Multicultural inquiry stirs emotions in Melbourne

The Federal Government’s inquiry on multiculturalism has been told that it should give more support to key aspects of Islamic life, such as mosques, schools and its food.

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But the inquiry has sparked a call from a leading Jewish organisation for all new arrivals to demonstrate an acceptance of what it calls ‘Australian values’.

Turkish born Huseyein Yazaci is the second generation proprietor of Melbourne’s first ever Halal butchery.

He’s considered opening a second store in an outer suburb, but says it’s still cost prohibitive and would need to form part of a co-ordinated expansion.

“You have to have all those things over there, like Mosques or Islamic schools or Islamic shops,” says Mr. Yazaci.

That’s precisely what the Federation Of Islamic Councils is proposing, they say the muslim community is driven to the very “enclaves” which often draw criticism.

“There has been instances where we have applied on good planning grounds for a mosque or a school to be built in certain areas that those facilities are not approved and certain road-blocks are put in,” Iqbal Patel from the Federation of Islamic Councils told SBS.

The proposal is gaining support in Melbourne’s multiculural north, with residents saying there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be integrated.

Mr Patel is even encouraging Australian governments to consider some funding for islamic-oriented infrastructure.

“If you don’t like the Muslim community to live in enclaves, or for that matter any community, then allow for those services to be opened up in areas out of these so-called enclaves.”

The Executive Council Of Australian Jewry has also made a submission to the federal multiculturalism inquiry wanting a strengthened test of so-called ‘Australian values’ for all immigrants.

“That’s something that has to be earned. Australian citizenship is an honour and a responsibility – it’s not something to be given away lightly,” Executive Director Peter Wertheim says.

The council says all new arrivals should be scrutinised closely for attitudes it feels are unacceptable.

“Regardless of their religious or cultural background, if they’re involved in promoting violent or racist or totalitarian ideology they’re not fit subjects for citizenship”

The federal inquiry is continuing to receive submissions.