Email forward claims that former Australian Prime Minister John Howard told the media that immigrants should adapt to Australian culture, language and beliefs or leave the country. It also claims that Howard told Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law that they should get out of Australia.
Contains elements of truth, but is highly misleading and inaccurate
In early 2009, an altered version of the message falsely claimed that it was then Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd who made the comments.
In late 2010, yet another version of the message began circulating that claimed that it was the current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who made the comments. Like the 2009 Kevin Rudd version, this claim has no basis in fact whatsoever.
Subject: FW: Please read this! I know you will love it!Canada & America Need A Leader Like This!
Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia , as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.
Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation’s mosques. Quote: ‘IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali , we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.’
‘This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom’
‘We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society . Learn the language!’
‘Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.’
‘We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.’
‘This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom,
‘THE RIGHT TO LEAVE’.’
‘If you aren’t happy here then LEAVE. We didn’t force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.’
Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves, American and Canadian citizens will find the backbone to start speaking and voicing the same truths.
If you agree … please SEND THIS ON.
According to this email forward, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard informed Muslims living in Australia in no uncertain terms that they should leave the country if they wished to live under Islamic Sharia law. The message claims that the then Australian government was intent on targeting Muslim radicals “in a bid to head off potential terror attacks”. The email also quotes a no-holds-barred diatribe about immigration supposedly delivered by John Howard. The message suggests that political leaders in Canada and the United States would do well to follow the lead of the Australian Prime Minister with regard to immigration policy.
However, although the message does contain elements of truth, it is in fact highly misleading and inaccurate. At the outset, it should be noted that the message is now quite outdated. Versions of the email began circulating back in 2005. Since then, there has been a change of government in Australia. The Howard Government was resoundingly defeated in November 2007 and the current Australian Prime Minister is Labor’s Julia Gillard. However, the message contains no date and some non-Australian recipients may therefore wrongly assume that it refers to current events rather than events that occurred several years ago in a somewhat different political climate.
The first part of the message suggests that Prime Minister Howard told Muslims who wished to live under Islamic Sharia law that they should get out of Australia. This is partly true in the sense that a high profile Australian political leader did make comments suggesting that Islamic extremists who desired to turn Australia into an Islamic state should leave and that Howard condoned such strongly worded rhetoric. However, it was in fact then Federal Treasurer Peter Costello who actually uttered the comments. A November 2005 article in the Herald Sun noted:
ISLAMIC extremists wanting to enforce fundamentalist law should get out of Australia, federal Treasurer Peter Costello said yesterday.
In a significant hardening of the Government’s rhetoric, Mr Costello declared Australia would never be turned into an Islamic state.
“There are Islamic states around the world that practise sharia law,” he said. “And if that is your object, you may well be much more at home in such a country than trying to turn Australia into one of those countries, because it is not going to happen.”
Then Federal Education Minister Dr Brendan Nelson was also quoted in the media as stating that “those who do not accept and teach Australian values should ‘clear off'”.
The message also claims that John Howard had given government support to spy agencies monitoring the nation’s mosques. This element of the message is true. An August 2005 article in The Age notes:
Mosques and Islamic schools will be targeted by intelligence agencies as the federal government tries to stamp out homegrown terrorism and extremists.
Prime Minister John Howard said on top of trying to promote Australian values in Islamic schools, the government would monitor what was said in certain schools and mosques to ensure they did not foster terrorism.
Asked whether he was prepared to “get inside” mosques and schools to ensure there was no support for terrorism, Mr Howard was blunt.
“Yes, to the extent necessary,” Mr Howard told Southern Cross radio.
Mr Howard qualified the above stance by making clear that his government was not trying to interfere with religious freedoms but only gather intelligence on potential religious or material support for terrorist activities within the Australian Islamic community:
“I have no desire and nor is it the government’s intention to interfere in any way with the freedom or practice of religion.
“We have a right to know whether there is, within any section of the Islamic community, a preaching of the virtues of terrorism, whether any comfort or harbour is given to terrorism within that community.”
The next part of the message transcribes what is claimed to be a speech delivered by John Howard detailing his views on immigration. The piece calls on immigrants to learn English, adapt to Australian values and lifestyle and pointedly reminds them that they always have the right to leave if they are unhappy in their adopted country.
However, the quoted words were not made by John Howard and were circulating in various forms years before he supposedly uttered them. In fact, the words were originally intended for an American audience and were part of a longer piece penned by Barry Loudermilk, a US Air Force veteran and columnist for a local newspaper in the American state of Georgia. Loudermilk wrote the article as a means of expressing his personal views on patriotism and immigration in post-9/11 America.
The article struck a chord with many readers in the US and elsewhere and it soon spread far and wide via email and other means. At some point, versions adapted to Australia, the UK, and elsewhere began circulating. Finally, the Australianized version of Loudermilk’s article was falsely attributed to John Howard and tacked on to the original, more accurate, variant of the above email forward (quoted below):
Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.
A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia and her Queen at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his Ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown.
Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament.
“If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you,” he said on national television.
“I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia: one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that is false. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option,” Costello said.
Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the other country.
Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should “clear off. Basically, people who don’t want to be Australians, and who don’t want to live by Australian values and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off,” he said.
Thus, while the more lengthy version of message that includes Loudermilk’s article is still partially factual, it is nonetheless outdated, contains inaccurate information and may perpetrate a quite misleading understanding of Australia’s policies on immigration in general and Muslims in particular. Taken out of context, and with the falsely attributed Loudermilk article thrown into the mix, this email may give the impression that Australia is intolerant of migrants, especially those of the Muslim faith. This is not the case. One of Australia’s great strengths is its rich cultural diversity and it welcomes migrants from all parts of the world and with many and varied systems of belief.
Sending on factually dubious information such as this is unlikely to be helpful and may even add to the cultural divisions and misunderstandings that plague our strife-torn world.
Early in 2009 I began receiving versions of the above email that named Australia’s former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, as the person responsible for the supposed anti-Muslim stance. It seems that some rather unimaginative prankster has simply substituted “Rudd” for “Howard” in the text and replaced the photograph of John Howard with one of Kevin Rudd before sending on the message. The message is otherwise identical to the example included above. The “Rudd” version strays even further from the truth than the original. None of the comments or opinions included in the message have any connection whatsoever with Kevin Rudd or his Government.
In late 2010, I began receiving submissions about yet another version of the message that featured current Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The message includes the following as an addition to the original text:
Australia says NO – Second Time she has done this !
AMAZING You must read it !!!!
She’s done it again..
She sure isn’t backing down on her hard line stance and one has to appreciate her belief in the rights of her native countrymen.. A breath of fresh air to see someone lead. I wish some leaders would step up in Canada & USA & NEW ZEALAND .
Australian Prime Minister does it again!!
This woman should be appointed Queen of the World.. Truer words have never been spoken.
It took a lot of courage for this woman to speak what she had to say for the world to hear. The retribution could be phenomenal, but at least she was willing to take a stand on her and Australia ‘s beliefs.
The whole world needs a leader like this!
Prime Minister Julia Gillard – Australia
The rest of the “Gillard” version is virtually identical to the original “Howard” version. As with the Kevin Rudd version, none of the comments or opinions included in the message have any connection whatsoever with Julia Gillard or her Government.
Last updated: 4th February 2011
First published: 15th July 2008
By Brett M. Christensen