The Douglas Murray and Cornel West Melbourne debate was marketed by Think Inc. as a Homeric struggle between incongruous ideologies, however, the two public intellectuals spent a great portion of the night in agreement with each other. While it was a refreshing change to see civil discourse between two polarised figures, it didn’t always make for the greatest spectacle at the Melbourne Town Hall.
For much of the discussion, the pair toed lines that occasionally converged, but never really intersected. Their respective routines were grounded too much on disparate issues – Murray on the disintegration of European identity and West on racial and economic inequality in America. Nevertheless, it was still a great pleasure to see both men in person, particularly as it was Murray’s first appearance in Melbourne.
Anyone in attendance who had read Murray’s bestselling The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam would have been familiar with the themes he discussed. His book contended that “Europe is committing suicide” through the combination of mass immigration and a pervasive cultural malaise, which has blinded Europeans to the continent’s core democratic principles. Murray paints a picture of a Europe that is unwilling to deal with a clash of very different cultures, and the changes this has precipitated, in the wake of millions of illegal arrivals into the continent via the Mediterranean.
Australia has not been forced to deal with similar problems resulting from immigration. For example, while a recent poll revealed 52 per cent of British Muslims thought homosexuality should be illegal and a quarter sympathised with those responsible for the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Australia seems to have fared better in integrating Muslims into our secular society. There is no tangible evidence of recurrent honour killings, high rates of female genital mutilation or child-grooming gangs, such as in Rotherham and Telford, seen in the UK over the past 15 years. This is nothing to say of the many examples of radicalisation in London, Paris, Brussels and other European capitals.
However, one issue that has been put into the spotlight closer to home is violence committed by Sudanese-Australians in Melbourne. While some leaders of the involved communities have publicly condemned media coverage of recent incidents, it can’t be denied that the community is over-represented in crime statistics.
Despite making up 0.16 per cent of the state’s population, Sudanese-born Victorians represented 1.07 per cent of criminal offenders in the year to April 2018, according to Victoria Police, putting this group as the sixth-largest cohort of offenders when classified by ethnicity. This results in an offender rate of 6.71-times higher than their population, in comparison with 1.19 from Lebanon-born Victorians or 1.16-times from Australian-born Victorians. Figures released by Victorian Crime Statistics Agency in July revealed Sudanese and South-Sudanese born Victorians are 57-times more likely to be charged with aggravated robbery than Australian-born Victorians.
As Murray pointed out last week, it is becoming harder to criticise minorities for any transgressions, lest you want to be painted as a vile racist. He emphasised the importance of confronting immigration integration honestly and constructively to find a way to alleviate any problems.
One extreme example of subverting conversation of this sort was described in The Strange Death of Europe. In 2016, a 24-year-old German woman was raped by three recent arrival migrants in Mannheim. She proceeded to lie about the ethnicity of those rapists to police, telling them they were white Germans, to protect these predators from punishment. She later corrected her story but insisted on apologising to her own attackers in an open letter.
“I will not stand by idly and watch as racists and concerned citizens call you a problem,” she wrote.
“You are not the problem. You are not the problem at all.
“You are most often a wonderful human being, who deserves to be free and safe like everyone else.”
Equally, sentiments such as those expressed in Fraser Anning’s “final solution” speech should also be repudiated for the racist rhetoric they represent. In what has become a verbal minefield, it is important to distinguish between genuine concern about cultural integration and garden-variety bigotry.
We must be open to other cultures, but equally, we must condemn facets of those cultures that are diametrically opposed to our own liberal democracy. Furthermore, stating that it may not always be easy to integrate vastly different ethnicities into our society and that some people immigrating from war-torn countries may have different values to Australians, shouldn’t be a radical suggestion.
While an argument can be made that some media coverage of Sudanese crime in Victoria has been overwrought or sensationalised, one wonders if the complaints would still come thick and fast no matter what the tone of the reports. We see hand-wringing over the use of the term “gangs” and other useless wordplay to circumvent any material discussion of why young men from this background are 57-times more likely to be charged with aggravated robbery. Surely this energy could have been much better spent by acknowledging there is a problem and to try to come up with tangible solutions going forward.
Stefan Boscia is a freelance writer and former journalist for The Examiner in Launceston. Find him on Twitter at @Stefan_Boscia
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