Tuesday, September 03, 2002

REFLECTION: Why Irf is a Turk - Struggling To Grow Cultural & Religious Toenails Without Burning My Feet in the Melting Pot!

I arrived in Sydney when I was around 5 weeks old. My parents hail from Delhi, the capital of ancient and modern India. Delhi was made the capital of the Turkish sultanates and kingdoms whose various incarnations ruled India for hundreds of years.

The last Turkish kingdom was the enlightened Mughal kingdom. The Mughals were descendants of the crazy Mongols who swept across Europe, raping and pillaging and robbing and burning and generally having a rather marvellous time … that is, until one of their rulers decided to spoil the party by adopting the faith of the people he had totally humiliated – Islam.

The Mongols virtually en masse adopted Islam and intermarried with Arabs, Turks and other ethnic groups who were already Muslims. Those who married Anatolian Turks moved south-east to Afghanistan. One of their number, Babur, decided the time had come to take over India. And that’s exactly what he did. His armies took over most of northern India, and so the Mughal Empire was born.

But not all the Mughals went with Babur. A large number chose to stay behind. When the Safavids took over the Mughal lands of western Afghanistan, these Mughals were forced to adopt the Shia sect. They still live in Afghanistan and are known as the ‘Hazara’.

Thankfully, my ancestors joined Babur. Otherwise, I would probably be on some leaky boat desperately trying to reach Australia. Or I might be sitting in a detention centre and/or on some Pacific location. Given my close ethnic affinity to the Hazaras, it is little wonder I (and so many other Australians of Indian Mughal origin and many other origins) find Mr Howard’s policies in relation to asylum seekers to be ugly and inhumane and completely illiberal. But even if the refugees were not my Hazara relatives but white farmers escaping discrimination in Zimbabwe or black Ethiopian Jews escaping discrimination of European Israel, I would still find detention of these asylum seekers abhorrent.

Why does Mr Howard do it? Doesn’t he see the inhumanity of the situation he has created? Perhaps he has realised that the least liked people in Australia are those labelled as Muslims (or ‘Moslems’). That phenomenon sometimes labelled as Islamophobia is the most popular and accepted form of racism, and some conservative politicians are jumping on the bandwagon and reaping the electoral rewards.

The Hazaras are Muslims. The Turks are Muslims. The Indian Mughals are Muslims. Virtually every Turkic tribe became Muslim (apart from the Khazars, who en masses adopted Judaism, whose descendants make up the majority of Europe’s Jewish community and some of whose descendants discriminate against black Jews in Israel).

In Turkey, being a Turk is synonymous with being Muslim. And in many places where Turks settled, their descendants are still known as Turks. In fact, even the indigenous people who adopted Islam are still known as Turks. When Serb fanatics under the leadership of Radovan Karazic slaughtered and raped Bosnian Muslims, they claimed to be ethnically cleansing their country of ‘Turks’. And Hindu fanatics who make up the majority of India's ruling party (the BJP), and who routinely attack Muslims in villages and towns across India, will usually refer to their victims as ‘Turks’.

So because I am of Turkish ancestry, I will always be labelled a Muslim. And because of my apparently being a Muslim, I am always labelled a Turk. Like it or not, I am a Turk.

And yet when I look into history, should I be ashamed of being a Turk? Definitely not. The Turks’ devotion to their faith and their self-respect was enough to win over their conquerors. Turks were known for their bravery, their tolerance and their civility. Their kingdoms were the cream of European civilisation as well as being the light of Asia and the Middle East. The Seljuks and then the Ottomans were among the most accomplished rulers of their time.

In terms of military genius, who can match the comquest of Constantinople by Mehmet the Conqueror and his army? And who can match his civility as he welcomed back the Greek communities who had fled? And not only Greeks. The Ottomans opened the doors of their empire to non-Khazar Arab-Spanish Jews who were fleeing the persecution of the Pope’s Catholic Inquisition. And any honest historian of Serbia will have to admit that the Ottomans restored the Serbian Orthodox Church (even though the Patriarch appointed happened to be the brother of the Wazir-i-Azam or Prime Minister).

There were also features of the Turkish rule in various parts of the world that one cannot be proud of. The wholesale slaughter of the spiritual movement of Guru Nanak in Punjab by the Mughal Aurangzeb was a stain on the empire and represented the beginning of its downfall. It also sowed the seeds of mistrust and resentment between Muslims and Sikhs in Punjab which would otherwise seem totally unnecessary given the enormous affinity between their spiritual traditions.

Some of the Ottomans were less interested in proper administration and more interested in increasing the numbers and varieties and females (and, in some cases, young males) to their seraglio. In doing so, they were merely living upto the unfortunate Western European stereotype of the Sultan’s ‘harem’.

Every nation has some fantastic and some bloody-awful periods in its history. You take the good with the bad. History is often used as the basis of judging a nation, a religion or a culture. Those who choose to blame Muslims for their history should look around and notice the glass that makes up their Judeo-Christian houses. Or as Christ said: “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone”.
A lot of you may be reading this and going black-and-blue in the face. You may know me personally. Or you may not know me, and are left thinking which terrorist-training-camp I graduated from. Or you may be Muslim and thinking to yourself ‘Irf, cool it, willya!’.

