Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Recognition Needed for "Core Values" in Debates about Multiculturalism and Integration

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7 September 2006


MELBOURNE – The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) today called for all participants in the current Australian debate about integration of the Muslim community to recognise the centrality of “core values” to both the concept and the success of Australian multiculturalism.

AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler AC and Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM issued the following statement:

“Whenever we talk about problems of integration and communal harmony in Australia, it must be remembered that the idea of preserving Australian 'core values' is integral to the Australian concept of multiculturalism; values such as democracy, the rule of law, mutual respect and tolerance, and English as the language of civic discourse. Everyone has a right to preserve their religion, traditions and culture, but only in so far as these traditions are consistent with their responsibilities to support the core values needed for our successful, harmonious and tolerant society to function.

"When these core values come under threat, it is the responsibility of everyone, especially political leadership, to marginalise and condemn anyone refusing to adhere to these core values.

"No one should ever single out any entire community as incapable of integration, or as uniquely threatening to Australian society. However, where core values are being threatened, denied or challenged, it is appropriate to sensitively and carefully identify the source of the threat. We believe it is clear that the most serious such threat today is a small minority located at the margin of the Muslim community, who adhere to a radical and totalitarian Islamist ideology which has unfortunately spread from the Middle East in recent years. Adherents to this ideology not only make the achievement of a form of narrow theocracy their ultimate goal, and reject key aspects of Australian multiculturalism, but frequently condone terrorism and other violence as a means to these ends.

"While every care must be taken to make certain that the Australian Muslim community as a whole is neither misrepresented as identical with this small group, nor marginalised or stereotyped because of it, we still need to identify the threat to Australian core values from the small number of Islamists. As the Prime Minister recently stated, 99% of Australian Muslims are not part of this threat, and their integration is no more problematic than any other groups in Australia and it is important to say so. However, if we do not carefully but frankly confront the ideas of those who do challenge our core values, we cannot gauge the scope of the problem, nor create realistic and inclusive strategies to counter it.

"Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that to deal with the challenge of Islamic integration, the Government has been devoting considerable attention and resources to a range of services and programs, which we view as positive and helpful."

For additional information, contact Dr. Colin Rubenstein on (03)-9681-6660or Mark Leibler on (03)-9229-9999 in Melbourne or Jeremy Jones on (02)-9360-5415 in Sydney.

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