Saturday, July 28, 2007

CRIKEY: Indians everywhere worried by Howard and Downer's wedge

Our Foreign Minister has a problem with understanding the criminal law. Yesterday he said:

Every time there is somebody arrested and facing charges, there’s some sort of controversy about 'oh the poor thing, he must be innocent...'

Just imagine how that statement will be read by his counterpart in New Delhi. Imagine how the Union Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed (an Indian Muslim who himself has two children working as doctors overseas) would feel about Mr Downer’s apparent reluctance to embrace the presumption of innocence in criminal trials.

Howard weighed in as well, reminding us all of the truism that

... [t]he Federal Police are integral to the fight against terrorism in this country ...

So why doesn’t Mr Howard consider helping our Federal Police by enabling them to overcome the many cultural barriers so lucidly described by Sushi Das in The Age on 23 July 2007?

Even if we’re mad enough to believe conservative psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple that terrorism should lead us to discriminate against Muslims, our law enforcement officials should at least understand that there are huge cultural, linguistic and even theological differences between a Mohammed from India and a Muhammad from the United States.

Of course, the hysterical attacks by Downer and Howard on Labor Premiers suggest a deeper problem. The government hoped to use this issue as a cultural/security wedge issue, with terrorism fears and anti-Muslim sentiment carrying them over the electoral line.

Yet for so many Indian migrants, Haneef is being viewed as a bright young South Asian boy pilloried just because he followed traditional Indian custom of looking up relatives overseas and sending remittances back home.

It gets a little worrying when (as Das shows) law enforcement officials (and tabloid newspapers) find suspicion in behaviour common to any diaspora Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan or Nepalese (not to mention Asian, Eastern European, South American etc).

South Asians typically put language and culture before religion. The concerns raised by Indian media don’t come as a surprise to me. Nor do comments I hear almost everyday from family friends and colleagues of Indian extraction.

Just yesterday, one South Indian (nominally Christian) clerk said to me: "Irfan, the way they are treating Haneef thing is getting me worried. I send money back to my family all the time. Will I be on the front page of the Daily Telegraph?"

Still, our law enforcement officials can take heart. Even countries as experienced as India (in relation to the case of Mohammad Afroze) and the United States (in the case of Salman Hamdani) can screw up anti-terror investigations.

The lesson of all this is that we cannot allow irrational hysteria and prejudice to make us too alarmed to be alert.

First published in the Crikey daily alert on 24 July 2007. Cartoon courtesy Crikey.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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CRIKEY: Talking Turkey, democracy and EU membership

Turks have just elected an Islamist government. But we aren't talking about HAMAS here. Turkey’s Islamists combine free market economics, recognition of Israel, pro-Western foreign policy and more zeal to join the EU than any of its more allegedly secular predecessors.

Still, many conservatives (both social and economic) oppose Turkey’s entry into the EU. I saw this in action back in October 2005 at the launch of the Australian edition of In Defence of Global Capital published by the CIS.

The author is an ex-greenie ex-socialist Swede, Johan Norberg, who converted to capitalism after researching ways to fight global poverty. He now believes globalised capitalism, removing trade barriers and liberalising international labour markets is essential to solving intractable economic, social, environmental and security problems.

Paul Kelly from The Oz and James Morrow (whose Investigate magazine’s Australian edition seems to have gone underground, if not under) introduced Norberg with all smiles and praise. One even praised him for his good looks!

Norberg lapped it up before telling us to open our borders to new goods, services, people and money. He attacked the EU’s rhetoric on globalisation and its hypocrisy in placing high tariff walls to stop imports from the third world.

I noticed a slight change in tone from Kelly, Morrow and the audience when Norberg said the West should liberalise their immigration policies and acknowledge that the greatest achievements and contributions in culture, business and politics often come from migrants and refugees.

I couldn’t help myself. In question time, I asked whether Norberg supported EU membership for Turkey. To the chagrin of his conservative Sydney audience, Norberg went on to explain why arguments EU conservatives use to oppose Turkey’s entry are in fact excellent reasons to support it:

1. Turkey is too big and will make up 15% of the EU’s population. True, but size represents opportunities, especially given Turkey’s growing economy.

