Islamic Council of WA spokesman Rahim Ghauri said the group had an architect-designed concept plan for a six-storey housing development, an underground carpark and a hall for weddings, conferences and religious and recreational activities.
Mr Ghauri rejected claims the housing would further isolate sectors of the Muslim community from mainstream society, claiming the venue would be used to teach Islamic youth how to become good Australian citizens.
The West Australian did not report Ghauri’s explanation of how
Islamic youth the children of Muslim parents might learn how to become good Australian citizens by hermetically sealing them off from Australian society—you know, where Australian citizens live. In a sign that the Islamic Council of WA ought to consider firing whoever is in charge of their PR, the organisation’s religious spokesperson offered the following apologia:
the council’s religious adviser, Abdul Jalil Ahmad, said it was useful for different religious or ethnic groups to have separate residential enclaves so their customs and exotic cooking smells did not offend neighbours.
“It’s ideal for any ethnic group because you can deal with each other in an easier way,” Mr Ahmad said.
“In South Africa, because of apartheid, all different communities were set up and it worked well. It kept people separate. We can be together in terms of our contribution to the wider community.”
Yes, you read that correctly. He actually made a favourable comparison between the Muslim-only housing plan . . . and apartheid.
Strangely, I find myself agreeing with the West‘s editor Paul Murray when he argues:
One of the excuses rolled out for the attraction to radical Islam by young Muslims in Australia is that they are excluded from the benefits of this society. The Muslim community can hardly argue that case when it is seeking to exclude itself.
That said, gated communities are nothing new. Neither are social enclaves. Just look at Peppermint Grove. There are even plenty of religious, quasi-religious and otherwise exclusive housing developments peppered around Perth.
What’s the real distinction between an Air Force Association retirement home, a Catholic aged care facility or a Freemason’s village and what is being planned here?
Fair enough, that might be painting with a broad brush, and the inevitable comparisons to Sadr City are premature. Many of my Italian relatives live within a 5km radius of the Perth suburb of Balcatta, along with many other southern Europeans. But you’ll also find Australians with these heritages spread throughout the metropolitan area. Choosing to dwell for a generation or two among your own kind is a completely understandable way of coping with the shock of an alien culture, especially for those who hail from non-English-speaking and/or non-Western backgrounds.
There is a bit of a difference, however, when it comes to the more anti-social concept of the gated community, into which category the Rivervale proposal falls, as would, say, any religious private school with discriminatory hiring and admissions policies. (Nobody in polite circles would dare describe the latter as “enclaves,” would they?) Unlike Balcatta (or even the suburb of Thornlie, where many Muslims live), the self-imposed social exile that the gated community provides constitutes at least a mild “fuck you” to the rest of society, which its members perceive as corrupting and evil in some way, and whose unclean denizens must be kept out. We see this impulse at work in the very concept of a Christian culture industry, or the notion that religious private schools are repositories of values (as opposed to the “values-neutral” wider society).
I do wonder about the legality of a Muslim-only housing block plan, but then again, as I have often observed, Christian and Muslim private schools alike in this secular country of ours are allowed to maintain discriminatory hiring policies and receive the funds of taxpayers who for purely religious reasons would not be permitted to be employed by these schools. One can only guess at what kind of lesson in civics such an attitude imparts!