Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Christopher Hitchens on the real extent of anti-Rushdie protests ...

Christopher Hitchens doesn't always get things right. Heck, who does? (apart from, say, God.)

Here's what he had to say in a recent column for Slate ...

I have actually seen some of these demonstrations, most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn't be if there was a big, surging mob involved.

Don't expect this paragraph to make it to Tom Switzer's "Cut and Paste" on The Oz's Opinion Page.

(Thanks to SJH for the tip-off!)

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sir Salman - What The Fuss?

Salman Rushdie has received a knighthood. Once again, we see all Muslims being judged and maligned because of the rants of a small minority of Pakistani, Kashmiri, Indian and Iranian Muslims.

Some days back, Mr Murdoch’s only Australian broadsheet published an article by a woman who would like to be Salman Rushdie if only she could write better. Irshad Manji is a Canadian Muslim writer who thrives on controversy and is desperate to get a fatwa to improve her own booksales. Her major claim to fame is that she re-discovered the concept of ijtihad (roughly translated as independent juristic reasoning), a claim she shares with Usama bin Ladin and a host of other Muslim controversialists.

Manji’s article laments the recent response of some Pakistani lawmakers to the recent award to Rushdie of a Knight Bachelor for his services to literature. Why they were so angry beats me? Perhaps they were jealous Rushdie could still be regarded as a bachelor despite being married to a Bollywood actress and lingerie model?

What made Manji particularly upset was that Pakistani MP’s spent so much time worrying about Rushdie and so little time focussing on issues of poverty and women’s rights. Quite wisely, Manji did not blame Islam but rather “hypocrisy under the banner of Islam”. I doubt many Muslims would disagree with her, though that didn’t stop cultural warrior sub-editors at The Australian from giving this article the headline “Islam the problem”.

Now a small group of lawmakers and merchants in Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia are seeking violent revenge for the awarding of a knighthood to British author Salman Rushdie. As always, they are doing so using language and methods alien to their religious heritage.

Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Ejazul Haque claims the knighthood provides justification for suicide terrorist attacks. How could the awarding of a national honour by an overseas country to one of its writers possibly be used to justify homicidal terrorism? Haven’t enough Pakistanis, Turks, Indonesians and Iraqis (not to mention Western civilians) died from such attacks? Haven’t enough Muslim families mourned their loved ones killed in such attacks?

The Minister is apparently visiting Britain next month. It will be interesting to see if he is prepared to repeat his support for suicide terrorism in the presence of the family of Shahara Islam, the young English woman of Bangladeshi heritage and devout Muslim who was killed in the July 7 London bombings.

Even more imbecilic was the statement of a council of Pakistani ulema (or religious scholars) that Usama bin Ladin be awarded a special honour of Saifallah (“Sword of God”). Surely Usama bin Ladin (perhaps more appropriately known as Usama bin Reagan) has already been adequately remunerated by American intelligence agencies for his services in helping defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

I wonder at how low some Muslim nations have stooped that, in retaliation for a foreign government honouring one of its citizens, some Muslim religious scholars are prepared to honour those who kill innocent people in God’s name. And what kind of Muslim incites violence to display their religiosity?

I could write much more, but you can find my views published on the website here.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Daily Telegraph shouldn't insist on being above the law ...

In an e-mail to ABC’s Media Watch, Daily Telegraph editor David Penberthy justifies his newspaper’s failure to properly moderate racist and xenophobic comments left on blogs. He claims such opinions ...

... are held by many Australians, especially in Sydney.

I’m not sure which Sydney-siders Penberthy refers to. Is it those who, egged on by the anti-Middle Eastern racism of shock jocks and some Tele scribes, violently bashed an Afghan student on a train and smashed the windows of a car with two Bangladeshi students on Cronulla in December 2005?

The e-mail says more about Penberthy and some of his colleagues at the Tele than it does about Australians. But before I go any further on this, allow me to make a disclosure.

Prior to Tim Blair’s appointment as Opinion Editor in December, I had around 9 or 10 op-eds published in the Tele. From memory, I was paid for 3 or 4 of them.

