Tuesday, August 30, 2005

POLITICS/COMMENT: It's one thing to make racist comments when you are drunk ...

John Brogden made some disgraceful remarks whilst in a state of intoxication. I do not wish to cause more distress to Mr & Mrs Carr by repeating those remarks. But one matter which Mr Brogden did raise at his press conference announcing his resignation was the role of the Federal President of the Young Liberal Movement, Alex Hawke.

So who is Alex Hawke? Who is behind him? What are his links to Mr Brogden and to the PM? Why did he choose to undermine Mr Brogden?

More importantly, what are Mr Hawke’s own views on racial and ethnic issues? Where does he stand on assimilation, multiculturalism and racial and religious tolerance? Where does he stand on indigenous Australians?

Hawke was recruited to he Young Liberals in 1995. His first branch was the Parramatta Young Liberals, then presided over by a centrist president. In those days, the “Group” or left of the Liberal Party were in control of the Young Liberal Movement in NSW and of the NSW State Executive.

Opposition to the Group was managed by a hotchpotch of Centrists and the far-right. Despite their small numbers, the Centrists were a formidable force in the NSW Party, delivering pre-selection victories to 2 successive non-Group candidates in the Parramatta federal pre-selection as well as to ex-Group MLC Stephen Mutch in the seat of Cook, Tony Abbott in Warringah and Andrew Thomson in Wentworth.

Centrists were mainly associated with the Macquarie University Liberal Club and with Young Liberal branches in the Hills, Bankstown, Parramatta and Manly. Most Centrists came from working class backgrounds.

Centrist forces were characterised by a multilingual, multicultural and multiconfessional composition. Alex Hawke’s own branch president made a point of learning to speak fluent Bahasa Indonesia and involving herself in the Australian Indonesian Association. One Centrist branch, Bankstown Young Liberals, was more known for its social functions. Guests included former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan and the Mayor of Sarajevo.

Yet when Alex Hawke tried to revive Bankstown Young Liberals, his efforts resulted in violent assaults and racist remarks about “Islamic stackers”. Hawke’s first grand political act in his own branch was to stab his own Centrist president in the back and take over the branch.

Hawke is at the centre of a process of Talibanisation of the Liberal Party in NSW. He currently is employed by former member of the extreme-right faction known as the “Uglies”, David Clarke. A former personal injury solicitor, Clarke had for years expressed little interest in a parliamentary career. Following the demise of personal injury law in NSW, Clarke’s view changed.

Clarke, Hawke and others went on a rampage within the non-Group forces. This involved purging the non-Group of all remnants of the old Centrist faction. It seemed the new Hawke Young Liberals saw the Centrists and not the Group (or indeed the ALP) as the real enemy.

Hawke eventually became President of the NSW Young Liberals. In his role, he has moved and passed motions calling for the dismantlement of multiculturalism, an end to Aboriginal Land Rights and rolling back anti-discrimination legislation. Hawke has also supported policies attacking homosexuals and women seeking abortions.

Of greater worry is Hawke’s using fringe ethno-religious groups to stack Young Liberal branches. The stacking usually occurs following a speech by Mr Clarke in which he praises a particular group.

On 3 May 2005, Clarke gave a speech in the Upper House praising Samir Geagea and the Lebanese Forces (LF), a group responsible for the massacre of over 2,000 Palestinians and many more Lebanese during Lebanon’s civil war. In praising the role of Geagea’s forces, Clarke noted:
Had it not been for the Lebanese Forces, a Christian presence in the country would probably no longer exist.
Since that time, Hawke has been recruiting young supporters of the LF into Young Liberal branches, causing some consternation amongst numerous non-LF party members of Lebanese background.

Both Clarke and Hawke are the masters of wedge politics, both within and outside the party. Hawke and his boss have made no secret of their wish to see moderate John Brogden removed as Opposition Leader. Yet their antics undermining parliamentarians are not limited to the state party. Hawke and Clarke have their sights set on Federal Parliamentarians such as Marise Payne, Brendan Nelson, Bruce Baird and Joe Hockey.

In recent times, Hawke has been quoted as expressing anti-Muslim views. I have been told by at least 3 journalists that Hawke has told them Muslims are not Australian enough. One wonders what Hawke’s views are on the PM’s rejection of all calls to ban the wearing of traditional Muslim headscarves in state schools.

Hawke’s role in the Brogden downfall in no way diminish the seriousness of the actions and comments made by Mr Brogden. But while it takes Mr Brogden a quantity of drinks to make such comments in a private conversation, Hawke and his supporters make similar remarks in the open.

Brogden’s continued presence as leader may have severely dampened the NSW Liberals’ electoral chances. But in the long term, the Talibanisation of the NSW Liberals at the hands of Hawke, Clarke & Co can only guarantee a long period in the state political wilderness for NSW Liberals.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

Monday, August 29, 2005

RELIGION/COMMENT: Mrs Bishop and regulating Australian women's dress

Recent reports suggest al-Qaida has its eyes fixed on Australia. After the London attacks, Australians of all backgrounds and faiths are afraid terrorists might strike here.

With national security firmly on the agenda, it was both amusing and worrying to watch a host of political and religious leaders acknowledge on the Channel 9 Sunday program that they did not know the phone number of the National Security Hotline.

Even more concerning was the notion that a terror suspect could be shot on the basis of possessing a Middle Eastern appearance.

It seems that, when it comes to fighting terrorism, some Australian decision makers are not upto the task. And with some allegedly liberal and conservative politicians now openly calling for Muslim female students to be banned from wearing the head scarf (known in Arabic as the hijab and in Malay as the tudung), it appears some are less interested in national security as in national hysteria.

In recent days, two female Liberal MP’s have taken the extraordinary step of calling for changes in the law which would ban the traditional Islamic head scarf. Both Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos have suggested that Australian state schools should follow the French model of banning students from wearing the hijab on school premises.

For Mrs Bishop, the issue is perhaps less about national security and more about discouraging rebelliousness and ensuring cultural diversity in schools is kept to a minimum. For Ms Panopoulos, the arguments of the Rev Fred Nile MLC ring true. How do we know that these women aren’t hiding bombs under their dress?

Mrs Bishop appeared on ABC Radio National’s The National Interest show on Sunday 28 August 2005. She compared the discourse of 21st century Muslim Australians to that of Nazi Germans during the 1920’s and 30’s.

Mrs Bishop’s comments were most enlightening. She attempted to respond to a suggestion I made that her attempts to marginalise a key faith-sector of mainstream Australia were most helpful to Usama bin Ladin.

Mrs Bishop made frequent references to “our law” and “our beautiful constitution”. She felt offended when a Muslim man came to Canberra and refused to shake her hand because he felt she was unclean.

The writer has shaken hands with Mrs Bishop on numerous occasions, usually in his capacity as a fellow factional warrior for the NSW Right of the Liberal Party. When it came time to having Muslim Australians assist Mrs Bishop in stacking her branches as a defensive mechanism against what she saw as infiltration by supporters of NSW Opposition leader John Brogden, Mrs Bishop was most enthusiastic of Muslim involvement.

The writer also had an opportunity at a NSW Liberal Party State Council meeting in 2000 to pass onto Mrs Bishop the appreciation of members of the Dee Why Mosque congregation who greatly admired the assistance she provided to the Mosque parishioners on numerous in relation to the problems they have had with extensions to the Mosque.

Yet on Radio National, Mrs Bishop lambasted that same congregation for allegedly inviting Abu Bakr Bashir to speak and recruit in her electorate. A cynic could argue that, in effect, she unknowingly facilitated that process through the assistance she provided to that congregation.

In relation to headscarves, the writer recalls Mrs Bishop’s enthusiasm in being photographed with Muslim women at a farewell function for former NSW Premier and Finance Minister John Fahey in 2001. The writer was accompanied by 3 female Muslim students who chose to wear hijabs to the function. One of these 3 women was of Anglo-Australian background and is currently a Councillor on Auburn Council.

While listening to Mrs Bishop discuss the issue with Terry Lane on Radio National Mrs Bishop appeared to be influenced more by what she may have seen or heard or read from a conservative thinktank than any direct knowledge of Muslim Australians living in her electorate.

Some of Australia’s most productive and wealthy Muslim citizens live in the seat of Mackellar. Most are medical professionals with substantial medical practices in the electorate. Others are prominent business people who employ hundreds of Australians of all faiths.

These Muslim Australians will be looking to Mrs Bishop to concentrate on ensuring the passage of Mr Howard’s IR reform package. By focussing on what the daughters of these Aussie Mossies wear to school, Mrs Bishop is diverting important airtime away from a fight of greater relevance to people of all faiths in her electorate.

If Mrs Bishop were to use her substantial talents and experience (in both politics and the law) to take the industrial fight to the union movement, she would be doing the small business people in her electorate a huge service.

Instead, by focussing on overturning 30 years of legislative consensus by creating an exception to religious and sex discrimination laws, Mrs Bishop is merely reinforcing the union movement’s claims that the real agenda of the Howard government is to turn back the industrial and social clock to a time when women could be denied opportunities for purely cultural reasons.

