Friday, October 30, 2009

On the Trail of our True Believers.

RE: The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia.
(Ed. James Jupp. Cambridge University Press.)

[The immigration debate in Australia is hotting up. Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of The Australian published an article (29/10) "Uncontrolled Muslim influx a threat". The article is important, but the headline is alarmist and sounds racist.
James Jupp is much more specific about from where the immigrants originate being more important than their religion per se. It is true that devout Muslims will pursue their way of life wherever they are,- but like the Jewish religion and devout Jews, they will be accommodated within Australia's multicultural society, while the more secular Muslims will have and be no trouble at all. However, James Jupp does point out that there is a violent thread within the Islamic religion with which people from some parts of the Islamic world may identify. They are already in the UK and parts of Europe,where they are becoming far too strong and militant, having originated in some fundamentalist regions. They are a threat to the Judeo/Christian Western nations' way of life and to our democracies.
For intending immigrants from all parts of the world,legals, illegals, even visitors in case they decide to stay,- if they would be given an information booklet on the Australian laws regarding human rights, freedom of expression, status of women and family law,- then made to read and sign that they understand them,- perhaps many who prefer Sharia laws, would reconsider Australia as their chosen destination!
It was Lybia's President Ghaddafi who is reported to have said:'we don't have to fight in Europe. In a few decades they will be overtaken naturally by Islam.']


Jill Rowbotham |

October 28, 2009

Article from: The Australian. Higher Education.

JAMES Jupp survived the Blitz as a child living in south London. He remembers the fear and the danger, although his family emerged unscathed from their preferred refuge under the bed, and his father, an officer in the merchant navy, also made it through the war.

Perhaps that early shave with a world imperilled by war set the tone for the blunt realism of the editor of Cambridge University Press's The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia. So, when asked if concern about the potential for militant Islam in Australia is justified, he doesn't fudge or baulk.

"In my view Islam is an aggressive religion. When people say it is a religion of peace, I have serious doubts. Islam was spread in its original period, for two or 300 years, very largely by military conquest."

But, he adds, fears about militant Islam in Australia are out of proportion. There are only about 380,000 Muslims and the most are law-abiding peace lovers. Even so, he says, there is more risk in accepting some migrants as opposed to others. It is not just their country of birth that matters but their region of origin.

"Islamic fundamentalism varies a lot around the world and some countries like the UK drew a problematic lot, the Pakistanis from the rural areas. The core of the problem in Australia is among those who came from the Lebanon, which is a very disturbed society because of the civil war based on religious adherence, but it depends where the migrants come from in Lebanon and their background.

"As long as you have a religion that contains a violent element, that can be used and developed, but it is much more likely to be so among people who come from countries like Somalia because of its war-torn history."

Jupp, an adjunct professor in the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute at the Australian National University and director of the Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies there, is a political scientist who has studied his adopted country and its immigrant populations in depth. At 77, he is quietly chuffed at bringing off the great feat of research, co-ordination, commissioning, editing and extensive writing the 700-page book required.

Jupp trained at the London School of Economics in the 1950s, and has taught at the universities of Melbourne, York, Waterloo (Canada) and Canberra. His scholarship in and service to immigration and multicultural studies was recognised with an Order of Australia in 2004.

He tackled the research for his latest project aided by a three-year Australian Research Council grant. The brief was to pursue the cultural, social, political, educational and welfare services dimensions of religion in Australia. The book roams widely, covering about 100 faiths and denominations, from mainstream Christianity to the Mandaeans and the Russian Old Believers.

"I think the majority of the articles have been written by members of or supporters of that particular religion and I'm the exception to that because I have written about a number of religions, some of which I regard as completely bizarre."

He has contributed many chapters, including those on religion, immigration and refugees, and fundamentalism in modern society. "It's not concerned with theology because that's the area I did not wish to get involved in.

"I am not a person of faith," he declares, but denies he is an atheist and won't wear the term agnostic. Educated at a Church of England school, he shrugged off Anglicanism when he discovered socialism in his teens. Pressed to name other allegiances, he offers: "I am a life member of the ALP in the ACT."

But Jupp is critical of academic neglect of religion, as opposed to theology, in Australia. "Obviously there is a big overlap between politics and religion. The idea that they are two separate spheres is mistaken and increasingly so in many ways. Very few political scientists have looked at religion except in terms of the Labor Party split. I think one reason I got the grant from the ARC is that hardly anyone puts in for that section."

Exponents and scholars of multiculturalism have also failed to recognise religion's relevance. "One of the things multiculturalism has overlooked in this country and many others is that it is not folk dancing and ethnic food only. Religion is an extremely important element that will outlast some of those other manifestations. In an immigrant culture it helps to maintain ethnic variety."

Virtually all religions in Australia were founded somewhere else except for the indigenous ones, he says, but generally, these days, Australians wear their religion lightly. "I think one of the things, not unique but fairly noticeable, is that it is not a deeply religious society. There is a substantial degree of scepticism and even indifference, but everyone, at some point in their life, has had contact with religion."

Part of the reason for that is the general affluence of the society makes an interest in an afterlife less intense.

"People think in terms of satisfying their material wants, which they can in Australia. The ones who are mostly dissatisfied are the youth, who are dissatisfied anyway because they don't know who they are or where they are going. Then they settle down."

His general view of religion's influence is cautiously favourable. "If you go through the whole book the general message is that religion in Australia is fairly benign. Most of the things the religions do here are socially desirable and relatively benign." But their social power, what he calls their "institutional force", particularly of the mainstream Catholic and Protestant denominations, is largely gone: "The dark ages ended in 1960s and 70s, that was the last stuttering of repressive religions in Australia." Most people feel free to believe or not, to practise a faith or not. And there is a rise in ecumenism he thinks will make the book useful in a practical as well as an historical way.

Before this encyclopedia, Jupp's most recent book was the edited collection Social Cohesion in Australia. "Australia is probably the most socially cohesive community in the world," he says. "Most of the discussion in Australia about social cohesion centres (on) Muslims, who are about 1.5 per cent of the population and most of them are practically hiding under the bed. They're the ones who have to apologise for their existence. The whole thing has been distorted.

"Most of the Muslims I know are university-educated and a lot of women come to conferences we have and are active participants in the discussions. Headscarves are common but it's very rare to see burkas."

So his unease about Australian society centres on other issues. Organised crime and drugs are a threat, including bikie gangs. Then there is what he calls "the youth problem", gangs that congregate at night, violent and very drunk.

"I'm not just saying this because I'm old," he adds. "The social tensions among the less educated, less skilled, working-class young in the outer suburbs, there is probably more threat from them than from the Muslims."

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