MUSLIM SCHOOLS GROWING NINE TIMES FASTER THAN MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS
Enrolments in hard-line Islamic colleges are growing nine times faster than those of mainstream schools, as more Muslim parents demand a strict religious education for their children in Australia. Six schools controlled by the conservative Australian Federation of Islamic Councils now boast 5481 students — a 53 per cent rise in enrolments in five years. Federal Education Department statistics show that 28,267 students attended Australia’s 39 Islamic schools last year — 82 per cent more than the 15,503 who were enrolled in 32 schools in 2009. In contrast, student numbers in all Australian schools grew by 6 per cent over the same period, to 3.7 million.
As with most private schools, taxpayers contribute 80 per cent of Islamic schools’ running costs, providing $300 million in commonwealth and state funding in 2013. The latest official data shows the AFIC schools received $42m in taxpayer funding in 2013, plus $21.5m in government funds for new buildings and other capital works between 2009 and 2013. The Islamic Schools Association of Australia, which represents the 33 non-AFIC schools, said only one-quarter of Muslim students in Australia attended religious schools. ISAA president Abdullah Khan, who is the executive principal of the Australian Islamic College in Perth, said that meant three out of four Islamic students attended mainstream public schools.
He said the rise in enrolments at Islamic schools was fuelled by population growth, including a growing number of Muslim students whose parents were working in Australia on 457 work visas. “Academic focus is one of the reasons parents choose our schools but mainly it’s the values we provide, and the religious education,’’ he said. “Some schools, academically, are performing really well.’’ Tasmanian teacher Peter Jones, who spent time in most of Australia’s Muslim schools to research his thesis on Islamic education, said many Islamic parents thought their children would be safer at the religious schools.
“Many parents and students felt the kids were more sheltered in these schools,’’ he said. “They felt a bit more protected from the community because of hostility. People have been pulling their hijabs off and spitting at them’ Jones said. The surge in Islamic enrolments appears strongest in Melbourne’s outer working-class suburbs. The Ilim College of Australia, in Broadmeadows, has seen enrolments soar 70 per cent to 1514 students. At Minaret College, in the outer Melbourne suburb of Springvale, enrolments have jumped 60 per cent since 2009, to 1502 students last year. The Al-Taqwa College, an ultra-conservative Islamic school in Hoppers Crossing, has boosted student numbers by two-thirds since 2009, to 1701 students in 2014.
Enrolments have more than trebled at Unity Grammar College, an Islamic school in the outer-western Sydney suburb of Austral. The college now boasts 899 students. At the nation’s biggest Islamic school, the AFIC-controlled Malek Fahd Islamic School at Greenacre in Sydney, enrolments have risen one-third to 2412 students. The Islamic College of Brisbane, has seen its numbers grow 20%, to 949 students, in 5 years. South Australia’s schools registration board is investigating parents’ complaints about teaching and curriculum standards at the AFIC-affiliated Islamic College of South Australia, which has 630 students — a third more than it did 5 years ago. The Adelaide school reportedly prohibits boys and girls from mingling in the hallways.
Enrolments have more than doubled to 657 students at the AFIC-affiliated Langford Islamic College in Perth, where even the Year 1 girls are required to wear a headscarf. Dr Jones said most imams teaching religion at the Islamic schools were foreign-born, and not all were qualified teachers, but he insisted Islamic schools were not turning teenagers to jihad. “Mostly the jihadists are kids who are alienated in the state system,’’ he said. “The Islamic schools take a very firm line that suicide is forbidden, it’s forbidden to kill women and children and you can’t kill other Muslims, and violence has to be sanctioned by the state’’ Jones said.
GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS STRIPPING CITIZENSHIP FROM THOSE ENGAGED IN TERRORIST ACTIVITIES
Hate preachers and terrorists face being stripped of their Australian citizenship and sent back to their country of origin under tough anti-terrorism measures being examined by the Abbott Government. The proposal would see immigrants who became Australian citizens but then preached hate or carried out terrorist attacks given a one-way ticket back to their birth countries, or a third nation. The move could encompass Australian citizens who were not dual nationals, meaning the terrorists and hate preachers would have to be accepted by another country. A Cabinet source said the plan would not affect Australian-born citizens who do not have or have not held another nationality.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated support for stripping dual nationals of their citizenship: “We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us.” And in a sign of the growing momentum within the Government for an overhaul of the Citizenship Act, the chairman of Parliament’s powerful Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Dan Tehan, has called for an international agreement signed with the United Nations to be amended to give Australia more power to banish terrorists. The Government has been examining the Citizenship Act since February but until now was believed to be focused on dual nationals, such as the leaders of the 2005 MCG terror plot, Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Mohamed Ali Elomar.
But Mr Tehan has gone further, saying that Australia should follow Britain in cracking down on citizens who betray the country that has bestowed citizenship upon them. “It is time we looked at new ways to revoke the citizenship of those who wish to harm us and have abused those rights and privileges,’’ he said. Mr Tehan, the Liberal MP for Wannon, said the new laws introduced by the United Kingdom were “a sensible example for Australia”. Since Australia’s terror threat level was raised to high last September, 23 people have been arrested in eight counterterrorism operations. Government sources have said that the agreement Australia signed with the UN in 1973 meant Australian citizens could not be stripped of their citizenship.
More than 60 countries have signed up to the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness 1961, which is one of two treaties spelling out the legal framework to protect refugees and individuals from being rendered stateless, or without a country to call home. It makes it almost impossible for a government to strip citizenship from a person who is not a dual national. But unlike Australia several countries, including the UK and New Zealand, lodged notices called “reservations’’ at the time they signed the treaty, which gave them greater powers to revoke citizenship. Mr Tehan is calling for Australia to lodge a late “reservation’’, arguing the treaty makes it more difficult for Australia to consider treason charges against some terrorists.
PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY IN TO HALAL AND KOSHER CERTIFICATIONS APPROVED
Halal foods will be put under the microscope after Liberal senator Cory Bernardi won a parliamentary inquiry into what he calls the “racket” of certification. The six-month inquiry by the Senate Economics References Committee will also cover certification schemes for kosher foods, organic products and genetically modified foods. Senator Bernardi, who has in the past expressed concern about where money for halal “ends up”, said he wants to “establish the facts” about all certification schemes. The South Australian Liberal knows all too well that it can be impossible to avoid halal food in certain situations.
He was upgraded from business class to first class on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Adelaide on October 17 last year, according to the register of senators’ interests. The airline’s dietary requirements section on its website states: “All meals served on Emirates flights are Halal”. Senator Bernardi said that he “probably” ate halal on board but was not sure whether that included the champagne. “It was my choice to fly Emirates. Would I prefer bacon and eggs in the morning? Probably, but it was my choice and the service was great. I’d point out that Qantas is halal too,” he said. The inquiry is about giving people an informed choice and allowing them to make ethical decisions based on the facts, he said.
Emirates cancelled a $50,000 deal last November with Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company after the South Australian dairy producer caved in to social media pressure and ditched its halal accreditation. Campaigners have called for boycotts of products including Vegemite that pay for halal certification. Anti-halal campaigners claim the money “funds terrorism”. The Australian Crime Commission last year said it had found no links between the halal certification industry and financing of terrorist groups. Nationals MP George Christensen last year criticised halal certification, writing that it was “outrageous that some of my grocery spending could go to propagating a religion”.
It is estimated that the global market for halal certification will top $1.5 trillion by 2050. Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has warned there would be huge financial ramifications if Australia’s meat industry dropped halal certification. He said the local price of beef could triple if Australian abattoirs could not sell to Islamic markets like Indonesia and Saudi Arabia that expect such certification. Senator Bernardi said: “There seems to be a number of concerns about some certification schemes that are operating and in the interests of transparency and establishing the facts and being able to act in the national interest I think it’s wise for the Parliament to consider all certification schemes and how they operate,” he said.