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This article was published 24/2/2011 (3708 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canada and Australia have a 40-year love affair with multiculturalism, but in Australia, at least, the romance is showing distinct signs of cooling.
The concept has been under debate in recent weeks partly on the heels of British Prime Minister David Cameron's speech to the Munich Security Conference calling for a more "muscular liberalism" when confronting newcomers who refuse to conform to western values.
Islamic extremists are, of course, the unidentified people allegedly refusing to conform to western values.
It's not simply the fanatics, however, but the entire Muslim community that is coming into the firing line as many Australians question the entire multicultural theory that has defined immigration policy for generations.
Australian conservative Opposition MP Cory Bernardi has been unabashed in singling out the "isolation of Islam" as not meeting the prime benchmark of multicultural success -- blending into your host country while retaining a measure of your cultural birthright.
One emailed reaction from an unidentified critic of the senator underscored the emotional intensity that even a courteous attempt at debate on the subject seems to inflame:
"I hope people put a bullet through your brain."
A petition has been presented to the federal parliament signed by just a handful of people, but representative of what is being said in many of the country's pubs and lunchrooms.
The petitioners wanted a 10-year moratorium on Muslim immigration "so an assessment can be made of the social and political disharmony currently occurring in the Netherlands, France and the U.K., so as to ensure we avoid making the same mistakes... "
Many Australians noted German Chancellor Angela Merkel's declaration last year that German multiculturalism has "utterly failed," while French President Nicolas Sarkozy also sharply called into question his country's policies.
Australia has a proud history of plagiarizing public policy from its Canadian Commonwealth cousin and our immigration policy is no exception.
The administration of former Labour prime minister Gough Whitlam established the concept of multiculturalism in the Australian public's mind soon after coming to power in 1972.
But former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau was at least a year ahead of him and it could be argued that Canada had been fermenting the multicultural brew since the Depression years.
Former Canadian governor-general John Buchan, way back in the 1930s, promoted the then rather avant garde notion that ethnic groups could retain cultural individuality while making their contribution to the national character.
It's a matter of historical record that multiculturalism has never delivered a delightful racial rainbow of harmony and co-operation in any country.
It's been that way since our primordial relatives spied a strange tribe approaching their cave, suspended the normal cordialities and attacked them with a tree branch.
Each wave of newcomers will almost inevitably be regarded in some quarters with deep suspicion and, at times, outright hostility.
Almost as soon as the new settlers planted the British flag in 1788, religious-based bigotry was both directed at and formally sanctioned against Irish Catholics in Australia.
An early priest, Father James Dixon, was banned from saying mass for fear the gathering could be used as a front for a violent Irish rebellion against the English Crown.
The revolt never eventuated and the Irish went on to build Australia amid occasional squalls of fear and resentment that never really faded until the mid-20th century.
The Chinese were objects of racism and ostracism along with the Greeks and even, curiously enough, the English -- dismissed as "whinging poms" by locals who had been here long enough to shape their own separate identity.
The Italians, who arrived in droves in the post-war years, were accused of clinging to their language, refusing to assimilate and taunted as "wogs" before their cuisine was eagerly fallen upon by the locals who, sated with pasta and red wine, absorbed Italy seamlessly into the national fabric.
Today, the image of the cheerful Italian fruiterer in Sydney is almost a more potent symbol of Australian nationalism than a cork hat.
Even the Asians who in the 1980s and 1990s helped spark a political movement called One Nation, which wanted their numbers curbed, are becoming second- and third-generation patriotic Australians.
That many non-violent Muslims have been here for more than 100 years, many acting as camel drivers in the desert interior, underscores the incontestable fact that the religion does not automatically equate to psychopaths igniting bomb vests in public thoroughfares.
Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen boldly spelled out the truth in a speech recently -- this nation needs hard-working immigrants not maniacal zealots, and it shouldn't confuse the two.
"In the age of concern about terrorism inspired by extremist Islam, it is perhaps inevitable that questions get asked about Muslim migration to Australia," Mr. Bowen said.
"As such, it is the role of government to ensure policies and programs are put in place to deal with and counter such extremism.
"But to cast all Islamic immigrants or all members of any religious group as somehow unworthy of their place in our national community does injustice to all."
Michael Madigan is the Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.