Friday, March 31, 2006

Musings on Citizenship & Conservatism

On Wednesday 21 June 2006, I have to give a presentation on the issue of citizenship to an audience of people probably far more learned than myself. The presentation has been organised by the NSW Chapter of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia. The event will be held at the Dixson Room at State Library commencing at 5:30pm.

I am part of a panel that includes legal prominent academic Associate Professor Helen Irving (who is without a doubt more learned than myself), and will be moderated by Councillor Ho of the Sydney City Council.

I'm not sure why they picked me to speak on this topic. I don't have a huge amount of experience in legal practice issues related to citizenship. I don't practise in immigration law or in citizenship law. I cannot claim any huge expertise on the subject. Plus, the only citizenship I know is the only one I have ever had - Aussie citizenship.

But I guess I have followed recent debates on citizenship and its relationship with national security and Australian values. And I have had some experience in conservative politics.

Anyway, this entry is not about me. It's about citizenship. So let's get on with it!

I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I perceive citizenship (see! there I go again! Always "I" and "me" and "myself"!!), with a view to generating some discussion here on how we understand citizenship in Australia and the Western world.

Recently, in a desperate attempt to get some attention and perhaps generate a diversion from embarrassing revelations about to emerge from the Cole Commission into kickbacks, Treasurer Peter Costello gave a speech about citizenship to the Sydney Institute.

Mr Costello issued a fatwa against what he described (from memory) as “misguided mushy multiculturalism”. He suggested that citizenship pledges needed to be made tougher, with new migrants pledging allegiance to Australian values.

It seems that citizenship is fast becoming an ideological phenomenon. You can only be a citizen if you sign up to certain values and ideas. This is a truly disturbing trend.

If citizenship means signing up to anything beyond ultimate loyalty to the country and obeying the law, I think we risk losing our liberal democratic identity. If we start placing ideological conditions on citizenship, we are potentially giving up our freedom of conscience and other fundamental freedoms we hold so dear.

When you make citizenship conditional upon holding certain views, you are on the slippery slope to McCarthyism. If you enable citizenship to be taken away from people who, at some stage of their lives, decide they find perhaps one Australian “value” a little unpalatable, you are opening the door to witch hunts.

Perhaps it is my strong liberal and libertarian streak that leads me to sound potentially hysterical about this topic. Perhaps it is because I am an old style conservative (as opposed to an ex-socialist neo-Con) who believes that governments should keep their grubby hands off civil society except to the extent of providing a framework for the rule of law.

The other problem I have is the inconsistency with which Australian values are defined. We keep getting told that we are a Judeo-Christian nation. When I was at St Andrews, I was taught that a fundamental Christian value is to compensate for wrongs and to apologise for hurt feelings. It is also a fundamental Christian value to show respect to elders.

European settlement is just over 200 years old. Aboriginal settlement is our cultural elder, being well over 20,000 years old. What respect have we cultural youngsters shown to our elders?

And how have we compensated for all the ills our society has meted out to its indigenous populations? What sort of a Christian nation are we when we refuse to apologise?

Actually, apologising is a genuinely Islamic value also. So on behalf of my Muslim self, I think it is important that we acknowledge and respect the cultures and beliefs of those whose lands we have taken and which we refuse to apologise or compensate for.

If we talk about Australian values without mentioning indigenous Australia, we are wasting our time. Any alleged conservative who refuses to show requisite respect to Indigenous Australia ceases to be a conservative in my books.

Some dimwitted conservative politicians accuse Muslims of imposing their culture on the rest of us. Of course, we all know about how Governor Macquarie so peacefully ordered his troops to convince indigenous Australians to embrace his values or face a bayonet. Talk about peaceful imposition.

Yes, I am writing somewhat passionately about this. Few things make me more sick than hypocrisy and double standards. Especially when they come from politicians who claim to be conservative liberals.

Which brings me to my final point. If there is any genuinely conservative politician in the front bench, it isn’t John Howard. It definitely isn’t Costello or Nelson. The only genuine conservatives I can see on the front bench are Tony Abbott and Alexander Downer. Why?

Because you won’t find these guys calling for a (mono-)cultural revolution. You won’t find Downer or Abbott pontificating on the need to dismantle our pluralist status quo. Nor, for that matter, will you find most of the small “l” liberals like Joe Hockey or Phil Ruddock.