In September 2006, I took part in (what was described to me by the Tele’s online editors as) an experimental blog on the general topic of multiculturalism. The Tele paid for my travel expenses for the trip between Sydney and Canberra.

Apart from myself, the Tele had at least one employee working almost full time assisting with moderating comments. At least two employees were involved in the entire project.

In short, the Tele clearly had the resources to properly moderate comments and weed out those deemed offensive. Indeed, I saw one Tele staffer delete a comment that cast a racial slur against Asians.

Penberthy’s justification of his newspaper’s preparedness to moderate and publish posts calling on indigenous "niggers" to "eat Coon cheese" is astounding.

Why moderate comments at all if you allow grossly offensive ones to be posted? And what is the purpose of having Publication Guidelines in which posters warrant that their post "does not breach any law (including laws relating to privacy, intellectual property and defamation) or the rights of any person"?

Penberthy also suggests that "censoring" such ugly posts only makes sense to what he describes as ...

... the bourgeois sensibilities of the Media Watch set.

What’s so bourgeois about complying with anti-discrimination and other laws that have been in statute books for decades? Is Penberthy giving a one-finger salute to HREOC? Does he believe that his position enables him to be above the law?

Penberthy’s hubris doesn’t quite match that of Alan Jones in response to the ACMA ruling. However, it is a bit rich when the law punishes Jones for reading on air racist e-mails while the Tele think they can get off scot-free for allowing racist readers’ posts on its blogs.

There’s nothing bourgeois about a tabloid newspaper obeying the same laws that bind the rest of us. There’s plenty bourgeois about tabloid editors who insist on being above the law.

First published in the Crikey daily alert for 19 June 2007.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Blair hubris ...

Poor Tim Blair received a much-deserved roasting on the Media Watch episode for Monday 18 June 2007. And isn't he absolutely livid!

Blair's blog today talks about how MW ...

... tackled major Australian media outlets - the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane’s Courier-Mail, Melbourne’s Herald Sun, the Murdoch-owned PerthNow, and this site - over the issue of online comments ...

Tim, since when did your infantile blog and its mainly in-bred comment authors represent a "major Australian media outlet"? Wouldn't it be more correct to say that you are a major media embarrassment for News Limited and Rupert Murdoch?

Tim, I'd love to see how much longer you'd last at News Limited if you and your friends started posting comments about Asians or Chinese being turned into compost. Or Jews. Or any other group.

Or do you think you are above the law? Do three decades of parliamentary consensus on racial discrimination laws not apply to you?

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Daily Telegraph Opinion Editor defames Aussie author

Daily Telegraph Opinion editor Tim Blair and his openly racist cyber-friends have been having a field-day attacking one of Australia’s most promising children’s authors.

Blair lampoons the debut novel of Aussie lawyer and writer Randa Abdel Fattah Does My Head Look Big In This, which attempts to provide young readers with an understanding of the issues some young women face when deciding whether to don a head scarf for religious or cultural reasons.

Blair’s blog, recently exposed for moderating comments that effectively incite violence, talks about the author writing his own version which he claims is “tailored for the Middle Eastern market”.

The version ends with a young Muslim girl who takes off her hijab and is then shot dead by her family members. Blair and his colleagues then poke fun at this kind of violent honour-killing, as well as casting aspersions on the author and her ancestral culture.

The comments are certainly well-worth reading. Remember, these comments have been moderated by a man who holds a relatively senior editorial post in a major metropolitan newspaper. The contents of his blog do reflect on the Daily Telegraph, its management and News Limited.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Hands off Pell ...

The Greens’ Lee Rhiannon really is going too far by referring Cardinal Pell’s comments to some kind of parliamentary privileges committee to determine if he has engaged in “contempt of Parliament”.

Her comments on the composition of the committee (which will include Rev Fred Nile MLC) indicate she isn’t interested in a fair hearing for Pell but rather for the result to be known even before the committee meets.

