Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Albrechtsen goes Hard on Multiculturalism

Janet Albrechtsen may claim to be a conservative, but her latest column shows she’s anything but. How so?

Back in the early 1990’s, a conservative Macquarie University law professor told me of his dismay at the left-wing method of “critical legal studies”. What’s the point of criticising the legal status quo of law before understanding it?

Real conservatives try to understand the status quo. Where the status quo seems to work (even if imperfectly, which is always the case), they don’t seek radical change.

Albrechtsen doesn’t appear to have understood the reality of Australia’s multicultural status quo. She claims our current policy is "hard multiculturalism" – where people are separated according to culture and where minorities cannot be criticised.

Albrechtsen’s idea of criticising minorities was seen in her 1 November column where she joined Peter Costello in claiming all 360,000 Muslims were responsible for the speech given by Sheik Hilaly to 500 people inside a mosque with a capacity of 5,000 people.

"Criticism from some Muslims came only after The Australian reported the speech". True, Janet, but how else are Aussie Mossies meant to learn of the speech? Do we subscribe to the al-Qaida Islamic extremism podcast? And with hardly 20% of Muslims native Arabic-speakers, how are English-speakers like me to know each time a thick-Sheik blames women’s dress for rape?

What is her evidence that “the hard version endures”? Albrechtsen points to a Victorian ethnic lobby’s response to a discussion paper, and to Fraser’s claim that a Muslim election is coming up.

Perhaps Albrechtsen’s problem with multiculturalism is its allegedly removing her freedom to question the bona fides of 360,000 Aussies from over 60 different nationalities who tick “Muslim” on their census forms.

Albrechtsen ignores successive reports on Australian multiculturalism, all of which point to the need for a commitment to shared values and shared institutions.

I can’t see any evidence of hard multiculturalism in Australia (apart from ravings of Cronulla rioters and assorted clerics). Instead, I see people comfortably living side-by-side. There is a place in the sun for governments who legislate and enforce culture. But it’s not called Australia. It’s called North Korea.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Getting Brashed Off by the Brethren?

Peter Debnam isn’t the only conservative opposition leader unable to poke a major hole into an exposed Labor government. New Zealand National Party leader Don Brash resigned last week after a troubled leadership dogged by allegations of links to the shadowy Exclusive Brethren sect. The Nats select their new leadership team on Monday.

The Brethren allegations have become particularly damaging in the context of the imminent release of a new book by Kiwi leftist author Nicky Hager entitled The Hollow Men – A Study in the Politics of Deception.

Hager alleges that Don Brash came to the leadership on the back of support from allegedly shadowy right wing individuals and groups outside the formal National party structures. These include former NZ Finance Minister Roger Douglas and members of the allegedly liberal ACT Party.

More explosively, the Nats had knowledge of Brethren political activity since May 2005, longer than they had publicly claimed. Hager’s information is taken from 6 disgruntled Nats, and includes the text of allegedly secret e-mail correspondence between Brash and constituents.

The impending publication of the secret e-mails led the book to become the subject of an interim injunction application in the NZ High Court by Mr Brash who claimed to be acting to protect the privacy of constituents. The NZ Herald and 2 TV stations then approached the High Court seeking the lifting of the injunction which they claim breaches Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights (yes, like virtually all English-speaking Western democracies, they have one of those!) which affirms and protects freedom of expression. Brash eventually applied himself to have the injunction lifted.

Last week, Brash and his colleagues used Parliamentary privilege to attack Hager as “a media whore”. Their attacks did little more than provide Hager’s claims with plenty of publicity. The book hits NZ bookshops today and will no doubt fill many a Kiwi Christmas stocking!

First published in the Crikey! Daily alert on 24 November 2006.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

The Pope visits Turkey

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Turkey yesterday, no doubt hoping to mend some of the unnecessary wounds arising from his recent speech (or perhaps more from the over reaction of some Muslims).

He has already met with the closest thing Turkey has to a Pope – the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Department, Dr Ali Bardakoglu. The Pope will also take a stroll through the Ayasofia Museum in Istanbul, a Greek Orthodox Cathedral which Catholic crusaders sacked some centuries ago. The Ottomans converted it into a mosque, and Turkey’s secular authorities transformed it into a museum in 1936. Any form of worship (including Islamic) is strictly forbidden. I have Muslim friends who’ve been kicked out for trying to perform the Muslim ritual prayer.

The Pope’s visit is being treated seriously by Turkey’s liberal-Islamist government. PM Recep Erdogan personally met the Pope at the airport. The Turks are keen to show their European credentials as a stepping stone to eventual EU membership. No Turkish government has been as keen to join the EU. And no Catholic Cardinal has been so opposed to the idea of a European Turkey.

Apparently the expressed views of former Cardinal Ratzinger on Turksy’s EU membership have now changed. Previously, the Cardinal held the view that Europe was inherently Christian and had no room for a Muslim-majority state. Now the Vatican’s chief spokesman says the liberal Muslim country does belong in Europe.

The Pope’s visit almost coincides with the release of a report earlier this month by a UN-sponsored High Level Group to establish an Alliance of Civilisations between the West and the Muslim world. Turkey’s PM co-chairs the group with Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The Report says that politics, not religion, is the biggest stumbling block in the way to an alliance between the two civilisations. The continued occupation of Iraq and the failure to deal with the Israel/Palestine question are fuelling resentment toward the West.

These aren’t issues a Pontiff can adequately deal with. They require political action. To his credit, John Howard showed leadership in Hanoi when he told President Bush at the recent APEC summit that more needed to be done about establishing a Palestinian state.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006