic, with whom he has a strong friendship, and called online attacks a disgrace. Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, suggested that abuse of Mr Husic was unacceptable.

While public criticism and defence of Mr Husic’s choice is just a ‘storm in a tea-cup’, it does point to a significant problem that is emerging in Australia, because:

  • a Judeo-Christian heritage (which uniquely involves a presumption of individual ethical responsibility to God) has been the foundation underpinning Australia’s liberal legal and governance institutions;
  • those liberal institutions have facilitated the individual initiative and innovation that has led to highly-valued social, political and economic progress in recent centuries in countries such as Australia;
  • liberal institutions have not been possible in other cultural contexts – and the way Islam, in particular, has been enforced has been incompatible with establishing such institutions (and thus with leading ‘progress’ in the modern era) because communal coercion (rather than individual consciences) has traditionally been assumed to be needed to ensure ‘appropriate’ behaviour (probably due to the Arabic tribal context in which Islam emerged);
  • The social, political and economic progress that liberal institutions have facilitated is now becoming difficult in Australia also because governments and other elites are tending for various reasons to adopt a coercive approach to ensuring ethical outcomes. For example, steadily declining Christian adherence is contributing to serious social dysfunctions, and a perception that authorities need to act to enforce ethical outcomes.

Ensuring a sound ethical basis for liberal legal and government institutions can only be achieved by Australia’s Christian churches. Politicians, secular philosophers and coercive religions can’t do anything about this challenge without further undermining the ethical foundations of liberal institutions and thus Australia’s potential for future progress to be driven by individual initiative and innovation.

These suggestions are elaborated further on my web-site.

John Craig


It was reasonable (as Mr Dusic suggested) for concerned citizens to consider of the implications of a government front-bencher taking his oath of office on the Koran. It was foolish to imply (as the Governor General and various politicians seemed to do) that Mr Duvic’s choice of the Koran was merely a feature of Australia’s ‘multiculturalism’. The issues involved are far more complex.

As a country, Australia has no religion – though for the last couple of centuries Australia’s population has dominantly been, and remains, at-least-nominally Christian.

Christianity’s founder, Jesus of Nazareth (who Islam recognises as a great prophet) regarded religion as a matter of individual choice. He was saddened when individuals turned away – but never pressured anyone to conform.

Thus in Australia individuals’ choice of religion has been a matter for them alone – as they ultimately face the eternal consequences.

Some Consequences of Australia's Christian Heritage

Widespread Christian adherence has had here-and-now consequences for Australians as individuals, families and communities.

Moreover Australia as a nation has gained significant advantages – for reasons suggested in Christian Foundations of Liberal Western Institutions (2010). In brief, this suggested that:

  • Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage uniquely makes individuals responsible to God for the morality of their behaviour and this prevents social elites or the state claiming moral authority or god-like wisdom;
  • Liberal legal and governmental institutions, which can only be built on assumptions of responsible individual liberty, facilitate the initiative and innovation that can lead to rapid social, political and economic progress.

Not All Cultures Facilitate Initiative / Innovation

While individuals (such as Mr Dusic) have choices in a liberal society, cultures have practical consequences – and there is a need to understand that some cultures have been incompatible with liberal institutions like those in Australia.

For example, Muslim dominated nations have not enjoyed the advantages that Western societies have gained from individual liberty in recent centuries. A coercive approach has traditionally been taken (by families, communities or even sometimes by the state) to ensuring individual religious conformity (eg under the notion of ‘guardianship’). Arguably as a bye-product of Islam’s Arabic tribal origins, there has been an expectation that ensuring individual compliance with religious laws is a communal responsibility rather than a matter for individuals. This expectation has prevented the creation of liberal institutions and thus suppressed individual initiative / innovation. The latter in turn has retarded progress by affected societies’ for centuries (see Saving Muslims from Themselves, 2012). And recently, retarded progress relative to other societies has been part of Islamist extremists’ rationale for attacking others, because they have mistakenly believed that affected societies’ problems has been primarily the result of external, rather than internal, oppression (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism, 2002+).

