It's not a race war, it's a clash of
December 16, 2005
It was inevitable, given the prevailing mindset
within government and the media, that Sydney's beachside violence
this week would be called race riots. The New South Wales premier,
his ministers and many newspaper headlines all used the term.
However, a more ungainly but nonetheless more accurate description
would have been multicultural riots. For the doctrine of multiculturalism
is really to blame.
The tensions that exploded this week were defined into existence
by multiculturalist policies and ideas. It wasn't the youths at
Cronulla beach who decided that all Lebanese constitute an ethnic
group. That was done for them by politicians, bureaucrats and
academics in the name of constructing ethnic communities. Those
youths can certainly be blamed for trying to beat up a few outnumbered
innocents but not for responding to people as ethnics in the first
In earlier periods, Lebanese immigrants were not defined as an
ethnic group. Lebanon is one of the oldest sources of Australian
migration. People have been coming from that country since the
1880s. They were never defined as aliens under the old White Australia
Policy and their numbers gradually grew from 601 in 1891 to 2670
in 1933. Until 1975, almost all were Maronites or Christian Lebanese.
They prospered here, married out into the local community and,
within two generations, became largely indistinguishable from
the Australian mainstream. One of their offspring, Nick Shehadie,
a former Lord Mayor of Sydney and husband of the New South Wales
governor Marie Bashir, captained the Wallabies in three of 30
Tests for his country. How Australian can you get?
After 1975, the onset of civil war brought Lebanese Muslims here
on grounds of humanitarian resettlement. At the same time, the
policy of multiculturalism was initiated by the Whitlam government
and entrenched under Malcolm Fraser. Multiculturalism began, and
until recently was regarded by most Australians, as a civilized
concept to ease immigrants into their new environment.
But it became corrupted by partisan politics. As former Labor
government minister Barry Jones has admitted, immigration became
"a tremendously important element" in building up a
long-term, non-English speaking political constituency for his
party. In the 1980s immigration policy switched from national
interest to ethnic preference, from demographic and labour market
need to family reunion. In the name of cultural diversity, the
bureaucrats in charge used welfare and housing policy to promote
ethnic community building. This concentrated non-English speaking
immigrants in western and south-western Sydney.
Most affected were the post-1975 Lebanese Muslims. By 2001, some
73 per cent of all Lebanese in Australia were living in these
Multicultural policy was always justified by the assumption that
the xenophobia of old Australia was the problem. This presumption
still reverberates in the voices of politicians and journalists
who responded to this week's events as if Australian youth were
the real culprits. Hypocritically, they denounce racial stereotyping
of ethnic groups but freely typecast Anglo Australia.
Multiculturalism is also at odds with the core tenets of liberal
democracy where rights inhere in the individual not the collective,
and where people's representatives are elected politicians not
self-appointed ethnic spokesmen or godfathers. Multiculturalism
is a reversion to tribalism that is anachronistic in modern, liberal,
In Sydney it has been plain for at least a decade that, instead
of ethnic communities living happily in the diversity of social
pluralism, multiculturalism bred ethnic ghettos characterized
by high levels of unemployment, welfare dependency, welfare abuse,
crime and violence. The social engineers responsible should have
been well aware of the likely outcome, especially for young men.
All the evidence from the numerous studies of similar ethnic
ghettos in North America and Europe show they produce much the
same result, whatever the colour or ethnicity of their inhabitants.
Ghetto culture for young males everywhere is characterized by
interpersonal violence, sexual irresponsibility, incomplete education,
substandard speech, a hypersensitivity about being disrespected,
and a feckless attitude towards work.
The Lebanese assaults on the Cronulla lifesavers that led to
this week's mass retaliation were nothing new.
This behaviour has been with us for more than a decade. When
the former principal of Punchbowl Boys High, a school dominated
by Lebanese Muslim youth, suffered a breakdown and sued the New
South Wales government, he gave an insight to the local culture.
Between 1995 and 1999 students armed with knives had threatened
classmates, teachers were assaulted and gangs invaded classrooms.
On one occasion, the principal had a gun held to his head by a
Lebanese gang member who threatened to shoot him. One of his students
was convicted of murdering a Korean schoolboy and three other
students were jailed for their roles in some of Sydney's most
notorious gang rapes.
In 1997, during a house fire in another Sydney ethnic ghetto
at Auburn known as Little Lebanon, police and firefighters were
attacked by youths hurling rocks. An ambulance had a window shot
out, ensuring all future ambulance calls to the locality were
accompanied by police escort. Little Lebanon was a concentration
of Muslim families from the same rural district who had come to
Australia first as refugees, then as chain immigrants.
At the same time as all this was going on, however, the majority
of Anglo Australians were giving the lie to the stereotype of
latent racism. Outside the ethnic enclaves, instead of racist
or ethnocentric attitudes to newcomers, old Australians were working
with, marrying and having children with them.
Studies by Monash University's Bob Birrell of the most revealing
test of immigrant integration, the marriage rate, showed that
by the end of the 1990s less than 10 per cent of second-generation
marriages of persons of European descent were to someone from
their parents' country. Much the same was true of immigrants from
south and east Asia. Only 6 per cent of Indians married within
their ethnic group, as did only 16 per cent of Chinese. In short,
most immigrants, whatever their race, married Australians of other
However, for the Lebanese, of whom most of marriageable age were
Muslims, these figures were reversed. No less than 74 per cent
of Lebanese married within their own ethnic group. Moreover, this
figure was the only one to increase since the early 1990s when
it was 72 per cent. This pattern might have fulfilled the community-building
objective Lebanese political and religious leaders sought, but
it has been a disaster for their constituents' relationship with
the rest of Australia.
Put this week's beachside violence into its political and social
context and the conclusion is clear. It is not race that is the
problem but culture. Multiracialism has been a success in contemporary
Australia but multiculturalism has been an abject failure.