Here’s how you raise a generation of Islamophobes: take a million kids who go to church once a year and make them endure ‘Hijab Appreciation Day’ in June, ‘Halal Awareness Day’ in July, ‘The Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) Day’ in August, and so on for thirteen months every year. I guarantee that’ll piss them off. It’s true what they say: children aren’t born with hate in their hearts – they learn it. And you know what children hate more than anything? Educational holidays they don’t get off from school. Say to a classroom, ‘Today we’re going to learn why Fatima wears a scarf on her head and packs her own lunch when the cafeteria serves ham sandwiches,’ and guess who’s getting teased at recess.
It’s shocking that the Left can’t quite get this into their heads. People in 21st century Australia don’t care about religion. I wish they did, and maybe you do, too. But they don’t. They might vaguely remember their confirmation, or being dragged to grandma’s house for Passover every year until she kicked the proverbial laver. They might even consider themselves ‘lapsed Catholics’ or ‘cultural Jews’. But they can’t bring themselves to take an active interest in their own religion. Why, then, do we expect them to get so excited about someone else’s? If they barely think of themselves as Catholics or Jews, why would they care if that kid Emir whose dad drives a sweet Jag is a Muslim? You have to go out of your way to find a Catholic that only eats fish on Fridays, and even most observant Jews don’t take the prohibition on pork products seriously. Why should they care about the dietary laws that little Isma’il may or may not observe?
This, I think, is the real cause of most Islamophobia: people never shut up about Muslims. Schools, politicians, the media, HR departments – they just go on and on about them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. (There are more Buddhists in Australia than there are Muslims, and yet when was the last time the PMO put out a tweet wishing us a happy Bodhi Day?) So it seems that, because of Muslims, we have to talk constantly about subjects we haven’t the slightest interest in. You know how annoying it is when you go to the train station and there’s a Jehovah’s Witness asking people if they have a moment to talk about Jesus Christ? That’s what we’re enduring on a societal scale – except instead of Jesus Christ it’s Mohammed, and instead of the train station it’s on TV, in restaurants, at the office, and basically everywhere else. Why are we surprised that the same genre of nuisance associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but on a scale about a thousand times larger, makes Muslims the target of so much animosity?
What Muslims need isn’t to be more visible. It isn’t to make people more ‘aware’ of their beliefs, customs, and practices It’s to make them as inconspicuous as possible. The reason Jewish refugees integrated so well into their new homes after being driven out of Europe by the Nazis is because no one gave two hoots about them. Sure, the average Anglo-Australian probably felt bad about their having to endure persecution, but he wasn’t absolutely thrilled about putting them up. Jews, like the Irish and the Italians, weren’t given special treatment. They kept their heads down and tried to keep out of everyone else’s way… just like the rest of us. And you know what? In less than a single generation, they were almost fully integrated into Australian society. Muslims, however, will never be seen as ordinary Australians because we’re constantly reminded of how extraordinary they are, needing extraordinary sensitivity so as not to bruise their extraordinarily thin skin.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think Muslims themselves really like being the recipients of so much condescension. Ask the average Religion of Peacer what Australia could do to help them fit in and almost all will say, ‘Treat us like ordinary human beings.’ Surely they can’t appreciate the sustained campaign to prove that they’re not all terrorists. I mean, what could be more suspicious? We’re all familiar with the the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s near-daily profiles of ‘moderate Muslims’. Fairfax spends endless time and resources highlighting Muslims who aren’t, at just this moment, trying to blow up buses and install a caliphate. In any other circumstances, that would strike us as a particularly inept act of diversion. Imagine if the American media published as many profiles of Floridian newborns that aren’t afflicted with horrible deformities as a result of infection with Zika. ‘In other news, Caleb Miller was born in St. Augustine today with a normally-shaped head, proving that the Sunshine State isn’t a disease-ridden hellhole.’ I’m no public health specialist, but I’m guessing that if you have to say you’re not a disease-ridden hellhole, chances are you’re a disease-ridden hellhole.
Again, I don’t think extremists constitute more than a negligible minority of Western Muslims. (Florida, on the other hand…) But I’m secure enough in that belief to not feel any need to pin a medal on the chest of every Taj, Daud and Hadi that doesn’t run off and join the Islamic State. I have enough regard for Islam to treat its adherents the way I treat Christians and Jews and Hindus and atheists: with polite indifference, unless given a damned good reason to do otherwise. That’s all any minority has ever asked for, and frankly it’s all they should ever expect.
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