Sunday, August 14, 2011

Unfinsihed post #31

A very unfinished post I started to write in June.

In the 1970s and the 1980s Australia absorbed many refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Along the way we have absorbed many Indonesians and Filipinos and a good few from Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Now the mainland Chinese are arriving. I don't view the period when the Indo Chinese arrived with rose coloured glasses. There were issues, some even ongoing to now, but generally, they were accepted and if you didn't like them, then you have better accepted them by now as they will possibly the ones at hospital who cut you open, or approve your bank loan or photograph your wedding or wring out your incontinence pad.

And then there has been the South Asians arriving from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The sheer number of them combined with the overseas students from the same countries did overwhelm us somewhat. But as neighbours, co workers, those who serve us in shops, it hasn't gone too badly at all.

In the sixties and earlier, we had the southern European immigrants. In the forties and fifties we had large numbers of WWII Jewish refugees.

In the 19th century, immigrants came from all over the world, as did my antecedents.

All of the above came with their own cultures and religions, or their religion may well have matched ours. All have blended pretty well to make Australia what it is today (hopefully not a bad place).

But the immigrants that don't seem to fit into Australia are coming from the Middle East and northern Africa. Why so? The northern and eastern Africans look very different to what we are used to, with extremely dark skin, but then didn't Asian people look very different when they arrived in numbers? Through work, I knows some fine Middle Eastern people, but that is not the view of Middle Eastern people by many. I struggle to equate Middle Eastern people I know with those who are outrageous in their abuse of our country and its freedom. If it was just a few, ok, it's the odds, but there seems to be a huge number.

If you came from one of these corrupt and war torn godforesaken countries and were granted refugee status, wouldn't you be so so grateful and want to fit into the way of life of the country that has taken you in? First generation can be a bit problematic, but still I am surprised that they don't try harder.

Not all travelling Aussies behave so, but mostly when we travel to exotic countries, we respect their local customs. ABC's reporter Sally Sara in the Middle East seems to go a bit overboard in that area, often wearing a veil when it is clearly not required, but I digress. Generally, when we are in a foreign country, we respect their culture.

Don't these Muslim women in Melbourne who peer through slits in their black cloth head covering know how disturbing their appearance is? I have even seen them wearing gauze over their eyes. I really don't care what you think about their style of dressing, but I just hate it. They are completely covered in black, looking out of slits in cloth or with gauze over their eyes. In spite of me not being able to see their faces, I can detect the arrogance of them in their walk. Get out of my sight. I don't want you here. You practice extreme religion and it is not acceptable here. Says me.

Sometimes, you just smile at someone who passes you by on the street. Sometimes you have touch with a stranger, maybe because they hand you your change, maybe a accidental brush past. This is not acceptable to a heavily veiled Muslim woman.

And yet you can have Indonesian or Malaysian women wearing the scarf and they can look quite pretty.

Nah, Muslim women wearing face covering belong back in the 1960s with catholic nuns in black habits who frightened my brother in the street because he thought they were witches.

They are both uniforms of intimidation and distance.


  1. I think that's part of why they wear their costumes -- to keep distance at least. I would like to think it is the freedom they find in your country that gives them permission to carry on with how they dress. Here, they would not dress like that because they would be driven out because of a lack of tolerance for anyone much different. They should feel fortunate to be where they are, and don't you think that the next generation will shun the veil as they assimilate?

  2. Very insightful of you Linda. Yes, they do wear it, because they can. But I am not, along with many Australians are not un-nice people. Why do they so want to alienate us? I do not see the next generation shunning the veil. Now Australian born non Middle Eastern women who marry Muslim men are taking to the veil.

  3. This struck a chord with me. Sometimes, as someone who is visibly of foreign stock, I find myself unable to say that I find it unacceptable for Muslim women to dress completely in black without their face showing (because of this need to be mutually respectful to other migrant cultures). But the things is: while I grew up with many Muslim Malay friends, I have found that the Malays from Singapore (where I grew up) are vastly different from the ones from neighbouring Malaysia - a less.... fervent approach to faith which allows room for a bit of flexibility. It's kinda like growing up Christian and having to negotiate the greys of youth, as opposed to my parents who converted as adults and cling to it with a straight-back persistence (maybe that's why Australian born women are taking to the veil - like some need to prove authenticity or loyalty to their grafting).

