Expressing shock at the reported racism taunts in a Sydney bus at Australia’s broadcasting star Jeremy Fernandez recently, Hindus have urged Australia to do serious soul searching on prevalent racism in the country.
Hindus want Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to publicly apologize over the underlying racist attitudes in Australia against “others” as exhibited in the recent reported ugly racist onslaught faced by Fernandez, who is of Indian descent, which was witnessed by his two-year-old daughter also.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that it was highly disturbing to note that such racist attitudes still existed in 21st century Australia, a culturally diverse society now. The “others” had contributed greatly to the Australian economy, academia and business despite many apparent “barriers”, he noted.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that despite the drastic change in demographics; racism, insensitivity, xenophobia, vilification and racial abuse seemed to be shockingly alive and well in Australia in 2013. Workplace discrimination reportedly existed and immigrants still were under-represented in parliament, corporate boardrooms and military.
Rajan Zed stressed that anti-racism initiatives were immediately required in Australia and it needed to do deep introspection of its heart and be kind to immigrants, minorities, indigenous people, and other vulnerable groups. Gillard’s public apology would send a strong message against xenophobia.
Zed stated that Australia seemed to be lacking in human rights culture and it needed to do a lot to become a fully civilized society and to stay competitive globally. It still reportedly did not have a charter of rights and its human rights framework needed an urgent reform.
Rajan Zed pointed out that there had been various incidents of racist violence against Indians in the past. In 2011, a popular radio host reportedly termed Hindus’ holy river Ganga as “junkyard” and India a “shit hole”, thus belittling the entire community. Last year, inappropriate displaying of an image of Hindu Goddess Lakshmi on swimwear at a Sydney fashion event and depiction of highly revered Hindu deities Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu in “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich” play in Melbourne caused protests. Hindus and Jews had asked Queensland to treat all major religions evenly in the past, according to whose Education Act, “Instruction…may be given in State primary and special schools during school hours in selected Bible lessons.”
Zed’s requests to read opening prayers in Australia House of Representatives, Tasmania House of Assembly and Victoria Legislative Assembly in the past were denied, where Lord’s Prayer, a well-known prayer in Christianity, was read regularly.
A report by Australia Human Rights Commission, a statutory organization that reports to the federal Parliament, in the past highlighted “a lack of constitutional protection against racial discrimination in Australia” and talked about “absence of any entrenched guarantee against racial discrimination that would override the law of the Commonwealth”. Battle against racism would need effective solutions, amends, compensation, rights recognition, public education programs, etc., at various levels besides developing a “bill of rights” as a high-priority, Rajan Zed added.
A highly developed country and with the second-highest human development index, Commonwealth of Australia ranks as one of the best places in the world to live. Sixth-largest in the world, this country of kangaroo and koala is known for its natural beauty and has the longest continuous cultural history. Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Quentin Bryce, is head of state.