Australia’s former prime minister John Howard has attacked “multiculturalism” in English-speaking nations, saying that some sectors have gone too far in accommodating Muslim minorities.
The blunt-talking conservative, who led Australia for 11 years before losing the 2007 elections, said on Tuesday on a visit to Washington that the “Anglosphere” needed to take greater pride in its values and achievements.
“This is a time not to apologize for our particular identity, but rather to firmly and respectfully and robustly reassert it,” Howard said at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.
“I think one of the errors that some sections of the English--speaking world have made in the last few decades has been to confuse multiracialism and multiculturalism,” Howard said.
Howard pointed in particular to Britain, whose Muslim community came under a spotlight after the 2005 bombings on the London transport system.
“I am a passionate believer in multiracialism. I believe that societies are enriched if they draw, as my country has done, from all parts of the world on a non-discriminatory basis and contribute, as the United States has done, to the building of a great society,” he said.
“But when a nation draws people from other parts of the world, it draws them because of the magnetism of its own culture and its own way of life,” Howard said.
“People want to live in the United States not because of some futuristic ideal of multiculturalism, but because of what they regard as the American way of life and American values,” he said.
While in office, Howard faced criticism from his opponents that he aggravated anti-Islamic sentiment through tough anti-terrorism laws and tighter immigration controls, including a test on “Australian values.”
Howard said he welcomed Australian Muslims and hailed the recent election of Ed Husic, the son of Bosnian migrants, as his country’s first Muslim member of parliament.
Howard, who enthusiastically supported former US president George W. Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, said that Islamic radicalism posed a real threat.
He criticized those who would make cultural identity “mushy and unclear and undistinct,” rejecting the “assumption that the way to win favor from extremism is to make yourself a little more attractive to that extremism.”
Howard hailed what he called the values of political freedom and rule of law of five “Anglosphere” nations — Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US.
Howard said that India shared some characteristics with the group. He also called for greater cooperation with Indonesia — which he hailed as an emerging model for moderate young Muslims — and Japan.
However, Howard said that the “Anglosphere” clearly held different values than China. Howard’s Labor Party successors have sought to expand relations with China, a major consumer of Australia’s raw materials.
Howard said his government maintained strong ties with China, but added that the key to the relationship was to focus on business and “not to obsess about our philosophically different approaches to the challenges of the world.”