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Identifying with multicultures

By Keysar Trad - posted Thursday, 23 February 2012

The issue of identity and allegiance is often raised in Australia with respect to minorities and their Australian born children.

Often, any signs of their original culture are portrayed as mixed allegiance at best, or in some instances, as acts of betrayal to their adopted culture.

The debate belies or ignores historical phenomena that dictated migration and flight from persecution throughout history.


It is rare to blame interventionism, invasions, sanctions or foreign occupation for the arrival of migrants.  More often than not, the message is that these people ruined their country and now they are trying to ruin our island/continent paradise which we made ourselves with our Christian European culture and values.  Hardly a syllable is remembered about how we acquired this paradise and how we treated and how we continue to treat its indigenous population.

It is also rare to see the voice of reason receiving prominence, but rather we find the blame for all or most of our social woes being directed at migrants (usually the most recent migrants and it is that much easier if they also observe a different faith), implying that if these minorities were not here, we would not have crime, or we would not have serious crime.  This certainly was the overwhelming message in NSW from the mid nineties right up to the last few years especially with the continued existence of a Middle Eastern Crime Squad and the incessant ethnicising of crime.

The great irony is in the fact that we demonise the latest minority to the point that some of them become self-loathing and parrot the words of their accusers: yes, we must reign in our children, yes, we must arrest our troublemakers, yes, sir, just tell us what to do sir! Just stop hitting us with claims, accusations and viewer/listener/reader backlash.

Our children have been told for more than a decade that they don’t fit in, or don’t belong and when they find solace in equally persecuted members of their community, the process of Othering becomes complete and ostensibly proved.

Dignity is one of the most sought after intangible, it should be an inalienable right of every human being, but in our quick search for someone to blame, we trampled and continue to trample on the dignity of the most vulnerable.

Yes, minorities also include a criminal element, after all, they are part and parcel of the society in which they live.  If broader society has a crime element, then it is inconceivable for some members of the minority not to partake, usually, to the horror of their parents and their community.  In reality, every parent wants his children to have good jobs, to be successful and to contribute to the society in which they live.  Every parent is horrified when any of their children engage in antisocial or criminal behaviour.  We have reluctantly acknowledged that crime and unemployment are symbiotic.  In fact, crime is symptomatic of high unemployment, we can do the maths and check the ratios.  The complex formula of marginalization, unemployment and comparative poverty will create a rate of criminality despite the best efforts of parents and community elders.


Every parent also wants his/her children to appreciate their original culture, because they know that this will help enrich their children’s understanding, outlook, tolerance for others and very importantly, opportunities that will eventually, not only benefit their child, but also benefit and enrich the society in which they live.  By choosing to live in an adopted culture, these minorities are clearly acknowledging that life in that culture is more suitable for them than living in their original culture.  It is not wrong to have a love in one’s heart for several different cultures.  It is not wrong to fondly reminisce on the good times they had before they were compelled by “circumstances” to migrate or seek asylum.

It is also not wrong to insist on retaining one’s dignity, even if you are part of a minority.  We should not be so insecure that we feel threatened when someone makes a positive remark about their original culture.

Any proper objective observation on those “multicultural” individuals in our multicultural society will reveal the enriching value of being able to travel across cultural mores without being threatened by “difference”.  We even see it in ourselves, especially when we travel and try to absorb some “fun” aspects of the cultures we visit.  George Negus captured this rather well in his best-selling “The World From Islam”.

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About the Author

Keysar Trad is the spokesperson for the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia Inc. which he founded.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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