Cardinal Pell’s views may not be popular and may be regarded as extreme by some, but he has every right to express them. Like any other voter, the Cardinal has every right to tell his elected representatives how he thinks they should vote on a particular issue.

In doing so, he also has the right to invoke any religious, ideological or other commonalities he shares with certain MP’s. Unlike the Exclusive Brethren, Cardinal Pell isn’t being secretive or under-handed. Rather, he’s come out in the open and expressed his views. He hasn’t acted illegally.

Pell’s views don’t represent a rolling back of democracy or imposition of theocracy. I don’t see signs of any papal guards marching on Macquarie Street anytime soon. I don’t see any inquisition being hatched at St Mary’s. I don’t see any stakes being hammered into the ground for a legislative witch hunt.

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s true that many of those supporting him today are behaving hypocritically. And it’s also true that Pell is undermining some of the pompous posturing he has exhibited toward other religious congregations. However, this doesn’t mean he should be the subject of any official parliamentary inquiry.

By subjecting Pell to such an inquiry, all the Greens will achieve is more sympathy for the Cardinal. Whether this will translates into more support for his views on embryonic stem cell research remains to be seen. However, on this occasion, Rhiannon looks like imposing a kind of secular fundamentalism on Pell and other voters whose position on the issue is guided by what they see as Christian religious teachings.

Rhiannon should follow the advice she gives to other MP’s and leave her beliefs at home. What’s good for the clerical goose should be good for the Lefty socialist gander.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

CRIKEY: Marrickville & Bethlehem ...

Something is rotten in the almost-state of Palestine. HAMAS forces have taken over Gaza. The ruling Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now controls the West Bank. Meanwhile, ordinary Palestinians are caught in the crossfire.

Palestinians are the most educated people in the Arab world. Although the majority are Muslim, the first democratically elected PA government appointed a Christian female (Dr Hanan Ashrawi) to head its sensitive education ministry.

Anti-Palestinian racists have tried to paint Palestinians as nasty blood-thirsty terrorists. In 1989, still in 2nd year uni, I saw a Palestinian student at Orientation Week harassed for displaying a symbol of terrorism (the chequered kefiyyeh or head dress). At the time, I presumed his opponents from the Union of Jewish Students had a point.

The 1993 Oslo Accords changed all that. It suddenly became respectable to wear a kefiyyeh and support Palestine. The two-state solution which had been maligned for all those years became political orthodoxy.

Sadly, there are still Arabs and Muslims trying to vilify Israel and Jews trying to vilify Palestinians and Muslims. I’m sickened that major Jewish organisations could invite people like Raphael Israeli and Brigette Gabriel to speak at the functions.

Gabriel doesn't hide her pathological hatred toward anyone even marginally Muslim. It seems strange that organisations such as the JNF would provide legitimacy to someone who is really just another Nazi xenophobe. Does it not play on the conscience of Aussie Jews that some of their organisations are promoting the same kinds of hatred that sent millions of Jews to the death camps?

To get an idea of this mad woman's views, here is what Bodgy Brigette told Jason Frenkel from the Australian Jewish News ...

FRENKEL: I find it astonishing that you've never met a practising Muslim one who thinks that he's adhering perfectly to the tenets of the religion -- who doesn't espouse hatred and have extreme views of the world.

GABRIEL: Does he drink?


GABRIEL: That tells me everything. He can tell you whatever line he wants to tell you. I asked you earlier, do you know what the word "Taqiya" is and you said no. And you've never read the Koran so you do not know what the Koran says about Jews and Christians.

No practising Muslim looks at you as a Jew -- if he knows you are a Jew -- looks at you in any way other than you are the enemy. He can give you any line, he can tell you, he can lie…

Under the practise of Islam, Taqiya is lying under Islam in order to advance the cause of Islam. And the way you advance the cause of Islam is lying to the Jews under Dawa, and I know this is another word that you have never heard. Dawa is literally "the call" -- when Muslims must befriend the Jews in order to win them over.

FRENKEL: What are the implications then for interfaith dialogues that are happening in Australia and everywhere else?

