Daily Telegraph (Surry, Australia), May 23, 2007
THE controversial citizenship test being introduced by the Federal Government has been branded “biased” and “unAustralian” by the nation’s key Muslim body.
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils today released a statement strongly questioning the proposed test, saying members “share the serious concerns” it has raised in “the wider Australian community”.
“While AFIC does not oppose regulated immigration, it believes that a test with biased questions targeting particular cultural or ethnic groups goes against the very values of democracy and a fair go that the government is trying to inculcate,” said President Ikebal Adam Patel.
He agreed that would-be migrants should demonstrate reasonable proficiency in the English language, familiarity about the history and population of this country, and knowledge about the Australian lifestyle.
But he said he it is “unfair and un-Australian to expect them to study about Anglo-celtic and Judaeo-Christian values, especially when those migrants are coming from a different religious and cultural background.”
He added: “These questions do not in any way add value to all Australians by being inclusive in these testing times but by their very nature are being openly antagonistic.”
The test sparked controversy earlier this month when it was revealed that would-be immigrants are to be quizzed on key elements of Australian culture and history.
The citizenship test will be based on a new resource book The Australian Way of Life, which is being drawn up by the Immigration Department.
Immigrants will be able to sit the test after four years’ “lawful residence”, including at least 12 months’ permanent residence.
Every candidate will be asked a random selection of 20 questions, drawn from a pool of 200.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews sparked debate by saying immigrants would have to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian tradition as the basis for the nation’s values system.
Today Mr Patel said AFIC would like the proposed test to be objective in structure and format and value-neutral.
He vowed to urge the government to publish the questions for wider discussion in the community before finalising the questionnaire.
If these questions are going towards the eventual makeup of the Australian landscape, then all Australians deserve this opportunity to comment,” the AFIC statement said.
“And a good test for the adoption of these questions would be for these questions to be put to all Australian citizens at the upcoming elections.”