My writing style can often become quite emotive and passionate. I believe there is no point compromising one’s passion for the sake of politeness. There is also no point sacrificing good friendships because of misplaced passion. And so I apologise if I offended anyone in the above paragraphs.

I guess there are a number of lessons to be gained from my misplaced passion. Firstly, more and more Aussie Turks like me are discovering their history and their heritage. Secondly, with the onset of a vicious anti-Islam crusade going on in certain pseudo-conservative arenas, their apparent goal of having the majority of weak and non-observant Muslims leaving Islam is simply not working. If anything, it is having the opposite effect. When you bash Islam, even the most nominal Muslim gets offended. And when you ask for proof, the nominal Muslim is shamed into learning about his/her faith.

I remember when the Pakistani-English novelist Salman Rushdie released his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, a whole bunch of UK Muslims who have probably never read any book (let along his) started jumping up and down and calling for his execution. The late Ayatullah Khumayni of Iran joined in the circus. What was the result? Sales of the book went through the roof, Mr Rushdie ended up a martyr of free speech and was laughing all the way to the bank.

Pseudo-conservatives like Miranda Devine and Alan Jones and others have to realise that by attacking Islam, they are providing it with free publicity. And for that, Muslim missionaries (who are always starved of funds and resources compared to the financial juggernauts backing Christian missionary efforts) are most grateful.

Sunday, July 21, 2002


On behalf of me, myself and I, welcome to Planet Irf. Put together by Irf (short for Irfan, an Arabic name and spelt as (mis)-pronounced in Turkish) Yusuf. So who on earth is Irf Yusuf and why is he spending all this time writing for your obvious pleasure, entertainment and enlightenment?

I live in Sydney, Australia. I have lived here pretty-much full-time since I arrived in 1970. I was 5 months old, and naturally I did not have much choice at the time. And thankfully my dad chose Sydney as opposed to the other choice (Cox's Bazar in what was then East Pakistan, on the eve of a bloody civil war).

I am happy I live in Sydney. I am thankful that I live in a liberal democracy, where I have freedom to pursue virtually whatever economic, social, educational, medicinal or spiritual journey takes my fancy. I am also thankful that I live in a country which enjoys more political stability than perhaps any other nation on earth. I attribute this to our constitutional arrangements which are built upon the solid foundation of constitutional monarchy.

OK, I admit it. I am basically a conservative liberal. But what sort of person is that? Those of my readers who will have read or been exposed to conservatism and/or liberalism will know that these terms can mean all sorts of things. For me to describe myself as such does not really tell you a whole heap.

So how-on-irf do these terms apply to me? I guess you'll have to wait and see as I take you on a journey through my thoughts and reactions to all sorts of local, national and international events.

Thanks for coming and be back soon!

UPDATE - 02/04/05

OK, I have changed my mind a little since I wrote this last. Probably some of it has to do with the fact that so many of the people I used to look upto as conservative heroes have now jumped on the neo-Con bandwagon.

Take our PM, for instance. I still admire the dude for his political skills and his tenacity. He really is a survivor and a flourisher. But why must he insist on maintaining stupidly unconservative positions?

I mean, locking up kids in the desert may be something Stalin would have done during the 1950's. Except that the Siberian gulags tended to be rather colder than Baxter. Yet we are doing this in Australia in the name of conservatism. What makes it worse is that we are separating kids from their parents.

And yes, I agree that Saddam is a nasty brute. The Taliban weren't all that nice either. Does that mean we have to install the drug cartels of Hamid Karzai to replace them? Does that mean the war in Iraq was justified? Does that mean sending depleted uranium into towns and cities was a good idea?

Then there is the Hicks/Habib fiasco. What a joke! The government has been caught out potentially being involved in the torture of an Australian citizen! Is torturing citizens part of the conservative tradition? Perhaps in Chile under Pinochet.

What really scares me is the increasing links between the Liberal Party and Christian fundamentalism. The national Young Liberal President is employed by Hon David Clarke MLC. David is known to sympathise with the Catholic organisation Opus Dei. David is also close to Hon Rev Fred Nile MLC. Both are actively involved in trying to stack Liberal Party branches with anti-abortion activists and people who are looking forward to Christ's second return, a time when Christ will allegedly finish off the job that Hitler only partially completed (partially, as in 6 million).

Get ready for the sort of wackos and in-breds in the US Republican Party to take an active role in the Liberal Party. God/G-d/Allah/Buddha/Krshna/Bhagwan help us!

UPDATE - 09/01/11

Here are some endorsements that once appeared on the right hand column.


The ABC Unleashed website then published an online article by the Muslim spokesman, Irfan Yusuf ... ridiculing those who raised the possibility of a terrorist connection to the bushfires. Even the police became involved ...

(From an article defending the "forest jihad" thesis published in the ever-wacky National Observer. Wow. The police are in cahoots with with a Muslim spokesman that no Muslim organisation has appointed to speak on its behalf! Perhaps Dr Bendle's article should have been titled "Bendit Like Bendle".)


A chap having some association with Melbourne University Union.

Pakistani born Sydney lawyer Irfan Yusuf ... make[s] us wonder whyCrikey and other publications continue to pay him money for his race-baiting and erroneous words of hate.

(Well, Andrew, maybe it's because I'm not obsessed with people's ethnicity or where they were born.)