GABRIEL: Nonsense. All the interfaith is where the Jews are running to the Muslims to offer dialogue, it's not the other way around. And it's actually welcomed by the Muslim communities because they know the Jews are so ignorant and so gullible they are willing to hang on any strings of hope that lets them know "hey, we can be friends with our enemies".
What’s the difference between what Hilaly said about Jews at a seminar at Sydney University in 1987 and what guest speakers say about Muslims under the auspices of some Jewish organisations in 2007?

I’ll tell you the difference - 20 years!

It also disturbs me that an umbrella organisation of religious congregations (as opposed to a Zionist political organisation) opposes Marrickville Council’s proposal to establish a sister-city relationship with the Council Beyt Lahm in the West Bank.

Beyt Lahm, of course, is the Aramaic name of that city we sing about in Christmas carols. Remember? The manger? The star leading the three wise men etc?

Now, a lot more is happening in this nominally Christian town. But if we believe what the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies tells us, you’d think Bethlehem has become a hotbed of suicide terrorists.

In a speech to Marrickville Council, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff effectively transformed Bethlehem’s Mayor Victor Batarseh into a HAMAS man. How? Does he hold a HAMAS membership card? Has he converted to Islam? Apparently it’s because he opposes the two-state solution. But things aren’t as simple as they seem.

Using this standard, many Israelis have also joined the HAMAS jihad against the two-state solution. Many Israelis want to expel Palestinians en masse. Many Israelis want to see Palestine wiped off the world map (or at least eliminate it before it appears).

Even if HAMAS controls 4 seats on the Council, what possible impact could they make when HAMAS activists are being hunted down across the West Bank? And more importantly, is a sister-city partnership between political parties? Or is it between cities?

Bethlehem is the birthplace of Christ. That in itself should be enough to deter some Jewish leaders from opposing the sister-city arrangement. Some Jewish leaders have alienated even the most nominal Muslims by their choice of guest speakers. Are they now intent on alienating nominal Christians?

(An edited version of this was published in the Crikey! daily alert for 18 June 2007.)

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

BLOGS: Sheik Fehmi and Andrew Bolt ...

I left the following comment on Andrew Bolt's blog. Somehow I doubt he will publish it. He never seems to publish the comments of anyone critical of him.
Seriously, denying bin-Ladin's involvement in September 11 is as stupid as denying global warming and climate change.

Isn't it, Andrew? Andrew? You there?
Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Christopher Hitchens' September 11 joy ...

Militant athiest Christopher Hitchens has now become a darling of the lunar-Right. At least he seems to have become so. The last time I saw him was being interviewed on TV was on the ABC current affairs show Lateline. During the interview, he was making all kinds of frivolous defences of his friend and neo-Con Paul Wolfowitz.

So how did Hitchens change so quickly? The answer might be found in a 2003 interview in which he makes this stunning admission of how he felt in the United States when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001 ...

Watching the towers fall in New York, with civilians incinerated on the planes and in the buildings, I felt something that I couldn’t analyze at first and didn’t fully grasp (partly because I was far from my family in Washington, who had a very grueling day) until the day itself was nearly over. I am only slightly embarrassed to tell you that this was a feeling of exhilaration. Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.

Hitchens made this admission in an interview with the far-Right online cultural warrior magazine

Changez, the main character of Mohsin Hamid's novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist shares this euphoria (though admittedly for different reasons). Elsewhere I have written that I couldn't share Changez's euphoria given my Western upbringing. However, it seems some Westerners of sick and demented nature can find euphoria in the misery of others.

For Hitchens, the euphoria arose from his desire to declare some kind of strange cultural war against everything he hated. September 11 provided that trigger. The problem is that Hitchens hasn't defined the target very clearly. However, he sees war as good and is quite happy to send other people's sons and daughters to their deaths so long as he is free to write books and fly first class to various locations delivering lectures.

I can't say I've read much of Hitchens. But if the sentiments quoted above are anything to go by, the man is a pompous turd who desperately needs help.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

One response to Ayaan Hirsi Ali ...