'Multiculturalism' should not continue to be cited as a justification for ignorance of the consequences of dysfunctional cultural assumptions. Rather Australia’s approach to ‘multiculturalism’ needs to be brought up to date to include understanding of such complexities (see Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism, 2010).

Australia Also is Now at Risk of Suppressing Initiative

Unfortunately Australia is now at risk of constraining the initiative and innovation that future progress requires - for reasons that have nothing to do with the presence of coercive faiths.

Rather Australia’s liberal institutions (and the social, economic and political progress that these can bring through facilitating individual initiative) are at risk because serious social dysfunctions increasingly encourage governments and others to believe that they (like the ancients criticised in Genesis 2:17 and 3:5) need to claim god-like wisdom and enforce ethical outcomes from others' decisions (see Erosion of the Moral Foundations of Liberal Institutions). The latter refers, for example, to:

  • the numerous social dysfunctions that appear result from the erosion of Christian adherence in the community (eg the stresses and disadvantage that result from: widespread marriage breakdown and child sexual abuse; freedom for men from family responsibilities; single parent families; an inability to make moral judgements; poor business ethics; escalating drug abuse; toxic environments for children; and workplace and school bullying);
  • emerging moral authoritarianism by governments or others in an attempt to correct the adverse effects of poor ethical choices by individuals (eg political correctness movements; state supervision of individual's behaviour; emphasis on 'values' as central to political debates; politicians attempts to define the values that should be taught in state schools; calls for political leaders and other authority figures to express 'godless visions of morality'; and building political campaigns on religious values - all of which undermine the huge advantages that result from the separation of 'church' and state).

This is a challenge that only Australia’s Christian churches can meet if a solid foundation for liberal legal and governmental institutions is to be re-created.

Addendum I: The Importance of Getting Serious about Culture

The Importance of Getting Serious about Culture - email sent 28/10/13

Julian Meyrick
Professor of Strategic Arts
Flinders University

Re: Does Australia ‘Get’ Culture, The Conversation, 27/10/13

I should like to try to add value to the points made in your article about Australia’s traditional resistance to seriously considering the implications of culture.

Your article suggested several valid reasons that Australia needs to take culture far more seriously. I submit that your core suggestion is vital also because cultural assumptions can affect the pace and nature of a societies’ progress and development (see Competing Civilizations, 2001+) . The latter includes, for example, brief references to:

  • The economic consequences of different cultures’ assumptions about the nature of knowledge (as economists realistically identify knowledge as the most important factor in economic growth) and the lessons that current international refugee flows seem to indicate about the problems that arise under cultures that repress individual initiative / difference / innovation (see Culture Matters ); and
  • The potential for conflict that follow because such consequences of different cultural assumptions are so often overlooked (see Cultural Ignorance as a Source of Conflict ).

The need to take culture more seriously is developed also in Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism (2010) and 'Rules' that favour state-linked businesses are not the only behind-the-border problem in economic dealings with China (2013).

I would be interested in your response to my undoubtedly-improvable speculations.

John Craig

Addendum J: Religion in Australia's Future

Religion in Australia's Future - email sent 7/11/13

Peter Sherlock
MCD University of Divinity

Re: Don’t stop believing: religion has a place in Australia’s Future, The Conversation, 7/11/13

Your article raised various issues about the role of ‘religion’ in Australia – in the sense that ‘religion’ involves humanity’s attempts to answer life’s biggest questions.