Aussie Mossies do not lecture Mrs Bishop on what she should be allowed to wear into Parliament. The writer submits that she should not be marginalising Aussie Muslim women by telling them what not to wear in schools. She should leave comments on women’s dress to crackpot imams and other fringe elements on the fringe of our society.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Lapsed Liberals - The Story of the Centre-Right in NSW

Part 1

I feel the time has come to document the history of a strange phenomenon in the NSW Liberal Party. This phenomenon was a powerful network of centre-right activists who have left the Party and are making names for themselves in the private sector. They left the party following the 2001 Federal election, and were victims of the takeover of the Young Liberals and the conservative faction by the Liberal equivalent of the Taliban.

My first exposure to a Liberal meeting was after I ran for the Macquarie University Students Council in 1993. I secured the second highest primary vote under the team named Multicultural Alliance. Number 2 on my ticket was Bill Mahmassani, a young Aussie from Rydalmere. Bill is actually Bilal who appeared with his wife on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope program. I came second in primary votes to a socialist candidate Jamie Parker, now a Greens Councillor.

After my election to the Council, various political factions approached me for support. These included a left-wing group called Students Against Racism (SAR), a cover for Labor Zionists. Then there was the Macquarie University Liberal Club. Their president was Megs.

Megs was my first contact into conservative politics. Before writing about her, I must acknowledge that I am not exactly an unbiased source. Megs is a close friend. She has worked with me in political matters, as well as for me as a clerk.

Megs was no ordinary conservative. Yet she was so typical of the young centre-right network of which I was to join. Megs was and remains a devout Anglican, an old girl of a Christian College and the president of the Club. She spoke fluent Bahasa Indonesia. She was one of the rising stars of the young conservatives.

ALSF was the Australian Liberal Students Federation. It was a network of university Liberal clubs, and had a troublesome relationship with the NSW and National Young Liberal movements which represented Young Liberal branches.

My first experience as a campaign worker was helping Charlie Lynn out at Werriwa in the 1993 by-election. I was part of a crowd of ALSF delegates that included Sophie Panopoulos.

I remember Sophie as a moderate Victorian who would not tolerate any criticism of some guy called Petro Georgiou. I had no idea of who Petro was. After spending an hour with Sophie, I soon learnt that Petro was the Victorian Liberal Party equivalent of the Son of God.

In 1993, I also joined the Bankstown Young Liberals. With me were a whole bunch of young people who formed the backbone of the Macquarie University Liberal Club. These were young students, with moderately conservative views.

I was recruited to the branch by Lukas and Pete, two loud-mouthed and entertaining law students I met in final year. Lukas was half Italian and lived in Greenacre. He was absolutely brilliant, having won a scholarship to study at a Grammar School. He reminded me of Aticus Finch from the movie “To Kill A Mockingbird”. He was a brilliant public speaker. Despite his nerdy looks, Lukas was always surrounded by gorgeous women who treated him as their brother and adviser.

Pete was an Indian from Goa. He was a devout Catholic and was Lukas' closest buddy. Pete was the Vice-President of Bankstown Young Liberals, and Lukas was President.

The thought of joining a Young Liberal branch in the heart of Paul Keating’s electorate after he won the “True Believers” victory in the 1993 election was too good to miss. Our branch patron was a moderate Liberal MLC named Stephen Mutch. I attended my first Young Liberal drinks function at Stephen’s office in Parliament House. There I met many more Liberal students and Young Libs.

Among my newly-found mates was Nick, the Casanova of the Young Libs. Nick was of Russian background and was also from a pivate school. He and his father Alex were both members of the Liberal branches in Bankstown. Alex is fondly remembered for always having a smile on his face. He has since passed on, and we remember Alex in our prayers.

Then there were a few other notables in the Young Liberals. There was Aruna, a an amazing sub-continental intellect with a mind brimming with ideas that could bring a man to intellectual orgasm within 5 minutes if he wasn’t careful. Aruna was Secretary of Bankstown Young Libs. Lukas and Aruna often pretended to be having an affair, though their uni cafeteria antics were usually designed to shock all the young Indian boys lining up to proposition her.

Jason was a dashing handsome young law student who used to dance like there was no tomorrow. He was good mates with Gunn, another bright spark of German descent. Gunn was without doubt the spunkiest Young Liberal on the planet. He was also a real SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy), with a soft empathetic voice that drove women nuts.

Paul was also part of our network. He had a passion for Palestinian politics, perhaps more related for his love of Palestinian women. It was often a struggle to keep him away from some of the Muslim sisters who he frequently tried to chat up. Paul was a passionate Liberal, an idealist who wanted real change in the Party.

These were my crowd. If they recognise themselves here in this piece, I welcome them to contact me and advise of any changes to this article. As this is a blog, there is nothing to stop me from making changes or subtractions.

This will hopefully form part of a definitive history of one of the most important periods in conservative politics, a period in which the centre-right network ruled the roost without controlling the Party in NSW.

(The author was president of Bankstown Young Liberals and was endorsed Liberal Candidate in the 2001 Federal Election for the seat of Reid.)

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Friday, August 26, 2005

POLITICS/COMMENT: Community Leadership & the Dr Nelson Hysteria

The other night I became so angry at a headline that I rang the editor of a major Sydney paper. I told him that headlines like “Muslims to learn Aussie values” and “Aussie values for Muslims” were offensive and racist. I told him these headlines incited hatred toward anyone presumed to be Muslim. I told him I would hold him personally responsible in case my mother gets attacked at the shopping centre.

The editor listened to my tirade. He then patiently tried to explain. He said that he headlines reflected the government line. “Don’t blame us. Blame the government!” was his alibi.

I thought this excuse was a cop-out. I simply didn’t believe him. But then, I had to look at the situation outside my own parameters. I had to place my mind inside his emotional and intellectual universe. I had to get beyond the natural hysteria.

He claimed to be parroting the tough words of government ministers. These ministers were speaking the language which their research and polls suggested they should say, words which their voters wanted them to say.

And when I listen carefully to the emotions behind the words and put myself in their shoes, it is hard to blame them. And lest anyone accuse me of being a “house nigger”, I have to be honest and admit that many Muslim voters would agree with the sentiments also.

So what has caused these tough words to be used? What has generated these difficult emotions? Who is to blame? Who should be point the finger at?

Someone once told me that when you point the finger at someone, three fingers point back at you. What we regard as anti-Islamic rhetoric is in fact the result of anti-Islamic actions and inactions of Muslims themselves.

Muslim Australians have allowed their leadership and their peak bodies to fall into a state of disrepair. Muslim Australians have been so busy making money and being mainstream that they have allowed religious institutions to fall into the hands of the inept and corrupt.

Aussie Mossies are too busy paying off their mortgage or running their business or saving up for the next holiday to Noosa that they don’t bother about whether the new imam at the mosque speaks English or uses anti-Western rhetoric.

But in the eyes of many, when we fail to act, our inaction condemns us. When we fail to condemn and to speak out, our silence condemns us. When we fail to make our leaders and representatives accountable, we end up looking stupid in the eyes of the rest of the nation.

Let’s look at our cousins. Abraham had 2 kids. We are the spiritual descendants of Ishmael. Our Jewish cousins are the spiritual descendants of Isaac. Both men were prophets of God.

Now let’s compare the people running Jewish institutions with those running Muslim institutions. The Jewish community puts its best and brightest forward to speak publicly, to manage institutions, to manage the media and to lobby politicians.

You see top barristers, academics, business people and professionals representing Jewish interests. These are mainstream Aussie Jews, and their representation turns Jewish issues into mainstream Australian issues.

Now let’s compare this to Muslim leadership. Who speaks for us in the media? Who talks to politicians? Who are our public faces and public voices? Who leads us? Who do we follow?

When a crazy mullah gets up and says Islam does not tolerate other faiths, which prominent Muslim business people stand up and condemn him? Which prominent Muslim lawyers or doctors or surgeons or academics stick their necks out and tell other Australians that the mullah is just a goose?

When Muslim peak bodies take 20 days to condemn the London bombings, which prominent Muslims stand up and make them accountable? How many Muslims get together to counter a situation where one or two families can dominate a peak body for decades?

Which prominent Muslims have thought about the proposals being put forward by Dr Nelson? How many of us can honestly say that our imams understand Australian values? How many of us are prepared to say that most imams in Australia can even speak English?

How many imams are able to understand and address important issues like superannuation, proposed changes to unfair dismissal laws and the clash of civilisations? How many Muslim organisational leaders know and understand the political structures in Australia?

When was the last time a Muslim body organised a census or survey of Muslim Australians, their ethnic and gender and age composition and their views on social and political issues? When was the last time we proposed this to our leaders? When was the last time we attended the Annual General Meeting of our local mosque? When was the last time we took an interest in our Muslim neighbours?

When Dr Nelson talks about values and donkeys and other nonsensical stuff, it is easy to react hysterically. But let’s be honest – we say the same things in our living rooms and to our family members and friends at dinner parties.

If Dr Nelson says hysterical things, it is because government polling shows most Aussies are saying ad thinking these things. And that happens because something is rotten in the state of Australian Islam. If we sit back and do nothing, the rot will set in and eventually become a stain.

Before we get hysterical about Dr Nelson’s comments, let’s search our hearts and be honest with ourselves. Unless Muslim Australians take back control of their leaders and their imams, they will continue to be marginalised.

Our silence and inaction will lead to more hysterical words and actions. The longer this continues, the closer we will get to a stage where we will have outlived our welcome.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why I Need To Learn Australian Values

According to John Howard and his ministers, I need to learn Australian values. Me? How do they reach that conclusion?