Anyway, that is my splurge for the day.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Every society has to define values. When some says they are "liberal" or "libertarian" it doesn't mean that they believe that we should not subscribe to values as a country. Rather, it means to value diversity itself, and encourage tolerance of our differences. It means encouraging the market place of ideas, on all issues ranging from social morals to religion. So a liberal society should have certain core values that in turn allow a plethora of other diverse values and ways of thinking and lifestyles to flourish.

It does NOT mean being tolerant of intolerance.

An ideaology that you are free to join but not free to leave is at odds with liberal democracies, and should not deserve the same respect as other systems of beliefs. People should be free to subscribe to ideologies or views, and equally free to renounce such views without fear of intimidation from others, whether it be legal, social, or physical. Otherwise, the market place for ideas is effectively disabled, and society becomes inflexible and also unstable.

Jack

Irfan said...

Jack, can you think of an example of such an ideology that people are free to join but not to leave?

The only one I can think of is the Jehovah's Witnesses. I understand anyone can become a Jehovahs Witness but you cannot leave it once you are in.

Then again, I cannot claim to be an expert on Jehovah's Witnesses as a faith movement. So if I am incorrect, I welcome someone to correct me.

Anonymous said...

Well Irf I have my suspicions, but people of that ideology don't speak openly and directly in order to assuage my concerns. I am waiting for people of that ideology to state clearly that:

1. Freedom of religion should be a universal right in any country and in any city on this planet.
2. That all rules, such as those in some states of India, that prohibit conversion to Islam or Christianity are wrong.
3. That individuals should be allowed to build houses of worship of any faith in their own countries, in any city.
4. That laws against apostasy in whatever form are wrong. Whether the punishment be execution or a slap on the wrist.
5. That the state should never implement a set of laws specifically for adherents of a particular religion. That is the rules of the land should apply to all citizens equally, regardless of faith.
6. That religion and state should always be separate.

I believe the vast majority of Australians would believe in the above statements. Hence they could be seen as some of the core values of modern Australia. The vast majority of Australians would be critical of countries that do not adhere to the above principles, and would say so clearly and unabashedly. I think if people adhered to the above statements, then this world can live more peacefully despite our differences.

Without my curiosity on the above issues addressed, I feel compelled to keep searching for answers.

Jack

Irfan said...

Jack,

I suspect I know what you mean by "that ideology". Now if you rely on what you read in Australian newspapers (presuming, of course, that you live in Australia), your view will be that there is such a thing as "that ideology".

But if you get the opportunity to travel, you will find that, in fact, that ideology simply doesn't exist. And if it does, it certainly isn't a monolith.

If you can show to me that the majority of countries with that ideology as the majority-faith have laws banning apostasy, I would be prepared to deal with your objections. Until then, your objections to that ideology will be ideological only and not grounded in actual reality.

Anonymous said...

Irf,

Why don't you just say whether you agree with the above values I've mentioned? Maybe you actually disagree with them. Well that's fine why don't you just come out and say it? Are you ashamed of your beliefs?

What I'm attempting to do is articulate a common set of values that we can all basically agree to, and then won't feel threatened by each other.

A Christian believes that they need to convert others in order to save their souls. Muslims also feel the need to spread their word as well, in one form or another. Such belief systems can and have led to conflict and bloodshed. It would help if there were some agreed upon common guidelines that prevent an escalation of tensions between members of competing belief systems.

A civil society must establish the basic ground rules that are fair to all sides. I'm asking for you, a member of a minority belief system in Australia that is growing relative to the broader population, to state where you stand on some pretty basic stuff.

Can I assume that you and members of your belief system believe in these core values. Honestly, I would like to but at this stage I can't. I could educate myself by asking opponents of the ideology on well known blogs that I imagine you would detest or I could ask someone such as yourself to present your case.

What is the point of talking and writing and presenting, if all you are doing is just (deliberately?) blurring the debate? Why don't you just get to the heart of the debate and state clearly where you stand? Why waste everybody's time? Your upcoming presentation on citizenship is a perfect opportunity.

As for international experience. Yes I do have international experience and I have seen and witnessed first hand an ideology that you are "free to join but not free to leave". Indeed sometimes you are compelled to join because you want to be with someone you love. In a globalised era, we are all neighbours and this is not the way forward.

Jack

Anonymous said...

Jack, stop being a pussy. Is "that ideology" Islam? If you think so, then you're clearly wrong. Dont judge Islam on the actions of Muslims.

We only have to look at history to see how Islam treated non muslims when it was the world's most powerful power.

Jews and Christians felt much more safe under the Caliphate where Saladin was a general than they did in Rome under the pontificate. Why is this? Because they were treated much better in the caliphate.

Why do you think 20% of Arabs are Christian? Because their rights are clearly protected by the Koran and Traditions of Mohamed. Islam clearly outlines that when Jews/Christians live under a Islamic Caliphate, they are not obliged to fight for the government when they face a war. It is the duty of the Muslims to protect the:
1. Women
2. Men
3. Children
4. Elderly
5. Workers
6. Monks
7. Property
8. Places of worship
of the Jews and christians. The Jews and Christians are allowed to have their synagogues and churches and are free to practise their religions.

The rules of war are clear in Islam:
1. Only attack when your attacked
2. Provide assylum to surrenderees and give them of what you eat yourself. Meaning if the Muslim soldier is to have a Dominoes Pizza, that is what he has to give the prisoner too. He cant give you bread and water.
3. Dont burn trees.
4. Dont burn livestock
5. Dont burn places of worship
6. And only draw your sword when your opponent has drawn his.

Pretty civil isnt it?

Clearly those Muslims involved in combat aren't doing this, right? Because being Muslim doesn't mean being Islamic. Theyre totally different things.

So, if "that ideology" of yours is Islam, or "Mainstream Islam" as Irfy wants to call it, then matey you are dead wrong.

Anonymous said...

Well "Jack the pussy" seems to be asking questions that are very tough to answer. And honestly I am surprised how difficult they are proving.

I'm not going to get distracted by delving into the details of whether the Koran allows for this or that (although there is plenty of ammo for a debate on that). I'm not going to get into a pointless subjective debate on how medieval Europe compared to the Muslim empires. I'm just asking for some basic questions to be answered.

Just tell me where you and the majority of mainstream Muslims stand on some of the defining ideals of modern liberal democracies such as Australia.

Please, just say:

"I, Irfan of Sydney (or whoever else is reading this), believe in freedom of religion, including the right to subsequently renounce ones' beliefs, without fear of repercussion. I believe that freedom of religion is a universal right and should ideally be respected in all corners of the Earth, including Mecca. I believe that civil law that is decided by a democratically elected government is applicable to all citizens equally. I believe that there should not ever be an attempt at some stage in the future to establish a separate law court that specifically applies to Muslims."

Or something along those lines - I think you definitely get my drift. I am not a Christian or a Jew myself, but I don't think the average modern day Christian or Jew (or Hindhu or Buddhist or athiest/agnostic...) would be having trouble with this and if they do, well screw them too.


Jack

Irfan said...

Jack,

As I said, I will address all these issues in due course in my own time and space. Apart from maintaining this blog, I do have other stuff to do.

By the way, I have no idea who was responsible for the posting of Anonymous @ 5:19 but it clearly rattled you a little.

wegglywoo said...

'aussie values' is just a myth, like 'aussie mateship'. there are no 'aussie values', just a semi-shared sense of what is decent. australia is so post-pluralist now that the idea that we can have any unique, definable 'aussie values' is simply nonsensical.

i'm first generation australian, but i am australian. my govt does things that conflict with my values all the time. i cried when australian troops boarded that container ship carrying the refugees - we're australian, i screamed at the tv, we look after ppl, not point machine guns at them...

i think it was at that moment that i realised that there are no 'aussie values', and hardly any shared sense of what is decent.

the war is forcing australians to decide on what they hold dear, what their values and beliefs are. this is the first time we've had to make this decision in this generation.

it was easy in the past: the nazis and the communists were *obviously* so different to our way of life, that they were easy to see as the enemy. but now the enemy is a different type of enemy.

now the enemy is uz.

Anonymous said...

Hi Irf,

No worries. Don't bother posting this comment, but I'm not as annoyed perhaps as I come across in the above comment. Thanks for your time once again, and I will leave you in peace as I await your insights into this matter.

Cheers,

Jack

Anonymous said...

"Jack the Pussy" first of all you dont sound like an individual with an LLB for me to get into an argument of legal diversity with you. Secondly, do you know rule number one in Islamic Sharia law? Respect the laws of the country you are in unless they ask you to renounce your religion. So breaking the speed limit is breaking the law, and by speeding iam not only breaking Australian law but shariah law while im at it.

