If I were an African American who lived in a predominately African American Neighbourhood with people who were Hispanic, Asian and other assorted nationalities of immigrant extraction, and you were a member of an active KKK charter that is not sympathetic to any persons of mixed race or Asian or African or Indian for argument’s sake, origins, that wanted to set up a club house in the middle of my relatively diverse peaceful neighbourhood, what should my reaction to your plans be?
Should I say, ok, that’s fine, but you will have to change your charter that makes you essentially the Klu Klux Klan and allow entry to your club house of all nationalities in our suburb? Should I say, ok, you can live along side us so long as you do it peacefully and keep your hate literature to yourself? Or, ok it is fine to have racist views and to air them in private, so long as they are not made public and do not call for harm to others who are different or despised in your opinion?
Where do we draw lines and maintain the status quo of a relatively multicultural society? How do we define what is racist and what is bigoted, when often the people who use such terms to label others do not even understand the connotations or inferences behind the words in the first place?
A lot of people have been called racists by those who do not even understand that a racist is. A person who is intolerant of another race or races and their creed usually embodies a belief that their particular genetic heritage is superior to others and finally that aggressive or abusive behaviour towards others is justified. Fairly simple in theory, but an oft misused term.
The term bigot is a lot more complex and there are people who are labelled racists who could more honestly be called bigots and they are not necessarily religious hypocrites. They do adhere to a particular ideology however to the exclusion of others or even to understand other ideologies and their basic beliefs. Let’s look at the word ‘bigot’ which was a term first used by the French to refer to the Normans of Southern Gaul and was said to mean By God and was used to refer to people of a particular creed who refused to look at alternative ideas.
There is a saying ‘you can tell a bigot, but you can’t tell him much.’ It refers in essence to people who refuse to add new knowledge or information to their lexicon that may change the way they perceive something or a situation. People who adhere strictly to their viewpoint and fail to consider other viewpoints or perspectives, are bigots. They will fail to allow commonsense to reign and to competently assess both sides of a situation and form an opinion from all information available. They see only their point of view.
In the case of the Alma Road Community House having a religious prayer group meeting once a week for a few hours, of any religion does not concern me. My question is simply why do they want that particular Community House when they have two mosques in Prahran minutes away and a prayer meeting room at Caulfield Monash where all these three places are outfitted for Muslim prayers and have adequate washing facilities for them? Why are they all men? Why aren’t their women and families taking part in the prayer services and having some sort of function at the same time? If the Port Phillip council is going to be inclusive, they will need to change the facilities at the house to accommodate them. Is it worthwhile and are there the numbers to justify such, considering it is only two hours a week and for forty or so taxi drivers, when there are facilities used daily two or three minutes away?
If there were plans afoot to open a Chabad house in Preston not far from the main mosque for the benefit of around forty Jewish taxi drivers who just wanted to have a minyan there once a week on say a Thursday or a Sunday, I would ask them the same questions that I ask of this group? Why that particular place when there are few if any Jewish families in the area? Don’t you think that is quite a provocative action, knowing how Muslims feel about us, to plonk a Chabad house next to the Preston Mosque? It is not likely to happen, but hypothetically it is the same principle. Think about it.
In conclusion, I am all for diversity and peaceful co-existence, but by the same token, I have a problem with groups who have a charter for violence against others or intolerance of others not like them. Can such a group exist peacefully within our midst? That is the real question. What are we opening ourselves up to and are we being very cleverly manipulated?