2. Turkey is too poor. True, but many recent entrants are poorer and will prove a greater drain. Plus poor Europeans often do the jobs that rich Europeans refuse to do.

3. Turkey is too Muslim. Norberg said that not all Muslims are the same. Some of Europe’s more troublesome Muslim migrants are victims of overly generous welfare policies and inflexible and overly regulated labour markets. A fresh injection of Westernised Turkish Muslims will help the process of economic and social integration for (often less integrated) South Asian and North African ethnic Muslim groups.

Further, if the EU strings Turkey along with all these promises of membership if Turkey reforms its economy and polity, then dumps Turkey just for some historical and religious prejudice, it will damage the EU more than Turkey.

Norberg wasn’t exactly the most popular person in the room after all that. My notes show Paddy McGuinness almost choking on his wine, then arguing profusely about the hordes of German and French Muslims rioting, and Norberg responding by saying it was more complex than just culture and sect.

It seemed my Turkey-EU question let the kebab out of the bag. It was hilarious to see this allegedly conservative crowd push their free market economics out the window to make way for their pet sectarian prejudices.

First published in the Crikey daily alert on 25 July 2007.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Quiet times ahead ...

Things have been quiet on this blog for some time now, mainly because I've started a new contract and have been flat out working on it.

Things probably will be quiet for another 2-3 weeks. I'll try to post stuff from time to time. But don't be surprised if you don't read much here.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Roberts - West Indian Legend

Check out these amazing wickets from the magnificent Andy Roberts. Back in the days when the Windies had 5 top-class fast bowlers.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

COMMENT: Tim Blair splits hairs ...

Yesterday in Crikey, I exposed the fact that far-Right blogger and opinion editor of the Daily Telegraph had published an "article" from Wassim Doureihi of the Aussie branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir on July 12 2007.

The "article" included the by-line "By Wassim Doureihi". At the conclusion of the article appeared these words ...

* Wassim Doureihi is the media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia
The article was published on the opinion pages of the Tele. It was published as an opinion piece. Yet no opinion piece was submitted by Wassim Doureihi. Indeed, the Hizb ut-Tahrir website re-published the Tele version with this notation ...

Please Note:

Just for the record, this article is an edited version of the HT press release issued yesterday 11/07/07. It was included in Daily Telegraph (DT) as an opinion piece (with DT editing) without the prior permission of Wassim Doureihi or representatives from HT. Team

Proper and professional opinion editors print opinion pieces which are submitted to them by the authors or which they commission the authors to write. If an opinion editor wishes to reproduce something on his/her page from another source, s/he will obtain permission from the author.

There are proper and professional opinion editors. And then there is Tim Blair. According to Blair, it's enough that the Press Release somehow managed to end up in the possession of the Tele. That gives Blair the trigger to publish it as an opinion piece without seeking any permission from the supposed author or the organisation.

So next time any lobby group or company issues a press release and it ends up at the Tele's offices in Surry Hills, they shouldn't be surprised if their media contact becomes the author of an article edited and published without their permission.

Here's what I wrote in Crikey yesterday ...

... Doureihi confirmed to Crikey ... that neither he nor anyone else from his organisation submitted anything to the Tele.

So where did the Tele's Opinion Editor Tim Blair source this article? Well...Doureihi sees the article as surprisingly similar in content to a recent Hizb ut-Tahrir press release placed on their website.

... what on earth was Tim Blair thinking when he decided to reprint (and almost plagiarise) a press release as an article without seeking the author's permission?

I've had op-eds published in over 16 newspapers in Australia and New Zealand. I've never seen or heard of a paper editing and reprinting my stuff without my permission. In fact, most opinion editors ask me to approve the final version before it goes to print. Certainly Blair's predecessor showed the same basic professional courtesy.

I've had some disagreements with Tom Switzer, opinion editor at The Australian over the past few months. But Switzer is a true professional. He won't take a press release or blog entry, edit it and then print it as an op-ed piece. If he wants to use excerpts from an outside source for his "Cut and Paste" section, he will obtain permission from the source.

I've had a Korean newspaper in Melbourne ask me permission to reproduce a piece I wrote for The Age. I've had the editor of an Anglican parish newsletter in Queensland seeking my permission to reproduce an article that first appeared in the Courier-Mail.

It seems the editors of small community and church publications exercise a greater degree of professionalism than the opinion editor of a major Sydney daily. And Blair's excuse?

The very same press release was sent to the Telegraph. All I did was put Wassim’s name on it and remove some self-quoting intro lines - which, seeing as he wrote the thing, seemed fair enough. People are now alert to Hizb ut-Tahrir’s beliefs, expressed in their own words ...

I was thinking this: here’s a press release from Hizb ut-Tahrir. This is what they believe. Let’s publish it.

Given that Blair never even bothered to contact anyone from HT, the question arises: How did he reach the conclusion that Wassim Doureihi wrote the press release? Yes, Doureihi is mentioned as the media spokesman. But does it necessarily follow that Doureihi actually wrote the release?

Anyway, Tim. Let's presume that you did the correct and proper thing. If I get my Christian mate to write a press release on his views on the management of a certain Christian denomination and send it to the Tele, will you edit the article and run it without first getting his permission?

Things must be pretty dire down at the Tele if Blair has to uplift press releases and run them as op-eds. Maybe if he used less colourful language with contributors, he'd find himself with more work to do.

UPDATE I: Poor Tim must have had an awful past 24 hours. He's already entered FIVE updates on this issue, each a lame an attempt to justify his lack of professionalism.

Things must be pretty desperate down at the Tele when the opinion editor has to trawl websites to find opinion pieces. You'd think that, in an election year, MP's would be lining up to have their submissions published. You'd think there'd be no shortage of submissions from people wanting their view heard by a large audience.

Of course, by printing the HT press release as an op-ed, Blair has exposed his newspaper to the same criticism it makes of Media Watch and the ABC. Blair has kicked an own-goal. He's also managed to make his boss David Penberthy look rather silly.

Let's see how many more updates Blair will publish.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

VIDEO: A message from an Australian terror victim ...

A simple message from an Australian victim of terrorism. If this doesn't convince our politicians to withdraw our troops from Iraq, I don't know what will.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

PM: We are all at risk from terrorism ...

The Australian reports remarks made by John Howard in a speech at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute at Canberra.

"Bombings through throughout the Islamic world - whether in Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iraq or this week's deadly bombing in Yemen - remind us that all communities that stand for moderation and tolerance are at risk," Mr Howard said.

In other words, Muslim communities are amongst "communities that stand for moderation". Howard takes this as a given. Too bad some of The Oz's op-ed writers and editors don't see it that way.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

OPINION: Too alarmed to be alert ...

Some reporters need a lesson from police and intelligence agencies about Muslim extremists, IRFAN YUSUF writes.

Let's not live in denial. A small number of Australians of Muslim faith and/or heritage believe they must attack Australian (and broader Western) interests. If UK experience is any indication, many are young 2nd and 3rd generation migrants, and the rest converts.

By and large, the intelligence and law enforcement community knows who these people are, and have reliable informants from within various Muslim communities. Indeed, virtually every arrest under anti-terrorism legislation has been the result of tip-offs from sources within Muslim communities, often the result of long and drawn-out investigations.

This hasn't always been the case. Concern about domestic or "home-grown" terrorism became particular acute since the London bombings on July 7 2005. Within weeks of the bombings, investigative journalist Brian Toohey wrote in the Weekend Financial Review that ASIO's budget for Muslim community informants had blown out, with much information deemed useless. Former ASIS chief Allan Taylor was called in “to crack down on the amount of money wasted by ASIO on agents receiving payment for concocted information”.

An internal review revealed ...
... many part-time agents in Australia ’s Islamic community were being paid for information that had not been properly evaluated.
The intelligence community soon learned what Muslims took for granted:
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.
This simple fact underlies not just the work of seasoned law enforcement and intelligence professionals who show extreme caution to ensure they only act on the basis of accurate information stripped bare of sectarian and ethnic bias, ensuring their processes are driven less by ideology and more by objective assessment of exactly where threats exist.

Sadly, our cultural warriors in media and politics aren't always driven by such caution. We are taught to be alert but not alarmed. But some Muslim-baiting media outlets incite so much sectarian hysteria that we are left too alarmed to be alart.