Now Jack van Tongeren, we as westerners and the "torchbearers" of human rights should understand that all human societies arent Western societies. And all humans dont see the world through western eyes and dont have western contexts. Now it is contradictory to the ethos of western human rights to impose western ways of living and politics in non western societies. Why do we have to ask china to live by western style democracy? why do we have to ask afghanistan to implement a western style judiciary and legislature? did you know afghanistan has more female members of parliament then does australia? did you know bangladesh has had a female prime minister while australia hasnt? we have managed to influence and impose our ways of thinking on people complete opposite to us? fundamentally this goes against what western democracy and freedom is all about.

If in the US, the biggest propaganda machine for democracy, australia's first and foremost ally, has a Jewish Court run by expert rabbis for Jewish families. why cant there be a Muslim court (which doesnt go against australian civil law) to deal with sensitive muslim/islamic areas where australian law hasnt recognised and developed on. The way you see it is that all muslims will be dealt in muslim court and not australian courts. That is totally wrong. The courts work hand in hand, and only when the need arises for the islamic court to play a part, thatd be when the magistrate, justice or chief justice will refer the case to.

Addressing your treaty..I, an Australian Muslim, believe in freedom of religion, including the right to subsequently renounce ones' beliefs as long as it doesnt go against the law of their land. If renounciation of ones belief isnt illegal in australia, so be it, if its illegal in afghanistan so be it. I as a follower of islam which introduced voting of leaders before christian europe did believe that australia is an independent country with an independent judiciary legislature and executive arms in society. As is afghanistan. I as an Australian believe that afghanistan has no right to tell australia what to do with its law and internal affairs as australia has no right to do so to afghanistan. All this of course without fear of repercussion. I believe that the eastern and western views of freedom of religion is a universal right and should ideally be respected in all corners of the Earth, including Mecca and Jerusalem. I believe that Muslim ways of seeing things and non muslim ways of seeing things should be respected. I believe that civil law that is decided by a eastern / western democratically (not necessarily western style democracy) elected government is applicable to all citizens equally. I believe that there should not ever be an attempt at some stage in the future to establish a separate law court that specifically applies to Muslims.

Your fellow Australian,

Anonymous
LLB, BA, MBA

Anonymous said...

Jack you're hillarious. Jack, please solemnly swear that you are in support of Muslim Imams having the right to become Pope's. Can Jack please say the following in order to prove he doesnt believe in the sick ideology that Muslim Imams can be Pope:

"I Jack of Australia, solemnly sign herewith, that i believe in the basic human rights of Muslim Imams to have the allowance of being Pope(s)"

Anonymous said...

Hello LLB, BA & MBA

Am I addressing three people here? Oh I see, they are your education credentials. Relax, you do not need to state these here, only when applying for a job.

“I, an Australian Muslim, believe in freedom of religion, including the right to subsequently renounce ones' beliefs as long as it doesn’t go against the law of their land.”

Ok, so you don’t believe in universal rights. The concept of universal rights has helped over time to correct many injustices in the West and also acts as a counterweight to the excesses of the government of the day. You as a minority should be thankful and a strong believer in the concept of universal rights.

“I as an Australian believe that Afghanistan has no right to tell Australia what to do with its law and internal affairs as Australia has no right to do so to Afghanistan.”

Trust me, if Australia were to become some fascist regime which rounded up Muslims and castrated them, you would be the first to plead for international intervention. I’m sorry, but nations do have the right to exert pressure on other nations where clear injustices exist.

“All this of course without fear of repercussion.”

Unless of course the repercussions are legally sanctioned, then it’s ok?

“I believe that the eastern and western views of freedom of religion is a universal right and should ideally be respected in all corners of the Earth, including Mecca and Jerusalem.” So you believe that Christian evangelists can build churches in Mecca? Sorry, I’m still not clear here what you believe in.

“I believe that there should not ever be an attempt at some stage in the future to establish a separate law court that specifically applies to Muslims.”

But before you argued:

“Why can’t there be a Muslim court (which doesn’t go against Australian civil law) to deal with sensitive Muslim/Islamic areas where Australian law hasn’t recognised and developed on.”

Please explain.

Dude, please don’t call me “Jack van Tongeren” unless you want to be called Osama Bin Laden.

When I read through your arguments I see someone who suffers from very confused thinking. You have to twist and contort your views in order to appear acceptable to conflicting audiences.

This discussion is extremely enlightening to me.

Jack

Anonymous said...

"The concept of [universal rights] has helped over time to correct many injustices in the West."