I missed out on being born in Australia by around 5 months. When my boat (actually, it was a luxury ocean-liner) arrived at Sydney harbour in 1970, my family stayed for a week at the Shore Inn before moving to a rented house in Ryde. I never held a Pakistani, Indian, Saudi, Iranian, Iraqi or any other passport in my whole entire life.

My father left a comfortable job in Pakistan to teach at a new university. He has held the same job since then. Apart from his scholarly and teaching duties, he is now representing the university in numerous capacities both locally and overseas.

Dad has taught Aussie undergraduate students for over 3 decades. He also taught me a thing or two. When he sent me to Sydney’s only Anglican Cathedral school, I was ordered by my dad to attend all chapel services and divinity classes. He scolded me when I wanted to be a smartass in class and engage the school chaplain in theological debates.

My best mate from school is an Anglican chorister. He is an IT professional and is married to a Japanese accountant. At the time they married, his wife was a nominal Buddhist. I was his best man. The wedding service took place at St Andrews Cathedral.

My mum never was concerned with me having so many friends who were allegedly “infidels”. Then again, even her close friends were all Hindus and Sikhs and Goan Catholics with whom she felt a strong linguistic and cultural affinity. We never had many Muslim friends growing up.

During my Year 12 holidays, I worked at the North Ryde branch of the Commonwealth Bank. I did not go to a jihad training camp in Afghanistan.

When I finally did my HSC and got my results, my parents encouraged me to do Law. No, not Sharia law studies in Saudi Arabia. I mean a double degree program in economics and law at Macquarie University.

My most recent girlfriend was the President of Parramatta Young Liberals and the Macquarie University Liberal Club. She also works in my legal practise (named “Sydney Lawyers, as opposed to say “Saudi Lawyers” or “Islamic Lawyers”). She also works as an administrative officer for her local Anglican Church parish.

In 1993, I joined the NSW Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. I started out in the Bankstown Young Liberals. In those days, we were a far cry from, say, Jemaah Islamiah. But with the Young Libs now actively recruiting from religious fringe groups, it would not surprise me if JI had some presence in the Young Libs.

I only ever worked for one Muslim-run law firm. The owner was a radical Muslim from the Islamic Republic of New Zealand. He studied at the International Islamic Terrorist Training Academy located just outside Dunedin (they call it University of Otago, but we all know it’s a fake name used to disguise their real agenda).

A close friend of mine of Muslim background also studied at that Terrorist Academy. She studied the effects of certain acids on mice, and co-authored a paper which was not published in Nida’ul Islam nor in the Saudi Gazette. She shows her extreme Islamic radicalism by working behind a bar wearing a miniskirt and with her beautiful long hair flowing around her tall regal forehead. As I write these lines, she is probably walking around Sydney without her hijab (if she even has one). If she sees me, she will say in her thick terrorist accent: "Thet's ut! I've hed ut wuth you makung fun of my eksunt un your artekuls!!".

When my mother saw Sheik Feiz Mohamed on national TV make comments about women dressing and becoming eligible for rape, she used language to describe the young Sheik which was most disgusting and unAustralian.

Last night, I had dinner with another extremist friend from the Islamic Republic of New Zealand (Christchurch, to be precise). We sat down and planned an Islamic takeover of Australia at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay, a popular hangout for Islamic extremists. I wore my terrorist gear – black trousers and a Wallabies jersey. I clearly stood out as someone with little loyalty to Australia. She looked stunning in a long black dress and amazing red hair. So stunning that I felt like inviting her to join my harem (don’t tell her that, or she’ll kill me!).

Well, I guess 720 words is enough for a day. I had better clear off before Sheik Nelson issues a fatwa against me.


POSTSCRIPT: My extremist friend from the Christchurch Caliphate of the Islamic Republic of New Zealand sent me a text message correcting my misrepresentation of her true Islamic agenda. Her text message read as follows:

"Good article but two things firstly i was wearing a red top and grey skirt and secondly i dont share my men with anyone."

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Well said, Mr Costello!

Peter Costello was interviewed by The Australian newspaper. In an article entitled Costello tells firebrand clerics to get out of Australia, Mr Costello is reported to have said in an interview …

"If you don't like those values, then don't come here. Australia is not for you," Mr Costello said yesterday. "This is the way I look at it: Australia is a secular society, with parliamentary law, part of the Western tradition of individual rights."

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Costello said migrants needed to understand and respect the "core values" of democracy, a secular society and the equality of women.

And he warned that Australia needed to be clear that the nation's core values would not change.

"If you are looking for a country that practises theocracy, sharia law -- which is anti-Western -- there are those countries in the world ... you will be happy there. But you won't be happy in Australia."

But he stopped short of supporting the deportation of radical Muslim leaders, in the wake of similar debates in Britain and France.

Mr Costello also threw his support behind Australia maintaining a strong skilled migration policy. "Immigration overall helps our country in a security sense and an economic sense. I think there is an acceptance of immigration, more so than 10 years ago. I would like to see a strong immigration policy. I am not putting numbers on it."

Earlier this month, the Treasurer said the notion that terrorists secured a reward in the afterlife for waging jihad against Westerners was "repulsive".

Yesterday he said: "I have seen people that say they believe in sharia law and theocracy. If that's their view, don't come to this country. This one is not for you. I don't think we can afford to be ambivalent about this point to young people or anyone else."

Yes, Peter. Australia is a secular country. We are a tolerant country. We accept freedom of religion, democracy and equality for women.

So why is the Prime Minister inviting of a peak religious body that has only had no female executive members for over 2 decades?

Why is the PM rubbing shoulders with someone who represents the interests of Saudi religious institutions in Australia? Why does the PM visit the school of someone who organised for Sheik Feiz Mohamed and other radical imams to study in Saudi Arabia?

Mr Costello speaks of a secular society and respect for core values. Why, then, does he openly defend 2 fringe Victorian pastors from a radical extreme Christian group that have allegedly called for the Qur’an to be banned? Would you continue to support these pastors had they made the same comments about Jewish Australians and Judaism?

If core values includes respect for women, why do you and your colleagues visit the Hillsong Church which openly tells women to lose weight to look good for their husbands? What message does this send to Australian women?

You speak of theocracy and how dangerous it is. Why does your government continue to have dealings with Jewish Australians opposed to Ariel Sharon’s dismantlement of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories which wish to turn Israel into a theocracy?

You talk about opposing terrorism. Ariel Sharon described people violently opposed to his disengagement plan as Jewish terrorists. He called in the international media so that the world could witness Jewish terrorism working against peace. Yet your government continues to engage with Jewish terrorists and their financial supporters. Your party continues to receive political donations from these terrorists.

Mr Costello, what are Australia’s core values? Would you say that family values is one of them? So why won’t the government apologise to indigenous Australians for stealing indigenous children from their families? Is there something about saying sorry and compensating such people which goes against our secular values?

You speak of democracy. So why does your government choose to invite unelected so-called leaders to speak to the PM? Why does the PM sit with middle-aged men (most of whom were born outside Australia) and a few token women to speak about national security?

Mr Costello, you claim sharia law is anti-western. When was the last time you read a textbook on sharia? Have you studied sharia? Do you know what sharia is? Have you read a textbook published by the Federation Press and authored by Jameela Hussain on Islam Its Law & Society? Have you read Muhammadan Jurisprudence or other standard texts on sharia?

And if sharia law was so anti-Western, why does the husband of Senator Coonan’s husband write in the Australian Law Journal that sharia-based systems of alternate dispute resolution and mediation provide an ideal model for managing commercial disputes?

If sharia is so anti-Western, why did the Centre for Independent Studies invite a guest speaker from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim religious organisation, to address on the topic of the role of sharia? Why did this speaker say that sharia in Indonesia is associated with banking and finance? Is interest-free banking against our values? Will your government therefore refuse entry of financial institutions which promote and manage interest-free financial products?

And what about jihad? Do you know what the word jihad means? Have you bothered to ask anyone or to consult a standard Arabic dictionary such as al-Mawrid? Have you consulted a paper published by Afroz Ali of the Sydney-based Muslim thinktank Alghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences & Human Development? Or do you only believe what you read in Hizbut Tehrir brochures?

Mr Costello, you have said many things which are worthy of noting. But words are cheap. The government needs to match words with actions. The government needs to be consistent, to apply its principles across the board.

It seems that Australian values are imposed on certain marginalised groups – Muslim Australians and indigenous Australians. But other groups such as fringe Christian cults are excluded. Supporters of Jewish chauvinism who wish to see Israel free of Christians and Muslims are excluded.

So if I am Muslim and/or Aboriginal, I am expected to confirm my loyalty to Australia. I will be lectured on Australian values even if I lived my entire life here and attended an Anglican Cathedral school. I will be told that I must declare my opposition to violence against innocent civilians even though your government continues to send young Australians to kill innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But if I become a Christian or Jewish extremist, I am invited to join the NSW or Victorian Young Liberal Movement. I can expect my form of extremism to be the subject of glowing speeches from Liberal MLC’s in the NSW Parliament. I can expect to be seated on a pre-selection panel to determine who will represent conservative voters at the next election.

But apart from all of the above, well said, Peter!


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Monday, August 22, 2005

Gaza - Putting the Spotlight on Extremists

I can say a lot about Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel. Sharon led the invasion of Lebanon. He was directly involved in the massacre of over 2,000 Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982. He has overseen the building a countless sheltered workshops (known as “settlements”) for Jewish extremists deemed unfit to live in Israel-proper.

