Sunday, September 03, 2006

OPINION: Howard’s Muslim double speak

Singling out one migrant group is divisive and dangerous, writes IRFAN YUSUF.
There are a small number of migrants resisting integration, They don’t accept Australian values, refuse to treat women as equals and refuse to even try to learn English.

They come from every ethnic, linguistic and religious group. I know elderly Indian Sikhs who find speaking English impossible, despite their best efforts. I know Lebanese Catholics who would disown their daughters if they married outside the faith.

So why does John Howard only mention that segment of this small group forming part of what he simplistically describes as the Islamic population? And what happens when we apply his tests of integration to the realities of Muslim Australia?

This weekend, Muslim women from across the country will be gathering in Canberra for a national women’s conference, to be launched by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward. Sheik Omran isn’t on the invitation list.

Howard might seek a briefing from Goward about how these women are unlikely to be treated as equals.

He might learn something of their oppressive environments forcing them to work in such demeaning fields as academia, legal practice, primary and secondary education, writing, publishing, social work, film production, mothering and law enforcement.

He might also be told of the patronising, sexist and unAustralian topics being covered - independent school education, film, legal rights, law enforcement, mentoring young women and women in business.

Since these women refuse to integrate, the entire proceedings will be in English, a language they all speak as their first language.

Howard may not be aware that such women are the rule, not the exception, in Muslim communities. Much the same situation exists among Muslim men.

John Howard has said some embarrassing and nonsensical things over the years.

However, his recent statements singling out Muslim Aussies are only matched in near-complete ignorance to his 1988 comments on Asian immigration. On all such occasions, Howard’s comments have had little basis in fact.

The Howard government funded a 2004 study of Australian Muslims put together by a team of researchers under Professor Abdullah Saeed of the University of Melbourne.

The study found that the largest ethnic group of Australian Muslims (by place of birth) were Aussie-born Muslims. This group is three times the number of Muslims born in Lebanon.

Howard’s use of the term Islamic population is ample illustration of his relative ignorance of the thousands of Muslim citizens living in his own electorate, let alone the hundreds of thousands living across the country.

To speak of the Islamic community or the Islamic population is as meaningless as speaking about the Christian community.

What kind of Christians? Christadelphians? Low-church Anglicans? Roman Catholics? Jehovahs’ Witnesses?

Perhaps Howard isn’t aware that migrants tend to have many layers of identity, of which religion is only one. Usually the most important aspect of a migrant’s identity is the one where they feel most vulnerable.

My parents arrived in Canberra in 1965. My mother’s first friend here was a Hindi-speaking Jewish woman. Why? Because language was the primary source of my mother’s identity. It was also the area where she felt most vulnerable.

I grew up surrounded by family friends whose parents spoke the language of Bollywood movies – Indian Hindus, Sikhs, Goan Catholics, Fiji-Indian Ahmadis and even a Pakistani Anglican priest.

We used to buy our Indian spices from an Indian Jewish family at Bondi beach. We shared a common language and culture despite our religious differences.

My parents befriended the family of a (now deceased) saintly Indian Muslim historian who taught at the Australian National University.

One of his sons is now one of the most senior Commonwealth public servants, and has been involved in the administration some of Mr Howard’s most popular yet draconian policies.

What possible gains in national security or integration are achieved by singling out one group from a broad church of insufficiently integrated Australians?

And why identify this group according to one aspect of their identity? Why make ethno-religious heritage a vulnerable point?

The monolithic Islamic community doesn’t exist. There are people from various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds who just happen to also be Muslim.

By singling out non-integrated Muslims, Mr Howard is alienating the overwhelming majority who are well-integrated.

Indeed, Mr Howard is helping to manufacture an artificial Muslim community, consisting of even the most nominal Muslims who are fed up with seeing their ancestral heritage picked on.

When even conservative-voting lawyers like myself begin to feel alienated and marginalised by allegedly conservative political rhetoric, the only beneficiary in the long run are extremists.

Islamist extremists from groups like al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah predict Western Muslims will be treated like second class citizens in Western countries (if they aren’t already).

Pseudo-conservative and pseudo-liberal politicians playing racial and religious wedge politics at the expense of nominal Muslims are turning such claims into self-fulfilling prophecies.

The Howard government claims to concern itself with national security. John Howard frequently says that Islamist terrorists fight us because of our way of life. Yet John Howard and some of his ministers are undermining that way of life by assisting terrorists in having a larger pool of marginalised Muslims to recruit from.

*Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and was endorsed Liberal candidate for the western Sydney seat of Reid in the 2001 federal election. This article first appeared in the Canberra Times on Saturday September 2 2006.


Augustus said...

Typical nonsensical ranting Irf. This simplistic argument that basically amounts to "because there are a handful of good Muslims in Australia, the media and government aren't allowed to talk about the bad ones.


You constantly harp on about John Ilhan and Ahmed Fahour and their prominent positions and how they are gonna get John Howard and Alan Jones et al for making anti-Islamic comments when the real point is that out of approximately 300,000 Muslims in Australia, you can only conjour up TWO prominent Muslims who have made a positive contribution to Australian society and one of them is a soulless banker and the other a dodgy mobile phone dealer. Now before you rattle off the names of numerous unknown Muslim academics and also rans, I did say prominent, ie most of us have heard of them. So don't even bother with that.

When it comes on the other hand, to identifying promonent Muslims who on an almost daily basis bring Australia into disrepute or have committed heinous crimes, the list is considerable and I shall demonstrate that shortly. You will of course try to dismiss this by saying that other ethnic communities have produced and harboured criminals and ratbags too, but its all about ratios. For instance, if you made a list of Italians who have made positive and negative contricutions to Australian life, th epors would outweigh the cons significantly.

As for Muslims, lets look at the mad mongrels that most of us know and have badly diminished Australia in some way shape or form and this list is by no means exhaustive, and some of them are Australian born, so your inane arguments about misrepresetation are inconsequential.

Keysar Trad
David Hicks
Jack Thomas
Sheik Taj El Din Al Hilaly (sic?)
Irfan Yusuf
Bilal Skaf et al
Ron Bakir
Ned Manoun
Wasim Dourehi
Faiz Mohammed
Sheik Mohammed Omran
and thats just of the top of my head on a Sunday morning after a big night out.

So the ratio of good to bad Muslims in Australia, albeit fairly un-scientific is 2 questionable:11. Not looking good.

As for the further nonsensical argument that profiling Muslims is a silly as profiling Christians: firstly, Christadelfians and Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians and are not recognised as such, and secondly, Christians don't identify themselves racially and culturally like the majority of Muslims do. Not the PM's fault. Just the way it is.

Irf, when John Howard speaks about the need for Muslims to integrate (not assimilate) he acknoweldges the very real fact that in order for a person to be a true member of any grouping, whether in be in the macro sense of society and community or indeed in the micro sense of club or sporting group, there must be general integration of ideals for the group to function. He also acknowledges as you seem to ignore, that the so called good Muslims have a responsibility to engage and drive that integration, lest they be labelled by the bad apples.

Best you up the doasge of Lithium. You might get back to the realtive lucidity you displayed in the mid nineties.

In verbum nostrum veritas.

Augustus said...
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Anonymous said...

Wow, Augustus. That was an impressive list of people.

Now why don't you do us a favour and list all the hard-Right NSW Libs who have brought the party, Christianity and NSW into disrepute.

List all those who show their sense of equality for women by opposing Pru Goward in favour of an anti-abortion activist.

Then add to that all the pedophile priests and their supporters.

Then add all the philandering Aussie sportspeople. Follow that up with all the prominent Aussies from the big end of town who you can now visit at Silverwater.

Otherwise, why don't you just forget your whole project of hypocrisy and keep smoking dope with Banjo.

Augustus said...

Firstly anonymous unlike your darling Irf, I don't partake in prescribed or illicit substances.

I'd be happy to list those in the hard-right of the Liberal party, howeever, it no longer exists. The soft/centre right that now controls the party, many have brought the party into disrepute but few are Christians so I don't see your point.

As for not supporting Pru Goward-well since when does equality for women mean that you have to support a female candidate every time? Should we dgrade women by having a quota system like the ALP? Because you disagree with the notion of protecting unborn children does that mean that none are allowed to be pro-life? Should all of us be prochoice/death because it happens to be trendy at the moment?

Wake up tp yourself clown.

Address the arguments at hand and don't try to trivialise them by comparing them to totally irrelevant and unrelated incidences in party politics. This is a national issue that should be bi-partisan. You pretend to know who Banjo is yet can't see that the views expressed by Irf on this site are manufactured to satisfy his addiction for undeserved attention. He is a whore who would sell his mother for a second in the spotlight. Much like some of Banjo's friends would sell their own mothers aswell as yours for minor political gain.

You clowns on the left have to realise that constructive debate only occurs when you address the issues and the cause and effect that drives and results from them, rather than just imbecillically disagreeing with the other side because the ABC and Irf tell you to.

Grow some balls and identify yourself.

Law Student said...

Irfan, another master piece mate.

Anon 8.32...Jehovah's are christian.

Anonymous said...

I think we should be able to conduct this discussion without reference to country music or banjo playing or the smoking of marijuana. The only people who should stay away from these are crazy people, including Muslims. Perhaps Irfan can entertain us all with his pictures of friends at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Graham Bell said...

I'm not sure if it is safe for me to post here .... I don't like the idea of overenthusiastic misdirected blokes in funny dark uniforms bursting though my dunny door looking for Osama bin Wheelbarrow......

Seriously though .... excellent post.

Has anyone ever thought of giving Howard a bilingual copy of the Koran? Or, since he already seems to have appointed himself a world expert on comparitive religion, would such a gift be a waste of time?

