Thoughts on Islam and Australia
The issue of Muslims living in Australia is part of a bigger, broader debate about such things as multiculturalism, immigration, Australian values, the war on terror, social cohesion, and so on. The thoughts presented here largely spring from the context of my own Christian beliefs, but are also based on other considerations.
Several specific issues have arisen as part of this general debate. One is the question as to whether there might be the need for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to Australia. As a subset of this are issues such as allowing exclusively Muslim education, such as the large Muslim school in Camden, NSW, to go ahead, and how to think about religious dress and symbols.
Some Christian leaders are arguing for a moratorium on Muslims for several reasons: connections with terrorism, the undermining of a Christian nation and identity, and the lack of real social integration, and so on. Each of these concerns could take pages to elaborate upon, but I can offer at least a few brief thoughts here.
There is certainly a terrorism connection. Perhaps the majority of terrorism acts around the world today are carried out by Muslims. Christians are simply not flying airplanes into buildings. Yet one might make the case that many Muslims – maybe even the majority of Muslims- do not support such terrorism, and simply want to live quiet and peaceful lives.
But the minority who do support violent jihad and the war against the West may comprise 15 per cent of all Muslims: the so-called Islamists. While the percentage is small, with over a billion Muslims, the numbers are large, and this is a very real concern indeed, one which should not be minimised.
Coupled with this is a genuine concern about Muslims seeking to establish a universal Caliphate, with everyone submitting to Allah and sharia law. A global reign of sharia law is in no way compatible with freedom and democracy. This is a very real war indeed, and we must never minimise the threat such Muslims are to a free and democratic West.
Concerning the idea of Australia being a Christian nation, just a few short remarks. Of course in one sense no nation can ever be Christian – only individuals can be. And while Australia had a substantial and significant Christian heritage, it does not quite compare to the very clear Christian founding of America. But certainly the majority of Australians identify themselves as Christian, and in that sense one might speak of the Judeo-Christian heritage that so defines this nation.
Thus the question arises of allowing large numbers of non-Christians – who also tend to reproduce at a much greater rate than Christians – to continue to increase in the West, and the implications thereof. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, some Western nations could have a Muslim majority later this century. Australia still has a quite small population of Muslims, so this is not a pressing concern at the moment. But the poor condition of Christians living in dhimmitude in Muslim-majority nations makes considerations about Muslim immigration a valid issue, not just for believers but for policy makers and politicians.
But another way of looking at the arrival of large numbers of Muslims into Australia is missiological. It can rightly be argued that Christians in the West have not been very good at fulfilling the mandate of global evangelisation, especially amongst Muslims. Thus there is every possibility that God has graciously allowed Muslims to pour into the West, so that this evangelisation can in fact take place. It is certainly much easier than going overseas to hostile nations.
As to social cohesion, that too is a legitimate concern. Many Muslims unfortunately do not integrate very well into Australian society and culture. Some cannot even speak English, even though living here for a number of years. No nation can long survive without social cohesion cemented by common values, beliefs, concerns and language.
The issue of Islamic schools – such as the one in Camden – is related to the above concerns. Obviously a major fear is what will be taught and how. If these schools become a cover for radical Muslims who want to breed anti-Western sentiment in their students, then such schools must be opposed.
But even if they do not, there are still important considerations. Indeed, they actually cut both ways, and affect Christians as well. Along with the issue of religious garb and symbols, this is in one sense a religious freedom issue. The general rule of thumb is this: when religious freedom is curtailed or threatened in one place, it tends to be threatened elsewhere. With an increasingly secular ruling class uncomfortable with anything smacking of religion, the danger is that any clampdown on Islamic activities will also extend to Christian activities.
Thus to oppose an Islamic school for fears of non-integration into Australia, security and terrorism concerns, etc. is to put Christian schools at equal threat. That is, secularists will be quite happy to apply the same arguments to all religious schools, including Christian ones. They will argue – I think wrongly – that Christian schools are also socially divisive and a threat to the Australian way of life.
Indeed, the top advisor to Education Minister Julia Gillard said exactly that recently, complaining about independent religious schools leading to a lack of social cohesion. Thus Christians need to be careful in their attacks on Muslim schools. As mentioned, a threat to the religious freedom of some can become a threat to all.
