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December 31, 2005

Troubles downunder (or Upover if you prefer!)

I have often wondered if it is the heat that sets off certain bouts of public disturbance in communities. I noticed many years ago when I served in Southern Africa, that we always got real riots in the really hot weather, winter seemed to be to cool and wet - or at least tempers didn't get as heated. This often seems to be a feature here in the UK as well - riots tend to be more likely in heat than at this time of year when it is generally cold, wet and miserable.

Talking to Ozguru the other day I learned that they have been having quite a heatwave - around the Sydney area temperatures above 40* C for the most part. And, as many of you will be aware there have been some "troubles" in some parts, apparently sparked by "racial" tensions according to the news reports. Interestingly very few of the reports outside of Sydney actually mention what sparked them - a large group of young immigrant Muslim males who descended on the surfer beaches and harrassed the bikini clad women who frequent them. The surfers males responded by "teaching them to mind their manners" and things escalated from there.

Now I don't know about you, but if something offends me about someone else's culture - and there is a lot about several I have encountered that does - I recognise that I cannot change it - and avoid contact with it. In short, if I find the sight of young, shapely women in bikinis on a beach distasteful, I should avoid going to the beach! Thankfully, I do not suffer from such an exquisite sense of religious rectitude! I just wish I lived where I could enjoy the sights and the view!

It seems to me that the authorities in Australia now face a rather tricky problem. Do they surrender to the sensitivities of the Muslim minority immigrant population and ban the wearing of bihkinis on the beach? Do they perhaps ban mixed bathing and have "women only" beaches? Or do they do what anyone of any sense would do - call in the Mullahs and tell them bluntly, this is our country and our culture - if you want to live here, learn to live with it - or go back to whare you came from?

To complicate matters even further, there is a strong likelihood that many of the young men involved are born and raised in Australia and not in whatever part of the world their parents originated. Thus Australia is their country and their home. They too have a choice, live by the mores of their religion and accept the culture of their country is not in accordance with those mores, or go somewhere where they can live the mores and "enjoy" the sort of society and culture that goes with them - somewhere else. This is really the problem which lies at the very heart of the laudable attempts everywhere to embrace cultural diversity and to allow "multi-culturalism" to take the place of mono-cultural societies. The problem is that there will always be conflicts between them and a tendency driven by the purists on all sides, to retreat into ghettos of their own creation, to shut out the parts of the society they dislike, by building walls and fences instead of trying to find ways around the problems.

It would seem to me that the Australian "Beach Wars" could simply be a forerunner of a bigger struggle ahead in every country where "multi-culturalists" have tried to paper over the problems. Let's hope the Aussies find a solution which the rest of us can copy!

Posted by The Gray Monk at December 31, 2005 04:48 PM

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