Fear of new immigrants: just part of the process?

I had a thought today related to an argument that I have often seen against hysteria around Muslim immigrants. Here is Lainie Anderson giving an example:

There’s no such thing as the bogeyman, just a scapegoat | Article | The Punch.

Australia has a bogeyman. His face changes every few decades: once he was Russian, then he was Asian.

Right now he’s Muslim, probably a queue jumper with bags of cash to pay people smugglers, but definitely a new arrival.

The argument is that the previous waves of migrants (Irish, Italians, Jews, Asians) were all subjects of some kind of hysteria too and they turned out ok, so we should give the Muslims the benefit of the doubt because they will also turn out ok.

What if that is missing a part of the picture? It could be that these groups are now “ok” (read: assimilated into Australia) not in spite of this widespread fear and suspicion, but because of it.

What if the demands from the public to “prove” that they were “really Australian” compelled the community to accept Australian culture and expedited the assimilation process, so that they could put the fear to bed?

Is this whole process a method that our society has developed for self-correcting when a group arrives with clashing values?

I’m not convinced, but it seems like an interesting idea. I would welcome any thoughts one way or the other.


Note: I am aware of how offensive this may sound to some people, so I probably need to disclaim that it is just a thought exercise and does not reflect any opinion that I hold.


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  1. #1 by stupidgalah on August 18, 2012 - 4:55 pm

    Our past immigrants did NOT want us to change to their way of thinking. Think SHARIA law here.

  2. #2 by jaguarpython on September 12, 2012 - 7:54 pm

    Having lived in NZ, a place where immigrants are far more assimilated, I disagree with the above theory.

    The difference I’ve found is that in NZ, if you were a permanent resident or citizen, you were a Kiwi. People were friendly. There was little racial vilification or abuse (although there was discrimination and some racism). So it was easy to assimilate because people treated you as one of them.

    Australia is the only country I’ve lived in (having lived in 4) where I feel others utterly define me by my race. I don’t even think of myself as any particular race (my first language is English, I was born in what is now China and I’m of subcontinental ethnicity) yet despite being a citizen for several years, I’m somehow considered “an Indian” despite having never lived in the subcontinent! Additionally, people continually complain to me that “the Indians” don’t assimilate and are an insult to “Australian values”. I’m not even Indian!

    I even have friends who are non-white but born in Australia who are considered “one of them” rather than “an Aussie” for no other reason than their skin colour (or in the case of Greeks, Italians and Lebanese, their parents’ country of birth).

    Certainly the Muslims in NZ were far more assimilated/integrated than they are here.

    I personally don’t mind if people are “assimilated” as long as they are contributing to society and staying out of trouble. Arguably nerds and other subcultures are not “assimilated” into “Australian culture”, however, perhaps that is a good thing 😉

  3. #3 by MK on September 13, 2012 - 10:05 am

    Yeah, I can definitely understand that point of view. Although, having lived in the UK for some time, I think that Australia is much more accepting of ‘outsiders’ — it’s all a matter of perspective I guess.

    As I said in the OP, I never seriously believed that theory, it was just something that crossed my mind.

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