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Additional resources for Australia and the Middle East: A Front-line Relationship (Library of International Relations)
In contrast to an Asian country like Japan, the Muslim world did not appear to have the capacity or the will to marshal its forces for a challenge to Australian sovereignty. The people who introduced Islam to Australia and were its most public face up to the Second World War were the Afghans, a widely dispersed and all male community reaching a peak of 3000 in the 1890s, mainly confined to the remote outback. The first Afghans had entered Australia in 1860 as camel drivers for the Burke and Wills expedition.
Many preferred to be known as Syrians, but however described the great majority worked as hawkers and for the most part in remote districts. 19 By contrast the Chinese had a much greater reputation as versatile settlers and for that reason appeared to pose a greater threat to the European community. They were thought capable of working in almost any conditions from the hottest and most tropical regions to the coldest. They were to be found in rural Australia and in the towns and cities. They were skilled miners, agriculturalists, storekeepers and traders and even their harshest critics acknowledged that the Chinese were a capable and enduring race.
Indeed, the threat may simply present a dramatically satisfying 20 AUSTRALIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST opportunity to speculate upon the cohesion of the nation, its military capacities and the quality of its leaders. To be truly serviceable an imagined enemy must appear capable of mounting and delivering a threat, but the threat must also have cultural resonance. The creation of the ‘yellow peril’ is a case in point. In the mid-1890s the diverse threats and challenges represented by ‘awakening Asia’ were accorded a new power and immediacy when encapsulated as the ‘yellow peril’.