Issam Jameel — It is one of the noticeable issues in Australia that Muslims are becoming an isolated culture, immune to change. It won’t be so wrong to say that most of them refuse to merge in the western culture and build a huge fence around them, aiming to protect them from social influences.
The way of buying ‘halal’ (which is ‘kosher’, in Muslim terms) meat can be included as an example that shows the individuality of Islamic culture – resistance to change and tending to glue to places and practices that can be justified via religion. In Auburn, Bankstown, and many other suburbs, crowded with Muslims, where the aspects of Muslims culture are dominant, not only the butchers shops but customs, costumes, Islamic schools, shop signs, and restaurants – all referring to different styles of life – cannot be found in other cities. Most migrants from Muslims background protect themselves against emerging into the new life in Australia by living in these cities.
The Australian government does its best to provide many programs for new migrants aiming to break the barriers between new migrants’ cultural values and Australian values. One of these programs, for instance, the free English course for new migrants, a compulsory course, contains some information about the history and values of Australia; and it became one of the essential requirements to get the country’s citizenship. However, these barriers still stand high because of the conflicts between the Islamic values and Australians’ secular values.
Couple years ago, one of the Australian TV channels showed a legal dispute between one of the industrial companies and a worker from Muslim background. The worker, who got fired from his job for spending a long time in praying, claimed that he was making use of the same time as given to his fellow workers, while they got a short break for smoking cigarettes, objecting that he got fired because of his religion. Another case was very popular few years ago when a Muslim taxi driver refused to transport a passenger accompanied by a dog. The taxi driver stated that the dog was a filthy animal in the sharia (Islamic law). This act was a subject of censure and condemnation in the Australian society as it bears great love for this animal. Such stories would tend to increase the social gap between Muslims and others and prevent them from merging in the society.
Three years ago, this scribe visited a real estate in Auburn, where the majority of migrants are Turkish Muslims, and had a short conversation with the real estate’s owner, who was asked, “Are you Australian?” and the question meant whether he had got the Australian citizenship or not. But surprisingly, he answered, “No, I am a Muslim.” When he was told that the question wasn’t what his religion was, he repeated what he had said before.
This attitude holds a tendency to rebel against Australian values and one of these values is the governmental tax system. One can say that many if not most Muslims there do not consider paying tax in a legal way; so that they prefer to deal with cash money instead of using bank cards. However, this cannot be generalized as applicable to all Muslims as some of them succeeded in merging in the new life in Australia and accept the values of the new society.
About the Author
Born in Iraq, Issam Jameel worked for Iraqi army’s newspaper Al-Qadesia while studying art and gradually achieving the status of a dependable theatrical critic. Earning a degree in theatrical studies in Baghdad, he later moved to Jordan and became a Christian. Now residing in Australia, Jameel has authored a book Iraq Through A Bullet Hole: A Civilian Wikileaks about his visit to post-war Iraq. Besides his regular job, he takes time for creative writing and reading.