Wednesday, October 18, 2006

POLITICS/COMMENT: Yet another far-Right stack undermines Debnam's leadership of NSW Liberals

The hard-Right currently ruling the roost in the Liberal Party may know how to win internal ballots. But the real test is whether they can help Peter Debnam become Premier. My guess is they simply won’t.

Debnam knows Hawkesbury MP Steve Pringle was spot-on when he spoke of his conversations with preselectors installed by the hard-Right. Pringle told one paper:
I rang a large number of preselectors and they had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. They had no idea about the preselection, no idea about the Liberal Party.
Four Corners viewers will recall the delightful Betty Habkouk’s conversation with Janine Cohen:
JANINE COHEN: Does anyone know what branch stacking is?

BETTY HABKOUK: I beg your pardon.

JANINE COHEN: Branch stacking. Never heard of it?


JANINE COHEN: Branch stacking is when people are encouraged to join the party but they never go to meetings.

BETTY HABKOUK: Oh, that sounds like us. We do that. We joined, but we don't go.
The hard-Right have saturated branches with people with no interest in campaigning. During their long reign over the NSW Liberals, the Group also engaged in branch stacking. The difference was that Group stackers generally had some interest in politics and were happy stuffing letterboxes and handing out on polling day.

The Group were a formidable campaigning machine who helped any candidate regardless of factional affiliation. I witnessed the Young Liberal “flying squad” providing essential support in numerous campaigns – from Ross Cameron in Parramatta to Jackie Kelly in Lindsay (including her often nail-biting 1996 by-election). When editing the Young Right’s pro-Action magazine, I said and wrote nasty things over the years about the Group. That didn’t stop Senator Marise Payne’s office joining Tony Abbott’s Warringah Federal conference offering much needed assistance during my 2001 campaign in the Federal seat of Reid.

The current Young Libs are largely disinterested in campaigning. The old "flying squad" has been all but dismantled. The Communications Director spends much of his time defending Opus Dei and attacking non-Christian religions on the ozlibs e-mail group.

It’s one thing to be conservative. It’s another to be loopy. When factional hacks can only offer Peter Debnam with stackers ignorant and/or disinterested in politics, he can look forward to plenty more repeats of Pittwater.

Words © 2006 Irfan Yusuf

Finally Imams develop coherent response to Papal remarks

It seems that the usually irrelevant Muslim intellectual force we know of as world imams may have finally gotten together to issue an intelligent response to the Pope’s recent speech about faith and reason. And as always, it’s English-speaking Western imams (mostly converts) who are leading the intellectual charge.

The Jordan-based Islamica magazine, produced by the followers of mainstream American Imam Nuh Ha Mim Keller, has published an open letter to the Pope signed by 38 leading religious scholars.

Keller is a staunch critic of Muslim terrorist groups, and is part of a network of scholars seeking to revive ‘traditional Islam’ (TI) along with scholars from across the Western world. TI represents mainstream Sunni consensus and sharply differentiates itself from modernist political forms of ‘Salafi’ (sometimes called ‘Wahhabi’) Islam such as that advocated by the likes of Benbrika.

Among the other signatories are Cambridge academic Tim Winter (also known as Imam Abdal-Hakim Murad), Imam Zaid Shakir and the popular Imam Hamza Yusuf Hanson. All are prominent TI practitioners.

Signatories include leading theologians of prominent European Muslim communities – Bosnia, Croatia, Russia, Kosovo and Slovenia. They represent all 8 schools of Islamic thought and jurisprudence, and include one female scholar. The letter appears to be the initiative of Imams Hanson (USA) and Winter (UK).

Imam Winter has toured Australia once. He has openly criticised migrant-dominated institutions for creating unnecessary problems for converts. He has criticised British Muslim migrants for living in ethnic ghettoes, and has been a staunch critic of suicide bombing.

TI practitioners encourage their followers to adopt the best aspects of Western cultures. The student of one American Sufi scholar, Chicago lawyer Azhar Usman, is visiting Australia and New Zealand in November as part of a comedy trio calling themselves the Allah Made Me Funny! show. Usman also writes the “Oxymoronic” column for Islamica magazine poking fun at Muslim responses to criticism.

TI is fast replacing migrant imams as sources of spiritual guidance for young Aussie Muslims. TI lectures can be found on the iPods of Western Muslims from Christchurch to Adelaide to Chicago to London. If TI represents Islam’s future, we really don’t have much to worry about. Though al-Qaida and JI should start panicking.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006