My interpretation of your article: PM recently called on ALP to ‘repent’ of introducing the carbon tax. Ideas such as repentance / sin / forgiveness seem at odds with objective / scientific analysis. Over past 50 years Australia (like most of the developed world) has seen decline in religious adherence. However religious language / culture / issues remain. A Royal Commission is investigating child sexual abuse – mainly in churches. The same-sex marriage debate is seen as a contest between Christian and enlightened liberal values. Many children attend schools run by religious organisations. Religious leaders frequently get involved in public debates. Religious affiliation in Australia has declined – but the rate of fall has slowed. Sociologists / anthropologists analyse believing / behaving / belonging to detect religious practices – based on Durkheim’s efforts to define religion (through a study of Australian aborigines). Indigenous cultures continue to challenge European tendency to separate the sacred and secular / supernatural from social / physical and spiritual. Australians still believe; engage in ritual behaviours; and attend church / mosque / synagogue / temple (and other events / clubs / unions). Society is secular in that religion can be questioned – but still has many religions. The break of tradition is more useful than speaking of secularisation – and this applies in many areas (not just in religion). It parallels decline in political party membership. Breaking traditions leads to culture wars – such as those fought over national history curriculum. Loss of tradition / key truths / documents / rituals can create separation / loss of identity – as well as allowing new traditions / truths to emerge. But the ultimate questions remain – and both religion and science seek to answer these (based on faith and doubt respectively). Religion also shares this mission with politics – so politicians elicit support on the basis of values. The arts also share this mission. Whether based on dogma / superstition; irrational fears / dreams / bonds of affection / hatred; located in institutions or private piety, religion is part of the way humans try to answer the biggest questions. It thus has a place in Australia’s future.

In relation to the issues raised in your article I should like to suggest for your consideration (in no particularly logical order) that:

  • The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in institutions is a disgrace – as only a minute fraction of sexual abuse seems to occur in institutions including those with church affiliation (see Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: Another Official Cover-up?). The latter notes that a Victorian inquiry focused on some hundreds of cases, whereas (if the claims by those who have studied the incidence of sexual abuse in the general community, such as the Australian Institute of Criminology, are valid) there would be likely to be hundreds of thousands of other victims in Victoria. Official reluctance to address the vast majority that occurs in the general community reflects a fear of exposing community moral failings. Most cases seem to arise where children come to live with adults who are not their biological parents (ie it seems to be significantly a by-product of the breakdown of traditional life-long marriages). The same-sex marriage debate arguably also reflects a similar official reluctance to deal adequately with the child sex abuse question – because of the not-obvious-but-apparently-real links between child sexual abuse and the public acceptance of homosexual behaviour that seem to make the latter morally indefensible (see Same Sex Marriage: Who is Going to Raise the Moral Issues?);
  • Liberal institutions exist in countries such as Australia because of Australia’s Christian heritage (see Christian Foundations of Liberal Western Institutions). The latter refers to an attempt to consider the cultural foundations of the progress (or lack of it) by various societies in recent centuries (see Competing Civilizations, 2001+). The latter drew attention to the dependence of liberal institutions (and the advantages of such institutions in facilitating ‘rational’ problem solving) that is possible because of the ‘responsible liberty’ that derives from the uniquely Judeo-Christian acceptance that moral behaviour should be guided by individual consciences responsible to God (rather than by communal constraints on rational / responsible initiative that apply in tribal / Islamic / East Asian societies).
  • Describing ‘religion’ in terms of believing / behaving / belonging may amuse sociologists and anthropologists. However this simply reflects their apparent unwillingness / inability to get to grips with the practical consequences of cultural differences – a failing that has very serious consequences (see Cultural Ignorance as a Source of Conflict). For example, systematic ignorance of the practical consequences of cultural differences makes it impossible to really help those who are disadvantaged by dysfunctional cultural assumptions (eg see UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Perpetuating Disadvantage?) and can encourage violent responses to their disadvantage by some who have no real way to understand its causes (eg consider Even Moderate Islam Seems Damagingly Rigid);
  • The breakdown of widespread Christian adherence in Australia seems to be leading to many social dysfunctions – and to be putting Australia’s liberal legal and governmental institutions (and their political and economic advantages) at risk (see Erosion of the Moral Foundations of Liberal Institutions). The Gonski Review identified the existence of educational disadvantage affecting individuals / regions – and recommended throwing large amounts of extra money at educational institutions. This seemed poorly advised because many factors (including social dysfunctions that derive from a loss of ‘responsible liberty’) are likely to be involved in generating disadvantage (and must be remedied to correct it) – see (Gonski Review: An Example of the Limitations of Government Initiatives);
  • It is overly simplistic to suggest that religion and science seek to answer the ‘big questions’ on the basis of faith and doubt respectively. Faith in God is a feature of Christianity but not of all religions (eg consider East Asia’s traditional non-theistic religions – such as Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Shinto – that are characterised by a refusal to really ‘believe’ anything at all – see also Competing Thought Cultures). However faith is also a major feature of Atheism just as it is in Christianity (eg consider Atheists’ apparent dogmatic faith in science, reason and critical thinking that is no more objectively provable than faith in God); and
  • The national history curriculum was seriously inadequate in that it did not provide students with any clear path to understand the origins of the institutions that had worked well for Australians in the past and laid the foundations of the liberal / egalitarian society that seems to be both valued and at risk (eg see Proposed National History Curriculum: Information without Understanding? and Changing Australia's Security Approach).

