I’ve struggled with calling Kevin Donnelly racist, versus what he wrote being racist – but given the repeated racism in his article at the ABC, I can only say that he is racist based on his beliefs. I also thought about whether or not I should even give Donnelly airtime, but then decided that calling out his racist arsehattedness (yes, that is a word) was important – even though the commenters on the ABC piece did a great job of doing that anyway. Michael Stuchbery‘s response piece is also fantastic, and had it not been for his response, I wouldn’t have seen the original article.
The article penned by Kevin Donnelly was first written in July 2010, and what we’re reading is a revised version – so clearly he stands by his racist comments and sees nothing wrong with them…. Unlike me.
So yes, let’s pick this article apart and dissect the racism, Islamaphobia, xenophobia and the like. Let’s just start with the title of the piece, which really gives you the flavour of the rest of the article:
All cultures and religions are not created equal
Yes, the article is really called that. Apparently you can now grade culture and religion into desirable and less desirable groups – who would have thought.
When it comes to religion in state schools, it’s clear that the Australian Education Union is violently opposed and that the union sees no place for groups like the Christian based Access Ministries.
Following last week’s controversy, where it appeared that the CEO of Access Ministries, Evonne Paddison, advocated using the opportunity given by the Chaplains in Schools program to convert children to Christianity, the AEU has reaffirmed its belief that public education must be “free and secular”.
Well yes, given that the Chaplains in Schools program is specifically forbidden to convert children or proselytise, and they’ve said they’re going to do that anyway, they should be removed from schools. The Australian Education Union is also not “violently” anything. It’s a union, not a bunch of thugs, when was the last time you saw a group of teachers be violent anyway? Here is the first use of emotive language, in a blatant attempt to get you onside. The Australian Education Union is rightly opposed to religious chaplains in schools, and clearly believes that education should be offered without regard to any religion – which I think is a fair ideal. It’s only when a super privileged group, like fundamentalist Christians, are being denied something they feel they deserve that they start feeling threatened and have to make themselves look big.
If all Australians were Christian, then perhaps a Christian Chaplains in Schools program wouldn’t be a problem – but funnily enough Australia is a diverse nation with people of different backgrounds and beliefs. Then there is the tricky argument about which version of Christianity should be offered.
The union also argues that such an education “should never be open to sectarian interests of any sort, religious or otherwise”.
Given the teacher union’s argument that there is no place for religion in state schools one wonders why the union has not also made public its opposition to the nationally orchestrated campaign to teach students about Islam by ensuring that subjects like history, science and English are taught from a Muslim perspective.
NATIONALLY ORCHESTRATED!!! OMG!!!ELEVENTY!!! The Muslims are taking over the schools!
Now I’d like some proof from Kevin Donnelly about this “nationally orchestrated campaign to teach students about Islam”. Seriously, what campaign, who issued it, is it compulsory, what are the educational materials, how will this indoctrinate children into believing in Allah?
And what is wrong with learning subjects from a different perspective? And how exactly would you teach English from a Muslim perspective anyway? What is Kevin Donnelly on?
The campaign to teach about Islam has been on-going for the last couple of years and involves professional development workshops (free to teachers) and curriculum materials like the booklet Learning From One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools, sponsored by the Australian Curriculum Studies Association and The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies.
My questions still stand. Professional development workshops are great things, and if you are learning about other cultures and religions than the societal norm, then that’s beneficial. It would also be likely to help those teachers who teach children who are Muslim – you know, the ones you don’t seem the care about, or rate highly.
I went and looked into the “Learning From One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools” booklet. Could Kevin Donnelly scaremonger any more? Four hundred teachers have participated (as at September 2010). That’s not very many, given there are approximately 220,000 teachers in Australia (ABS).
What is Learning from One Another about?
Learning from One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools is a professional learning workshop with an accompanying resource aimed at enhancing teachers’ cultural awareness of Muslim students, their communities, and the wider Muslim world. The workshop is open to educators from all independent, Catholic and government schools in Australia. In 2009, the pilot version of the initiative was called Education with Muslims.
What does the workshop aim to do?
