According to this report, quoted by Adele Horin in the Sydney Morning Herald, many Australian-Muslim families have good relations with other Australians, and feel safe and happy here. But they are very unhappy with the media for depicting Muslims as terrorists and criminals.
But on the other hand, many felt very positive about Australia. One father commented about the support for their children at Australian public schools, including prayer rooms; and other parents were concerned about a shift to conservatism of their children, that many of their daughters were wearing the hijab.
Some parents were also worried and anxious about their children's potential involvement with drugs, sex or alcohol, as are most other Australian parents.
As a Baptist Minister I agree with Dr Katz that there should be a lot more resources and support from government and non-government agencies for all our young people. Baptist young people (and those of all faiths and cultures) have similar issues as Muslim young people; and if Muslims feel that the Australian press is 'gunning for them', then Australian Christians and Jews can be just as unhappy when they hear some extreme Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir wanting to despatch non-Muslims.
I would like to hear the Muslim clerics publicly condemn Hizb ut-Tahrir and other extremist Islamist groups, as a prelude to their gaining any Government funding.
But if government puts up its hand to resource and support Muslim pastoral care, then, as a Baptist, I too would like to see money for Baptist pastoral care for our youth.
And then we would hear from the other Christian denominations, and the Jews and B'hai, and all the other religions putting out their hands for similar funding - and perhaps the secular youth groups such as the Scouting movement – and all the various cultural groups would want to be in on it too. If one group gets specialist funds, then everyone should get specialist funds.
I can see where this would be heading – the politics of the situation would become untenable and no-one in Government could satisfy every group.
However, there is already a program available for access to Government funding for pastoral care within schools, and it is up to the school community to decide what denomination or religion the Chaplain will be, or whether a secular pastoral care worker would be more suitable.
I have been involved at the ground floor in arranging pastors for some local school groups, and I would advise Dr Katz (and the other hypothetical groups that I have mentioned), or any other interested party reading this article, to avail themselves of this source of funding.
A quotation from this website states:
"The National School Chaplaincy Program aims to support school communities that wish to access the services of a school chaplain or secular pastoral care worker.
… Chaplains/pastoral care workers provide general personal and religious advice, comfort and support to all students and staff, regardless of their religious denomination, irrespective of their religious beliefs. The choice of chaplaincy services, including the religious affiliation, was a decision for the local school community, following broad consultation. Students are not obliged to participate."
I would like to affirm that this report demonstrates the democratic and open society we live in, here in Australia. It shows that, increasingly, Muslim families as well as those from the multitude of cultures that make up our society, can state openly in an academic research project that they feel comfortable and happy in our society, and that they feel the society reciprocates by acceding to their religious and cultural needs.
After all, Australians have honoured the Muslim Afghan camel drivers who helped to open up the inland in the late 1800s, by naming the train 'The Ghan' (a nickname for 'The Afghan Express' originally coined by a railway worker in 1923).
Being somewhat of a train buff myself (I wear another hat as The Footplate Padre), I have recently taken a most magnificent trip from Darwin to Alice Springs on the new Ghan. I acknowledge that many Muslim families have been pioneers and have lived in Australia as long as my own pioneering ancestors. Peoples of all religions and cultures have worked together to make this country what it is today.
The newer Muslim migrants, here in our open society, can openly express their negative concerns, as I can express mine in writing this article. In many other countries, criticism on either side would not be allowable, certainly not in print.
I feel there is now hope. We are becoming more open and accepting of those who wish to become Australians, and I am more optimistic that this survey shows we can look forward to all newcomers reciprocating in their respect for our wonderful Australian society and culture.