Related to this is the issue of religious clothing, symbols and practices. Not long after September 11, France decided to ban Muslim students from wearing traditional Islamic coverings. One Christian political leader here applauded the move. I must admit, I was of two minds at the time. Again, the issue cuts both ways.
Some concerns raised by the leader were quite right. In a climate of Islamic terrorism, where the militants do not identify themselves with military uniforms, the idea of a jihadist being strapped with explosives under a head to toe robe is a real fear. Muslim terrorists are both male and female, and valid security concerns can be raised here.
But the French law also affected Christians wearing crosses, or Jews wearing the Star of David. When one religious group is impacted by such legislation, all of them tend to be. So we need to think these issues through quite carefully. Often there is not one clear answer to such complex discussions.
All of these reflections need to be seen in the light of the greater war that we are in. The defining conflict of the 21st century may well be that of militant Islam versus the free West. This is a crucial battle that is likely to determine the fate of humanity.
It is in this light that the other considerations must be assessed. As mentioned, hopefully the majority of Muslims want to live in peace, and in fact enjoy what the West has to offer. But many do not, and are at war with everything we hold near and dear. It is this reality that must influence how we decide the leading policy issues of the day, be it immigration, multiculturalism, and so on.
We cannot be naive about the threat of jihadist expansionism. Nor can we minimise what is happening in places like Europe, where we can rightly speak of the continent becoming Eurabia, or of cities going the way of Londonistan.
Western civilisation happens to be Christian civilisation. The two are inextricably intertwined. To allow the de-Christianisation of the West is effectively to allow the de-civilisation of the West, if I can put it that way. Thus what we do with growing Muslim populations in the West is a pressing concern, one that we must not take lightly.
But how we proceed on individual public policy questions can be complex and difficult to determine. We must think carefully and prayerfully about such issues, because so very much is at stake. Wrong moves in the decades to come may have negative consequences for centuries to come.
23 Replies to “Thoughts on Islam and Australia”
‘Islamists’ do not all support violent jihad, or violent political action. There are, broadly speaking, two groups of Islamists; those who support the violence seen used by terrorists, and those who want to bring about change through preaching. It may be fair to make this distinction when using the term Islamist.
I think the concerns you express here are a little alarmist. Population movement and migration trends from Muslim countries are due, largely, to the opening of the world market and the ease with which people can move across the globe, now. The other major reason why Muslim will leave their countries is because the regimes which rule there are repressive, or oppressive. War in their home country is another major reason. These migrants seek the freedoms and opportunities which our nation offers. Like you say, we are a Christian nation, and that heritage has lead to our nation being open, tolerant and supportive of freedoms. These migrants seek the freedoms we value so much; it follows that they share these values with us. My local community in Melbourne has many Muslims in it, and quite a few operate small businesses. My local butcher and IGA supermarket are run by Muslim families. They have migrated and are contributing to our society in a positive way. I value their presence in our community.
There is cause for some concern, but I think the percentage of Muslims which subscribe to jihadist exapansionism is fairly small.
Simon Kennedy, VIC
Bill, you have echoed my own thoughts on this subject which has troubled me for some time. You do not come up with any concrete solutions to the problem, but this is not surprising! It would be wonderful if there was some way that people (of all religions) could be screened before immigrating here, to see whether they were wanting to enjoy or destroy our freedoms, but any such screening is likely to be ineffective, and people can always change. Monitoring of teaching in schools could also be undertaken, but we would object if that happened in Christian schools, and currently Christian teaching on homosexuality would be deemed anti-social. It seems we are left with our normal “safeguards” in law, and not much else that can be done. Vigilance against proposed changes to our laws to accommodate sharia is required, but if we, as Christians, bring this to our society’s notice, our motives will be questioned and we will be ignored. As you suggest, effective Christian witness to those entering is the only viable solution, but one could question the effectiveness of our evangelism of the nominal Christians already in our midst, let alone those of other religious and ethnic backgrounds. Anyone have any other solutions?
It is interesting to hear what you say because I too think that we need to carefully and prayerfully think about how we should respond to this issue. It might also be worth taking a closer look at what is happening in England, given the increase in the muslim population there and the situation it has created.
Having said that, it is amazing to see muslims come to Christ in Australia where it would otherwise been impossible/very difficult for them to do so. So, I do not see the need to stop all muslims coming to Australia, but we need to be more proactive about reaching out to them because ultimately, we should want to see them all brought under Christ’s authority. We need Christians to be willing to build relationships and share their lives with them so that they might understand who Jesus truly is. So we need to be praying and training and equipping people for the battle ahead.
Islam is a monster ideology.
London (Reuters) British police and security agencies are currently monitoring 30 terrorism plots, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said in extracts of a newspaper interview released on Saturday.
“We now face a threat level that is severe. It’s not getting any less, it’s actually growing,” she said in an interview to be published in Sunday’s News of the World.
“We task the police and the security agencies with protecting us … There are 22,000 individuals they are monitoring. There are 200 networks. There are 30 active plots,” she said.
Simon, the percentage that subscribe to violent jihad may be small, but it is still a concern. All it would take is one individual with one bomb to blow him/herself up. Sure that person would probably be working in a small group, but despite what great efforts immigration officials go to, there will still be enough people willing to kill innocent Australians for there to be a problem. Tas Walker’s comment highlights the extent of the problem currently in Britain.
I’ve read myself that either a failed plot or the London bombings involved Muslims born in Britain (I can’t remember which of the two it was). That means, there only needs to be one extremist cleric or leader and a group of vulnerable young Muslims willing to listen to him for there to be a problem.
Another issue is that once Muslims get their numbers up, they would eventually be able to use their numbers to change our laws to suit their values. As a young Australian I could well be alive to see that, not to mention any offspring I may have in the future. Or think of a more pressing concern what could happen if a Muslim party got the balance of power.
I have a friend who went overseas recently to a Muslim country living under sharia law. He said that it made him feel very grateful that he was born in Australia. Calls by an Archbishop in the Church of England for Britain to allow Muslims to be judged under sharia law on some issues is a real concern.
Sure there are two sides to the issue, but I am very concerned. There is a need to tread carefully on this issue. The question that really has to be asked is: Can we justify bringing in Muslims with the knowledge that a small minority of them want to cause a great deal of pain and make Australia a Muslim country living under the same oppression as the countries they came from?
I thought your article was a good, more positive perspective pertaining to Muslims in Australia than some of the perspectives I’ve seen from some evangelicals within Australia. I believe Christians primarily need to see the Muslims amongst us as internal mission opportunity to bring them to Christ by our love. This is not to minimise the problems that the extreme Muslims are bringing to this world. But certainly the vast majority of Muslims in Australia are here because they have problems with the societies (often to some degree) from where they came.
I don’t believe we have as much of a problem with the universal caliphate idea, as we do potentially with some of the Muslim imans in a few of the mosques. I have no first hand experience of what is being preached here, but in England that there were some imans preaching obvious hatred against the West in general, and these were allowed to continue for far too long. We need to understand that Muslims have no central controlling body, and that individual imans can preach what they like, providing the local mosque leadership continues to support them.
Most importantly, our society must promote engagement with Muslims, and indeed all refugees. Where we do not promote English speech, where we leave refugees with few chances of employment, and few opportunities to engage with the broader community, we foster discontent, which can spurn dislike, and in turn hatred. Engagement is crucial, which is why the previous Government was to be applauded for setting up some consultative councils with Muslim leadership, but to be chastised for the obstacles they put tin the way of refuges in general being able to undertake employment
“As to social cohesion, that too is a legitimate concern. Many Muslims unfortunately do not integrate very well into Australian society and culture. Some cannot even speak English, even though living here for a number of years. No nation can long survive without social cohesion cemented by common values, beliefs, concerns and language.”
Bill, this argument needs some care. If the surface symptoms (lack of English) are not caused by the basic motivation to remain separate, then it is no more serious than previous waves of migration (post WW2 European, then Asian/Vietnamese), where the older generation struggled with English, but the children managed better (barring poor teaching, which is a separate issue).