    I think you need a face to participate in Australian street life - anything else and you might as well be one of those rioting thugs in London.

  4. I'm not sure how to say what I want here so I'll just quietly leave the room.

  5. Thanks Tim. I like your last sentence.

    Not a bad idea River. I am on road to hell here.

  6. Personally, I don't know why people get so upset about talking honestly about what they have difficulty with when it comes to new people on the block. The PC thing gets in the way of us coming together sometimes.
    Anyway, where I lived before we had a lot of immigrants from Iran who had previously been a part of the status quo - in our apartment community. They were nice kind intelligent people but had no desire whatsoever to assimilate or even associate with Americas. They wanted to remain separate from us because as non-Muslims...
    Some Christians do the same thing.
    This is part of why I hate religion.

  7. Girlfriend Linda. We are on the same wavelength. I hate religion too. I am non discriminatory. I hate them all.

  8. I agree with your point about trying to blend in when you move to another country. It's the basic rule of respect. Being from Native-Canadian origin, I know what I'm talking about. Being aslo a French-Canadian doesn't make it easier!

    My neighbour has lived in Qu├ębec for close to 50 years and she cannot speak one word of french! She live exactly the same way she did in the native Italy!

    As for Muslim, you can't say anything without being called racist or xenophobes! What worsen the whole thing is that many do take advantage of the loopholes of our system to fly their familly members in to get an operation or give birth since medical care is free for all resident in Quebec. But we cannot say anything!!!

    One day it's all going to blow up in our face...

    If I were to move, let's say to Russia, I'd be learning the language in no time, read all there is to read about the history, the litterature, the culture of Russia. I wouldn't ask any special favor whatsoever.

    I allow nobody to call me racist or xenophobe because I KNOW what it means to be discriminated bacuse of your racial and cultural background.

  9. Are there a lot of women in Melbourne who wear the whole face-covering thing? I think I've encountered only the women who have the head-covering, but their face is still showing. I've talked to one or two on occasion and they were friendly.

    I think it's fine for people to be different. I think it's not fine for people to unfriendly, cold, demanding, rigid, etc. If they're that way, they shouldn't expect to be welcomed into a new country.

  10. It's a tough one Andrew. Do I personally find the full head coverings confronting? Yes, I do. But would I ban it? No, I wouldn't. Freedom of religion is one of the very few rights explicitly protected under our Constitution and I think that, in itself, is significant (given the era in which that document was drafted).

  11. Jon, one problem here is that it is difficult to discuss immigration without being branded a racist. Even just raw numbers without countries of origin will raise a fuss. I have the attitude as you do. If I moved to a foreign country, I would want to know the country and speak the language. I argue rather than multicultural, we build the good of immigrants into our country. Yes it changes our country, but we are then all one.

    I have seen a few Dina. I expect there are more on the other side of town where they tend to live. I am really referring to the ones who cover their faces and sometimes their eyes.

    AdRad, I think it should be discouraged rather than banned for adult women. And is it not a cultural matter rather than religious? I would not allow children to be veiled, until they can decide for themselves. But I don't think young girls are anyway. Of course if police etc request the face covering to be removed, so it should be. And if the rest of us are going to be identified in the future by facial recognition, why exempt anyone.

  12. Spot on Andrew - Get yourself a copy of a book called "Infidel" written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali a Somalian woman - she tells it like it is from the inside and it was one of those books which changed the way I think. She is amazed at how gullible we are in the west

  13. I wasn't going to comment on this one until I read Linda's comments and realised I was just being gutless.

    I SO agree on the intimidation factor with the women in masks - but do we not pride ourselves in OZ on religious tolerance? I also have a healthy disregard (aka 'loathing') for religions - but do I want to live in a culture where I'm told what I can/can't think? And where do we draw the line when determining what religious behaviour is/isn't acceptable? Is it what I think? Or you can tolerate?? A difficult question that's engendered some excellent discussion!