The following comment by a Muslim athiest (yes, they do exist!) was made in response to the edited interview found at the website ...

What surprised me the most about Hirsi Ali was her relative ignorance of world events. Given the amount of coverage she gets this is a very dangerous thing. For example, to state that the election of Hamas in Palestine or the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt indicates an upsurge in fundamentalism is really quite an ignorant statement. Might it have something to do with Hamas’s successful grassroots welfare programs and Fatah’s corruption in Palestine, or the Mubarak Regime’s repressiveness in Egypt? What about socioeconomics? Why are people generally more religious in those parts of the Occupied Territories (Gaza, Nablus) that are under the most oppressive conditions? Oh it must all be Islam’s fault. Sounds frightfully like dogma to me.

What about the decisive role played by the US in funding and training Wahhabi militants to fight in Afghanistan? Yes Pakistan and the Saudis (and others) were involved, and they ought to be called to account for their roles, but this support was under the wider rubric of American policy. What about Israel’s support of Hamas as a religious competitor to the secular PLO? And, of course, one should not forget that Bush got into the White House thanks to the Christian vote. A sizeable amount of this vote look forward to the day of Armageddon when they, the true Christians, go to heaven and the rest of us along with the planet are destroyed. For a country with the capacity to obliterate the planet this is a terrifying state of affairs. I wonder if Hirsi Ali has any views on that? Perhaps she can ask Dick Cheney at the next American Enterprise Institute cocktail party.

It’s worth considering for a moment where the fingers get pointed. Every one of us has a mythical Goldstein character who is the root cause of all evil. For a lot of atheists, religion is that evil. Yet more people die because of economic ideology, such as the policies that prevent people from access to cheap medicines or food, than are killed by religious fanatics. Economic theory is one of the most dangerous ideologies on the planet, as is well understood by many of the most eminent economists. Yet I doubt someone like Dawkins knows two ships about it.

It’s also worth considering that a large percentage of the world’s finest scientists spend their days developing better ways to kill or torture people. You do realize someone had to design cluster bombs, right? Why don’t we have a war on science?

I have no reason to doubt Hirsi Ali’s sincerity. And yes she is brave, braver than us perhaps, but frankly not that brave. She may be brown skinned and have a Muslim name, she may even have a compliment of burly guards, but she is now part of the Western elite.

If we want to practice our ‘western’ enlightenment principles we should honestly appraise her arguments for what they are. The truth is her work is badly argued, poorly researched and is of limited practical use to those with an interest in coexistence between people of different backgrounds. That is, coexistence as opposed to expropriation by one group of another. Her audience is predominantly white or privileged non-whites and the only option she offers for Muslims who doubt their faith, and there are several reasons to doubt it, is to denounce the faith in such a manner that does not offer any room for dialogue.

The biggest problem with Hirsi Ali is that she is a brown person who tells a lot of white folks what they want to hear. If you want to read something more insightful from progressive Muslim voices, tuck into some Eqbal Ahmed or Mamood Mamdani. They’re not as attractive as Hirsi Ali, nor do they get funding from right wing think tanks. But they might just learn you a thing or too.

Just for the record, I am an atheist, and a Muslim. I don’t think religion is a source of objective truth. But I don’t think atheism of itself offers many answers on most social issues. Atheism itself is not a value system but merely a statement on the existence of god and the veracity of theology.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

COMMENT: Janet Albrechtsen on Hirsi Ali & the politics of enlightenment ...

The Oz's resident cultural warrior and John Howard's favourite columnist Janet Albrechtsen wrote a column today gushing with praise for former Dutch MP and self-declared migration fraud Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She invited comment on her article.

The Oz's website clicks over to the next day's edition at around 1am. I happened to be reading it at around 1:30am. I submitted a comment to her blog around that time. To give her the benefit of the doubt, the comment may have been lost in her system. Further some of the points I made were in fact made by others (interestingly most from the Netherlands) and were posted.

Here is my post ...

I interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali yesterday afternoon for I found her someone committed to the values of the European enlightenment and to the separation of church and state. She is independently-minded and impressive.

