This makes me quite embarrassed. 49% of people responded to an Essential research poll that they supported a ban on Muslim immigration. Originally I wasn’t going to give it any more oxygen than it regrettably already has, but the more I think about it, I feel I have to comment because that is shameful statistic and it would be wrong to normalise it.
My first thought on seeing the headline was that the poll question could have been a leading one, angling for a sensationalist result. So I went to actual source (never believe anything written in the Australian after all) and found sadly that the question was a pretty neutral one.
I have to take the results from a sample size of 1000 as being pretty valid. And while I console myself that this could be one of those statistical anomalies that sometimes happen, in the likely scenario that it isn’t, we have a bit of a problem.
Specifically, how can 49% of people support banning Muslim immigration? I have said previously that I don’t blame people for being frightened of terrorism, but we have to be careful how that fear makes us act. I also understand the concerns over the formation of insular communities, but this is a very common practice for minority groups within our society for support and protection, especially when they feel threatened. They will only be more insular after hearing that such a shocking percentage of people think they should not be allowed to enter the country.
Banning Muslim immigration is an appallingly lazy suggestion to addressing these fears. I have discussed the logistical impossibility of such a policy in response to Sonia Kruger’s appalling attempt to justify it. I’m not going to go repeat myself here, other than to say, if you are in favour of such a policy, I would like you to think carefully about how it would be implemented and what sort of impact it would have on the Australian Muslim community.
As well as being logistically impractical, it would also be economically and strategically foolish. I realise that judging by our current climate policy and refugee policy, it is tempting to think our global standing can’t get much worse, but that would be wrong. Several of our most important regional bilateral relationships are Muslim countries, including Indonesia, which is arguably our most important. Consider how this might affect Indonesian cooperation with our efforts to combat people smuggling.
Moreover Islam is a worldwide religion whose followers account for around a fifth of global population. Insulting 20% of the world isn’t going to help branding for Australian exports and would have a significant impact on the bottom line of our exporters.
It may be argued that there is more to fear from Muslims than terrorism- that their religion is incompatible with Australian values and that they don’t integrate. This is certainly a line straight from Hanson’s islamaphobic playbook, which should be cause for most people to question it to begin with. Sure, in different parts of the world (some of which are Muslim) there are some really terrible things happening, but it is a ridiculously oversimplification to blame this all on a global religion which has multiple iterations. I agree there is a more complex discussion to be had about this but I’ll leave that for a future article dedicated specifically to the question. For now, let me ask anyone with concerns over the ability of Australian Muslims to peacefully coexist in our society, consider all the ones who already do. Islam has existed in Australia for well over 100 years. Now consider all of the Muslims you know personally. Do Hanson and Roberts’ demonising statements really hold up when you consider the behaviour of the Muslims you know? They certainly don’t in my experience. The majority of unpleasant or harmful behaviour I have been exposed to has come from white Australians.
Also not quite sure how I feel about the research company choosing this topic for a question. People will say they should be apolitical if they are to truly gauge Australian opinions, but I think this is a little optimistic about the researcher’s role. The Observer Effect suggests you can’t measure anything without affecting it. And by choosing the questions they ask, the researchers are already shaping public debate. Considering the impact their results would have on Australian Muslims, perhaps this was a question that didn’t have to be asked.