Undoubtedly ‘religion’ will play a big role in Australia’s future. However it makes a great deal of difference which ‘religion’ plays the major role. Thus I respectfully submit that it would be useful to devote attention to the nature and consequences of particular religions rather than dealing with the phenomenon without such distinctions.

I would be interested in your response to my speculations.

John Craig

Addendum K: Taking the 'Racism Card' Out of the Deck

Taking the 'Racism Card' Out of the Deck - email sent 29/3/14

Anthony Dillon
Australian Catholic University

Re: Claims of racism more damaging than the real thing, The Australian, 27/3/14

Your article criticized those who claim that the prospects of Australians with indigenous ancestry are mainly limited by Australia’s ‘racism’.

There is absolutely nothing new about this and the problem is not confined to obstructing Aboriginal advancement. Playing the ‘racism card’ was (and still to some extend remains) a major obstacle also to developing a realistic approach the problems facing refugees and asylum seekers (see Complexities in the Refugee Problem, 2001+ and Playing the ‘Racism Card’ Again, 2013).

Some suggestions about ways to deal with the ignorance that racism claims reflect are in Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism (2010).

John Craig

Fighting for Australia's Values Requires Educating Those who Reject Them

Fighting for Australia's Values Requires Educating Those who Reject Them - email sent 24/9/14

Paul Kelly
The Australian

Re: A fight not just for our security, but for our values, The Australian, 24/9/14

Your article suggests correctly that: domestic security actions; military strikes in Iraq and Syria; and enunciation of moral truths (eg that it is wrong to demand killings in the name of Islam) are the ‘trilogy’ that are needed to degrade and destroy the (so-called) ‘Islamic State’.

Unfortunately I must suggest that this view, though fundamentally correct, is overly-simplistic because there are illiberal elements in even moderate Islamic practices that: (a) are the main cause of the political and economic failures that have afflicted the Muslim world in recent centuries – and have currently led to chaos in the Middle East; (b) would merely be worsened if effect were given to Islamist ideologies - even by those with a moderate view of Islam; and (c) can be presented as requiring extremist tactics to establish an ‘Islamic’ state. This point was developed further in Politicians are Wrong: Terrorism by Islamist Extremists Does Involve Islam.

Bringing the notion of individual freedom and responsibility into Islam is essential to overcome the Muslim world’s chronic problems and prevent Islamists claiming that they have a viable solution to those problems (as suggested in Bringing Freedom to Muslims Free Would Bring Peace to the Middle East).

The ‘trilogy’ you nominated is appropriate, but security won’t exist until the third component (ie values such as individual freedom) is given top priority and starts to be focused on where ancient tribal objections to ‘freedom’ create massive problems.

Australia’s approach to multiculturalism has been a disaster because of the naïve presumption that anyone’s culture should be valued without seriously considering the adverse effects that some cultures can have on those involved (see Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism, 2010)

John Craig

Racial Discrimination is Not the Only Cause of Ethnic Distress

Racial Discrimination is Not the Only Cause of Ethnic Distress - email sent 13/4/16

Nicola Berkovic
The Australian

Re: Research row: race discrimination more harmful than smoking, The Australian, 6/4/16

Your article concerned a suggestion by Dr Amanuel Elias that racial discrimination results in huge costs (3.6% of GDP). It also quoted various observers who expressed doubts about the estimated extent of such discrimination. I should like to suggest for your consideration that many who believe they are subjected to racial discrimination may also be deprived of years of healthy lives by cultural factors which could not be resolved just by opposing discrimination more strongly. Rather attention needs to be given to understanding the practical consequences of cultural differences – and identifying options to reduce the dysfunctional features that some embody.