  14. Anonymous12:06 am

    As many of you know, I moved to Japan almost 8 years ago, so I know what it's like to live in a foreign country, with a different language and culture to my own. Yes, I chose to move here. Yes, I have tried to learn the language. Yes, I am aware and respectful of the dominant culture. Am I assimilated? No.
    I have embraced many aspects of Japanese life but there are many things I would never do because of my own personal and/or cultural leanings. I don't think this makes me a bad immigrant. I chose to leave Australia but I didn't leave behind my cultural beliefs and mores; it's who I am. I would hate to be told I must do/wear/speak/eat something just because the locals do. Similiarly,(for example) I wouldn't like to be told I couldn't talk in my language with other native speakers or eat Vegemite.
    We live in a world where many people move to other countries for a variety of reasons. The key word here is 'respect' - and it goes both ways. I understand that difference can be confronting, but just because someone looks different or does something the dominant cultural members wouldn't do, doesn't mean immigrants do not respect/understand/appreciate their new host country. V.

  15. Yep MC. While they may not be told that they must hide their faces and perhaps their eyes, there must at least be an expectation by men.

    Red, as well as distancing themselves and dressing in an intimidating manner, perhaps like skinhead does, I do not like overt religious displays in public. 'Look me! You can tell I'm a good and pious religious person by the way I dress.' Maybe people thought that about catholic priests in the past. Didn't that all go a bit wrong, with apologies to the many priests who were honourable and decent. You're right, it has been an interesting discussion of sorts.

  16. Ah V, we will never agree on face covering. From all appearances from here, you are integrated into the local community. Japanese people can be quite insular, I have heard. Yet you seem quite accepted for what you are. The key word is respect and I don't think the people who I talk of show respect. Most Australians, the ones I generally know, are respectful of foreign cultures. They act and behave in foreign countries to do the right thing. My god, what some of these refugees have been through, they ought to kiss the Australian soil in praise of the paradise that has been granted to them. While I may well whinge about Australia, it is not a bad place in many ways, and if I came from a bad country and had the opportunity to live here, I would whole heartedly embrace it. They could be much worse off, such as being taken in by London.

    Your comment rather raises the question in my mind are they real refugees, or just take the money and the good bits of Australia that they like but reject Australia generally? I feel some do.

    Hope we are still friends. :)

  17. Anonymous11:11 am

    Of course we're still friends! This is one subject we have to agree to disagree on.

    I have integrated into Japanese society up to a point - but I am and always will be, a foreigner; an outsider. I can never be Japanese. The most obvious starting point are my Caucasian features but what I wear, how I dress, the language I speak, the things I eat, the way I think and behave all mark me as an outsider. I wasn't raised here and it's obvious to all Japanese. Yet, whilst I will always be an outsider, I'm not expected to know the ins and outs of Japanese society and my inadvertant social faux pas are expected and tolerated. No-one expects me to be grateful for being allowed to live here.
    You need to understand that it's very difficult to overcome years of acculturation. To give you an example; you and I were brought up in a country where it's perfectly acceptable to openly hug or kiss friends, to talk to strangers regardless of their sex and indeed, to have friends of the opposite sex. When talking to someone we might touch their arm or give them a gentle bump to emphasise a point. Now, imagine living in a society where that is not acceptable. Imagine trying to curb behaviour that you have never given a second thought to. Now imagine how stressful it is to negotiate your way through this new social minefield. It's not easy, irrespective of why you migrated in the first place. V.

  18. Not quite V. I wasn't brought up with hugging and kissing, let alone cuddles, apart from a kiss on a cheek for an elderly aunt. I have had learn how to hug and kiss. I am aware I am not a natural at it, but I try. Never mind immigrants, sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own country. I find all this hugging and kissing quite stressful as I don't know how to do it correctly. I feel a post building.

    Never in my mind did I ever think you would be accepted as a local in your town. You will always be the farang, but still, you do seem to be accepted as a resident foreigner, or is it the Japanese politeness? Maybe both.