These extremists are hated and loathed inside Israel. They are regarded as uncouth and dangerous, their views are seen as ugly and extreme. These religious fanatics regularly escape the compounds of their settlements and attack Palestinian churches, mosques and schools in the West Bank and Gaza.

In Bethlehem and Nablus, Jewish extremists are are a regular feature. They enter Christian and Muslim schools and attack students and teachers using rifle butts. In Khaliliyya (Hebron), these extremists regularly attack Palestinian shops and homes. They are allowed to roam the countryside and towns in the occupied territories, heavily armed and protected by the Israeli military.

One of their number, Dr Baruch Goldstein, settled in the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron. He was an American doctor from New York. His idea of spreading good health was to enter the Masjid al-Khalili on an evening during the holy month of Ramadhan. He shot over 50 worshippers in cold blood.

At his funeral, the Chief Rabbi of Israel stood up and announced the official anthem for Jewish extremism, an anthem that would make even Usama bin Ladin cringe with terror.

“The blood of a thousand Arab goyim is not worth even one Jewish fingernail!”

Extremists are very much on the fringe in the Muslim world. Their activities and rhetoric are heavily suppressed. Despite being potential martyrs in Muslim communities, most Muslims regard extremists as a threat.

In Israel, these extremists take up at least 10% of seats in Parliament. They are generally offered sensitive social ministries such as education. The Palestinian Authority appointed a practising Christian female academic (Dr Hanan Ashrawi) as their first education minister. One doubts a Christian woman would ever get to be education minister in Israel.

But times are changing. Israel is realising it cannot afford to flirt anymore with extremists and terrorists. Israel also knows that it can no longer keep accusing the Palestinian Authority of going soft on HAMAS when the PM himself is fostering and sponsoring terrorist settlements.

But Sharon is in a bind. Although Jewish terror has little support in Israel, it has plenty of support in the diaspora. Jewish communities in Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe and other parts of the world actively support and bankroll Jewish terrorists.

I remember attending a dinner at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. It was 1999, and Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was addressing a select audience of Liberal Party foreign policy types. The news was hot with the words of a prominent Jewish businessman attacking the government for its treatment of indigenous people in Australia.

Mr Downer was asked a question on this. He had little option but to point out that same businessman’s financial and moral support for extremist settlements. Downer was not afraid to identify hypocrisy, to call a spade a spade.

And so, Ariel Sharon has now almost completed the process of dismantling settlements in Gaza. Should he wish to do the same in the West Bank, his task will be much more difficult. But he will make sure the world sees it.

Sharon knows that it isn’t enough to dismantle Jewish terrorist settlements. It isn’t enough to talk about fighting terrorism. You actually have to be seen to be doing something. Hence the world’s media being invited to film the spectacle.

Sharon deliberately invited the international media to film the events. He wanted the world to see Israel doing something about religious fanatics and terrorists. He wanted Arab leaders to see Jewish extremists fight and pour acid and injure Israeli army units.

More importantly, he wanted Jewish supporters of terrorism overseas to witness the true nature of Jewish extremism. He wanted Jewish Australians and Canadians and Americans and South Africans and Europeans to understand why their support for Jewish extremism was in fact a threat to peace in the Middle East.

Extremists crave attention. But when extremists are made to look ugly in front of their support-base and in the eyes of the world, they soon lose the plot. Sharon’s strategy of inviting the world to witness the spectacle was good strategy. And was the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: “War is little more than good strategy”.

Israel needs peace to survive. So does its neighbours. The time has now come for Arab and Muslim countries to follow Israel’s lead and to openly deal with extremists. Israeli troops were restrained and sensitive. Their restraint was rewarded with acid and bullets. Sadly, Muslim law enforcement officials show little restraint and tend to go in head-first with acid and bullets.

Muslim countries can learn a lot from the Israeli disengagement. Muslim countries and political leaders need to be honest in addressing terrorists and extremists without offending core religious sensibilities.


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Giving Voice to Liberal Extremists

The PM says he will not talk to extremists of a faith community. Fair enough. The Opposition leader says that all persons in a faith community should be consulted. Fair enough.

The debate on religious extremism is an issue of national security. Extremists try to create violence and conflict, and generate support for violence overseas. They have an extreme agenda and seek to marginalise themselves and their presumed opponents. The views of extremists are not consistent with those of mainstream Australia.

If Mr Howard’s rhetoric on extremism was consistently applied to all religious groups, we could take him seriously. If Mr Howard’s party members applied the policy in practice, I could take him seriously.

Yet I am a disgruntled Liberal Party member who has been sidelined and maligned by religious extremists inside the Liberal Party.

In 2001, I stuck my neck out in difficult circumstances and ran as a Liberal candidate for a safe ALP seat of Reid. The election took place in the context of Australia’s involvement in the war against terrorism. Australian troops were in Afghanistan, and the news was saturated with images of September 11 and video footage of Osama bin Ladin and other al-Qaida operatives.

I took a risk. I was verbally (and in some cases almost physically) attacked and maligned by many fellow Muslim Australians. My legal practise was compromised and my health suffered. I succumbed to a virus that led to my having to take 18 months off for illness some 3 months later.

To this day, many Muslim Aussies criticise me for standing as a Liberal candidate. Ironically, many Afghan asylum seekers (especially Hazaras and Tajiks) were happy with me.

It was during this campaign that I met the uncle of 2 girls killed when a leaky boat carrying asylum seekers sank and many drowned. An Afghan Muslim activist, Mehbooba Rawi, set up the meeting for me. She wanted to me hear the story of a traumatised Muslim Australian man and take it to the highest levels.

I heard the man’s story. I was devastated. The man was depressed, in tears, finding words difficult to come by. I sat there in the eerie silence of the Park Road mosque in Auburn listening to this man whose heart spoke louder than his tongue.

I could not hold back. I telephoned the NSW Liberal Party State Director, Scott Morrison. I pleaded with him to let me say something. Or at least to arrange a meeting of the PM with this man.

ME: Scott, we have to do something about this. Seriously, we have to speak out. I have to. Forget politics. This is human life.”

Mr Morrison was adamant.

SM: No, Irf, no way. You can’t do this. You have to stay silent on this. Trust me on this one. This is all part of the strategy. These people could have been terrorists.

IY: But John, this guy is an Australian citizen. His two teenage nieces drowned. Why can’t he speak to his own PM?”

SM: Irf, forget it. If you so much as say one word about this, the PM will publicly disendorse you. You saw what happened to others. You could be next.

IY: Why can’t we give voice to this guy? He is opposed to the Taliban. His family fled the Taliban.

SM: I know, Irf. I hear what you’re saying. But mate, you have to understand. You and I both hate Pauline Hanson. Part of this election is about burying Pauline. We do that by looking like her.

So there you have it. A key electoral strategist was telling me that I could not raise the concerns of a Muslim Australian citizen. So much for grassroots politics. So much for humanity. So much for liberalism.

I did raise the issue. I did go to the press about it. I did speak openly about how I felt about all this. I did express my sympathy with the man and with thousands of other Afghan and Iraqi Australians who felt demonised in this war on terror. I did express their emotions, even if others wanted to silence me.

And I did this without Scott Morrison even knowing about it. I sat down with the editors of an Urdu newspaper and we drafted an advert. There was me on the back page of the “Overseas Weekly”, my big ugly mugshot hiding the physique of a beached whale. And there I was telling anyone who could read Urdu that I would make sure these kinds of policies were overturned.

Did anyone in the Liberal campaign team find out? Yeah, right! As if they could read Urdu. But most Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis and Pakistanis could. Many showed up on election day to my headquarters at the Nezahet Sufi bookshop. They handed out “how to vote” material for the Liberal Party. Actually, they handed it out for me.

Interestingly enough, I could see some of them cutting up the “how to vote” papers. I asked them why they did this. The paper had a mugshot of me on one side, looking like a Turkish used car salesman. On the other side was John Howard.

“We only want your photo there. We don’t want to see Howard.”

I had to give them a long lecture about electoral laws before they put the scissors away.

Reid voters must have been stunned to see so many Afghans and Iraqis handing out for me at the polling booths. It was these asylum seekers who helped me gain a 5.1% swing on a 2-party preferred basis for the PM. It was these asylum seekers who enabled Coalition Senators from NSW to win easily. People like Senator Marise Payne owe their political existence to these brave men and women.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Friday, August 19, 2005

OPINION: Protocols of the Leaned Mullahs of Wellington

Winston Peters believes that there is a militant underbelly in all countries where large Muslim migrant communities exist. He made these comments in a speech on 10 August 2005.

His comments were almost immediately being discussed on the discussion forums of popular website islamicsydney-dot-com. They have been repeated by former Australian National Party Senator John Stone in a series of articles published in The Australian newspaper.

And what evidence does Peters produce? Peters claims to have sources amongst “moderate Muslims concerned about the impact of fundamentalism in their ranks”.

So? Many Maori friends of mine tell me of a militant underbelly in the Maori community. And who do they point to as a prime example?

Yep, you guessed it. Mr Peters.

Mr Peters’s claims are heavy on innuendo and anecdotes and light on facts. He has clearly not done his homework on what kind of speakers and media and magazines and sermons New Zealand Muslims are reading and watching and listening to.

