HERE’S what should have happened on the Sydney bus this morning when ABC journalist Jeremy Fernandez was subject to a torrent of racist and ugly abuse from a fellow passenger.
Someone should have stood up. They should have made a beeline for the gutter mouth and stood between them.
“Hey,” they should have said, “Cut that crap out,” before turning to Fernandez and his two year old daughter and checking if they were alright.
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I have been asked by The Punch to offer a different point of view about Muslims in Australia. Being a white, Christian, male living in Australia’s most populated Muslim suburb, I should be the most vilified person in Australia according to some fellow Punchers.
Well the truth is, I’m not.
My background has many different layers and stepping stones to it. I was born in the mid 80s in Broken Hill to a dad that was local and a mum that was from Wilcannia. Growing up, she was one of the only few white families in town but never had a bad word to say about Aborigines, irrespective of how the situation is there now.
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This is the final in our Adelaide Festival of Ideas series - the brainfest begins today. In this column Paul Collins talks about how important it is to recognise and protect religion pluralism.
Richard Dawkins and his atheist mates have done us a real disservice by caricaturing all religion as fundamentalist claptrap. The problem is that by pretending that all religions are the same, he obscures the important differences that have to be negotiated if we are going to live in a more peaceful and tolerant world.
This is especially true when we come to negotiate that most important contemporary divides between the West and the Islamic world. At the heart of this is the negotiation between Christianity and Islam, two faiths that really need to talk to each other for all our sakes. But this isn’t going to be easy.
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Sometimes all you need to turn a bunch of disparate and disgruntled souls into a united angry mob is a slogan. Well, search no longer, ye of the red-faced rage and the impotently clenched fists.
For someone has indeed provided you with the lightning rod you need – the Tolerance is our Demise website. And it’s not just a website – for like all righteous movements it sells that most passive aggressive of tools, the bumper sticker. Whatever your gripe, your petty bigotry, or indeed your genuine criticism of the current state of politics, tolerance is apparently to blame. And thus, presumably, intolerance the answer.
It’s a broad church, this intolerance one. Everything from taxes to immigration to overseas funding (presumably they mean aid) to political correctness to soft sentencing to the carbon tax and man-made climate change – all of these need a more intolerant approach.
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Former Premier Jeff Kennett has urged Australians to be vigilant about ethnic threats and told the Herald Sun that migrants should accept our way of life.
He was commenting in the wake of a claim by British Prime Minister David Cameron that multiculturalism had contributed to the threat of terrorism within the UK.
Multiculturalism is a hot button topic. And in Australia the topic is plagued by empty, yet dangerous phrases such as ‘way of life’.
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I’m sitting in my lounge room looking at the swag of contemporary political philosophy books I own, simmering with resentment at the noise the uneducated wogs downstairs are making.
My family moved to Balmain when I was a teenager and until recently I’ve mainly lived in the Inner West of Sydney. I tried the Eastern Suburbs for a while but decided it was too cashed up and pretentious for my left-wing sensibilities. So I stayed close to Glebe and Newtown, went on the right marches, studied the right subjects at uni, and voted for the right political party.
But a couple of years ago my boyfriend and I found ourselves priced out of the inner city rental market - a direct consequence, I told myself, of my lack of materialism and desire to pursue a modest creative life.
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From my observation it is never Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims or even Scientologists who get upset when a nativity scene goes up in a chicken shop at Christmas.
I am not surprised, because as people of faith they understand that their religious freedom is only as safe as it is for those who hold a different belief.
For this reason I have always been perplexed as a professed Christian by objections to Australian women wearing a hijab in public. I recently walked the Kokoda trail with one young Australian woman who wore it the entire way – quite an effort.
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