Wednesday, February 16, 2011

OPINION: Prejudice among our pollies is alive and well

Tony Abbott doesn’t have much talent to choose from, IRFAN YUSUF writes

It's official. Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi doesn't like halal meat. He argues halal slaughter contradicts his values and he doesn't see why he should have to put up with it.

I too am a victim of halal slaughter. My first experience with it left me severely traumatised. It was 1977 and I was a wee lad of seven. It was the festival of Eid al-Adha, a time each year when Muslims celebrate Abraham's preparedness to sacrifice his son. (Seriously, what kind of value system is that? Middle Eastern people prepared to kill their own kids should be locked up and deported!)

Our family were invited to the farm of a Pakistani doctor in Newcastle for what I was told would be a nice barbecue and a chance to play with some animals. After a four-hour drive along the long and winding Pacific Highway, we finally reached the farm. There was no barbecue in sight. One of the Indian uncles asked:

"Where is lunch, Doctor Sahib?"

“Lunch is out there on the paddock. There are enough animals for each family.”

Within minutes, I saw my parents and a host of uncles in their safari suits and aunties in their saris running in the general direction of the lambs and goats. The poor animals recognised the nefarious intentions of these men and women, and ran for their lives. The little lambs looked rather skinny; if anything, there was more meat visibly hanging from between the sari cloth of the aunties!

One or two lambs were finally caught. Their throats were cut in my presence. I cried, not just for the poor lambs but also because, instead of barbecue, the meat was placed into large pots and mixed with chilli and spice to make traditional Indian casseroles. No fair dinkum seven-year-old Aussie kid can stomach that!

By now, I felt like vomiting instead of eating. To make matters worse, the remaining animals were too afraid to play.

The experience wasn't enough to make me a vegetarian, though eating meat from an animal I had seen slaughtered was now out of the question.

Still, someone has to slaughter the animal. Meat doesn't grow on trees.

So when I read Bernardi's recent comments in the Herald Sun, I couldn't help but wonder if he too was at that pseudo-barbecue in Newcastle. He told the Herald Sun that halal slaughtering ...

... is anathema to my own values.

And what values are they?

Cory isn't terribly good at declaring what he is. A look at his website shows he's much better at telling us what he isn't. He is one of numerous Liberals who have followed the Tea Party line, replacing political correctness with political erectness, a kind of macho ideology in which people work themselves into an ideological frenzy.

Most conservative politicians (and ideologues, editors and columnists) think that the only way to prove you are really conservative is to reach positions on all issues that are completely opposite to what anyone they deem "the Left" would come up with.

Bernardi waxes unlyrical about people he describes as “Islamists”. Among their characteristics is their “insistence of consuming Halal food”. Those Bernardi describes as “moderate Muslims” don't share this fixation with cutting throats.

I wonder what Bernardi makes of “Judaists”, who share this fixation with an identical form of slaughter. Indeed, “Judaists” go much further, as anyone who has kept a kosher kitchen would know.

A good friend of mine is a “Judaist”, and everywhere he goes he carries plastic utensils and refuses to eat meat offered to him. Apparently these “Judaists” don't believe in our legal system. They prefer to have their disputes handled by the Beth Din, a special tribunal of “Judaist” jurists who make decisions in accordance with “Judaist” laws that are around two to three thousand years old.

In fact, it would be fair to say that if Bernardi were holding public office in a European parliament during the 1930s, he would almost certainly be writing the same remarks about Jews. But it isn't just Bernardi talking sects.

Kevin Andrews, John Howard's bumbling former immigration minister, told the Herald Sun that there is ...

... a risk [of enclaves] in Australia. What actually concerns me the most is that we can't have a discussion about it.

Now this statement really confused me. Let's face it. Almost every time Kevin Andrews opens his mouth in front of a TV camera, it's to talk about ghettoes and enclaves and immigrants not integrating. It's true that what he says rarely makes much sense. Perhaps what he should have told the Herald Sun reporter was that he is incapable of having a sensible discussion about it.

Andrews has a strange view of ethnic enclaves. Back in 2007, Andrews declared that

... some groups don't seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life.

His comment was triggered by the murder of 18-year-old Sudanese man Liep Gony. Clearly migrants should adopt Australian values by ensuring they are not murdered so readily.

So this is the kind of "talent” Tony Abbott must work with in his parliamentary party. Ah well. Shit happens.

Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and author of Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist. This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Wednesday 16 February 2011.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious
Digg! Get Flocked

No comments: