Saturday, May 19, 2007

Testing citizenship ...

The Herald-Sun yesterday provided a list of sample questions for the newly established citizenship test, inviting readers to

... [c]heck out how you would do on the citizenship test.

That’s exactly what I did. Question 5 asks ...

5. Australia's political system is a ...

a. Parliamentary democracy

b. Monarchy

c. Dictatorship

d. Socialist state

I doubt the good folks at Australians for Constitutional Monarchy would be happy with “monarchy” and “parliamentary democracy” being mutually exclusive options.

ACM would argue that Australia is simultaneously a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy (and so a monarchy all the same). Further, the Australian constitution doesn’t make provision for such a role.

In this respect, Question 9 might also be problematic. That question reads ...

9. Who is Australia's head of state?

a. Prime Minister John Howard

b. Queen Elizabeth II

c. Governor General Michael Jeffery

d. Premier Steve Bracks

Then again, I don't recall the Constitution mentioning the Prime Minister. And we all know he exists, though he continues to perform many roles normally reserved for the G-G by convention.

What will no doubt disturb many non-Christians (and probably many Catholics) is Question 15 which reads ...

15. Australia's values are based on the ...

a. Teachings of the Koran

b. The Judaeo-Christian tradition

c. Catholicism

d. Secularism

The categories of “Teachings of the Koran”, “The Judeo-Christian Tradition” and “Catholicism” are treated as mutually exclusive. The correct answer is likely the second option.

But try telling Jewish historians about the “Judeo-Christian tradition”. The whole notion of Judaism playing a key role in the development of Western European culture seems strange considering it's only in the last 60 years, following the horrors of the Holocaust, that Western Christendom has finally faced up to the reality of anti-Semitism. If anything, the role of the “Judeo” has tended to be that of cultural and political punching bag of the “Christian”.

In fact, it’s arguable that Judaism as faith and culture has far more in common with Islam than with Christianity. I discovered this at age 7 when my family moved to Princeton , New Jersey after spending a year in Pakistan . I’d forgotten much of my English, and found a strong cultural affinity with boys in my school who wore skull caps, who refused to eat pork and who learned how to read a book in a language that sounded a lot like Arabic and whose script was also read from right to left.

In terms of theology, both Jews and Muslims (unlike mainstream Trinitarian Christians) are strict Unitarians. In terms of religious structure, both Judaism and Islam have a sacred law. Rabbis and imams play similar role as jurists of the sacred law. Like Muslims, Jews have no priestly hierarchy or clerical class.

Further, the correct answer implies that Catholicism also falls outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. Are we going back to the days when Catholics were second class citizens? Or has Catholicism ceased to be part of Christianity?

The Judeo-Christian tradition is largely an American post-War invention. If the new citizenship test is designed to promote historically, culturally and philosophically spurious ideas, perhaps we should skip it altogether.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007


LDU said...

Mate, I think question 15 should have an extra option: e. Dreamtime.

Anonymous said...

That test is pathetic.

If you and I can't answer it - then who the heck can?


Unknown said...

You seem to be assuming that David Flint of the ACM took no part in settling the questions. However, given his relationship over time with the Prime Minister and his interest in these matters, surely there must be at least some possibility that he took such a part.