I wonder, however, how long she will last in the lap of your friends in the lunar-Right who are currently buttering her bread. After all, she is pro-Choice (when it comes to abortion) and is firmly opposed to the teaching of Creation science in schools.

However, sadly Hirsi Ali displayed a lack of understanding of even the basics of a range of Muslim cultures she claimed were dominated by bin-Ladin's understanding of Islam. Sadly, this undermines some very important aspects of her message.

One thing that baffles me about her lunar-Right supporters is that they are silent on the fact that (by her own admission), she engaged in immigration fraud. In this respect, readers might refer to an article by a sometime contributor to The Oz's opinion page. The
article appears here.

Perhaps, Janet, you could explain why you are so forgiving (or at least silent) toward Hirsi Ali's immigration fraud whilst being scathing toward the asylum cases of victims of domestic violence from Pakistan. No doubt your sentiments toward asylum seekers who choose not to abandon their ancestral faiths mirrors the attitudes of Jamila Hussein toward Hirsi Ali, that they should better stay where they came from.

While you are at it, can you advise readers whether you support and endorse the anti-semitic, homophobic and misogynistic sentiments of her late colleague Theo Van Gogh. In what sense was he a champion of free speech and enlightenment values? Do you think making jokes describing Holocaust victims as being akin to cooking caramel as acceptable discourse? Or is this what we must come to expect from supporters of the Dutch right?

Other responses include ...

Thea of Amsterdam (06 June at 01:02 AM)

What makes Hirsi Ali so unpopular in the Netherlands, is her anti-religious attitude. She tries to ‘liberate’ Muslim women by calling them, and their religion, primitive. She leaves no room for a liberal Islam, and she will therefore never reach the women she wants to help.

Her ideas sound good at first, but in the end always come down to intolerance towards religion, and Islam in particular. She doesn’t believe in enlightment for Muslims; she believes they should abandon their religion. She never once acknowledges the fact that for example genital mutilation was common in Somalia and elsewhere even before there was Islam. It’s like the christmas tree in Christianity: a relic from the ancient religions.

I admire her strength and courage, but I detest her lack of intelligence. She was a terrible politician, causing uproar even among people who realise there are issues with conservative groups within Islam. I was glad to see her go, even though the circumstances were sad. What we need is someone with the same courage to speak the truth, but less likely to enrage people left and right.

Even in the US, I believe she will soon get into conflict with her employer, since it is a religious conservative institute. I’m quite curious to see what happens.

... and another ...

andrew kerven of amsterdam (06 June at 06:36 AM)
Before Western fundamentalists in Australia, and other Western countries for that matter, so willingly jump on the Ayaan Hirsi Ali bandwagon her full story should be known, or at least heard. Of course no-one knows her true story as it is actually in dispute here in her adoptive country The Netherlands. Members of her family in Africa disputed the claims she has made about her own life. She also lied about her name to claim refugee status, and as may not be widely known in the rest of the world, the resulting furore was a contributing factor in the fall of the previous Dutch government. She never returned to The Netherlands to answer the questions, instead claiming after the fact that she had come clean years before about the lie that she had told. Rather she chose to remain in the US sniping at certain members of the Dutch government, the same government she had lent her support to, because if she had returned the status of her nationality would have been in jeopardy thus depriving her of a lucrative position with a Washington based right-wing think tank.

Whilst her bravery, in some ways, can not be questioned, nor the fact that she used her entry into politics to begin a debate within The Netherlands regarding Islam which some believe was necessary, I would suggest that a cloud remains over her. She was one of the lucky aylum seekers who lied and got away with it, and she says that she would lie again if in the same position.

The downside is that through her efforts here in The Netherlands she has contributed to the further alienation from general society of her muslim Dutch compatriots.

All of the above never seems to be raised when one reads reports of Hirsi Ali in the foreign press. Here in The Netherlands doubt lingers about her crusade, a crusade that through her own actions she has drawn into question.

... and this ...