Recently, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) hosted Abdur Raheem Green to conduct a series of lectures as part of their Islamic Awareness Week. Mr Green does hold some extreme views on certain issues. I criticised some of these views in an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald on 15 August 2005.

Despite the enormous controversy surrounding the proposed Green tour to Australia (which was organised by a fringe Salafi youth group in Sydney), the FIANZ tour went without incident. It appears Green has changed his views or at least toned them down.

But Peters’ claims that FIANZ are funding a Maori Muslim to spread radical Islamic views in NZ prisons is the stuff all good conspiracy theories are made of. It seems Peters is not satisfied with four mosques being vandalised following the London bombings.

In Australia, views such as those expressed by Peters were once fashionable. They were personified in one Pauline Hanson, founder of the virtually-defunct One Nation Party. Ms Hanson has moved on from her earlier xenophobic days to the real stage where she dances and sings quite well.

Hanson’s colleagues in New South Wales have been busy spreading all kinds of conspiracy theories about alleged radical Muslims trying to spread venom and hatred amongst Muslim youths.

Are there radicals amongst Muslims? Of course there are. Just as there are radical Jews opposed to the Israeli dismantling of settlements in the Gaza Strip. Just as there are radical Hindus who believe Muslims and Christians should be slaughtered in India. Just as there are radical Protestants and Orthodox Christians who believe in reviving the crusades and massacring Muslims and Catholics in the same manner as Bosnian Serbs did in Bosnia during the mid 1990’s.

And just as there is at least one radical Maori who believes Muslims are funding extremism.

But what really annoys me about Mr Peters’ comments is that he uses the alleged extremism as a means to claim that Muslim migration should be curtailed. He suggests that Muslim migrants hate New Zealand culture and values. Try telling that to Hazara Afghan refugees who risked life and limb to reach Australia and New Zealand, many (to use Neil Finn’s phrase) spending six months in a leaking boat.

And even worse is the fact that not only are Muslims demonised but even many people with some distant link to Islam. Muslims have been marrying non-Muslims for centuries. The children of these unions are being demonised. Persons with Arabic-sounding names are being castigated.

And all in the name of national security and social cohesion.

My law clerk was born in Canberra. She studies Nursing at a Catholic university. Her father is Anglo-Australian Catholic, her mother Indian Hindu. My clerk was born in Canberra. She speaks English with a posh private-school accent. Yet she keeps getting told that she should go back to where she came from. And she is now too scared to catch the train to my office in case someone thinks she is an Islamist terrorist.

One of our shared friends never met her Muslim father. She has an abbreviated surname which, in Arabic, suggests her father was a descendant of the Prophet’s great-grandson (nick-named “Zayn al-Abidin” or “Prince of the Worshippers”). Yet she mixes champagne with orange juice and loves watching live bands at the local pub.

Both of these friends feel more demonised and fearful of anti-Muslim backlash than their activist Muslim lawyer-friend who sticks his neck out almost weekly publishing columns in newspapers in Australia and New Zealand.

When prominent political leaders attempt to marginalise an entire ethnic or ethno-religious group, it usually involves the making of gross generalisations and conspiracy theories. In times past, Jews were demonised in a forgery known as “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”.

Today, certain political leaders are re-writing that document. In the case of Mr Peters, the document should perhaps be entitled “Protocols of the Learned Mullahs of Wellington”. Yet it isn’t the learned mullahs who are being affected as much as ordinary Aussies and Kiwis deemed to be Muslim even if they have little if any link to Islam. Indeed, hatred thrives on ignorance and stereotypes.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

BOOKS: Genuine Expert Explodes Terror Myths

BOOK: Terrorism Explained: the facts about terrorism and terrorist groups
AUTHOR: Clive Williams
PUBLISHER: New Holland Publishers, Sydney
Recommended Price $24.95


In our post-September-11 world, every man, woman and dog is popping up as an expert on terrorism. Terrorist “experts” are being bought and sold in the market of ideas, and many are happy to sell themselves to the highest bidder. Many have little in the way of formal training and genuine hands-on expertise.

One terror expert has appeared regularly on the terror circuit, speaking across the world and even appearing in Australia as a guest of the Centre for Independent Studies.

Dr Daniel Pipes has been described by ever-perceptive Miranda Devine as an “Islam scholar”. He holds a PhD in medieval European history from Harvard University, and apparently speaks and reads fluent Arabic.

When it comes to modern Muslim political radicalism, Dr Pipes’ qualifications make him as useful to serious understanding of the phenomenon as Sheik Hilali’s extensive qualifications make him as an adviser on youth affairs to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

After all, what Pipes describes as “Islamism” bears little resemblance to Medieval European or even Medieval Muslim thought. And most Muslim extremists read material written in Urdu and Farsi.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna is another fascinating study in terror expertise. When he is not engaging in group defamation of Tamils, Dr Gunaratna lambasts Western governments for … wait for it … not protecting democracy by denying Muslim communities civil liberties.

A bit like suggesting mass-floods as a solution to tsunami-ravaged areas in Tamil Nadu. Then again, given Gunaratna’s record with Tamils, we might actually be reading him suggesting this!

Clive Williams doesn’t fit into either of these categories of alleged expertise. This Australian author teaches anti-terrorism to students at the Australian National University. Before embarking on an academic career, Williams served as an Army intelligence officer and was awarded the Medal for Gallantry in Vietnam.

Unlike presumed experts on terrorism, Williams has been involved in defence intelligence collection and analysis for over 3 decades. He has not merely been writing columns for New York tabloid newspapers or generating editorials in multiple languages on personal websites.

And like all real experts. Williams can see all sides of the argument. He argues that major terrorist incidents will continue to occur in western countries, especially the United States. Reason? Williams writes in his Preface:

“This seems inevitable given the insensitive way in which many minority Muslim sections of the US population have been treated, the increased Muslim anger against the United States as a result of its international counterterrorism campaign post-September 11, its unqualified support for Israel and the continuing detention of alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.”

Perhaps Messrs Howard, Ruddock and Downer should take the short drive from Parliament House down to the ANU campus in Acton and learn some valuable lessons from Williams. They might wish to anonymously sit in his lectures or tutorials. Perhaps their advisers might join them in this quest for genuine knowledge.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Williams’ book is his resistance of the common presumption that only Muslims can be terrorists. Williams debunks this theory with 2 simple ingredients – facts and logic.

First, Williams does not leave definitions to innuendo and group-smear. He provides a clear definition, explanation and classification of terrorism. He then charts out the history of terrorism and its various religious, secular and other manifestations. Williams provides various categories of terrorism not as water-tight compartments but rather as aids to understanding the complexity of motivations that lead persons to call themselves and/or innocents.

In Australia, Williams’ analysis seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The Commonwealth continues to proscribe only Muslim extremist groups as terrorist organisations. This despite growing evidence of religious extremism in other communities.

The London bombings coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre by Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic. Some 60 people died in London, whilst over 6,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in one of many incidents of slaughter in July 1995.

Abundant evidence exists of Australians of Serbian Orthodox and Catholic background being involved in supporting, aiding and participating in the massacres and gang-rapes and other war crimes that took place in Bosnia during the war.

Evidence also exists of certain Australians actively being involved in efforts to derail the Middle East peace process by actively supporting opponents of the Israeli government’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Daniel Pipes himself has written in support of extremists and against Ariel Sharon’s peace initiative.

Williams is not afraid to name names and identify individuals and groups (Muslim or otherwise) known to be involved in terrorist activities. He also provides lucid analysis of various forms of terrorism, their sources of finance and the real extent of their threat. All this without paranoid calls for the eradication of all civil liberties and declaration of a state of emergency.

Williams’ book is certainly not written with a view to winning elections or ratings wars. Nor does it make for entertaining tabloid reading. But what Williams does do is provide a balanced account of the real threat facing Australia and other western countries.

(For a limited time, readers can obtain a copy of Clive Williams’ book for $16.50 including postage and handling to anywhere in Australia. Purchasers of 5 or more copies can pick them up for $11 each. Hurry as there are very limited copies left. For further details, e-mail sydneylawyers@yahoo.com.au)

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

OPINION: John Stone & Why Conservatives Need to Assimilate More

Australians have an image of New Zealand as being a politically correct country. David Lange is remembered as the anti-nuclear and anti-American Prime Minister Prime Minister. While Australians struggle with the notion of saying sorry to indigenous peoples, New Zealand actively promotes and encourages indigenous cultures.

So it was with some surprise that Australians watched and read and heard from various forms of media that some four mosques across New Zealand were attacked following the London bombings. And it is with even more surprise that Australians learn of the rise and rise of Winston Peters and similar political phenomena.

We had our own female Winston Peters. Her name was Pauline Hanson. In the 1996 Federal Elections in Australia, Ms Hanson won the seat of Oxley in Queensland from the Labor Party. This seat was an ALP heartland. It was the seat of former Labor Parliamentary leader Bill Hayden. Hanson won the seat as a formerly endorsed and then disendorsed Liberal candidate.

I was an endorsed candidate for the Liberal Party in another safe Labor seat. The seat of Reid sits in the geographical heart of Sydney. The election occurred some 2 months after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Despite the ethno-religious background suggested by my name, I achieved a 5.1% swing on a two-party preferred basis. It was one of the biggest swings in NSW.

It shocks many conservative Australians to read and hear allegedly conservative types suggesting that certain ethno-religious communities need to assimilate more. This is also proving to be a rallying cry in the upcoming New Zealand elections. Yet how legitimate is this call?

