Thursday, December 28, 2006

HUMOUR: New Auslandia? Too right ...

I know we Aussies have always regarded our cousins across the Tasman as ever-so-polite. We've always presumed that behind all that haka bravado lies a nation of SNAKs (Sensitive New Age Kiwis) renowned for being so laidback they're horizontal.

And now a bi-partisan Australian Parliamentary Committee has recommended that Australia and New Zealand consider merging into one country. Seriously.

Now before you throw off your SNAK veneer and exclaim in unison three words beginning with the letters w, t and f respectively, consider this.

A merger might be just what us wild West Islanders need. Things haven't been going well for us in recent times. I'm sure newly elected Federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd wouldn't knock back some of Helen Clark's political luck.

Maybe Aunty Hilun could take over and lead the ALP to victory against the hitherto invincible Howard.

I doubt whether a Kiwistani agricultural board would have been caught out paying secret bribes to Saddam Hussein.

And the way things are going, Aussie tourism advertisements have been consigned to the deepest depths of bloody hell.

Let's be honest. There are plenty of examples of Australia and New Zealand having close cultural ties. Fair-dinkum, true-blue Aussie musicians like the Finn brothers and Russell Crowe love touring Kiwistan at every available opportunity. Rumours surfacing in pubs across Bondi have it that they may have even purchased property there.

We Aussies could also do with Kiwis running our beaches. I doubt there'd be race riots at Cronulla if the place was inundated with SNAKs sharing fush'n'chups with the locals. Certainly we'd have fewer shark fatalities if we had Kiwis patrolling our coasts.

Aussie sport isn't the best either, notwithstanding the Ashes. The last time I appeared on TVNZ I made sure I wore my Wallabies jersey. But I'll be the first to admit our rugby players aren't all that crash-hot with traditional war dances or tackling All Blacks.

On the positive side, there is plenty the Kiwis could learn from us.

There's no doubt our journalists compensate for our rugby players in the tackling department. One of Rupert Murdoch's scribes decided to practise his tackling skills at the otherwise sleepy annual Walkley awards.

And mentioning Murdoch brings me to another reason why you Kiwistanis should favourably consider an Australian merger proposal: imagine having virtually each and every newspaper editorial and columnist calling for Helen Clark to send Kiwi troops to Iraq (or whichever hot spot the Americans target next for "regime change").

The LACA parliamentary committee wants the Australian Parliament to invite the New Zealand Parliament to establish a committee to work towards harmonisation of our legal systems.

It then makes this incisive observation:

The merger of Australia and New Zealand or the progression to a unitary system of government in Australia, however desirable, might not be easy to achieve.

You don't say? But the report gets better.

Australia and New Zealand should also consider introducing a common currency.

I think this makes perfect cents.

Every time I cross the Tasman, the shrapnel situation confuses the hell out of me. Why? Because for some weird reason, our $2 coin is smaller than our $1 coin, but with the Kiwis it's the other way around.

Clearly, our countries have so much in common already - sharing a currency is but a small step.

And so I urge my fellow Aussies to support this grand crosstasman merger project. Let's extend the Sydney Harbour Bridge eastward. Let's build a light rail to Auckland.

Let us join with you, our Kiwistani cousins, to create the world's first South Pacific superpower.

And if you are still reluctant, let me remind you of the words of your former tribal chief Robert "Piggy" Muldoon and increase the collective IQs of both our nations.

* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer. A version of this article was first published in New Matilda. The version reproduced on this blog first appeared in the New Zealand Herald on 19 December 2006.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

OPINION: Christmas and Eid thoughts among the cane toads

A DECADE of primary and secondary education at an evangelical Anglican school was enough to get me addicted to church music. Each Christmas, I try to join friends at Midnight Mass at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral. It is an extraordinary experience, with both organs playing simultaneously as the choir roams among the congregation in procession singing carols.