Ross of Brisbane (06 June at 09:06 AM)
Your article is typical of the Western attempts to appear genuine, yet still remain culturally superior. As usual, westerners condemn Islam for all its brutality. Thankfully some respondents have actually pointed out the flaws in Western religions, but many still have not. They just criticise the “violent” religion and turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy in the West.

Your article fails to consider the fact that in the name of “religion” - Jews and Christians have often mutilated male genitalia through routine circumcision. In the process of doing so, they rely on “culture” as a justification. Where boys still undergo without religion, the doctors claim “medical” advancements - such as prevention of HIV etc. Around 200 years ago, it was claimed the same procedure stopped boys going blind in order to stop masturbation or “self gratification” - similar arguments which are used to ensure a girl keeps her honour. Prior to the more recent HIV claims, it was suggested males should be cut for the sake of “looking like their father” - in other words, there was a cosmetic reason behind it.

Many Western, and non-Western lawyers and human rights activists, are trying to stop this barbaric practice. But dig a little deeper into your “culture” and you will see these same things go unnoticed in a most hypocritical way. In doing such research, you will see that FGM does have varying degrees of severity - although this article implies the infibulation as the only version. Why, because people are culturally blind to look for details. You will also notice the fact that in areas where FGM is practised, so to is male circumcision.

... and a post from someone who appears to be Indonesian ...

Tito of Melbourne (06 June at 09:38 AM)
Good article, Janet. As someone who grew up as a muslim in Indonesia, I applaud, yet carefully, to what Hirsi Ali is doing. There are many muslims, in Indonesia and other places, who are progressives without necessarily knowing it, if by progressives we could mean an open-minded, forward-looking views of the reality of everyday live. My family and close friends, for example, did not have any problem with visiting churches to celebrate christmas with neighbors, and have a lot of problem with female genital mutilation, which we acknowledge with anger happens in our own country. Sometimes, people call us ‘sitting on the fence’, but in many cases fences were built by the extremists from both sides, and do not exist in the complexity of everyday live. The danger with a such a vociferous sound as Hirsi Ali’s is that these ‘everyday progressives’ can be forced to take side, which is often not a good thing. They become, to borrow a title of a recent book, ‘reluctant fundamentalists’, and I’ve seen this happened. We need to start a real dialogue, and we always need brave people like Hirsi Ali to start a real dialogue, but what’s important is we need ‘translators’, hopefully academics, to translate and elucidate, as it were, the wood from the tree, for people who do not have the experience and education. We must remember that education in places like Indonesia have not taught most Indonesians to be critical.
Interestingly, Janet does moderate certain comments from a certain "Omar the Razor of Hereandnow" who clearly is someone pretending to be Muslim ...

Omar the Razor of Hereandnow (06 June at 08:58 AM)
This article is rubbish and this pig Ali will meet her fate for denouncing the only true religion in the world. It’s our right to do what we like to our women as they are our property and we conquer you in a decade or two. Then your women will be our property as we will put all the men who refuse to convert to the sword. So you can talk,talk,talk. Meanwhile we will conquer you suburb by suburb. Yes allah is great you bunch of howling infidels.
... and ...

Omar the Razor of Hereandnow (06 June at 09:56 AM)
So Tito went to church. Tito, you are not a true Muslim!
... with these convenient responses ...

Charles Martel of Poitiers (06 June at 09:58 AM)

Thank you for confirming that Islam is nothing more than a violent Arab supremacist political and social ideology, committed to World conquest and domination, dress up as a religion. And thank you for also confirming that Muslim men are voracious yet sexually repressed animals that lust after non-Muslim women.

Cynic of Cooma (06 June at 09:59 AM)
Omar the Knife, I would like to congratulate you for your intelligent and insitefull comments to this blog, The way that you put forward your case for your religion and people can only help in the battle for the acceptance of the aforementioned by the rest of the community.Thank you

Notice how the last two are hardly a few minutes apart from ORH's second comment.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

REFLECTION: Meeting Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a woman with a mission. The problem is that I’m not quite sure what her mission actually is. And to make matters more interesting, after reading at least 100 articles about her (not to mention reading her The Caged Virgin and sitting with her for 40 minutes), I’m not sure if she knows what it is either.