Former National Party Senator John Stone wrote in The Australian newspaper recently that Muslim migrants do not know how to assimilate. His call is for Australia’s multicultural policies to be reviewed. He is typical of a growing number of conservatives.

But is Stone right? When speaking about Australians being sick of Muslim migrants, which Australians is Mr Stone referring to? Is he referring to those millions of Australians who continue to have accounts with the National Australia Bank even after a Muslim Australian was appointed as their CEO?

Or is he referring to millions of ARL and AFL fans who continue to watch the games notwithstanding the generous support given to both codes by Muslim Australian John Ilhan? Has Mr Stone read Mr Ilhan’s profile in the recent edition of the Australian Financial Review Magazine?

Ilhan is a mainstream Muslim and a mainstream Australian. The AFR Magazine writes that Ilhan ...

... carries his Islamic faith with him everyday … applying what he sees as basic
tenets of honesty and integrity to his business.

And what are these basic tenets. First, there is “asking for forgiveness”. Then there is loving one’s neighbour as one loves one’s self. He won’t open an outlet next door to a competitor he knew, even if it be a former employee or a cousin.

Stone has clearly not read much about Muslim migration to Australia. Had he done so, he would have realised that Muslims have been dealing with Australia for longer than even European settlers.

Recently published research by Professor Abdullah Saeed of the University of Melbourne and funded by the Department of Immigration confirms that Muslim fishermen traded with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders centuries before the first Europeans discovered New Holland. Indeed, outlines of Australia appeared on Arab maps daring back to the 12th century.

Former Islamic Council of Victoria Secretary Bilal Cleland, himself an Anglo-Australian with ancestry going back to the First Fleet, has written and published a history of Muslims in Australia. Cleland’s book covers the period from the Makassan fishermen referred to above and covers the period of post-war migration that included large numbers of Albanian and (then known as) Yugoslav Muslim migrants.

Cleland deals at length with the Cypriot and Turkish Muslims who arrived during the last decades of the White Australia Policy. The Turkish communities have by far the largest number of mosques and Islamic centres across Australia, including in regional cities and country towns.

Indeed, one Turkish sufi dervish (elder), Professor Mahmud Esad Cosan, is known to have established the first sufi hospices in regional NSW. Professor Cosan was killed in a car accident in February 2001 after opening a hospice in Dubbo.

Professor Cosan’s movement is now part of the new Turkish conservative government which has proven to be the most pro-EU and pro-Western government in Turkey’s history. So much for fringe Muslim values.

Returning to politics, Australians of all backgrounds handed out election material on polling booths for the Liberal Party during my campaign. Australians of Turkish, Lebanese, Greek, Afghan, Bosnian, Serbian, Iraqi, Indian, Italian, Irish, Japanese and Anglo-Australian backgrounds.

Afghans and Iraqis opposed to mandatory detention still handed out material for me. Meanwhile, a close family friend and Aussie Muslim bureaucrat, Abdul Rizvi, continued to implement the policy of mandatory detention.

Migrants of all shapes and colours are an integral part of mainstream Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps those conservatives insistent on marginalising Muslims and other migrant groups need to wake up and assimilate into social reality. Or perhaps they just need to get out more often.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, August 12, 2005

COMMENT: Why Hizbut Tehrir (HT) are no security threat in Australia

The tiny movement known as “Hizbut Tehrir” (translated as the “Party of Liberation” and usually referred to as HT) has In recent times gained a large amount of publicity. Following the London bombing on 7 July, evidence emerged that the suspected bombers had some links to HT and the radical Sheik Omar Bakri Mohamed.

HT are now banned in the UK. ASIO is currently investigating HT’s Australian branch to see if it is a threat to Australia. At this stage, the Attorney-General has indicated that he might consider amending anti-terror legislation to allow groups such as HT to be banned.

But are HT really a threat to national security? And who are their representatives in Australia? What sort of following do they have?

We have seen the Doureihi brothers appear on TV and radio attempting to articulate their message. We have not seen any other HT representatives. Why? Simple. There are none.

HT is largely limited to one family. It has few members outside that extended family. Further, it is frequently maligned and attacked by competing radical Muslim political movements.

HT has been attacked by numerous Salafist groups close to bin Ladin. Salafist groups have accused HT of being a crypto-Marxist organisation, of being little more than Muslim Zionists keen to establish an Islamic state at all costs. At one stage, Salafist groups went so far as to claim that HT had legalised pornography for its members.

The animosity between these two sectors of radical Muslim activism is deep-rooted. There seems little prospect of anything resembling reconciliation. But apart from the Salafist cultists, HT’s relations with mainstream Muslim Australians have also been strained.

In recent times, moderators of discussion forums on the website IslamicSydney.com have been openly supportive of HT and Salafist preachers such as Abdur Raheem Green. But this has not always been the case. HT have been a favourite target for lampooning and ridicule, especially in relation to their isolationist views on Muslim participation in the economy and politics.

HT is a fringe group in the Muslim Australian communities. The largest crowds they gather are below 500, many attending to heckle and disrupt HT meetings. For many young Muslims, HT is a temporary ideological pitt-stop on their way to more refined and sophisticated Islamic thinking.

This group sits on the fringe. It is unable to galvanise the support of mainstream Muslim Australians. However, banning the group will trigger an enormous amount of sympathy among many Muslim Australians who find some aspects of HT rhetoric attractive.

HT speaks of double-standards when it comes to human rights and fighting terror. It criticises Western governments sponsoring tyrannical rulers, generals and kings in many Muslim countries. It wishes to see Muslim nation-states returned to the rule of a single Caliph. It wishes to restore some collective dignity to the world Muslim “Ummah” (faith-community). It rejects Muslim involvement in mainstream discourse because it believes all western institutions to be inherently hostile to Islam.

Many of these views resonate with young Muslims tired of seeing their faith maligned and their sentiments ignored by governments and peak bodies. Perhaps one good antidote to stem the perceived growth of HT influence is for Messrs Downer and Howard to start involving Muslim Australians in the foreign policy discourse. Peak Muslim bodies must also open their ranks to other voices instead of relying on keeping the same tired old faces with poor English skills appearing on the screen.

When Australian governments and Muslim peak bodies ignore the views of young people, the youth are often pushed into the waiting arms of fringe groups like HT. 15 years ago, I used to go to youth camps with the Doureihi brothers. In those days, they were young teenagers with sharp tongues for whom a Muslim youth camp was one of the few opportunities they got to escape their difficult household.

Many in the broader community may wonder why few Muslim Australians lambast the Doureihi brothers. Those of us who know their history, their difficult personal circumstances and the manner in which they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and overcame their restrictions cannot help but admire the Doureihis.

At the same time, many of my and Wassim Doureihi’s generation experienced first-hand the obstacles set for young Muslim Australians wishing to organise activities for their generation. Generally these obstacles were placed in our way by ethno-religious Muslim peak bodies with a first generation migrant mentality. I can understand how the Doureihis ended up where they are. It could so easily been me also.

HT are a fringe phenomenon. A good way to stem their influence is for Australian governments to involve Australian Muslim citizens in the foreign policy process. And for Muslim peak bodies to start listening to Muslim women and youth. A good way to turn HT into a real security risk is to ban them and send them underground. This will galvanise support for HT amongst even mainstream Muslim Australians who feel marginalised and ignored by governments and peak Muslim bodies. Time will tell which way the government inevitably goes.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Terrorist? No. Chauvinist Fringe-Dwellor? Possibly.

Abdur Raheem Green has been banned from entering Australia. He is addressing groups in New Zealand as part of the “Islamic Awareness Week” organised by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ).

Green is a London Muslim preacher. He has no formal theological qualifications, and is not regarded as a Muslim scholar. He is, however, a charismatic figure and frequently engages in debates with representatives of other faiths.

I first saw Green address a crowd of some 300 Muslim students in Sydney in the late 1990’s. He was giving a speech on responsibilities of Muslims toward missionary work.

I recall him speaking to the audience about how calling people to Islam is not calling them toward a particular group or legal tradition or sufi order. I was not troubled by this.

What did trouble me, however, was what he said outside the hall. Green was poking fun at an international Indian-based sufi group known as the “Tabligh Jemaat” (literally translated as “Missionary Group”). The TJ are popular among sub-Continental and Fiji-Indian Sunni Muslims, and focus their attention on the “greater jihad” of cleansing and purifying the heart.

I distinctly recall Green lambasting the TJ for spending their time eating curry and speaking in Urdu. His comments had clear racial overtones. I challenged him over what he said. It was then I discovered who Green really was and what he represented.

Green is part of a minority so small, it could not even be regarded as a sect. He belongs to the “Salafi” sect, an offshoot of a small fringe sect known as the “Wahhabis”. The Salafi strain includes elements from the benign to the outright dangerous. Usama bin Ladin belongs to the Salafi strain. But so do most Saudi religious authorities.

The various Salafi strains have a number of common features. Salafis take an anthropomorphic view of many of God’s attributes. For instance, when the Quran speaks of God’s hands, most Muslims take this metaphorically. But Salafis insist God literally has two hands. They regard anyone who rejects this view as “kafir” (infidel).

As a result, Salafis regard most Sunni Muslims as kafir. But it isn’t just Sunnis that Salafis reject. Salafis reject Shia Muslims as kafir. And their worst venom is reserved for Sufi Muslims (both Sunni and Shia).