If, however, the basic motivation is separation, then there is a more serious social cohesion problem. It needs to be named, and exposed, as a refusal to adopt the cultural principles of their new home.
That may be caused, in turn, by a misunderstanding that acceptance of some cultural “standards” (social cohesion, driving on the left, clothing suited to the climate) implies acceptance of all (immodest dress styles, lower moral standards etc). Such a misunderstanding can be gradually overcome, by relating to and accepting the new new Australians.
If there is no mis-understanding then the refusal should be identified as clearly un-Australian.
Certainly there is a missiological aspect to Muslim immigration, but the problem we have in Australia and the west in general is that before we can convert the Muslims we need to first convert the church! What I mean is that much of the church is so lukewarm and compromised with the attitudes and standards of the pagan ‘secular’ culture that many devout Muslims view the church with contempt. On the face of it Islam appears to do a better job of promoting chaste living and family values than does much of the church.
Take homosexuality and abortion for example. On both of these issues much of the church is accommodating if not openly approving, whereas pretty much all of Islam would teach against these things. I was a participant in a ‘secular’ leadership group last year which included several professing Christians (who were regular attendees at various ‘evangelical’ churches) and one Muslim. From my observation over the 10 months of the program, I have to say that the Muslim individual demonstrated a much higher outward standard of morality than did the Christians whose conduct was in no way different to their ‘secular’ counterparts.
The Myth of the “Peace-Loving Muslims”
by Walter Williams (19 March 2008)
Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane
I tend to believe there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. All consistent Muslims are zealots and all Muslims are potential jihardists. Islam is a religion of violence and tyranny.
So let’s convert them. Worked for the Church post-Rome with the barbarians. There seems to be an endemic fear of upsetting Muslims if we attempt to convert them. Perhaps the real fear of even losing our lives. But that’s what our forebears did – risked life and limb for the gospel.
The Gospel is liberation for Muslims. But they can’t convert if they don’t know it. It’s not like the Koran can stand up to any kind of textual criticism unlike the Bible. Perhaps that’s the best place to start.
My guess, for what it is worth, is that, yes, Musliims, may be coming to the west out of a genuine desire for freedom from their own oppressive countries. They may be even nominal in the their beliefs, but for reasons of needing a sense of identity, they remain stuck in a Muslim ghetto. However, these nominal, law-abiding and hardworking Muslim families find, when they arrive here, that the values of freedom of speech coupled with a morality that once under-girded, western European family values, have all but disappeared under an oppressive, militant secular humanism. They find a civilisation that is in terminal decline: http://www.akegreen.org/ (Pastor Ake Green was sentenced to one month in jail)
Muslims, too, are alarmed at pornography, promiscuity and the sexual mayhem being promoted in schools and in the mass media. Why would they? Why should they integrate into something that they find deeply offensive? Where can they turn to, if not to their own religion that offers easy and straightforward sets of moral rules?
But it does not only attract wavering Muslims; western Europeans who also are seeking an escape from the increasing anarchy of western civilisation. Of all countries that are held up as the socialist, secular model, Sweden is seeing increasing number of their own women converting to Islam: http://www.thelocal.se/8772/20071012/ (5,000 Swedes have converted to Islam. Many of these converts are women.):
“It started when I was 9 and wanted to perform evening prayers but did not know who to pray to, so I started looking for answers, and found all the logical answers in Islam.”
[we are]“searching for the ‘right answers’; to pin down what gender, family, society and religion are.”
http://www.thelocal.se/9880/20080205/ Swedish state to train imams
http://www.thelocal.se/9021/20071106/ Building set to start on Saudi-funded Mosque.
Muslims working from Islamic states are well onto making Britain the first Islamic state in Europe. They have already spiritually claimed Westminster Cathedral. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/ukcorrespondents/holysmoke/may07/westminster.htm
And the future head of the Anglican Church, Prince Charles http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/119
Muslims are no fools. They have done their homework; they have boned up on the inconsistencies, inner contradictions and folly of evolutionary humanism, the world view that forms the basis of the present government and, like a cat playing with a wounded bird, afford themselves endless amusement in manipulating it to their own advantage.
