It is true that English is an official language and language of the majority in Australia, yet, according to 2001 Australian census, from 20 millions Australians, 5 millions are those who don’t have English as their first language. According to reports among 5 millions people there is significant volume of people who could not speak and/or write English effectively.
Prime Minister John Howard, who now and then bring Australian Muslims into limelight, this time, slammed Australian Muslims by asking them to have good English in order to fully integrate with the Australian values. He never defines if he means something else than what people already know about Australian values and which has been teaching at school to young generation such as family values, community harmony, national heritage, liberty, justice, fraternity, mateship, national identity, history and diversified multiculturalism which is a mixture of many cultures, languages and faiths.
Australia is a mixture of people from almost every faith of this world. Australia is a secular and multicultural society. Its diversity in culture, faith and richness in languages spoken are its true values. In Australia, people speak more than 100 languages. Nevertheless, language in any social environment is nothing else than the expression of human communication through which knowledge, belief, and behavior can be experienced, explained, and shared. As a matter of fact, the world has come so close and languages, cultures and different social practices are so jumbled up that people are not found worried about and one’s medium of communication. More importantly, in Australia language has never been the assessment factor for their Australian nationality.
Knowing the language of the majority is the basic need of the individual. Command over any language comes through the social environment – It is a natural process of learning. As a matter of fact it is a common experience that the immigrants of non-English speaking background take the matter seriously and feel worried about their English. Over the period of time they improve their English language skills and feel proud of their competitive English. The Australian born children of migrants commonly speak English even with their parents without any pressure. If we further go in Australian history, the parents and grandparents of most of the leaders in the government, today, were speaking languages other than English and today English is their only language of communication.
No doubt, in present day Australia, having good English is in the interest of every individual. Good English enhances communication level with other Australians but it wouldn’t illustrate the degree of loyalty you possess to your social values.
A nation is recognized by its kinship. Nation grows by the process of differentiation and opposition. Nation is a name of togetherness of cultures, faiths languages and history. Nation is acknowledged by economic and political togetherness. And the world can see all these colour of a nation in Australia. As a matter of fact, there has never been any issue lately on English except the government itself initiated the issue of English language test for citizenship, few months ago.
Multicultural Australia is only about 40 years old. The process of integration and assimilation is still in progress where the Australian government promotes and spends huge funds on promoting nationalism. Therefore, the politicians and leaders are also required to promote multiculturalism rather than colonialism style Anglo-Saxon thoughts. Australia will continue to enjoy high reputation in the world as long as it would carry multiculturalism.
It is hard to believe that Prime Minister Howard might not have realized the composition of Australian society when he warned Muslims on their competency of English language or he would not have thought that the Muslims are only 2% of 20 millions Australians. He never raised the English language issue for the other many communities who are much bigger in size than Muslims and their English noticeably much poor than Muslims.
One cannot believe that Howard doesn’t understand these things and one cannot see any reason for Howard to slash on Muslims on English language. Many Muslim community leaders, described Howard’s latest comments against Muslims, as Howard’s routine criticism, which he needed as and when, he required support from his constituency.
The leader of the Greens (Party) Senator Bob Brown, commenting on Howard’s recent comments said ‘Prime Minister’s attitude to Muslim immigrants contrasts with former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’.
Former Prime Minister and one of the most admirable Australian Prime Ministers welcomed Vietnamese migrants and refugees in the late 1970s and still most of the Vietnamese and Chinese don’t have much competency in English. Senator Brown called John Howard as being the most xenophobic Australian leader.
Why Prime Minister Howard is worried about the English of Australian Muslims only. Why Islam and Muslims are the focal concern for Prime Minister Howard and why he frequently comes out and blame Muslims. Well, the answer might be is that if we look last 10 years of Howard’s government it would be easy to understand how the issues have been created, exploited and cultivated in order to gain support from common Australians. Any issue based on nationalism, loyalty, patriotism or any issue that touches peoples’ sentiments could easily exploit the public heart and become a successful instrument in gaining support on winning election.