The Sufi tradition is the spiritual tradition of mainstream Islam. Sufis such as Rumi have inspired millions, including prominent spiritual figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Deepak Chopra.

Sufi traders from the Prophet’s descendants (known as the “Bani Alawi” clan) in Yemen took Islam to places today known as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Today, descendants of these tribes can still be found, and common surnames (or Malay abbreviations) suggest their ancestry.

But Salafis regard many Sufi teachings as outside Islam. One of Green’s fellow Salafi preachers, an African-American named Dawud Adib, once told an audience at Melbourne University that a prominent Sufi text written by Imam Ghazali (known in Europe as “Algazel”) was worth less than a mosquito wing.

Because the Salafis reject mainstream Islam, they are regarded as on the very edge of the Muslim fringe. Which makes it most unusual that someone from the strain could be invited by a mainstream Muslim peak body.

On his previous visits to Australia, Green has not only been promoting his fringe Salafi strain of Islam. He has also been preaching a most destructive view of education. Green told shocked female audiences that it was “haram” (forbidden under religious law) for women to attend mainstream universities.

Women make up over 50% of the Muslim communities in Australia and New Zealand. Muslim women are amongst the most educated and talented members of the community.

In Australia, the first textbook on Islamic law to be published by a mainstream Australian legal publisher was authored by Jamila Hussain, an anglo-Australian Muslim female law lecturer. One of the most popular books on Australian Muslim history, Caravanserais, was penned by Haneefa Dean.

In recent times, three Muslim women have published books on their experiences growing up in Australia. Lawyer Randa Abdel-Fattah has written “Does my head look big in this”. And two journalists, Taghred Chandab and Nadia Jamal, have teamed up to write “The Glory Garage – Growing up Lebanese Muslim in Australia”.

Around 12 months ago, I befriended a girl working behind a bar in Sydney. She noticed I was not buying alcoholic drinks for my friends. She asked if I was Muslim, before telling me that her late father (whom she never met) was Muslim. I asked her what she does when she wasn’t behind the bar. “I’m a neuroscientist”, she responded. I was most impressed.

These Muslim women are more representative of mainstream Muslim opinion in Australian and New Zealand than Abdur Raheem Green. Had they followed his prescription and decided not to pursue tertiary studies, they would never have written books or published scientific papers.

Mr Green has been invited to New Zealand as part of Islamic Awareness Week. He claims to have moderated his views. But if his past comments are anything to go by, one wonders what sort of Islam he will make New Zealanders aware of.

(The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer. iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au)

© Irfan Yusuf

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

COMMENT: I Write Whilst Others Lie and Spy

“Why does Irfan always have to attack Muslim organisations publicly in the media? What does he gain?”

I may as well lay my cards on the line. I received a total of $0 from the Australian Financial Review and the Sydney Morning Herald. From the Canberra Times, I receive $165 per article. The same amount I receive from the Daily Telegraph, though this has only been after my submitting 3 articles for free.

From ABC and Channel 9, I received a few cab-charge dockets and 2 rides in a limousine.

These payments are hardly going to blow the budgets of the various media organisations. However, if one were to believe reports in The Weekend Australian Financial Review, it appears that Muslim community figures are receiving so much for their information to ASIO that the domestic intelligence agency have had to call in experts to curb this budgetary excess.

What makes things even worse is that much of the information is useless to ASIO. As a result, former ASIS chief Allan Taylor has been called in ...

... to crack down on the amount of money wasted by ASIO on agents receiving payment for concocted information.
This followed an internal review which revealed that ...

... many part-time agents in Australia’s Islamic community were being paid for information that had not been properly evaluated.
Some would like us to believe that Australians can be convinced that Muslims are all united and one big happy family of over 300,000 people. Well guess what. It just isn’t true. And Brian Toohey from AFR knows it. He writes what we all know and what most Australians know ...

... that Australia’s Islamic community is riven by religious, political and personal rivalries, which often prompt informers to take advantage of ASIO’s cash to make up damaging accusations against their opponents.
Call me cynical, but I reckon my few hundred dollars and a few cab charge vouchers are nothing compared to the perhaps tens of thousands many Muslims take from ASIO to dob me and others in. And what makes things worse is that inevitably I pay for it all through my taxes.

What I write or say is public. My allegations can be seen, read and heard by everyone who cares to access the information. But what some lying Muslim leaders and others tell ASIO in return for a share of my hard-earned tax dollars cannot be seen.

It makes me think that somewhere in Bankstown or Lakemba or Zetland, some bludger is making truckloads of cash at my expense. Myself and other Muslims are being investigated and our reputations tarnished just because we happen to find ourselves on the wrong side of an informant.

These lying cheats take ASIO cash and waste ASIO resources by providing false leads. As a result, ASIO are diverted from more fruitful work which might actually stop a terrorist attack.

In short, some Muslim informants are being paid to threaten national security. And the money comes out of my pocket. That makes me angry. It should make all Australians angry. Our security is being compromised by charlatans growing fat and rich at the expense of our tax dollars and.our security.

If even ASIO can be deceived by charlatan Muslim leaders, how much more careful should the Prime Minister be about which people in the Muslim communities he consults on the eve of a national summit on terrorism. Surely those who take money to tell lies to ASIO will have little hesitation in telling a few porkies in return for a photo opp with the PM.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Who should the PM speak to on national security?

John Howard wants to consult Muslim leaders about national security issues. He believes that involving Muslim communities is a major plank of any strategy to fight terrorism.

But what if Muslim organisational leaders do not reflect the complexity and diverse opinion of their communities? Who should the PM talk to?

The challenge facing our democratically elected governments at state and federal level is finding out exactly what Muslim opinion is. Muslims are just as diverse and complex as Christians and Jews.

Simplistic analyses based upon labels such as “extremist” and “radical” and “moderate” will not assist Mr Howard’s task. Earlier in the week, Mr Howard sent a message to an allegedly moderate Muslim group based in Bankstown. The group, calling themselves “Darul Fatwa Islamic High Council”, had organised a seminar against terrorism.

This group seems to have moderate rhetoric on the surface. Yet if the PM were to speak with experts on Lebanese affairs, he would also discover that this group also has close ties to the Syrian Ba’ath Party. Further, they hold some unfortunate views on relations with other religions.

In 1999, the Bankstown City Council was causing problems for leaders of a Vietnamese Buddhist congregation seeking to make extensions to their temple. Many local Muslims sympathised with the congregation, recognising problems Muslims had with Councils on mosque applications.

At the time, I was a volunteer broadcaster with a Muslim community station, and was a co-presenter of a morning talkback program cheekily entitled “Morning Glory”. The program generated support for the temple application, and sought comments and explanations from Councillors on why the application was being refused.

Our stance in supporting our Buddhist neighbours earned the wrath of the Islamic Charitable Projects Association (ICPA) executive who form the backbone of the Darul Fatwa body. ICPA leaders had me in their office for some 3 hours castigating me over supporting “kuffar” (unbelievers). I was told that Muslims should not be encouraging idolatry, that Muslims should not be friendly with non-Muslims and that a Muslim radio program had sinned in galvanising support for another religion. I was advised that Islam came to destroy idols, not promote idol worship.

Some years later, the same arguments were used by the Taliban to destroy the ancient Buddha statues at the ancient town of Bhamyan.

Muslim community organisations have some strange affiliations with overseas groups. They are dominated with first-generation migrants, many having sectarian and/or political axes to grind.

Mr Howard should not presume that Muslim organisational leadership will provide him with all the answers. He should also ignore sincere calls by Dr Ameer Ali, President of one of Muslim Australia’s two competing peak bodies, to involve high profile extremists.

Groups led by the likes of Sydney’s Wassim Dureihi and Melbourne’s Abu Bakr are lucky of they have more than 200 people between the two of them. Involving them in the process lends them legitimacy and makes mainstream Muslim Australians nervous.

Muslims have been part of mainstream Australian life since the first Indian and Afghan cameleers arrived in Australia in the mid-19th century. Today, Muslims are found in local councils, state parliaments, political parties and at the highest levels of government, business and professions.

It would make little sense for Mr Howard to consult with a radical Melbourne cleric yet ignore prominent Australians like “Crazy” John Ilhan and Hazem el-Masri. Their success in business and sport has inspired Australians across the spiritual spectrum. They are also probably more influential than organisational leadership.

Perhaps a more effective way forward is for Mr Howard to ask Federal Senators and State Parliaments to compose a list of prominent Muslim Australians active in mainstream Australian life. They might be identified because of their role in business, professions, academia, the media, sport and the arts.

Further, they should cut across gender, ethnic and sectarian lines. There is no point consulting Muslims if Muslim women are ignored. Shutting out at least 51% of the Muslim population makes no sense. And ignoring Muslims born and/or brought up in Australia will also make no sense.

Muslim leadership does not reflect this diversity. Muslim organisations are typically dominated by middle aged migrant men. Young people are sidelined and pushed toward radicals. And these young people have nowhere outside Australia to go should they be ordered to “go back” to where they came from.

Mr Howard must allow the goals of national security to dictate his choice of which Muslims to invite to formally meet with him. He should not just presume that unrepresentative Muslim organisations can reflect the diversity of mainstream Muslim opinion. National security is more important than placating organisational ego.


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Inevitable Death of Ghetto Islam - Part 1

A few days ago, I had three telephone conversations, all with members of the same family.

