From ABC September 1, 2006
PM stands by Muslim integration comments
By Conor Duffy for The World Today
Prime Minister John Howard has restated his view that Australian Muslims need to learn English and treat women as equals, in order to fit in with Australian community values.
Mr Howard's comments on a talkback radio station made national headlines this morning, with the Prime Minister accused of singling out Muslims.
He was quoted as saying that Muslim migrants need to make a greater effort to embrace Australian values, treat women as equals and make a better attempt to learn English.
As he opened a new school building in his own Sydney electorate of Benelong this morning, Mr Howard said he stood by his comments.
"It's wrong, I haven't singled anybody out," he said.
"I said yesterday what I've previously said, that there is a section, a small section, of the Islamic population which is unwilling to integrate.
"And I've said generally of migrants who come to this country, no matter where they've come from, they have to integrate.
"That means speaking English as quickly as possible, it means embracing Australian values, and it also means making sure that no matter what the culture of the country from which they came might have been, Australia requires women to be treated fairly and decently and in the same fashion as men.
"If any migrants coming to this country have a different view, they'd better get rid of that view pretty quickly.
"Ninety-nine per cent of the Islamic community of Australia has integrated and is part of the Australian community, but I've said before there is a small section - and that's self-evident - that is unwilling to integrate and it's up to all of us to try and overcome that resistance."
Mr Howard was then told of the outrage amongst Muslim leaders and asked if he would consider an apology.
"No I don't apologise, I think they are missing the point," he said.
"The point is that I don't care, and the Australian people don't care where people come from - look at this school, it's made up of children from all different backgrounds and they're all part of the Australian community - and that's what we want for everybody.
"But to the extent that some people, and there's a small section, resist that, then it has to be said and there's no point pretending otherwise."
Other migrants supportive
Mr Howard found some support for his view among the parents at the school.
Proud parents, many of them Asian, looked on as their children jostled for a photo with Mr Howard.
One Chinese mother said immigrants needed to do more to adopt Australian values.
"I agree with that," she told The World Today.
"If you want to live in Australia, you've got to learn the language here or don't come here."
But Muslim leaders, including former Liberal candidate Irfan Yusuf, remain concerned by the Prime Minister's remarks.
"The fact is there are people from a while range of ethnic and religious groups who fit John Howard's description," he said.
"I mean why would he single out people of a particular faith group? It just doesn't make any sense, it doesn't really contribute anything and really I think it's just a piece of wedge politics which is most unbecoming of a conservative leader.
"I'd want to know, does John Howard still regard himself as a conservative, if he does, why is he alienating an inherently socially conservative community?"