This year, I'm joining my partner and her family for Christmas on the Sunshine Coast. It will be my first Christmas in the land of the cane toad. It will also roughly coincide with Eid al-Adha, the most important feast of the Muslim calendar coinciding with the annual pilgrimage known as the Haj.

This year hasn't exactly been a bumper year for relations between the nominally Christian and Muslim sections of the planet. Muslims accuse Christians of taking hypocritical stands in the Middle East, and Christians accuse Muslims of behaving like drama queens in response to a dozen Danish cartoons and one papal speech.

Yet a recent report by a United Nations-sponsored High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilisations has found that the apparently deplorable state of relations between Christians and Muslims has more to do with politics than theology.

And even the most cursory analysis of the message of Christmas and Eid will reinforce this simple point.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham had two wives. He first married Sarah, who offered her Egyptian servant named Hajira (Hagar) to Abraham (Islamic tradition says Hagar was from royal stock and became Abraham's second wife). They had a son named Ismail (Ishmael). Eventually Sarah did have a son, despite her advanced years. The Koran describes this as a miraculous process, evidence of God's power to bend His own laws of nature to achieve His purpose.

Abraham's second son was Ishaq (Isaac). Sarah isn't exactly fond of Hagar. Poor Abraham feels Sarah's wrath and takes Hagar and the baby Ishmael in a remote desert wilderness named Bakkah.

Like all mothers, Hagar's primary concern is the survival of her toddler. But where will she find water in this wilderness?

That search for water is what provides the Muslim pilgrimage rituals with much of their meaning. Hagar heads for a hill, finds nothing and so heads in the opposite direction to another hill. She again finds nothing. In desperation, she runs back and forth seven times before setting eyes on her young boy kicking the dirt to uncover a rich spring.

Quickly she builds a makeshift well. Within a short period, the well attracts the attention of other travellers.

Hagar watches her son become a grown man, and receives a visit from Abraham again. The Koran says God orders Abraham and Ishmael to build a temple a simple cubic structure known as the Kaaba. The temple was a symbol of God's throne on Earth, with humans circling it in the manner angels were believed to circle the actual throne in the heavens.

The valley of Bakkah eventually became known as Mecca . The Kaaba (an Arabic word which means cube) is traditionally draped in a black embroidered cloth. The well kicked to the surface by the infant Ishmael is known as the well of Zam Zam.

Muslims on the pilgrimage also run seven times between the two hills, as well as circling the Kaaba and drinking from the well of Zam Zam. Hagar and Mary were both Middle Eastern women.

The Koran also mentions the Christmas story in some detail in a chapter named in honour of Mary. The chapter begins with John the Baptist (named Yahiya in classical Arabic), born to Zachariah, with both father and son revered as Prophets.

Mary is introduced as a chaste woman withdrawing from her family "to a place in the East", locking herself away from the rest of society. A man mysteriously appears in her private chamber. The following dialogue ensues:

MARY: I seek refuge from thee to God Most Gracious: come not near if thou dost fear God.

MAN: Nay, I am only a messenger from the Lord, to announce to thee the gift of a holy son.

MARY: How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?

MAN: So it will be: Thy Lord saith: 'that is easy for Me: and We wish to appoint him as a sign unto men and as a Mercy from Us'. It is a matter so decreed.

The man was in fact an angel. Christ was conceived miraculously. Following birth, Mary took her son back to her family. Her father was a respected rabbi and Mary was always known for her modesty and chastity. Further Mary had made a vow not to speak to any man for a fixed period of time.

When she was first publicly accused of sexual impropriety, she pointed to the baby Jesus. The Koran thus describes the first miracle of Christ his speaking from the cradle in defence of his mother. His exact words were:

I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet. And he hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable. So peace is on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised up to life again!

I'm not sure if Joseph or the Three Wise Men appear in the Koranic account. But a number of Jesus' miracles are mentioned. These include healing lepers and restoring life to the dead. Also mentioned is Christ's ascension. The sayings of Prophet Muhammad mention Christ's return to earth to establish the kingdom of God toward the end of time.