The workshop aims to:
- provide avenues to introduce Islam and Muslim content in the classroom
- equip educators with the skills to meet the needs and expectations of Muslim students and their parents in education
- facilitate a whole-school approach to supporting healthy relationships and engagement with Muslim students, parents and communities
- offer a greater awareness of the diversity of Islam and Muslims, nationally and globally
- develop an appreciation of Muslim history and cultures in Australia
So yes.. hardly a plot to Islamify the Australian education system.
Citing the Julia Gillard-inspired national curriculum directive that subjects must be taught from an Asian perspective and the, supposedly, negative stereotypes presented in the media, the booklet argues that there is a “degree of prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims” and Australian students must be taught to embrace difference and diversity.
The booklet’s authors also bemoan the fact, strangely enough, that “most texts used in Australian English classes still have a Western or European perspective” and argue that providing “students with a Euro-centric version of history denies them the opportunity to evaluate different perspectives on past world events”.
I’m sorry I fail to see anything wrong with the issues Kevin Donnelly identified in the first paragraph. The world is bigger than “the West” and teaching students about the region that they are located in globally is going to be incredibly beneficial when those students enter the workforce and have a stronger understanding than I did of the ASEAN region.
And yes Kevin Donnelly, there is a degree of prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims, it leads to Islamphobia, and has caused many regular every day people great harm. If there wasn’t prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims, you wouldn’t be writing this piece because you wouldn’t feel threatened by their existence.
I’m also failing to see any issues with the second paragraph either. Europe is not the centre of the world. The history I learnt about in school (oddly enough I was recounting this just a couple of days ago), was incredibly Eurocentric and any other world history that I learnt was gathered from TV and self education. I know very little about the great civilisations outside Europe – and there were many. My lack of learning about cultures and history other than my own has limited me. Why would I want to limit a child who is entering school now? What problems are there with learning more about the world that they inhabit and learning about other people, places and stories?
Ignored is that some 64 per cent of Australians describe themselves as Christian, while those committed to Islam only make up 1.7 per cent of the population. Also ignored is that while Australia is a multicultural society, our political and legal institutions and much of our culture is Western in origin and steeped in the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral framework.
*snort* I’ve blogged on the whole, “How many people are really Christian” thing before.
So although approximately 64% of of Australians declared themselves as Christians only somewhere over 2 million of them, or 15% of Australian Christians actively participate in their places of worship. (my blog – link above)
“…much of our culture…” (emphasis mine), because it’s not THEIR culture… it’s “ours” and they can’t have any. Sure, Australia is a Western nation, but does that mean that Australia should only limit itself to knowledge of Western things, or should we branch out and be good global citizens, sharing information and knowledge?
And really, Kevin Donnelly needs to get out and get a bit more education, and/or read his Bible some more. Judeo-Christian heritage and moral framework? Seriously? Clearly he hasn’t read about the stoning, and the raping, and the pillaging, and the burning, and the slavery, and the wearing of two fibres, and the rest. If he knew a bit more about the rest of the world, he’d know that most Western moral and ethical outlooks stem from the ancient Greeks – who weren’t Christian at the time.
While it is understandable that the booklet presents Islam in a positive way and seeks to downplay the significance of a Western, Euro-centric view of the world, the danger is that students are given a misleading and one-sided interpretation.
Well that might be true if it were… but it isn’t. If only 400 of the 220,000 teachers have participated in the professional development opportunity, then students are unlikely to be given any view – and who said that the view presented in the booklet was actually misleading and one-sided apart from Kevin Donnelly? How is it misleading and one-sided? Wouldn’t world history actually cover… the world – including Europe?
Given that secular critics condemn Christian schools for teaching a Biblical version of creation, one wonders what they make of the fact that the Muslim booklet also stresses a faith-based approach, when it states, “The Muslim philosophy of science is based on the idea that God is the creator of everything… Science in this case is driven and inspired by divine revelation, not simply questioning or investigating everything”.
While describing the early growth of Islam and its spread throughout the Mediterranean and parts of Europe, the booklet states, “many of peoples of the newly conquered regions converted to Islam. Those who did not were allowed to live peacefully and practice their faith as long as they abided by the law of the land”.
The booklet states what the Muslims belief is for the creation of the world… why is this surprising or an issue? Surely when explaining the beliefs of any religious system you’d include their creation story (if they had one). If you were describing the faith of those who believe in the Great Green Arkleseizure, you’d include how they believed that the world/universe was created. I’d expect any discussion of world religions to include creation myths, and therefore would cover the Biblical version of creation too.