I do not think that on its own the banning of any further mosques and Islamic schools is the answer; It needs to be coupled with Christians coming out of their own ghettos, their own comfort zones, taking on the secular humanists and presenting society with a clearly defined, revolutionary, alternative society. Both Islam and secular humanism are in a state of war with Christianity. It is about time we woke up to this fact and put on the armour.
Melanie Phillip’s article clearly shows that Britain is getting closer to being put in the oven.
David Skinner, UK
In 1974, Richard Wurmbrand, a Christian who had miraculously survived years of imprisonment and torture in Romania, under the communist regime – which was also a product of materialistic and atheistic belief – and who had witnessed scenes of the utmost cruelty and barbarity whilst in prison, was being interviewed in America. The interviewer asked him, “Do you think American Christians are going to experience what you experience?”
“No,” he answered thoughtfully, “I don’t think it’s going to come. I think it’s already here; in America, I experience ten times more demonic spiritual oppression fighting to make me draw back (to keep silent) than I ever experienced in a dungeon.”
David Skinner, UK
David, that’s interesting. The founder of the Voice of the Martyrs, a well known Christian charity for persecuted Christians around the world (see http://www.persecution.com.au/ ) would be expected to know what he’s talking about on such an issue. It certainly is true that our affluent Western countries are on a downward slide. For the late Richard Wumbrand to have such an experience really is significant. It’s very easy to think of other countries such as some Muslim countries to be oppressive, but perhaps we are blinded to the spiritual oppression in our own country to an extent, by familiarity.
Thanks Matthew for that link. The point I am perhaps simplistically labouring is that we should not be talking about evolutionary humanism/homosexuality/ bortion etc in isolation from thinking about Islam. The only reason Islam is taking such a hold in western European civilisatiion is precisely because of the secularists. Both are working in concert to destroy us.
David Skinner, UK
I note your comment: “And while Australia had a substantial and significant Christian heritage, it does not quite compare to the very clear Christian founding of America.”
Yet for all of its “Christian Founding” the American nation has foundered on its Constitution, in that it has written God, in particular Jesus Christ, out of the script. It is a document written by Deists. Furthermore, Australia has followed America’s “example” and copied the US constitutions’ separation of Church and State. France is another good example of this process.
Consequently, we in the west are now completely “hamstrung” as it were, in opposing any religious belief system that might come along that would violently and seditiously oppose the Kingdom of Christ.
At this time, that would be Islam….
Well, it didn’t do England any good having a State Church I hear you say……..yes I agree, England is in an apalling state. But this is ultimately due to the Sovereign, her Majesty the Queen and Her Ministers Spiritual and Temporal not Honouring and being faithful to the Coronation Oath that She swore to uphold.
What is required is faithful law makers and faithful leaders. As it says in Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people”.
My only disagreement with your comments would be to argue that while many of the American founders were deists, many were also biblical Christians.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I did not say Christians were not involved Bill, but the Deist influence is strong, material and inescapable.
I really appreciate your posts and wisdom on all these matters. I noted your comment on Australia not having the same clearly christian foundation that America has? We as a constitutional monarcy and daughter of England have the blessing of a Christian heritage fought and paid for in faith by incredible men and women of God. America on the other hand tried to achieve a similar result through rebellion. Their intention was honourable but I don’t think their actions were. They took a spiritual shortcut and rebelled against their king, even King David refused to do this. Can nations be christian? I believe yes. Laws attempt to say something is wrong and something is right…ie morality…..what is morality based on……religion. So a society who has it’s laws based on the law of God is a Christian nation, not a nation of christians necessarily, but a Christian nation. “You shall know them by their fruit”….the west is mostly made up of Christian nations and it is this foundation of love and freedom that Jesus taught us that makes us the richest most envied nations of the world. Most people living in Australia have no idea about where this freedom comes from, they just think we’re lucky.
What do you think? I am interested in your opinion.
There is no question as to a strong Christian heritage in Australia. My point was that this is even more the case in the US. The primary purpose of the original Pilgrim Fathers was to seek for religious freedom, to establish a light on the hill, and so on. So there was a very real sense of biblical destiny associated with the early settlement of America. The later push for independence was another matter, but large hunks of Christian conviction can be found there as well.