Both Mary and Hagar were women ostracised by and from family and community. Both were humiliated by social mores that were essentially inimical to the far greater purpose their creator had chosen for them to play. In the end, God provided the means for each of these women to overcome family and social stigma Hagar through her son's miraculous discovery of a well and Mary through her son's miraculous defence from the cradle.

Both Christmas and Eid stories show how God doesn't judge his creatures by the standards they use to judge each other. Even if these same standards are applied in the name of divine religion.

Genuinely religious people, on the other hand, recognise that their creator's mercy is for every person. God sees the hearts of all, whether they be accepted or rejected by the society of men.

Muslims and Christians have a joint responsibility to ensure this message of hope and mercy is not lost. The message should remind us of our shared Abrahamic spiritual roots. Indeed, the things that unite us are far greater in number and importance than those which divide us.

Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and columnist for This article was first published in the Canberra Times on 23 December 2006.

Words © 2006 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Celebrate all that unites not divides

IN THE aftermath of the trouble on Sydney's beaches, there has been a lot of talk about riots, race and religion. And with Christmas coming up, I have a confession to make.

I will be joining readers in celebrating Christmas.

So what? You may ask. But in my case, the difference is that I come from a Muslim cultural and religious background. And some people tell me that my culture doesn't allow me to celebrate the birth of Christ.

As usual, I will spend Christmas day having lunch with my best mate. We both attended Sydney's only Anglican Cathedral School.

Some years ago, I introduced him to a Japanese friend of mine. They instantly clicked. I was best man at their wedding. It was a truly Australian event -- an Anglican boy marrying a Buddhist girl with a Muslim best man, all taking place at St Andrew's Cathedral.

At 14, I was given my first translation of the Koran in English. It was a very old translation first published in Lahore in the 1930s. The translator was an Indian named Abdullah Yusuf Ali who rose to the highest posts in the Indian Civil Service that formed the administrative bedrock of the British Raj. His is perhaps the most popular and widely used translation.

It was at school that I discovered the story of the Koranic Jesus. The story can be found in a chapter of the Koran named Maryam (which is Arabic for Mary).

It begins with the usual supplication that commences all but one chapter of the Koran: In the name of God, Most Gracious and Most Merciful. This supplication is used not only when starting a reading of the Koran, but precedes virtually all the daily actions of a Muslim, both mundane and devotional.

The chapter then goes into how John the Baptist appeared on the scene. John (named Yahiya in classical Arabic) was born to Zachariah, and father and son are revered as prophets.

Once John has been mentioned, Mary is introduced. She is described as withdrawing from her family to a place in the East, locking herself away from the rest of society. A man mysteriously appears in her private chamber. The following dialogue ensues:

MARY: I seek refuge from thee to God Most Gracious: come not near if thou dost fear God.

MAN: Nay, I am only a messenger from the Lord, to announce to thee the gift of a holy son.

MARY: How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?

MAN: So it will be: Thy Lord sayeth: that is easy for Me: and We wish to appoint him as a sign unto men and as a Mercy from Us. It is a matter so decreed.

The man was an angel. Christ was conceived miraculously. Following birth, Mary took her son back to her family. Her father was a respected rabbi and Mary was always known for her modesty and chastity. Further Mary had made a vow not to speak to any man for a fixed period of time. When she was first publicly accused of sexual impropriety, she pointed to the baby Jesus.

The Koran thus describes the first miracle of Christ his speaking from the cradle in defence of his mother. His exact words were:

I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet. And he hath made me blessed wheresoever I be and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable. So peace is on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised up to life again!

I'm not sure if Joseph or the Three Wise Men appear in the Koranic account. But a number of Jesus miracles are mentioned. These include healing lepers and restoring life to the dead. Christ's ascension is also mentioned. The sayings of Prophet Mohammed mention Christ's return to Earth to establish the kingdom of God toward the end of time.

Given the status of Mary and Christ, it is not surprising that in the place where it all happened, the Palestinian town of Beit Lahm (Bethlehem), Muslims and Christians both celebrate Christmas. In many Muslim countries, Christmas is a public holiday.
And when Christian leaders remind us that Jesus is the reason for the season, our Muslim brethren should find nothing objectionable.

Christmas should remind us that, despite minor cultural and theological differences, the things that unite us are greater in number and more important than those which divide us.

First published in the Daily Telegraph on 22 December 2005.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kiwistan - politically left and geographically right

The Weekend Australian Financial Review (December 2-3, 2006) includes an interesting analysis by Brian Toohey on the fall of former New Zealand Opposition Leader Don Brash.

Toohey provides a glimpse of some of the e-mails, strategy papers and copies of speeches (apparently written by a newspaper columnist) that were part of a secret strategy to ensure Brash didn’t look too “hard right” to Kiwi voters.

This included ensuring no publicity was given to a meeting between Brash and US official Richard Armitage in June 2004 lest Kiwi media dog Brash about his support for the disastrous 2003 US invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Killing.

Toohey makes frequent mention of left activist Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men. Brash sought a court injunction to stop publication of the book, which he claimed revealed details of confidential consultations with constituents.

Toohey also mentions Brash’s period at the Reserve Bank, which included the disastrous use of relying on the monetary conditions index (MCI) which led to Kiwistani interest rates going through the roof during the Asian financial crisis.

Perhaps most disastrous was revelations that Brash hid his knowledge that members of the fundamentalist Exclusive Brethren Church had spent more than $1 million on political advertising directly favouring the Nationals.

In Australia, the ALP was (under Kim Beazley) trying to out-Howard John Howard by pushing itself to the Right on so many issues. Yet in New Zealand, an openly conservative party was too scared to appear to right wing for fear of offending middle-of-the-road voters. Geographically, we may be to the left of the Kiwis, but certainly not politically.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Howard’s Head in the Sand Over Iraq?

Messrs Howard and Downer will deny until they’re black and blue in the face that oil had anything to do with the invasion of Iraq. Just before the invasion, they parroted the lies of influential members of the American establishment – both those in the Bush administration and some in News Limited – that the war was being fought to make us safe from terrorism.

Later, when it turned out Iraq had no WMD’s and the Iraqi Ba’ath Party had no links to Islamist terror groups, other excuses were put. We were told democracy and peace would be restored to Iraq. We were told that human rights of Kurds and other groups were at stake.

Iraq remains a quagmire, heading for what seems inevitable sectarian and ethnic civil war. Groups like al-Qaida continue to murder and maim innocent Iraqi civilians in a manner they could never have dreamed of when Saddam Hussein was in power. We are part of the mess.

It says a lot about John Howard that he wasn’t prepared to come clean with the Australian people about taking them to a Middle Eastern war. Yet a member of his government was prepared to tell his buddies in the Australian Wheat Board as far back as February 2002, well before the first Bali bombing that Howard reminded us constantly of when arguing his case for war.

Mr Howard says that the Australian official who told AWB of the government’s intentions of joining the American war in Iraq was expressing a personal opinion. If that is the case, how is it that an Australian diplomat knows more about American intentions in relation to Iraq than the PM himself? Maybe Howard isn’t surely he must be wondering how much intelligence and how many security decisions the Bush administration shares with him.

On a Saturday night some weeks back, American comic Azhar Usman posed this question to his Sydney audience: “Why did they call the invasion Operation Iraqi Freedom? They should have called it Operation Iraqi Liberation. That would have made more sense. O.I.L.”

And at a conference on The Journalist and Islam co-organised by Macquarie University and UTS, The Australian’s opinion editor Tom Switzer acknowledged that his newspaper made a huge blunder in supporting the war in Iraq.

Journalists and editors like Switzer are honest enough to acknowledge the war was (in his words) a “complete disaster”. So has the Iraq Study Group appointed by President Bush.

Yet John Howard and his ministers have their heads plonked firmly in the sands of Iraq. Howard is the only world leader left who unconditionally supports indefinitely staying in Iraq. Hardly a statesmanlike position to be in.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Keith Ellison and the Koran controversy

Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison made history as the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. And already, neo-Cons like Dick Prager (who happens to be Jewish) lament Ellison “will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.” Apparently this act “undermines American civilization”.

(In fact, the actual swearing-in ceremony is done by all congressmen together and doesn’t involve any scriptures!)

Another Philadelphia-based neo-Con shock jock
posed this question to Ellison during an interview on CNN on November 14: “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies”.

One neo-Con blogger asks: “Does Keith Ellison, recently elected to Congress from Minnesota , think he's Allah's son? If so, his allegiance should be sworn in a nation where Muslim is the founding principle.” I never knew Muslim could be a founding principle.

Ellison’s critics forget that the US Constitution is essentially a multicultural and multiconfesional document. Don’t expect multiculturalism-haters like Janet Albrechtsen to be taking up US citizenship in a hurry, regardless of what her Uncle Rupert does!

Ellison won’t be the first Muslim democratic representative to take an oath on the Islamic scripture. In 2002, Labour MP Dr Ashraf Choudhary was sworn into the New Zealand Parliament on the Koran. He was criticised at the time by the current Kiwi Foreign Minister Winston Peters who claimed this represented a breach of proper Parliamentary procedure.

In the home of Westminster Democracy, Parliamentary rules specifically provide for the Oath of Allegiance to involve a Jewish MP holding the Old Testament or a Muslim MP holding the Koran. Baron Ahmed of Rotherham took his oath in the House of Lords whilst holding a Koran.

Returning to Congressman Keith Ellison, Minnesota TV host Don Shelby cited two websites linked to al-Qaida which described Ellison as “one of them, a one way ticket to hell”. With enemies like that ...

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Self-styled Australian paper lynches Pakistani advocate?

How sweet it is to be loved by you.
(James Taylor)

Well, it certainly is sweet to have one’s name mentioned in the editorial of Australia’s only national broadsheet. Even if it be in vain!

The Australian editorial for 7 December 2006 covered Kevin Rudd and his impact upon the ALP. It then went onto speak of the importance of not “covering up Islamic outrages”. I’m not exactly sure how any outrage can be deemed “Islamic” or indeed supported by any other faith. But the editorial made clear that certain behaviour by Muslims was just unacceptable and should be exposed.

In particular, the editorial spoke of the outrageous behaviour of former students from a Melbourne independent Muslim school who were found to have behaved in a despicable manner toward the Bible. The Oz’s Cameron Stewart had reported the story in a most balanced manner, and he certainly cannot be held responsible for the hysterical headlines or front page prominence given to his reasonable analyses.

The editorial went onto speak about its reporting of the Hilaly rape/adultery/catfood comments.

But the reporting on Sheik Hilali also flushed out a number of people who were horrified by The Australian's coverage, and who wished the whole story would go away. Chief among them was self-styled Muslim advocate Irfan Yusuf, a young lawyer of Pakistani extraction, who accused this newspaper of committing an “editorial lynching” of the sheik in its news and opinion pages.
(emphasis mine)

I’m not sure who actually wrote this editorial. I’m not sure if this person knows me or is familiar with my readings. More importantly, I’m not sure if the author has any literacy skills at all, given what I am about to "reveal" about myself.

The writer accuses me of being a “self-styled Muslim advocate”. What does this mean? Well, it could mean a number of things:

• that I describe myself as an advocate of Muslim people and/or issues and/or groups.
• that I describe myself as an advocate and lawyer when I really am not.

If the second interpretation is intended, the author should seriously consider obtaining urgent legal advice. To suggest that I am falsely holding myself out as a legal practitioner is extremely defamatory. The fact is that I am a legal practitioner and hold a NSW practising certificate. I am also a member of the NSW Law Society.

I am perfectly within my rights to commence proceedings immediately against the editor, deputy editor and opinion editor and proprietor of The Oz. Further, because the defamation occurred online, I am within my rights to commence these proceedings in any jurisdiction. I’m not sure what assets Messrs Mitchell, Switzer et al have, but I would suggest they carefully consider their legal position.

If the editorial writer suggests that I have ever claimed to speak on behalf of all Muslims, they are again speaking lies. At various times, I have made the following claims in my writings:

• Sydney lawyer.
• Columnist for
• Occasional lecturer in politics and international relations at Macquarie University.
• Former president of the Islamic Youth Association of NSW (IYA).
• Industrial and workplace relations lawyer.
• Human rights lawyer.
• Lawyer who has acted for Muslim peak bodies and independent schools.
• Freelance writer.
• Blogger.
• Columnist whose writings have appeared in various newspapers in Australia and New Zealand.
• Commentator.

In none of these descriptions do I claim any current leadership capacity. I was president of the IYA in 1990-91, hardly a current position.

The editorial then refers to me as being "of Pakistani extraction". Now it is true that I was born in Karachi. It’s also true that I stayed there for some 6 weeks until my parents boarded with me onto a cruise liner headed for Sydney harbour.

It’s also true that my mother grew up in Aligarh, a university town in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. I’m not sure exactly how far Aligarh is from the Pakistan border, but I’m sure it isn’t exactly walking distance.

So my mother is Indian. My father was born in Delhi and stayed there until he was 7 years old. I left my birthplace at age 6 weeks. I’ve never held any passport other than an Australian passport. Yet I am described as being “of Pakistani extraction”.

And even if I was of Pakistani extraction, what does this prove? How is my alleged ethnicity relevant to the issue of an Egyptian-Australian Sheik’s comments? Are Pakistanis ineligible to discuss public issues? Does being Pakistani reduce one’s credibility?

The editorial also claims that I wanted the media to brush the story under the carpet, that I wanted it to go away. Really? How, then, does the editor explain the fact that criticisms and analysis of the Hilaly comments were published under my name in the following publications …

• The Daily Telegraph (not once but twice!).
• The Canberra Times.
• The New Zealand Herald.
• The Wellington Dominion-Post.
• The Christchurch Press.

In the Daily Telegraph, I openly states that Sheik Hilaly is wrong and that his comments were grossly offensive. In a later piece, I wrote that Hilaly is irrelevant. The Daily Telegraph’s offices are in the same building as those of The Oz. They belong to the same media organisation.

Further, anyone who googles my name will find the first item popping up is a list of articles I have published on the Online Opinion website. The first of these articles is a critique of Sheik Hilaly.

Far from wanting the Hilaly comments to be swept under the carpet, I have actively participated in the condemnation of Hilaly. I’ve spoken on the issue on Radio National breakfast and two regional ABC breakfast radio shows.

What I did criticise The Oz for was the enormous amount of space given to the story (on one day, some 8 pages). I made these criticisms at the White Ribbon Day launch. Indeed, my criticisms of Hilaly are part of my work as a White Ribbon Day ambassador, campaigning to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

The point I made at the WRD launch was that, in focussing on the words of one religious leader and on the excesses (actual and apparent) of one religious group, we are effectively ignoring the perpetrators of other cultural groups. We are therefore avoiding the victims. I further argued that the real scandal isn’t so much Hilaly’s comments as the fact that, according to recent research carried out by Dr Michael Flood and others, Hilaly’s expressed attitudes are commonly held by men and women in mainstream Australia.

In what sense do these comments exhibit an insistence that the issue be swept under the carpet?

