Ayaan Hirsi Ali says below that Australians have a right to know those wishing to join their society will respect their traditions and principles. Culturally imcompatible Muslims could threaten Australian society and values

Compared with Europe, Australia is a very fortunate country. It is familiar with the challenges of immigration. It has been absorbing people from far away from the times of the settlers and convicts from Britain to the era of mass exoduses after World War II. And it has natural borders that can be relatively easily controlled. All of this may lead Australians to feel they know how to handle immigration. But such complacency could be dangerous.

The first challenge is to acknowledge and appreciate what is actually going on in the supply of immigration. When in 1951 the Geneva Convention was drafted, the UN reported that about a million people, mostly from Europe, were displaced, seeking asylum or qualified for a refugee status. Today the number is 40 million, mostly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Second, the culture of these potential immigrants is of utmost relevance when it comes to assimilating those welcomed into host nations like Australia. In the 1940s and 50s, Australia was essentially admitting Europeans, nearly all of them Christian. The Indo-Chinese who came later were also assimilated, even though they were sometimes subjected to harsh discrimination. But it will be less easy to assimilate immigrants whose culture is not only different but who may actually reject the Australian way of life.

About 70 per cent of the 40 million displaced peoples, asylum-seekers and refugees are Muslim.

Nor do Muslims come to Australia only as refugees. People from Britain have long been the single largest group of settlers coming to Australia. But the most recent data for all permanent additions to the population by country of birth shows that people from predominantly Muslim countries account for a larger share: 12.5 per cent of new settlers, compared with 11.9 per cent from Britain.

Unlike other migrant groups, Muslims are often targets for their radical brethren. Financed with oil money, agents of Islamism set up indoctrination centres called madrassas in refugee camps. Their teachings are fundamentally incompatible with Australian values. They preach submission to Allah before individual freedom.

Women are groomed to be submissive baby machines; gay people are deemed unfit to live; a worldview is cultivated that obliges the Muslim to distance himself from the unbeliever and never to copy the ways of the infidel.

If assimilation programs have the ambition of integrating the first generation and fully assimilating the second, then Australian policy-makers and citizens must be aware of this reality. Europeans underestimated it.

The result is that the Islamists have been able to establish enclaves and networks in some of the continent’s biggest cities. Finally there is the issue of national security and national interest. Australia is a staunch ally of the US and has supported America’s war on terror in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There remains a serious threat of retaliation from the worldwide web of Islamists.

Their methods are subtle: sleeper cells, the transfer of moneys to charities that aid or abet terrorism, the support of the gradual Islamisation of Australia, the setting up of institutions of dawa (persuasion, activation of passive or lapsed Muslims, conversion of non-Muslims); the rejection of democratic values and particularly the abuse of the welfare state.

A serious immigration debate needs to acknowledge these alarming realities. This time really is different. So what should Australia’s immigration policy be?

Australia is a booming economy that clearly needs to and will increase its population.

Higher fertility alone is not a sufficient answer. Creating policies that help Australian women find a balance between work and the care of children is also necessary but not sufficient. An immigration policy is needed that serves the economic needs of Australia while at the same time maintaining social cohesion.

National security at a time of terrorism that transcends borders and peoples must be the other key criterion in determining who gets to be an Australian visitor or resident and who qualifies for citizenship.

An asylum-seeker from Pakistan who is idling his hours away in a refugee camp might be the right person that a miner in Kalgoorlie can train. But given Afghanistan and Pakistan’s problems with Islamism, it is reasonable to ask questions about more than just his engineering degree.

How much schooling in madrassas has he had? How loyal is he to the creed of martyrdom? Is he willing to reject the political and social dimensions of Islam? Is he willing to learn the language, values, customs and convictions (in short the Australian way of life)? Will he promise to abide by the law — Australian, not sharia?

Such questions can and should be asked of whoever is seeking admission into Australia. Merely to be fleeing a failed state or a civil war is not sufficient.

Nor can it be enough simply to have a family member already resident in Australia. Even a proven skill of use to the Australian economy is not a sufficient qualification. Australians have a right to be reassured those wishing to join their society will respect their traditions and principles.

It is abundantly clear from my visit to the Museum of Immigration that previous generations of immigrants were more than ready to sign up for those principles. But the world has changed — and Australia’s immigration policy must change with it.