Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Teachers at Islamic College of South Australia's West Croydon campus ordered to wear hijab or face sack
SOUTH Australia's biggest Islamic school has warned teachers, including many non-Muslims, that they will lose their jobs if they do not wear a hijab to school functions and outings.
Up to 20 non-Muslim female teachers, who do not wish to be named, have been told they will be sacked from the Islamic College of South Australia's West Croydon campus after three warnings if they do not wear a headscarf to cover their hair.
The order, from the school's governing board and chairman Faruk Kahn, contradicts the policy of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
Mr Kahn yesterday referred The Advertiser to AFIC for comment on the matter. "I have no comment ... I think you better go to AFIC, they are the only ones that are to make comment," Mr Kahn said.
School principal Kadir Emniyet did not return calls.
AFIC assistant secretary Keysar Trad said the policy was at odds with the national federation, but it was powerless to intervene.
"I'm aware there's a policy at that school with respect to the scarf," Mr Trad said.
"The AFIC policy is not to require any teacher to observe the hijab. In SA, the board itself has decided they want to operate in their way and we are not allowed to interfere in the matter.
"We maintain that staff should dress modestly but not be required by the nature of policy to wear the hijab."
Mr Trad said that matters of unfair dismissal resulting from teachers disobeying the school's hijab policy should be referred to Fair Work Australia.
"It's confusing for our children to see their teachers wearing the scarf in school and then they take it off when they are out shopping and the children see them there," he said.
"It is also a respect thing for our staff. If they are not Muslim they should not be forced to dress as Muslim."
One long-term teacher at the Islamic College of SA said a new school board was now "forcing teachers to put hijabs back on".
"There's no discussion ... you wear it or you're fired," the teacher said. "The teachers have always adhered to the policies and we are respectful of that.
"We are respectful of their religion but they are not going to respect us."
The college has about 800 students and 40 staff.
Guidelines from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils to other Islamic schools do not require teachers to wear hijabs.
Glen Seidel, state secretary of the Independent Education Union, said the union was monitoring the policy.
"Essentially it means female staff have to wear a scarf covering most of their hair, and not have legs and arms exposed," he said.
"In 2012, the requirement was being managed moderately, but with a new principal in 2013 enacting the decisions of a very conservative school board, there is no room for compromise."
Mr Seidel said the union's view is staff should be free to decide whether to wear a scarf.
"The ultimate test would be in an unfair dismissal action to see if that requirement would be considered a `reasonable direction' and the termination therefore being reasonable.
"This is not a matter (in which) religious organisations are exempted from equal opportunity legislation in order to not cause offence to the `adherents of the faith'," Mr Seidel said.
"Non-Islamic staff are not being discriminated (against) in their employment as it is the same code for all.
"Non-Islamic staff can, however, feel rightly aggrieved that they are being coerced to adopt the dress code of a religion to which they do not belong."
University of Queensland study explores link between conservatism and happiness
DON'T be surprised next time you see former Prime Minister John Howard smiling - locally-conducted research has found those on the right of the political spectrum are happier than those on the left.
A study conducted by a team from UQ Psychology, at the University of Queensland, surveyed 816 undergraduate students to explore the link between conservatism and happiness.
Professor Jolanda Jetten said the findings indicated that conservatives were happier than liberals because of their strong ties to a large network of social groups and a greater access to "social capital."
"In 2008, New York University psychologists Jaime Napier and John Jost were the first to attempt to explain this difference in happiness, arguing that the happiness gap is caused by the difference in ideology between conservatives and liberals," Professor Jetten said.
"It appears (from our research) that what makes conservatives happy is not conservative ideology but rather their social and material advantage - the same advantage that makes conservative ideology appealing in the first place."
Fellow researcher Dr Fiona Kate Barlow said it was found that those with a higher social economic status have access to more group memberships and this created greater life satisfaction.
The study was conducted with support from a UQ Mid-Career Research Fellowship and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).
Multiculturalists bury heads in sand
In a speech in January to the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London, Scott Morrison, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, signalled that if the Coalition wins this year’s election, an Abbott Government will make social integration and the promotion of Australian values its priority.