Recent reports in one newspaper in particular have bordered on the fanciful. Last week the paper declared all Australian Muslims supported the Lebanese Shia Muslim party Hezbollah and opposed Israel. I’ve never been to Lebanon. Most of my Lebanese friends are either Sunni Muslims or Christians. Most of my Shia Muslim friends fled Afghanistan and Iran to escape theocratic regimes. Hardly people who’d support a theocratic party.

My migrant mother’s first Australian friend was Jewish. When I was young, my family used to buy our Indian spices from a Bondi spice shop owned by a Jewish family. My colleagues and friends include Jews, most of them avid supporters of Israel.

Yet according to The Australian, I support Hezbollah and oppose Israel. Why? Because The Australian spoke to a senior Shia Muslim “cleric” who declared that all his community supported Hezbollah and opposed Israel. The newspaper then spoke to an oft-quoted Lebanese Muslim spokesman who declared Sunni Muslims agree with this position.

Before reading the article, I’d never even heard of the Shia Muslim gentleman. I knew of the Lebanese Muslim spokesman as a former President of an ethno-religious organisation in Lakemba which barred full membership to all women and to men ineligible for Lebanese citizenship. Yet the national broadsheet attributes the opinions of these religious figures to 300,000 Australians who tick the "Muslim" box on their census forms. This same newspaper's editorials consistently patronises Muslims for allegedly not embracing democracy and gender equality!

Within 24 hours of the latest terror scares in London and Glasgow, the paper has a front page report alleging some 2-3,000 "ideological sleeper cells" existed in Sydney ready to be "radicalised" into committing terrorist acts. The reported relied on "research" of one Mr Mustapha Kara-Ali of Sydney, giving credence to his sensational comments by claiming he was “given a $200,000 granting by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in June last year to investigate the radicalisation of young Muslims in Sydney 's southwest”.

This must have been news to DIAC officers overseeing the National Action Plan. The DIAC website shows Kara-Ali hadn't received a single cent. Indeed, the grant of just over $150,000 was given to al-Amana College , an independent school managed by one of at least three rival Lebanese Sunni Muslim sects. Kara-Ali's role is allegedly to act as "project manager".

You'd expect research about trends in Muslim youth radicalism be managed by someone with qualifications in sociology, demography and/or anthropology. Kara-Ali holds no such qualifications. His research methodology consisted of focus groups and discussions with 200 young Muslims and a number of imams. How were these people chosen? Which ethnic, sectarian or other backgrounds were these people from? From which parts of Australia? With such shoddy research methodologies being used at taxpayer expense, it's little wonder Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty immediately rejected Kara-Ali's claims.

Finally, Brian Toohey's words cited above should be heeded by journalists as much as by law enforcement and counter-terrorism professionals. Within Sydney's Lebanese Sunni Muslim community, a sectarian turf war is being waged between the Lebanese "al-Ahbash" sect (to which Kara-Ali belongs) and other Sunni sects. Each sect uses every opportunity to paint their opponents within the Lebanese Sunni community as terrorists or "Wahhabists".

Which Lebanese sect is truly radical? For Muslim outsiders like myself, they're all as bad as each other. Al-Ahbash spokespersons were gleeful when a handful of young Lebanese Australian men from a competing sect were recently rounded up by Lebanese police. Their sectarian opponents speak with glee of senior al-Ahbash leaders about to be tried for alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Meanwhile, the self-serving polemical rants of one Lebanese sect against another are made front page news in the national broadsheet!

Intelligence and law enforcement professionals are alert. Government wants us to be alert but not alarmed. Yet some media outlets make it their business to make us all very alarmed without themselves being too alert with facts and logic.

The author is a Sydney lawyer and runs a co-convenes a course on Understanding Australia's Muslim Communities for the Australian Homeland Security research Centre. The views expressed here are those of the author and not of the Centre.

A slightly edited version of this article was first published in The Canberra Times on Thursday 5 July 2007.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Marriage in a nutshell ...

The following illustration provides a much-needed reminder to bachelors (like myself) of the risks of entering holy matrimony ...