As to Christian nations: yes and no. Most of the West was largely the product of the Judeo-Christian heritage, and for centuries to talk of Western civilisation was to talk of Christian civilisation. The two were one and the same in many respects.
But of course today most of the West is post-Christian, if not anti-Christian. Certainly in terms of the ruling elites, a large wave of secularism has swept over the West. It is quickly in the business of renouncing its Christian past, and enacting laws which are decidedly anti-Christian. So it is a mixed bag. I certainly think believers should seek to exert Christian influence in every area of society, but I am aware that this is a far cry from seeking for some sort of theocracy.
Complicated questions these, although I have written about such issues elsewhere on this site. But they are certainly worth thinking about and exploring further.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
This article about Islamic Schools in Africa is really worth reading. I wouldn’t dream of ever wanting an Islamic school here until we are sure that the abuse of people (under the guise of Islam) no longer exists. This is truly the work of Satan and obviously not an isolated incident.
David, your welcome. For all the Australians reading this site if you want to find out more about Wurmbrand and Voice of the Martyrs, you can get his autobiography Tortured For Christ for free (one per family) with a subscription to the Voice of the Martyrs monthly newsletter. The website is http://www.persecution.com.au the same one I referred to in an earlier post. I’ve got a copy and when I get time to read it I’m sure I’ll gain a greater appreciation for how David Skinner reports he could say “in America, I experience ten times more demonic spiritual oppression fighting to make me draw back (to keep silent) than I ever experienced in a dungeon.”
Bill, I am surprised at your apparent uncertainty in this article, it is so unlike you. The evidence is overwhelming and the church and governments have no answers, or policies or understanding, except accommodation in the short term.
The first 700 years of Christian evangelism across the pagan Arab world appears to have been peaceful and relatively successful. Then came Islam and 1400 years later its geo – political history is written in blood. Jesus never endorsed the shedding of blood by His people,
Muhammad clearly does. The Qu’ran and Hadith give the infidel three options – reversion ( all peoples are Muslims, the infidel is a back slider), severe subjugation without rights and a review of death every ten years,called Dhimmitude, or simply death.
What the West calls a ‘moderate’ Muslim, they call apostate and according to the Qu’ran they have to be re educated or killed. Such behaviour is happening today.
The European Arab Dialogue [EAD] has been underway since 1973 and has been a successful Islamic policy of political territorial gains. European leadership is looking for trade advantage and to be a countervailing power to the USA and the Muslim is looking for Sharia rule.
Appeasement by war weary European leadership prefer dialogue but have failed to understand the spirit of Islam – Allah has spoken absolutely – there is no other way.
Under the now highly developed ‘Replacement’ policy all of history is about pre Islamic peoples. Biblical patriarchs , prophets, even Jesus were Muslims. Israel is being written out of their ‘Replacement’ history.
I am amazed at those Christians who would think they can convert a Muslim. Conversions can be identified in single numbers and immigrations policies allow thousands. Christians have not been able to ‘convert’ secular humanism in the West by dialogue or theology, in an environment of peaceful co- existence, so what make us think that we can convert a ‘spiritually militant’ Islam?
We miss the point that there Islam is militant both spiritually and politically. Christians operate successfully at neither level.
I intend to purchase the book Islam and Dhimmitude by Bat Ye’or and give it to Stephen Smith our Foreign Affairs Minister – Our government leaders have to read such quality research before making inane statements publicly such as ‘Islam is not a violent religion’.
Its incredible how people can so easily look at another and be so concerned about the faults of others and forget about the faults of themselves. The Bible says in Matthew 7:3 “And why worry about the speck in your friends eye when you have a log in your own” its amazing how People will be quick to judge by the way we talk, the colour of our skin and the poisition in soicety we are in.
If we can let people be and not try to change them to become like how we want them to be then its more possible for us to make a difference in their lives. christians have have every right to Love the muslims and treat them as they are. The Bible says in John 3:17 “God sent his Son into the World not to Judge the World, but to save the world through Him”. We should have christ as our mentor and remember that God loves all people so wants to save all people.