Jack Van Tongeren, call me what you want. But you're the clear fascist in this forum. Let me explain some political science to you. Universal rights is an idealist notion. Idealism is exactly what it spells, an "ideal"; like a dream. Idealism is not necessarily realistic, and is usually on opposite stance to the realist approach. Although there may be a UN charter on "Universal Rights" that charter is an ideal on the basis that in reality that will never happen. There is no unanimous agreement on it and countries such as Israel havent signed the "Univeral Rights" bill. Also, France, the capital of Modern day democracy , where Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew a fascist monarch and established the cornerstone for a democratic system, doesn't allow Muslim girls, Sikh boys, or Jews to wear something in accordance to their religion and of their free will. In Australia there are members of parliament in support of banning headscarves. Can you please right out a contract and make these members of parliament to believe in freedom of religion and basic human "universal rights"? Although there is an ideal of universal rights, it has my faith. However, calling it a concept is void.

"I’m sorry, but nations do have the right to exert pressure on other nations where clear injustices exist."

Although nations do it, its not a right.

"Unless of course the repercussions are legally sanctioned, then it’s ok?"

If a country like Afghanistan, who has a mandate by the people coram populo, bans repercussion, then thats the law. It has its own corpus iuris civilis. So be it. Thats what the "democracy" you want Australian muslims to support so badly declares. Rule by the people for the people. Thats the nucleus of modern day democracy. The people elect who they want on the basis of their laws and policies. The great majority of the people wanted the man punished. So why interfere with the democratically elected government and the wish of the people? So what if their wish wasnt the way you'd want it to be. Thats what diversity is all about Mr.Tongeren. however much you hate it (remember your bombings of the asians and nonwhites with your 'asian out' slogans and graffitti), you cant impose your western ways on non western people. We're all different people.

"So you believe that Christian evangelists can build churches in Mecca? Sorry, I’m still not clear here what you believe in."

Of course. Why not? If Meccan law allows it go ahead, start building your hillsong there.

"Why can’t there be a Muslim court (which doesn’t go against Australian civil law) to deal with sensitive Muslim/Islamic areas where Australian law hasn’t recognised and developed on. Please explain."

Well, take marriage for an example. Islamic law in reference to marriage doesnt go against australian law, so if theres an marriage related issue needing a resolution the australian court can always pass it on to the islamic court. Not rocket science?


"I see someone who suffers from very confused thinking. You have to twist and contort your views in order to appear acceptable to conflicting audiences."

See me as you want. I got no problem with the way you see me.

As Jesus said: seek ye the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

Amen

Anonymous
LLB, BA, MBA

Anonymous said...

Jack do you believe Zacarias Moussaoui should be killed in accordance to the U.S death penalty. The death penalty in Muslim countries is always called barbaric, but never in america.

Anonymous said...

Good luck at your seminar Irfan. I think you should invite some of the guys on this forum to participate in the Q&A session. Should make for a lively discussion. Remember, don't hold back guys, speak your mind.

Jack

Anonymous said...

## RE Death Penalty

"Jack do you believe Zacarias Moussaoui should be killed in accordance to the U.S death penalty. The death penalty in Muslim countries is always called barbaric, but never in america."

Actually I dislike the death penalty as well. One argument against the death penalty is that you run the risk of sending the innocent man to jail. One reason you might see people less critical of America, say compared to Indonesia, is the perception that the justice system is less arbitrary. A stronger argument against the death penalty is that all human life is precious and that applies equally to the criminal as it does to the common man. Another good argument is that disproporionately people of poor socioeconomic backgrounds get sent to jail, and those people can't help the conditions they grew up in. Hence, the death penalty is effectively a racist policy. So morally, yes I am against the death penalty.

## Back to Universal Values and the Freedom to Renounce One's Beliefs

BTW Irf, you are a member of the Liberal Party correct?

The Liberal party is very much one consistent with my own philosophy. One of the core values is:

1) "We believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples; and we work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives; and maximises individual and private sector initiative."

Another is:

2) "We believe in those most basic freedoms of parliamentary democracy - the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association."

I take these values to be universal values regardless of current political support for them. I think if you a member of the Liberal party, the governing party of Australia, you must believe in the concept of universal values. You must be philosophically opposed to apostasy laws (or laws which effectively punish the Muslim who renounces Islam) in Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Malaysia etc. Does that make you a radical Muslim? More food for thought...