If her mission is to increase sales of her books (including her autobiography Infidel), she certainly is achieving her mission. She is without doubt the star of the show at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival, and her book was by far the biggest seller. But apart from dollars and euros, does she have any other goals?

I spoke with Ayaan Hirsi Ali this afternoon. Joining me during the interview was Jose Borghino, editor of the online magazine I don’t wish to give too much away at this stage as I would otherwise be operating off my own recollections of the discussion. If you wish to know what transpired, you will have to subscribe to and part with A$77. It isn’t much for a yearly subscription of a superb publication.

I am, however, prepared to share some impressions.

Firstly, I know that many of Hirsi Ali’s allegedly conservative supporters such as Paul Sheehan are obsessed with her good looks. However, Hirsi Ali has a very strong mind and resents being treated as “just a pretty face”.

Secondly, Hirsi Ali is not an archetypal American conservative. In fact, she has views that would make many American conservatives reject her (and it seems many are starting to already).

For instance, when it comes to abortion, Hirsi Ali believes women shouldn’t be barred from access to abortion. She doesn’t believe it should be used as a contraceptive, but she does believe that women should have a choice.

Hirsi Ali is also deadly opposed to the teaching of Creation “science” in schools. In fact, she is opposed to the policies of Christian conservatives who want to bridge the separation or church and state.

She wants Muslims to adopt the values of the European enlightenment. Hirsi Ali hopes that Muslims can come up with an interpretation and understanding of their texts which is consistent with enlightenment values. She doesn’t believe one exists, but claims to have an open mind about the possibility.

Hirsi Ali seems to believe that there is little difference between the AK Party and al-Qaeda. She supports the maintenance of Kemalist secularism, and believes the AK Party wants to introduce sharia law by stealth. She also supports a military intervention to stop the AK Party, and suggests Muslims should be forced to adopt what she sees as secularism even if it is not popular.

The first translation of the Qur’an Hirsi Ali read was the one by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. The views she expressed to me about the Qur’an are certainly different to the ones she has expressed in other media appearances. Is she being misquoted?

Jose asked some absolute gem questions, but I’m afraid you will have to wait until you subscribe and the recording and our articles are placed on the site.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, June 04, 2007

MEDIA: Daily Telegraph editor declares FGM "Islamic"

The Opinion Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Tim Blair, has glorified the disgusting and illegal (at least in Australia) practise of female genital mutilation as “Islamic girl cutting”.

FGM is a practice common in sub-Saharan Africa. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a victim of the practice, acknowledges the practice is not mentioned in the Qur’an and in fact predates Islam (though she does claim Muslim religious authorities are silent on the practice).

Indeed, the practice is common among both Jewish and Christian women in Ethiopia, as well as among some Animist African cultures. Sadly, when Islam entered this region, its influence was unable to completely stamp out the practice. Hence sub-Saharan converts to Islam and their descendants continued to carry out this vile procedure on young girls.

By giving it the adjective of “Islamic”, Blair is effectively suggesting that Islamic theology and sacred law encourage and endorse the practice. That, or he is suggesting that the practice is widespread among Muslim communities across the world.

One in four Muslims are of South Asian extraction (as in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, as well as ex pats of these countries). FGM is unknown among any religious congregation from this part of the world. It is also unknown in the Turkish speaking world (as in Turkey and the Central Asian Turkic republics), Iran, China and most of the Arab world. It is also unknown in Muslim Europe (Bosnia and Albania).

By declaring the practice “Islamic”, Blair is providing this disgusting violation of human rights to become potentially an issue of freedom of religion. He is also placing undue emphasis on Muslim victims of the practice, thereby ignoring the plight of millions of sub-Saharan non-Muslim women and girls who are forced to undergo the procedure.

Blair is once again using a human rights and law enforcement issue as a means to attack a set of religious cultures for which he has frequently expressed virulent hatred.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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