We could try the second paragraph with Christianity swapped in for Islam:
While describing the early growth of Christianity and its spread throughout the Mediterranean, and parts of Europe, the booklet states, “many peoples of the newly conquered regions converted to Christianity. Those who did not were allowed to live peacefully and practice their faith as long as they abided by the law of the land.
How is this a problem?
Ignored is what some see as the inherently violent nature of the Koran, where devout Muslims are called on to carry out Jihad and to convert non-believers, and the destructive nature of what is termed dhimmis – where non-believers are forced to accept punitive taxation laws.
Oh I see, because non-Muslims were treated differently.
A dhimmi (Arabic: ذمي [ˈðɪmːiː]), (collectively أهل الذمة ahl al-dhimmah, “the people of the dhimma or people of the contract”) is a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with sharia law. Linguistically, the word means “one whose responsibility has been taken”. This has to be understood in the context of the definition of state in Islam, which is different from the current definition of citizenship of a state. The dhimma is a theoretical contract based on a widely held Islamic doctrine granting special status to adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and certain other non-Muslim religions (“People of the Book”). Dhimma provides rights of residence in return for taxes. Dhimmi have fewer legal and social rights than Muslims, but more rights than other non-Muslims. They are excused from specifically Muslim duties, and otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract and obligation. (Wikipedia)
Let’s not forget the inherently violent nature of the Bible (well Kevin Donnelly seems to have), with rules as to how slaves were to be treated, where tribes and other civilisations were wiped out, rules about rape of women, rules about killing children disrespecting parents and being killed… there is LOTS of killing in the bible. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” clearly has many, many exception clauses.
How many people have been forcibly converted to Christianity? How many indigenous inhabitants of Australia? How many native South Americans? How many tribes in Africa? How many have been converted, and does Kevin Donnelly seriously believe that the conversion was not at the point of a sword? Don’t go pointing out issues in other religions when your own is equally guilty.
Multiculturalism is based on the mistaken belief that all cultures are of equal worth and that it is unfair to discriminate and argue that some practices are wrong. The Muslim booklet adopts a multicultural approach, arguing that Australians must accept diversity and difference and that Muslims and Christians accept the same values and beliefs.
In relation to God, the booklet argues, “Muslims believe that they worship the same God that was worshipped by Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The God of the Muslims is the God of all, including Jews and Christians”.
The first paragraph here is the most revoltingly racist piece of writing I’ve had the misfortune to see published for a while (because the world is sadly full of racist rants). How does Kevin Donnelly rate other cultures? Do they have to be similar enough to his own to be good? It is unfair to discriminate, and it is also unfair to judge other people’s practices – generally it is none of your business – just like my own household of my husband, his boyfriend and my other husband is not something that you should argue is wrong – my life, my rules. Someone else’s life – their rules – not Kevin Donnelly’s rules.
And maybe it might just blow Kevin Donnelly’s little mind to discover that Muslims and Christians do actually share the same values and beliefs. And yes, the booklet is correct the God of Muslims is the God of the Jews and Christians – it is another Abrahamic Religion after all.
While it is true that the three religions worship the same God, there are significant differences. Muslims, for example, do not see Jesus as divine nor accept the concept of the Holy Trinity. As noted by Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell, “It is difficult to recognise the God of the New Testament in the God of the Koran, and two very different concepts of the human person have emerged from the Christian and Muslim understandings of God”.
And this is a problem because? Does Kevin Donnelly think that all Christians worship Jesus as god, or even believe in the Trinity? What does it really matter if god is orange or yellow?
The statement in the book that, “Students will come to appreciate that there are many valid worldviews and perspectives” ignores the reality that some worldviews are preferable to others and some religious and cultural practices are un-Australian.
Kevin Donnelly – fuck you. Fuck you heaps and lots and gah… more than most people I’ve wanted to tell to get fucked recently. You don’t get to judge what is and what is not “Australian”. You also do not get to judge what is and what is not a preferable world view. You are a white, presumably straight, presumably middle-class (if not upper class), male, throwing his privilege all over the place and not caring that he’s just sporked a million eyes.
Believe me, there are many valid world views and perspectives and Kevin Donnelly and Western Christianity does not hold the monopoly on valid world views and perspectives.