The first call was from an old friend of mine whom I first met at a Muslim youth camp in 1987. He is a lovely chap, very sincere and with a wonderful heart. He cares for his family and loves his Muslim faith.

He castigated me for an e-mail I sent in which I suggested that certain Lebanese Muslim families in Sydney had turned Muslim organisational leadership into a Middle Eastern family affair. I suggested that his family was amongst those families. Naturally, he was most upset when the e-mail was forwarded to him. What was not forwarded to him was my subsequent apology.

Some 10 minutes later, I spoke with his brother on the phone. His brother had been president of a peak community body for as long as anyone could remember. He castigated me for what he described as unprofessional behaviour. He then passed the phone onto his sister who also repeated those remarks.

“Brother, we regard you as part of the family. You should support the family which has the best interests of the community at heart”, she told me more or less.

I immediately remembered the words of Michael Photios, former Minister for Multicultural Affairs in the Fahey Government. He invited me and other executive members of Bankstown Young Liberals.

“You guys should join the family. Only by getting with us will you get somewhere in NSW Politics”, Mr Photios said.

Of course, “the Family” he was referring to was the faction of the NSW Liberals known as “the Group”. This faction at the time controlled the NSW Young Liberals, the Liberal Party Executive and the NSW Parliamentary Party. It employed its own “Family” members as staffers and consultants. Back in 1994, when I sat in Mr Photios’ office, the Family seemed invincible.

Today, that very Family have been vanquished. Its most talented have politically prostituted themselves to their ideological opponents. What is left of the Family is a mere shell of its former self.

In 1994, I could not see the end of the Liberal Family. But in 2005, the end of the Muslim Ghetto Families seems inevitable.

The brother and sister team I spoke to are clearly rattled and nervous. They realise they and their nepotism and cronyism are now under investigation. They are under scrutiny from journalists, government officials and law enforcement agencies. The matter could reach ICAC or other corruption watchdogs. The entire edifice of ghetto Islam could be brought down.

And all this simply because this presumed royalty claims to hold exclusive right to advocate on behalf of Muslim New South Welshmen. When approached by a group of concerned Muslims seeking to have media work for this peak body delegated to a body of expert media and political spin-doctors, this incompetent bumbling family dilly-dallied and procrastinated. Now events have taken over their procrastination and threaten to render their peak body entirely irrelevant.

What these bodies especially suffer from is a kind of Ghetto Islamic mentality. They are living under a state of virtual siege, paranoid of outside mainstream influences. They blame their woes on an assortment of presumed enemies including: the Jews, Zionists, freemasons, wahhabis, sunnis, shias, sufis, habashis, liberals, Fabians, Christians and other groups.

Practitioners of Ghetto Islam in Sydney has a number of characteristics:

a. They tend to be hamstrung by cultural and tribal mentalities of little relevance to mainstream Australian life.
b. They tend to have a focus on welfare issues.
c. They tend to avoid and discourage involvement in mainstream discourse.
d. They are afraid to engage in the broader Australian community.
e. Their vision of Islam is based upon the fringe understanding of whichever foreign government or funding source is buttering their bread.

f. They discourage involvement of women.
g. They find English-speaking educated young people a threat to their activities and shun their involvement.

h. They are often manipulated by mainstream political parties for branch-stacking purposes. For instance, Tony Stewart MP made extensive use of Lebanese Muslim communities to stack branches during his pre-selection battle with Morris Iemma some years back following the redistribution. Some of these were members of Bankstown Young Liberals over which the writer presided.
i. They tend to only involve members of their extended family.
j. They are opposed to democratic reform or only partake in it grudgingly.

To give a few examples. Some years back, it was reported in Fairfax media that the Muslim Womens Association has been used to stack ALP branches for Tony Stewart. The MWA at the time had been presided by someone who held the position for over a decade. She only resigned after being offered a paid position as executive officer. A large proportion of staff working for the MWA, including on government funded projects, are relatives of hers.

The Islamic Council of NSW only recently had its chairman step down after a reign of over 20 years. He is currently Vice Chair, and is also Principal of the Rissalah College (loosely affiliated with the Council) despite not having even a higher school certificate. His sister was for years president of the MWA and also held a position in the Ethnic Affairs Commission which enabled her to make sensitive decisions on the funding of Muslim community organisations.

The transition from honorary executive to paid employee positions is a common one in Muslim community bodies. It has occurred in a number of organisations including: Islamic Council of NSW, Muslim Womens Association and Muslim Aid Australia.

In one body, Muslim Community Cooperative of Australia Limited, one member of the board of directors is also an employee of the organisation. This kind of conflict of interest is rife in Muslim Ghetto bodies. MCCA is an exception in that it has made genuine attempts to deal with actual and perceived conflicts of interest. The same cannot be said for other Muslim community bodies.

The next part in this series will deal with the problems faced by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. It will provide examples of gross mismanagement reflective of the Ghetto Islam mentality at a national level.

Following that, Part 3 will deal with the lack of accreditation of imams. One case study, the Al-Ghazzali Centre, will be provided as an example of the problems which can arise due to the unwillingness of self-proclaimed scholars to submit to rigorous inquiry and disclosure of religious qualifications.

Part 4 will deal with emerging bodies such as Mission of Hope and the challenges they face in emerging from the ghetto mentality.

Part 5 will deal with the growth of fringe extremist groups such as the Global Islamic Youth Centre and the Darul Fatwa organisation which attempt to impose foreign fringe ideologies and cults on mainstream Muslim youth and converts.

Finally, Part 6 will focus on more positive initiatives of groups such as the Daar Aisha Shariah College for Women, the Muslim Womens National Network of Australia and the ThinkIslam project. These bodies represent a genuine attempt to completely break away from ghetto Islam and to engage in the broader largely-assimilated Muslim communities who form the overwhelming majority of Muslim Australia.

(The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer who has acted for numerous peak bodies, imams, community independent schools and other entities. He is a featured columnist of Australian Islamic Review and of altmuslim.com and has also written for the Australian Financial Review, Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph. He was endorsed Liberal candidate for the seat of Reid in the 2001 federal election.)

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Thursday, August 04, 2005

TERRORISM/COMMENT: Profiling the unprofilable ...

Former ASIO Assistant Director Michael Roach suggests that police should adopt the unorthodox practice of racial profiling. He told the ABC television program Lateline on 2 August 2005 that Muslims should expect to be approached ...
... because of their beliefs, their dress and their colour.
So there you have it. An intelligence expert providing an idea of what kind of approaches police should use to gather intelligence. And with al due respect to Mr Roach, the suggested approaches are not all that intelligent.

Firstly, as Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Aly rightly notes, any terrorist planner will no longer use persons of Middle Eastern appearance to carry out their attacks.

But more importantly, when persons are targeted because they “look” Muslim, the social collateral damage could be enormous. A few examples will illustrate this.

In 1991, while still at university, I commenced teaching scripture classes to Muslim children at Hampden Park Public School in Lakemba. The school principal took me around to all classes and asked Muslim children to identify themselves. I remember seeing in one class a young girl with blonde hair stand up when the principal made her request. The Principal remared:
Jasmina, why are you standing up? You don’t look Muslim.
Poor Jasmina started to cry. She later told me that her mum was Muslim and her late father was Serbian Orthodox Christian.

I have a friend whose father is Irish Catholic and mother is Indian Hindu. She walks half an hour each day from Potts Point to Town Hall, from where she catches a train to her university. Typically, she carries a backpack.

My friend rang me on the evening of 2 August at almost midnight. She had just finished watching Lateline. She was absolutely terrified.
I think they are going to arrest me one day. I’d better stop carrying a backpack.
My friend’s problem is that she fits the racial profiling criteria set by Mr Roach. She has olive skin, dark brown hair and is of Middle Eastern appearance. Yet she was born in Canberra Hospital and attended an Anglican college throughout high school. Her father was about to join the priesthood until he met her mother.

Another friend of mine never met her Muslim father. She works behind a bar, and enjoys drinking a mixture of champagne and orange juice. Apart from her name, there is little to suggest her Muslim background. Yet her appearance and her name make her a suspect.

One young Imam in Lakemba looks about as much a terrorist as any other Australian with red hair and green eyes. Although he is Palestinian, his ancestry is most probably Greek.

After September 11, Strathfield Council organised an inter-faith memorial service. One young imam said a small prayer in Arabic and English. He was wearing a suit and tie. After he finished, one Muslim asked him:
Imam, why are you wearing European dress?
The imam’s response?
Because I am European.
This imam was from Sarajevo.

The Melbourne Age recently reported that young Bosnians form the backbone of some extremist groups linked to the notorious Mohammed Omran in Melbourne. Should any of these young men take part in a terrorist attack, and should racial profiling be the order of the day, they will probably go unnoticed.

Racial profiling will result in innocent Australians being profiled and presumed terrorists (or at best terror suspects). Further, the fact is that many Muslims simply do not fit the profile. And to suggest that mainstream Muslim beliefs support suicide bombing and other terrorist acts is ludicrous.

Australians should be concerned about fighting terror. And the Muslim community is perhaps Australia’s best weapon in this war. Muslim Australians have in the past provided useful evidence which has averted numerous attacks on Australian targets. Racial profiling will do little to carry forward this good work. Instead, it will further marginalise anyone fitting the ethnic profile, this creating social tensions and divisions. The only benefactor will be terrorists themselves.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf