In Australia, conservatives have also been peddling this myth of our country being founded on "Judeo-Christian values". Peter Costello has made such claims from time to time. Including during a speech he made to a crowd of Pentecostal Christians at Scots Church in Melbourne in 2004.
If the Arab traders that brought Islam to Australia, had … settled or spread their faith among the Indigenous population, our country today would be vastly different. Our laws, our institutions, our economy would be vastly different.Indeed he's right. Arab traders didn't bring Islam to Australia. Indonesian fisherman did. But they didn't come here to preach and conquer but rather to trade with local indigenous people in the Northern Territory. And these Indonesian fishermen kept trading up until the early part of the twentieth century when their centuries-old trade was stopped by legislators in Adelaide behaving in an allegedly Judeo-Christian manner.
But that did not happen. Our society was founded by British colonists. And the single most decisive feature that determined the way it developed was the Judeo-Christian-Western tradition. As a society, we are who we are because of that tradition … one founded on that faith and one that draws on the Judeo-Christian tradition.
But what of this whole idea of Judeo-Christian values? When did they come about? And what role, if any, did the "Judeo" bit play in the 18th century? At this point it might be appropriate to plagiarise myself:
Costello’s 2004 speech suggests only the traditions of British colonists mattered. Australia’s first few fleets consisted of a handful of English free settlers accompanying shiploads of convicts of various faiths - Jews, Catholics, Muslims and a smattering of perhaps reluctant followers of the Church of England.These considerations would apply even more in the United States, where the Founding Fathers deliberately avoided any mention of a religious qualification for public office.
Costello’s much touted Judeo-Christian culture wasn’t exactly alive and well in England. Both colonists and convicts would have been aware of the passing of the Jew Bill through the English Parliament in 1753, allowing Jews to be naturalised by application to Parliament. Mr Costello’s ideological ancestors, the Tories, opposed the Bill, claiming it involved an “abandonment of Christianity”. Conservative protesters burnt effigies of Jews and carried placards reading “No Jews, no wooden shoes”.
Jews were forbidden from attending university and practising law in England until the mid 19th century. One can only imagine the prejudice the 750-odd First Fleet Jewish convicts faced from English jailors brought up in such an anti-Semitic environment.
Anyway, watch a Republican chap try and resurrect the Judeo-Christian myth in the context of Obama's recent comments in Turkey.
Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf
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