India wins Cricket World Cup rekindling my “multiculturalism” belief not just for India but also for Australia. Multiculturalism, whatever it means, don’t junk it. Just better manage it. May even have to learn lessons from India.
On the memorable second day of April, we, Indians in Sydney, celebrated the Indian win by collecting around selective TV sets (those with Foxtel connections). Candid thoughts were expressed on Channel Nine’s inconsideration at only showing half the final encounter (yes only the latter half) and that too ending just short of the award ceremony. It deprived large number of cricket lovers from the Indian subcontinent who relied on the free-to-air channel of the full deal. I am lucky to have a friend who could host my love for the game and tolerate my loud cheering for India, watching on his Foxtel subscription, through the Saturday night till the early hours of Sunday morning. (Australia being 5.5 hours ahead.)
Channel Nine’s decision to only show half of the match and then cut out the award ceremony is the half-hearted multiculturalism that some in Australia exhibit. A contrast to the efforts of others such as SBS that broadcasts NDTV Hindi news twice a day on TV, albeit recorded a few hours earlier.
As the euphoria ebbed a bit, I started delving into the debate that is raging on the issue of “multiculturalism” and whether it is good or bad for Australia. Just on that day, there was a thought-provoking article in The Australian (How I lost faith in Multiculturalism), challenging the Australian ethos of multiculturalism and while this article is a masterpiece that all the readers of this blog must read, Greg Sheridan has somewhat got lost on a narrow interpretation of the term. My first reaction was applause for Sheridan and I immediately sent him an email congratulating him on the piece. However as I re-read, I felt that he was taking a very narrow view of the term “multi-cultural” Australia to focus only on the assimilation issues of “migrants of Islamic faith”. He is not attacking the role played by various other cultures and has spoken in favour of skilled immigrants, forgetting that they too contribute to multiculturalism. This same debate is ongoing in all countries including countries that are not (known) migrant destinations. Sheridan writes : “It predicts that for Australia the Muslim population will grow by 80 per cent between now and 2030, to about 715,000, growing about four times as fast as the rest of the population, and reaching about 3 per cent of all Australians.” Even in India, BJP is known to raise alarm over the fertility rate for the Muslim population on similar arguments. I will maintain that these statistics are of no relevance in the debate on multiculturalism at all. With better education and increased awareness including assimilation into the society of the adopted region or country, the stats are likely to get leveled closer to the average. However, let me stick to his summary that “skilled migration” is the way to go forward and Australia may not follow a blanket “come one come all” attitude. This article, I must repeat does propel a debate of sorts in Australia too and I welcome such an open debate. I however will remain “against the motion”. Multiculturalism is the way forward albeit with some strategic planning to engage and assimilate the new migrants into the society. If this is a particular problem with migrants of the Islamic faith, then too there can be an effort to the same goal though with a little more patience. Stereotyping all the migrants belonging to one faith is actually going to harm even more in the process of assimilation. Coming from India, I can possibly understand this better.
I had another personal experience just yesterday of the reasons that leads some Australians into distancing from such migrants. Sitting in the reception of a Gynecologist in Westmead with my wife, waiting for her turn, we observed the difficulty that the receptionist was having over the phone conversing with an Arabic woman on the other end. Language difficulties were such that the woman failed to get an appointment despite being 18 weeks pregnant. The fault not being on the part of the receptionist who I thought did very well by even asking the Arabic woman on the other end to hand the phone to someone who could understand the receptionist’s English. Later I realized that the doctor too has no option but to refuse this patient as the language difficulty did not allow her to take on the case and further an interpreter cannot be brought in due to privacy reasons. A basic level of English if desired from the migrant is not out of place for sure. At the same time this case study is an argument for more foreign-tongue speaking doctors and hence an argument for increased skill immigration. Strategically, more skilled immigration first and over a period of time prioritizing migration for those with better English. “Better English” doesn’t translate to IELTS of 8.0 for sure!
Returning to India and WC win, it is worth reminding all that not long ago, a certain Raj Thackeray unleashed his men on North Indian especially from Bihar and UP who were in Mumbai to take the Railway exams. India, to me, is several countries within one uniting nation. This is its history and hence when we talk of multiculturalism in India, we actually talk of the various regions and the various cultures that India projects within it. India is an example of how many different cultures can co-exist. The Indian WC win silenced the Thackerays when playing in Mumbai, four North Indians (Gambhir, Yuvraj, Kohli and Dhoni) collaborated to win the World Cup for India and dedicated it to their favourite Maratha (Tendulkar). The Indian captain grew up in the summer capital of the undivided Bihar and worked as a Ticket Collector for Indian Railways is also worth being reminded. The Thakarey Hindutva too was challenged when two muslims joined hands with the others in the final match (Zaheer and Munaf) and to some the first three overs of Zaheer actually won the match for India. It is time once again to be reminded that India grows and celebrates multiculturalism and multi-regious secularity and in today’s world mutual coexistence and skill-collaboration between various differing cultures is the way to move a nation forward. Those who are not inclusive and promote exclusiveness will falloff on the side.
The real solution is to continue with “multiculturalism” while being aware of how to manage it. Unplanned assimilation leads to formation of ghettos-like suburbs such as in Lakemba that has been described in the article by Sheridan. The law and order issues that are detailed needs immediate checking but that can only happen with increased levels of skilled migration and their planned settling down across the cities and not just in a few localities. As the police force becomes more “multiracial”, it will lead to better management of these suburbs. The American example does come to our mind more often than not. To me, America symbolises “skilled migration” while UK and Australia has been focussing in 70s and 80s on the “humanitarian migrants”. Now as they also bring in skilled migrants, a tendency remains to confuse the various categories even when diverse those categories are.
No country can be of one particular classification. There will be various shades of grey, brown or orange on the way. And to succeed in this world, one has to play host to all cultures. Will it not be true to say that the Australia that we see today is largely due to multiculturalism and the immigration beliefs that the earlier generation planned with. To even attempt to reverse it, will leave the country without an identity. As stated above, one should take some lessons from India that has mastered its art of managing the various communities and cultures and each of the cultures are dramatically different from each other in terms of language, cinema, food or even customs. India too has had problem of regional ghettos and has been reflecting on what it could have done wrong in the post 1947 and post 1971 periods. Humanitarian or Illegal migration to India too has been the highest of any country in the world if we take note of the millions who walked across from then East Pakistan (Bangladesh) to India in 1971.
I have come across a remarkable video on You Tube where the Australian Immigration minister is hiring a ship to bring in migrants and where he claims that without migrants there is no future for Australia. Is it not an irony that the immigration ministers of today’s Australia spend most of their time planning how to stop smaller (much smaller) versions of the ships, i.e. boats?
See the link here… Must watch. We are here thanks to those policies. Like it or Hate it.