Anonymous said...



mike said...

a few months back while at church a well known catholic priest in melb' told us that muslims occupy the same space today that catholics did back a couple of decades which is to say we will point, laugh, exclude, denegrate, ridicule, bash, put down and generally trash them until someone else comes along to replace them. (got to hate someone)

Anonymous said...

mike, you might be right if you were comparing paki muslims and indian muslims, but muslims will never be like anything on either side of a battle between protestants or catholics.

Graham Bell said...

Congratulations. You've been Crikeyed; (wonder why the bloke who thinks he is King Of Australia missed out?)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Irfan, but you've set up a strawman in your post that doesn't exist. Howard was specifically talking about a small minority within the Muslim community, but then you apply it to all of Muslim Australia (third paragraph.) We know that most Muslims are well integrated, that's taken as a given.

But perhaps Howard was referring to that small minority from where the arrested potential terrorists came. Or perhaps he meant that minority who take the Koranic instruction I read about on to keep seperate from non-Muslims and not make friends with them or socialise with them or adopt their ways. Perhaps Howard was just referring to that minority who, if it becomes too large, could cause a political or social problem in generations to come?

Please don't take any offence to this as I consider Muslims just like any other of my fellow Aussies, but we can't deny that a problem with a small minority exists. Do you? If you don't, I'd like to hear about it.

Irfan said...

Anon @ 753am.

The piece was written before Howard clarified the matter. He clarified his comments on the Saturday the piece was published.

It was in his clarification that he mentioned the 99% proportion and emphasised the majority.

Since then, Costello has come out and spoke quite sensibly about the need to continue condemning terror. He has also said that Muslim leaders need to ensure that REAL Islam is taught. He acknowledhes that real Islam isn't violent religion, and he has no objection to converts.

The net message is this:

1. Islam is a mainstream Aussie faith.

2. Muslims are mainstream Aussies.

3. We need to work together to deal with the 1% problem.

4. Conversion to Islam in itself isn't a problem.

5. Real Islam is not violently psychopathic.

Now that the govt has said this, the issue is dead. Akerman and Bolt will have to find something else to write about.

I'll be writing further on this. But given the net messages of the PM and the Treasurer, I can safely say the issue is a dead duck now.

So let's spend the next week exposing those radical extreme clerics who want to stop stem cell research that could save lives!

Watch this space ...

Anonymous said...

Yusuf states-"Conversion to Islam
isn't a problem".
what about conversion FROM Islam,
what is Islamic sharia ruling on that?

Anonymous said...

Single one migrant grouper, divisive and dangerous, IRFAN YUSUF.

Talk about reading between the lines... this is what I saw when I read between the words.

Without offence,

Ona Mouse.

Anonymous said...
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Augustus said...

Who said I didn't support Pru Goward and how dare you make allegations that I am a child molester?

You, like all who suppoort Irf are an idiot. My opinions and beliefs on women have nothing to do with my political views.I am rational enough to understand that a member of parliament must have more than one issue in their arsenal.

What a fool. Just because she is a campaigner for women's rights she is credentialled to sit in the Parliament? You really are as silly as anyone else who supports Irf.

The real difference between me and you is two fold, firstly, I actually know Irf and know what he really stands for and what a lying hypocrite he really is and the other is that I have the courage to identify myself on this site.

Go shave your legs and have a bath you hippy bitch.

While you're at it, see if there's a brain under the built up grime of your feminist escapades.

Shellal said...

Augustus you are a real hoot aren't you, wow serious issues there.

Anyway yes there is a problem with a minority of Muslims with attitudes to all sorts of things as there are with various groups including any conservative traditional groups who may not fit in well with a modern 'liberal' society such as Australia. I have known various ethnic groups like some mentioned by Irfan and Anglo Australian's as well where bad attitudes prevail towards women, this includes participation in the workforce and equity in education and politics etc. There are always men around that have issues with women having equality and access to power. And yes I am just forty and have known Anglo's over the years who do not want their wives to work and are very controlling as are some Muslim, Hindu , Buddhist etc etc men..

Let's not even go into the position of woemn in the west and the constant objectification we are faced with in the Media. Deplorable really - read some Naomi Wolf Augustus I recommend the beauty Myth and Promiscuity sad indictment's of women's treatment in the west and she is a moderate feminist.

Regards a moderate Anglo Muslim

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"Regards a moderate Anglo Muslim" - just like the ones that bombed the London Underground.

Anonymous said...

How did you know?

Anonymous said...

Muslims are playing "victim" for too long here in Australia. Christians in Muslim countries are more like the "Victims" as they are actually murdered, tortured for being Christian - and this is the 21st century!!!

Please read Cardinal George Pells article concerning lack of understanding and knowledge we have of Islam and its potential detrimental impact on Australia:

Muslims themselves are in fear of asking questions due to negative consequences....