Don’t Bring Your Blasphemy Here

A very disturbing report this morning of a young Pakistani girl suffering from Down’s Syndrome being charged with blasphemy (a capital crime) for holding up burnt pages of the Koran. As much as I think this is not right, I have only a news report to go on and that is no basis for forming an opinion. Having said that, I can go on my own observations and research. I  have noticed many migrants to Australia from this region display very different attitudes to what we are used to when it comes to customer service and other aspects. Given so many buy petrol stations that in Sydney at least it is rare to find one not owned and staffed by Pakistani and Indian people. I understand why they do this; it is a cash business and, like with restaurants, allows for steady cashflow. Good business practise that also allows them to hire their own nationals as staff. This is also good business practise as they can no doubt communicate more effectively with them and they rack up ‘brownie points’ giving jobs to relatives and so on. All part of their culture and way of doing business but not something many Anglo-Australians might understand or be comfortable with.

Those employees are often here on student visas and bring considerable revenue to the country in the form of fees and living expenses. Offset by the wages they earn working in the service stations and elsewhere that hopefully tax is paid on, it should be a Win/Win situation. Do those employers pay Award rates? I very much doubt it from conversations I have had with several employees. If ten people in twelve stations tell you they are paid a cash in hand rate then one could presume this ratio is indicative. The thing is, that is how it is done over there and they are familiar with this way of doing business. I have yet to meet many non-Indian/Pakistani locals who don’t have a personal horror story of their dealings with this group (actually very much two very separate groups) either through call-centers located overseas, electricity and telco door to door salespeople or in retail situations. Cultural traits seem to be repeated in all the examples, including my own. Of course there are many lovely Indian and Pakistani people in this country, don’t get the idea they aren’t. They just have different ideas of what is the right thing to do when doing business.

Understand where they come from over a billion people compete for space, food, jobs, marriage partners, everything. Many of these are illiterate and so poor they would think one of our homeless was middle class. The people we meet here are the Sub-Continent’s middle classes for the most part; educated, intelligent and cashed up. Yet still they behave in ways many Australians do not like or find less than acceptable. If we had a society like theirs, perhaps we would accept things more readily when done their way. They have a civilization that includes literature, music, art, science, engineering and commerce that goes back several thousands of years and today provide many of the top minds in computing, aerospace and finance. This is all true yet the reality is that they are not in their society anymore, they are in ours. In time, perhaps three generations, they will be as assimilated as the Greek. Maltese and Italian Australians are today. When I came here from the UK in 1971, it was not quite as it is today. Many Mediterranean area migrants still clung to their ways and were more likely to be in cash businesses and employ their own countrymen and women. The first wave of Lebanese (mostly Christian) migrants followed and they were just the same, as were the Vietnamese who came next. Cash businesses and fellow expats as employees. So it has been with every wave of migration into this country and you know what? We have absorbed them all. There have been ups and downs but in the end we find they all relax and their kids, or their kid’s kids, tend to blend in and emulate the accents and actions of their classmates.

The parents, the ones who made the decision to come here, often resist this and want the best Australia can offer for their kids but without their kids being ‘Australian’. Very often migrant families disparage Australian families and consider them undisciplined and immoral. They are right, but only to the same degree that not all of any migrant group is this way or that way. In time, they appreciate they did the right thing coming here, that not everything in Australia is bad, that to have what we have here you need to give as much as you take and that their kids and grandkids are not a disgrace or embarrassment and in fact, are probably adored and envied when they do the obligatory trip ‘back home’.

So next time you want to throttle someone from somewhere else, spare a thought for how they see things. Be tolerant and compassionate and be the bigger person because we are so fortunate we are Australian. They are all welcome here so long as they line up as asked and when here, obey our laws and do their best to adopt and adapt to our ways. Their religions are welcome, but only if they keep them to themselves, their homes and their places of worship and don’t try to influence our laws. They also need to realise the attitudes and thinking that is acceptable where they came from, such as stoning and execution for ‘blasphemy’, is abhorrent and barbaric in this society. I don’t expect them to apologise for how they like to live there, just so long as they don’t try to force that way on us over here. Sound fair?

Now, next time you interact with a person from overseas, smile and take a moment to find out where they are from. Give some thought to the fact they may speak another language or two, or three. They  will have families who love them and might be missing them and they came here willingly. Put yourself in their place and you might understand why they tend to band together in the beginning at least. At the end of it all, they are human beings like you and me. Begin with that premise and you never know, you might make a new friend and none of us have lives so full we don’t have room for another friend.

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