Camden fears Muslims; Welcomes Catholics

I don't believe I blogged on the original flap, because my sensibilities were not offended. Camden Council, south of Sydney, rejected a planning application for an islamic school after community outcry. Fair enough, thought I. I'm not prepared to judge the motivations of the community, but the outcome is one less modern madrassah, great.

Turns out I wasn't entirely smart in that assesment.

Camden is now fully behind a broadly similar application for a catholic school.

OK, I'm almost certain to put at least one foot wrong here somewhere and get shouted down, however I think I ought to voice my thoughts, and they, at present, are as follows:

No islamic school == good. This is not racism, as the Quranic Society claims. Islam is not a racial trait, it is a religion. It is also unsurprising demographically, as Camden is far from majority muslim, and a huge number of students would be travelling from out of town.

Catholic School == bad, though given the strong foothold the catholics seem to have in Aussie education, it is unsurprising that this is seen as more acceptable by the Camden comunity, which is majority white Australian with a significant catholic component.

The situation is also somewhat different in this application. There is already a catholic Special Needs school in Camden, and the new development would be adjacent to this, on land already zoned for a school.

Still, we have a brewing religious skirmish shaping up in Camden:

"Before the vote, protesters placed pigs' heads on stakes and draped an Australian flag between them on the proposed school site."

"The ones that come here oppress our society, they take our welfare and they don't want to accept our way of life,"  Kate McCulloch, local resident

A spokesman for the Quranic Society, Issam Obeid, said: "Everyone can see there is a double standard … No one knows anything about the Catholic school and they say, 'Yeah, give it a tick already.' I think racism is affecting this."

There's something important to note, and that is this: There is bigotry here, and there is racism here. However, they are not one and the same. While racism equals bigotry, bigotry does not automatically equal racism. Racism is a subset of bigotry, and I'm sorry, religious divides do not travel exactly along racial divides. A catholic family from an arabic background would be accepted in the catholic school, and a muslim family from an anglo-european background would be accepted at the islamic school. Both schools say they would accept students from backgrounds other than their stated religious allegiances*.

However the vocal part of the Camden community seem to come up a little short of such nuance. Ah well, this is to be expected.

Here's my thought: Knock down both development applications and build a secular school, to which the children of catholics and the children of muslims would be welcome. There they could blend with peers from backgrounds of mixed religion and non-religion, and fight about it in small schoolyard battles, rather than have their parents and social seniors battle it out in the courts.

Anyway, I feel my thoughts on this matter aren't fully formed, so feel free to 'correct' me in the comments

* On this factor: WHY in the world would someone not from an islamic/catholic background send their kids to be educated in a religious school? I've been unable to understand this, and I have to conclude it's either our old friend "cultural respect" or it's the vague nagging thought in the hindbrain of many people that religion is a good thing in general. I'll perhaps save this for a later post.

posted @ Wednesday, September 10, 2008 11:05 AM


Comments on this entry:

# re: Camden fears Muslims; Welcomes Catholics

Left by Rachel at 9/10/2008 8:00 PM
"Here's my thought: Knock down both development applications and build a secular school, to which the children of catholics and the children of muslims would be welcome."

Couldn't have put it better myself :) I actually do not know of any private AND secular schools in Sydney. Do they exist? I know several families who are non religious, even atheist, that send their kids to christian schools. They are under this impression that private schools provide a higher standard of education.

# re: Camden fears Muslims; Welcomes Catholics

Left by Iftikhar at 9/11/2008 11:35 PM

Muslim youths are angry, frustrated and extremist because they have been mis-educated and de-educated by the British schooling. Muslim children are confused because they are being educated in a wrong place at a wrong time in state schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers. They face lots of problems of growing up in two distinctive cultural traditions and value systems, which may come into conflict over issues such as the role of women in the society, and adherence to religious and cultural traditions. The conflicting demands made by home and schools on behaviour, loyalties and obligations can be a source of psychological conflict and tension in Muslim youngsters. There are also the issues of racial prejudice and discrimination to deal with, in education and employment. They have been victim of racism and bullying in all walks of life. According to DCSF, 56% of Pakistanis and 54% of Bangladeshi children has been victims of bullies. The first wave of Muslim migrants were happy to send their children to state schools, thinking their children would get a much better education. Than little by little, the overt and covert discrimination in the system turned them off. There are fifteen areas where Muslim parents find themselves offended by state schools.

The right to education in one’s own comfort zone is a fundamental and inalienable human right that should be available to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background. Schools do not belong to state, they belong to parents. It is the parents’ choice to have faith schools for their children. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim teacher or a child in a Muslim school. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools. An ICM Poll of British Muslims showed that nearly half wanted their children to attend Muslim schools. There are only 143 Muslim schools. A state funded Muslim school in Birmingham has 220 pupils and more than 1000 applicants chasing just 60.

Majority of anti-Muslim stories are not about terrorism but about Muslim
culture--the hijab, Muslim schools, family life and religiosity. Muslims in the west ought to be recognised as a western community, not as an alien culture.
Iftikhar Ahmad

# re: Camden fears Muslims; Welcomes Catholics

Left by Jason at 9/12/2008 12:52 PM
re: Iftikhar

Why do I get the feeling you've just done a copy/paste into my comments area?

Oh wait! that's exactly what you've done!

Here's the deal. You've done a drive-by copy & paste on this blog without referene to the actual story, and I reserve the right to call you a fuckwit for it


One thing:

"Schools do not belong to state, they belong to parents.. It is the parents’ choice to have faith schools for their children."

So the parents should pay for it. If the goverment pays for it, it belongs to the people. NOT to the parents alone.

I'm still a UK Citizen, and I strongly object to government funding for so-called "faith schools".

Religious organisations should emphatically NOT receive state funding. I'm very clear and unequivocal about this. So fuck you.

Thank you for your time

# Racism ≠ Bigotry, but do bigots know that

Left by zayzayem at 9/22/2008 12:03 AM
While I agree that anti-Islam is not really racism, I think the Qu'ranic society is quite fair to place any alleged discrimination as being racist, as well as generic bigotry.

A lot media bytes I saw regarding Camden definitely showed that keeping Camden anglo-white (or foreigner-free) was a very strong consideration in the minds of "concerned residents", and sometimes probably more strongly than anti-religious motivations.

# why?

Left by zayzayem at 9/22/2008 12:18 AM
:WHY in the world would someone not from an islamic/catholic background send their kids to be educated in a religious school?

Plenty of reasons.
I myself come from a Christian background. But despite my mother being moderate/progressive protestant I was sent in succession to secular, 7th Day adventist (definitely not progressive), and then Catholic (suprisingly progressive outside of sex-ed) schooling.

Obvious motivators are cultural respect and assumed moral fibre, whether they are actually based on any truth is definitely debatable.

But probably the most obvious is that religious schools are private, they are expected to have higher standards of education and/or better facilities than random state school down the road.

Many also run generous scholarship programs, thanks to religions generally seeing charity as a virtue. Many religious schools do not discriminate against other faiths (or non-faiths) joining in (maybe they are nice, maybe they see conversion targets, maybe they need the enrolment fees). There were Jews and Hindus at my catholic school (and myriad of non-Catholic Christians).

Prominent example: there's a certain Christian American presidential candidate who went to Islam-affiliated school in Indonesia. Motivating factor was to give there child exposure to other creeds and cultures. Nothing wrong with that.

I definitely agree with you that more secular private schools would be much preferred and a little more reassuring that actual educating is going on.
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