(Thanks to AD of Christchurch)

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More moments from Dr Mohamed Haneef's life

Today's Crikey provides the following hilarious spook of the Herald-Sun's tabloid treatment of Gold Coast medical practitioner Dr Haneef, currently being questioned by Federal Police over the recent terrorist incident in the UK. Here it is ...

Thomas Hunter writes:

This morning's Herald Sun published the following photograph, which shows the front door of the apartment inhabited by Queensland terror suspect Dr Mohamed Haneef, and the manager of the apartments, Steve Bosher.

But it is only one piece in the puzzle of Dr Haneef's life. Crikey has obtained a series of photographs which give fresh insight into how Dr Haneef lived, his movements and his state of mind ahead of being arrested.

A bus stop Dr Haneef allegedly waited at:

Some of the change Dr Haneef is accused of using when purchasing the bus ticket:

A supermarket trolley similar to that which Dr Haneef reportedly used to convey groceries from the shelves to the checkout:

The steps, handrail and bush that witnesses say Dr Haneef walked past on his way from somewhere to somewhere else:

Convenience store from the same chain which Dr Haneef is alleged to have stopped at for an occasional late night snack:

Artist’s interpretation of Dr Haneef’s alleged late night snack:


I'm not satisfied this amount of evidece is sufficient to find any of the Queensland doctors guilty in a trial-by-tabloid. So here's some more evidence.

Food eaten by the accused had he successfully boarded his flight home ...

Ancestral animal which the accused's great grandfather may have rode at his wedding ...

Sketches lodged by the accused with the local council for the accused's proposed Gold Coast beachside mansion ...

The accused's fifth cousin and wife at their honeymoon ...

The accused's old school friends at work ...

(Disclaimer: As someone of South Asian heritage, I am entitled to make this joke without being called racist. And we are all entitled to laugh. In the event Dr Haneef is released without charge or found not guilty at trial, I hope he also gets a few laughs. As for the editors of the tabloids responsible for trashing his reputation, they can go ge ...)

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Social cohesion? Or just more hypocrisy and hubris ...

The allegedly liberal UK thinktank CIVITAS has founded a "Centre for Social Cohesion". The Centre's blog (which, from what I can see, is the full extent of the Centre's activities) contains a recent post attacking the UK government for seeking advice from one Dr Ataullah Siddiqui about how Islam can be taught in educational institutions with a view to curbing the radicalisation of British Muslim youth.

The blog then goes into a monologue about Dr Siddiqui's links to the Pakistani Jamaat-i-Islami political party and his alleged ideological affiliation to Syed Maududi and other Islamis ideologues.

I myself have carefully studied the works of these ideologues. I now find their work to represent a somewhat disturbing form of heterodoxy, though it is not necessarily anymore dangerous than, say, the Christian heterodoxy of people like Fred Nile and Danny Nalliah.

What I find really disturbing about conservative thinktanks is that they blab on and on about Islamist thinking seeping into Muslim circles. Yet they turn a blind eye to the Christian religious radicalism that is becoming more influential on their side of the ideological divide.

The hubris and double standards of allegedly conservative thinktanks is little more than a thin veneer hiding what is in reality their sectarian prejudices.

I left this message on the blog. Somehow I doubt they will publish it.

It makes me laugh when I see cultural conservatives parading as liberals and pretending their sectarian prejudices are 'social cohesion'.

I am an Australian Muslim who started reading Maududi after attending an Anglican Cathedral School in Sydney Australia and being exposed to the works of Protestant fundamentalists like Francis Schaffer.

I could see little difference between Maududi's message and that of Schaffer's "How Then Should We Live". Both authors argue that religion and politics are inseparable, and that religious activists must enter the political scene.

What made Maududi nore effective is that Islam, like Judaism, actually has a sacred law. Further, Islamic sacred law has actually been implemented in recent times.

I personally regard Maududi's approach as heterodox in the extreme. However, for allegedly conservative thinktanks to be attacking someone whose Christian equivalent they remain strangely silent on is the height of hypocrisy and double-standards.

The day think tanks like yours are honest enough to face up to the Jewish and Christian Maududi's in your midst is the day Western Muslims can take you seriously.

As Christ said, there's little point looking for specks in your brother's eye when your own eye is filled with logs.

If you choose not to allow this comment on this blog, I'll be placing it on my own.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007