Further, anyone familiar with my writing will know that most of what I write involves criticising Muslims for various things. I’ve criticised Muslims (individually and collectively) in the following contexts:

• Comments of Sheik Feiz about rape.
• Comments of Abdurraheem Greene on women.
• Distribution of anti-Semitic texts at Muslim camps organised by AFIC.
• Dominance of Muslim organisations by first generation migrants with irrelevant cultural attitudes.
• Imams who cannot speak English.
• Muslim bookshops promoting hate literature.
• Muslim responses to the Danish cartoons.
• Muslim responses to the Pope’s recent speech.
• Critique of terrorist groups in the Middle East, Indonesia and Afghanistan.
• Critique of Mumbai terror attacks.
• Calling upon London Muslims to condemn the London bombings.
• Criticising Muslim attitudes to mental illness.

In what sense do these criticisms exhibit an unwillingness to see such issues discussed openly in media circles?

Perhaps what the editor is really concerned about is an exchange between opinion editor Tom Switzer and I on the pages of Crikey. Yet in what way is a healthy exchange of views problematic? Why should the editorial team at The Oz respond in such an immature and childish manner when criticised? If they can’t stand the heat, what are they doing in the public discourse kitchen?

In any event, I’d like to thank The Oz for mentioning me in their editorial. Having The Oz criticise me adds so much to my credibility in the sane media. Further, it puts The Oz in the same league as the Muslim Village forum participants who criticise me for attacking Hilaly.

So there you have it. I am attacked by ghetto Muslims for attacking Hilaly. And then I am attacked by ghetto neo-Cons for trying to brush the issue under the carpet. Both sets of critics display a hysterical and narrow-minded attitude toward the issues at hand.

In conclusion, might I make a simple suggestion to the editors of The Oz. Ahmed Kilani, a good buddy of mine and one of the owners of the Muslim Village forums is looking for moderators/editors to man the forums. Perhaps The Oz editorial authors could offer their services. I’m sure they’ll be in good company.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why Tony Abbott has plenty to fear from Kevin Rudd

In Today’s Herald, Health Minister Tony Abbott questions Kevin Rudd’s long term leadership ability. He cites indigenous leader Noel Pearson and Age journalist Jason Koutsoukis to paint a picture of an arrogant and short-tempered egomaniac.

That may well be the case. But even Abbott must fear Rudd’s push to take Australian Christian politics back to the centre.

Back in mid-2001, I attended a political fundraiser for the then Federal MP for Parramatta Ross Cameron. Abbott was chief guest. Kerry Chikarovski was NSW Liberal opposition leader and was looking very shaky. I asked Abbott on that a question about what leadership qualities she should look for in herself and in possible preselection candidates. Abbott’s response went something like this:

"What the NSW Liberal Party needs to produce at this time isn’t ideological simpletons or factional warriors. What we need are people with genuine beliefs, big ideas and a fresh approach to selling them to the electorate."

Using Abbott’s own criteria, there’s a lot to be said for Rudd’s ability to lead on major policy issues. In his recent writings on religion and social democracy, Rudd shows ably that being a Christian doesn’t necessarily involve being socially conservative.

Today’s NSW Liberal Christian conservatives and their branch-stacking buddies aren’t always known for their big ideas. Rudd has already indicated he will target Christian conservatives within Coalition parties, especially those who use Christian rhetoric to pursue the most un-Christian and divisive politics in areas such as workplace relations.

Rudd’s more flexible use of Christian ideals (including family values) may well represent a useful method of co-opting Howard’s conservative rhetoric and using it against him. It could be a case of Rudd out-Howarding Howard in the opposite direction to what we were accustomed to with Kim Beazley in cultural, citizenship and security debates.

Rudd’s impeccable Christian credentials will assist him in sounding like more than just a cynical opposition leader coopting government rhetoric for political purposes. If Rudd is able to return genuine Christian compassion to politics, he will be doing Australians of all faiths and no faith in particular a huge service.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006