My Interpretation of your article: Research funded by Australian Human Rights Commission and VicHealth claimed that racial discrimination costs economy $44.9bn pa. Amaneul Elias (Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization) estimated cost as 3.6% of GDP. Study methodology was questioned by John Roskam (Institute of Public Affairs). Study sought to calculate public health costs of discrimination including mental illnesses. Michael Sukkar (MP) questioned why this was researched as most Australians already oppose discrimination. Dr Elias found that 20% of Australians experienced discrimination and tried to estimate the cost of resulting pain and suffering – as a way to make an economic case for reducing discrimination. Professor Paul Frijters (UQ) suggested that patterns of victims / perpetrators in Dr Elias’s study were incompatible with other studies of racism. Professor Frijters suggested that racism did have a significant cost that needed to be estimated. Tim Soutphommasane (Race Discrimination Commissioner) welcomed this as contribution to knowing cost of discrimination – though he thought the estimate might be too large. Dr Elias said that estimates were based on costs of healthy years of lives lost.

I have no idea how many Australians experience racial discrimination.

However I have tried over many years to identify the practical consequences of differences in cultural assumptions. Culture is the main determinant of a community's ability to be materially successful and to live in relative peace and harmony. Culture affects: people's goals and aspirations; the way they understand reality (and thus how they go about solving problems, and whether they can develop technologies); their ability to learn, to cope with risk and to change; the way people relate; the scope for initiative; and the institutions their society maintains (see Culture Matters) . The latter refers, for example, to big differences amongst various cultures about the nature and role of information / knowledge (which economists recognise as the primary factor in economic growth). The consequences of such differences for significant cultural communities are suggested in Competing Civilizations (2001+).

It would be misleading to blame racial discrimination by outsiders for the distress that members of an ethnic community experience because of their traditional culture.

For example many Australians with indigenous ancestry seem to suffer difficulties of coping and succeeding as a consequence of traditional cultures (see The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement, 2002+). Unlike Western societies, who have a classical Greek heritage, indigenous cultural traditions do not feature the use of abstract concepts as the basis for understanding / problem solving. Thus ways of thinking inculcated in early childhood are an obstacle to gaining the education that is vital to success and prosperity in countries such as Australia. It was recently suggested that many students with indigenous ancestry got little more out of schooling than a start in understanding what Western education actually is. This is not to say that it is not possible to overcome such cultural obstacles (and many do). However the fact is that there are cultural obstacles to be overcome to enjoy success and prosperity and those who are unable to do so face intrinsic obstacles to productive and healthy lives for reasons that have nothing to do with anyone else’s ‘racial discrimination’. Pretending that cultural characteristics do not make any difference merely perpetuates such disadvantages and the resulting individual distress (see UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Perpetuating Disadvantage?).

And many Muslims believe that the difficulties their societies have experienced in recent centuries are the result of external oppression and discrimination against them. However the chronic problems Muslim-majority societies have experienced (especially in the Arab world) seem to be largely a product of their culture. Their religion, which is presumed to deal with ‘everything’, tends to be enforced through family / community / state pressure on individuals – presumably as a by-product of Islam’s origins in an Arabic tribal environment. This creates serious obstacles to achieving the political and economic change that is needed to keep up with the rate of progress others have achieved in recent centuries – see Blame Religious Legalism for the Middle East's Problems. And those same obstacles arguably adversely affect: (a) individuals’ job prospects (eg see Ending Muslim Jobs' Discrimination is Easy: Just Liberate Muslims); and (b) Muslim communities’ relationships with others. For example, responsible behaviour by individuals is apparently expected to be ensured by pressures and influences from others – and this leads to poor relationships with non-Muslims (see Encouraging Reform of Islam: Mr Turnbull's Opportunity to Counter Islamist Radicalization).

While there is almost certainly an economic cost of racial discrimination against some groups of Australians, the economic costs that such groups may face because of their cultural traditions need to be clearly identified and distinguished from that actually caused by racism. Allegations of ‘racism’ were the foundation of early objections to government attempts to prevent people smugglers bringing refugees to Australia. However the issues involved there, as in the case of trying to estimate the economic cost of distress in some people’s lives, were far more complex (see Complexities in the Refugee Problem, 2001+).

John Craig

Equality Before the Law is Not Enough

Equality Before the Law is Not Enough - email sent 11/7/16

Tim Soutphommasane,
Australian Human Rights Commission

Re: Oriel J., Left’s stance on Hanson is hypocritical, The Australian, 11/7/16

You were quoted as suggesting that Pauline Hanson, Trump and Brexit are manifestations of racism and xenophobia.

My Interpretation of the above article in which you were quoted: Pauline Hanson’s re-birth has led to her being labeled: divisive; like the Holocaust; a hate preacher; proof of xenophobia and racism. This is the pot calling the kettle black. Western civilization now bestows special state privileges on minority groups. In Australia minority groups tend to have superior rights to others under discrimination / affirmative action measures. To justify this activists such as the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) change the meaning of inequality to historical disadvantage – whether or not current disadvantage persists. Minorities are privileged while dissenters are censored (eg consider the case of students denied access to ATSI computer lab at QUT because of their race). The modern human rights movement has substituted universal human rights for minority rights. AHRC Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, described Brexit, Trump and Pauline Hanson as manifestations of racism / xenophobia. AHRC regards QUT case as an exception to the general rule of racial equality. However the general rule of race politics in Australia is the codification of racial inequality (eg in Racial Discrimination Act and in censorship of dissent under Section 18C). This offends principles of fairness and equality that made the modern West. It substitutes minority rights for universal human rights, subjectivity for objectivity and politically correct speech for free speech. It has introduced a new tribalism under manufactured minority rights that embeds privilege and prejudice at heart of state. Hanson does not reflect prejudice that is any more extreme than that who favour special minority rights. Both should be dealt with by full restoration of equality under law. Formal equality should replace discrimination legislation – with protected groups being reduced to the disabled and their carers. State-made minorities with special privileges need to become mature members of liberal democracy. Trumps and Hansons will multiply as long as minorities demand special rights and privileges.

I should like to submit for your consideration that the Hanson and Trump phenomena are manifestations of severe economic problems and that ‘name calling’ is not a solution to either the underlying economic problem or to the political difficulties that emerge because of the way those affected react to their economic predicament. My reasons for suggesting this are outlined in Name Calling is Still Not a Sensible Way to Deal with One Nation.

The latter includes reference to suggestions that it is inappropriate to simply dismiss the concerns that Hanson expresses about (for example) Islam as a matter of ‘racism and xenophobia’. Cultures can have practical consequences that can be damaging to affected societies and to their relationships with others. The disadvantages that Australians with indigenous ancestry suffer because of their traditional cultures is another example (see Australians with Indigenous Ancestry Deserve More than Survival).

Jennifer Oriel’s article suggests that formal equality before the law should replace positive discrimination legislation. However this would not be adequate. Rather there is a need also to try to understand and do something about the disadvantages and stresses that arise within and around some minority groups as a consequence of their cultural traditions (eg as suggested in Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism, 2010+).

I would be interested in your response to my speculations

John Craig

Protecting Australia's Freedom Requires Outthinking Those Who Challenge It

Protecting Australia's Freedom Requires Outthinking Those Who Challenge It - email sent 17/8/16

Nick Folkes,
Party for Freedom

Re: Mitchell G., Andrew Bolt demands answers from 'rude' anti-Islam church protester Nick Folkes, Brisbane Times, 15/8/16

I have to agree with Andrew Bolt’s reported concerns about the method that the Party for Freedom chose to deal with what you apparently see as ‘the problem .. with the modern church’ (ie by interrupting a service at the Gosford Anglican Church which apparently regards itself as ‘progressive’ in relation to multiculturalism).

Your Party’s Facebook page outlines its objectives – and these basically involve defending Australians’ freedom. This is a worthy goal and very necessary at this time (eg for reasons suggested in Australia's Increasingly Dangerous Environment). However this can’t be achieved by protests against the symptoms of the threats that exist to freedom. Rather a great deal of work is required first to properly understand the causes of those symptoms. Only then will it be useful to promote public awareness of what needs to be done to overcome them.

There are, for example, significant problems with traditional approaches to multiculturalism (see Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism). However the problem is not that people with different cultures are accepted, but rather that: (a) some cultures have highly dysfunctional consequences; and (b) most proponents of ‘multiculturalism’ have not to date concerned themselves with the harm that dysfunctional cultural assumptions / traditions can do the affected communities and to their relationships with others (eg see Blame Religious Legalism for the Middle East's Problems and Why Muslims Don't Integrate: A Suggestion). The latter refers to a change in opinion by the former head of the British Equalities and Human Rights Commission who invented the term ‘Islamophobia’ to criticise those who were seen to be ‘racially biased’ against Muslims. He now apparently believes that criticising others for ‘Islamophobia’ (while not considering the consequences of Islam) has been the biggest problem. And there are many (including many prominent Muslims) who argue a case for reform of mainstream Islam (see Overcoming Muslim’s Problems by Reforming Islam). In relation to this the Party for Freedom arguably has the potential to make a major difference to public opinion in Australia - providing its members seek the intellectual high ground rather than just staging disruptive events.

Also a better approach to churches that want to be ‘progressive’ might be to make them aware that: (a) ‘political correctness’ has become a serious obstacle to real progress (see The Church of Political Correctness Threatens National Progress; and (b) churches can be most progressive if they don’t fall into that trap (eg see suggestions about The Uniting Church: A Progressive Influence in a Changing World).

John Craig

Is Naive Multiculturalism a Major Source of 'Racism'?

Is Naive Multiculturalism a Major Source of 'Racism'? - email sent 24/8/16

David Crowe
The Australian

Re: Australia divided on immigration as racism emerges, The Australian, 24/8/16

Your article points to evidence of racism in Australia which is complicating policies related to immigration as well as relationships within the community. I should like to suggest that Australia’s approach to multiculturalism is in serious need of reform (see Moving Australia Beyond Traditional Multiculturalism) and that a lack of realism about the practical consequences of differences in culture / worldviews might be a (perhaps major) source of ‘racism’.

My Interpretation of your article: Deepening divisions over immigration and racism could shatter Australia’s acceptance of new migrants a new study shows. It reveals a polarisation in attitudes over multiculturalism and free speech. Discrimination makes it harder for migrants to settle (given property damage, physical attacks, loss of trust in institutions). Some 3rd generation Australians’ attitudes are hardening against migrants, while others encounter racism and discrimination. Pauline Hanson campaigns for zero net migration – while the unions campaign against skilled-work visas. The Scanlon Foundation (Monash University) conducted a survey which uncovered threats to social cohesion though the overwhelming majority of new migrants (including Muslims) are satisfied with their new lives. Andrew Markus (Monash University) said that the focus on Muslims by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and others was deepening divisions. The Muslim community is diverse – so there is a danger of alienating significant sections rather than working with them. The survey showed an 85% support for multiculturalism. Immigration rouses passions and questions about multiculturalism don’t tap into this. About 20% of people say there are ‘too many immigrants’ while a similar percentage expresses concern about ‘racism and discrimination’. Colour discrimination against African migrants (eg from South Sudan) causes problems (eg abuse and attacks). The survey showed the extent of verbal abuse that different ethnic groups experienced – which is relevant in relation to whether Racial Discrimination Act should have sanctions against this.

