One could be forgiven for assuming
that Essays on Muslims and Multiculturalism is yet another book on the
trials and tribulations of being Muslim in a post 9/11 world. The book does not
disappoint in this regard and delivers much of the usual fare, but it also
offers some surprisingly refreshing contributions. Edited by Raimond Gaita, it
features contributions by some well-known Australian names including Geoffrey
Brahm Levey, Ghassan Hage and Shakira Hussein (incidentally the only female
contributor to the book).
Each of the chapters covers some
aspect of Muslims, multiculturalism, the media and identity since the 2001
terrorist attacks. While Levey does a good job of untangling some of the
mythical links between multiculturalism and terrorism he neglects to address how
multiculturalism, a policy originally introduced to deal with cultural
diversity, can also deal with religious diversity. Luckily, Hage picks up on
this theme in his chapter called "Multiculturalism and the ungovernable
Muslim". Waleed Aly’s chapter is another addition to the literature that
deconstructs popular media bias against Muslims. While it reads well, Aly’s
chapter comes across as little more than a response to Melanie Phillips’ book Londistan. Indeed most of the chapter is focussed on debunking each of
Phillips’ arguments in great detail.
Graeme Davison’s chapter is a
refreshing read on the citizenship and values tests and perhaps stands out
because it does not just focus on Muslims. The most enjoyable chapter is Shakira
Hussein’s. Her innovative approach guides the reader through some complex and
challenging themes through a narrative that will capture your imagination.
If you already have a collection of
books on the subject of Muslims in Australia, you may not find much value in
also adding this one to your collection. The book is worth reading but just
don’t expect it to open any new insights for you.