Morrison also indicated that an Abbott Government would move away from the emphasis that the official multicultural policy currently places on the promotion of cultural diversity. Morrison justified the Coalition’s approach by pointing to growing community concerns about multiculturalism. A 2012 Scanlon Foundation report found that people residing near areas with high-concentrations of residents who are culturally disconnected from mainstream Australian society were more likely to be lukewarm, at best and understandably, about cultural diversity.
Cultural dis-integration is a real issue in South West Sydney. The predominantly Lebanese-Muslim community that lives in and around the suburbs of Bankstown and Lakemba experience a range of social problems, including low educational attainment, welfare dependence, and crime. Religious extremism is also a problem, as was alarmingly demonstrated by the Islamist riot in the Sydney CBD in September 2012.
Morrison’s speech prompted this reply by Geoff Gallop, former Western Australian Premier, now Sydney University academic, which downplayed the significant challenge the Islamist riot posed to the idea of a peaceful and tolerant multicultural society.
Gallop maintained that if social harmony was under threat due to ‘putting differences ahead of unity,’ we should not focus on those groups who practice a self-imposed form of divinely-inspired, anti-Western and anti-women cultural apartheid, but should instead remember the ‘Australian-born and bred nationalists’ who rioted at Cronulla in December 2005.
Gallop ran a familiar multiculturalist line. Multiculturalists have always attributed community reluctance to embrace multiculturalism to racist attitudes among ‘non-ethnic’ Australians. Politicians who pander to so-called ‘populist’ concerns about multiculturalism have always been accused of seeking to return ‘open’ and modern Australia to the ‘closed’ attitudes of earlier times.
The reality, however, is that defenders of multiculturalism who are willing to discuss the disgraceful Cronulla riot, but who prefer to overlook the appalling Islamist riot, are ignoring the real issues of social cohesion that multiculturalism raises for liberal-democratic societies.
By refusing to discuss the significance of the violent protests orchestrated by local Islamists, they are not only burying their heads in the sand about multiculturalism, they are also endangering community support for Australia’s long-running and overwhelmingly-successful non-discriminatory immigration program.
For a mass immigration program to be politically feasible, it must have broad-based community support. Legitimate concerns about immigration leading to ethnic or religious-based social division need to be addressed — not dismissed as racist.
Politicians who seek to reassure the community that government policy is to integrate migrants irrespective of colour and creed into Australian society are hardly seeking to revive the bad old days of the White Australia policy. They are in fact establishing the policy framework that will help build popular support for Australia’s large and ongoing annual intake of migrants from around the world
The Karate Line?
How are welfare payments supposed to help people? The commonsense answer is that they help people pay for the basics of life, including food, shelter and transport, to name a few. But the recent debate over changes to the Parenting Payment suggests that welfare payments are intended to provide much more.
The changes, which came into effect from 1 January this year, have pushed tens of thousands of single parents of school aged children off Parenting Payment (which pays up to $663.70 a fortnight) and onto the less generous Newstart Allowance (up to $533 per fortnight). These payments do not include the hundreds of dollars that single parents also receive through family tax benefits or the schoolkids bonus.
The policy will generate savings to taxpayers of more than $700 million over four years and provide an additional incentive for single parents to work more. For some, it appears to be working. This article in The Age reports the situation of one parent choosing to work 20 hours a week more so she can pay for her kid’s karate lessons.
Other parents are choosing to cut expenditure. One affected parent complains the changes forced her to pull her son out of ‘footy, guitar lessons, swimming lessons and scouts this year.’ Claims along these lines have made ample fodder for human interest stories and the adequacy of welfare payments more generally.
The debate goes to the heart of the role of welfare payments. Are they to help some people maintain a lifestyle they have come to enjoy, or are they to help prevent people from going hungry and without shelter?
I think it is the latter, but it seems that for some, welfare payments are no longer about keeping people above the poverty line by providing basic support, but about keeping them above a ‘karate line’ — a line at which they can afford to do the things that they want to do while still receiving welfare payments — like sending a child to karate.