A ‘racist’ reaction to ethnically-different groups exists presumably because the latter are perceived to not ‘fit in’ in some respect. There is a long-overdue need to consider the extent to which this is a product of the effect of cultural differences, rather than of (say) skin colour / appearance. Those of different ethnicities who break through the cultural barrier (ie can be seen to behave like ‘us’) are less likely to encounter ‘racist’ responses. If an entire ethnic community overcame the cultural obstacles to ‘fitting in’ or if others understood those cultural obstacles, it might be that ‘racism’ would virtually disappear. If cultures’ consequences are a major / the main source of ‘racism’ then trying to discourage ‘racism’ while ignoring this is futile. That this probably needs to be seriously considered can be illustrated by the following examples:

While the majority of Muslims might feel that they ‘fit in’ in Australia – the former UK Liberties official who invented the term Islamophobia to criticise those who expressed concern about Muslims has now apparently suggested that Muslims are actually not ‘fitting in’ in the UK – and that those who accused others of Islamophobia are the main source of the problem (see Why Muslims Don't Integrate: A Suggestion). The latter also outlined the present writer’s perception of cultural causes of that problem (a point which is developed further in Encouraging Reform of Islam: Mr Turnbull's Opportunity to Counter Islamist Radicalization). And while the majority of Muslims are opposed to extremism, a percentage (eg 10-15%) of that community is not – and that minority creates massive problems for the Muslim majority and for everyone else (see Islamic Radicalization: The Perspectives of an Originally Middle Eastern Australian). Given the ideology (ie religious legalism) that drives extremism (and in a milder form has seriously disadvantaged Muslim communities for centuries) dealing with the extremist minority and improving the prospects of Muslim communities generally requires fundamental changes to a key element of Islamic culture. However this won’t happen if opinion leaders refuse to consider cultural issues and thus are limited to blaming outsiders for ‘racism’ (see Victimhood May Have Become an Intrinsic Feature of Islam).

Australians with indigenous ancestry face huge obstacles to success in the modern world because of their traditional cultures (see The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement) – unless their life history includes influences that have enabled them to overcome those obstacles. Many thus don’t easily ‘fit in’ and encounter not only constraints implicit in their traditional cultures but also ‘racism’. The consequences are non-trivial – and officially ignoring this does no one any favours. The recently established Royal Commission into Northern Territory Youth Protection and Child Detention is apparently allowed to consider cultural issues only in relation to officials who might be guilty of ‘racism’ but not in relation to whether indigenous culture might need to play a significant role in the Commission’s deliberations if a real difference is to be made to the welfare of indigenous youth (see Northern Territory Child Protection and Youth Detention Royal Commission: The Risk of a Cover-up).

East Asian societies with an ancient Chinese cultural heritage operate in ways that are significantly different to those that mainstream Australians are likely to be familiar with (see What Does an Asian Century Imply? and Economic Babes in the Asian Woods). For example, decisions are not usually made through reason and analysis by independent individuals / organisations, but rather by consensus in an ethnic social hierarchy. And power is not associated with making decisions but rather with access to superior strategic information by those with high social status and using this, not to help others understand, but rather to make coordinated and manipulative 'suggestions' to enemies and subordinates. Asia was not seen to be ‘mysterious’ for nothing. And resentment of the powerful and manipulative influence that offshore Chinese business groups and their ‘private armies’ (ie organised crime) play in political and economic affairs has long been a very real phenomenon in SE Asia (eg see Seagrave’s Lords of the Rim). Australia is likely to run into the same problem (thus generating more perceived ‘racism’) if what is presumably going on is not studied and publicised (see Chinese Influence in Australia).

The Scanlon Foundation might most effectively reduce ‘racism’ by investigating the extent to which Australia’s naïve approach to multiculturalism is a significant source of social, economic and political problems that manifest as perceived ‘racism’. If, as seems possible, this is a major source of ‘racism’, the extent of this can’t be reduced by conducting surveys of Australians’ opinions.

John Craig

Beyond Diversity in the AFP

Beyond Diversity in the AFP - email sent 29/8/16

Commissioner Andrew Colvin
Australian Federal Police

Re: Vogler S., ‘AFP cops may face ‘culture’ job test’, The Australian, 24/8/16

This article suggested that a gender diversity and inclusion report prepared for the AFP argued that senior staff have ‘responsibility for cultural change embedded in their performance metrics’ and that the national police force must be culturally diverse.

Might I respectfully suggest that cultural understanding (especially understanding of the practical consequences of various world-views) would be more important than mere diversity – as some cultures can create significant disadvantages for those who are affected by them and / or problems in their relationships with others (see Is Naive Multiculturalism a Major Source of 'Racism'? ).

John Craig