Monday, December 31, 2007

COMMENT: On Benazir ...

In case you've just arrived from another galaxy, Pakistan's former Prime Minister (twice) Benazir Bhutto was assassinated a few days ago.

There has been 24 hour coverage on PTV, Pakistan's official public broadcaster. Most of it has been in Urdu, but there has also been some excellent commentary in English. You can also check out the PTV's world news website (which also has webcasting) here.

There are other private news channels in Pakistan, a full list of which can be found here.

South Asia expert author and historian William Dalrymple has written an excellent analysis and critique of Ms Bhutto in The Observer here. Tariq Ali also wrote a rather irreverent piece (before the assassination) in the London Review of Books which can be found here.

Professor Amin Saikal of ANU provides a thorough political analysis of events here, both as they might play out in Pakistan and the wider region.

Perhaps the best source of English language news from on the ground in Pakistan can be found at the Daily Times.

A regular writer for the Daily Times is lawyer Rafia Zakaria. She also is an associate editor of, and has published a regular Karachi Diary, the first instalment of which can be found here.

Shahed Amanullah, one of the big wigs at, asks some difficult questions in a short piece for Beliefnet. He also reminds us that Pushtun history is not just one violent monolith.

Last and certainly least are two analyses by yours truly, one in the New Zealand Herald and the other in The Age published in Melbourne.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

COMMENT: The clash within?

Are we seeing a clash of civilisations in the world? Is there a battle going on between a monolithic Christian (or Judeo-Christian if you're in a somewhat more ecumenical mood) West and an equally monolithic Islamic East? If so, where do Europe's Muslims and India's Christians fit in? Where do South America's Catholics fit in? And where do millions of Hindus, Buddhists etc fit?

Toward the end of his 2006 work On The Road To Kandahar: Travels Through Conflict In The Islamic World, Bourke wonders ...

How anyone, particularly a Western author, could have the temerity to generalize in entirely unqualified terms about 1.3 billion people across half the planet of a dozen different racial and several score different national backgrounds in a way that would have been entirely laughable, and indeed quite offensive, if they had been referring to 'Christians' or even the world's relatively small Jewish population ...

Of course, we in the West take for granted that our own civilisation is hardly a monolith. Hence, we dismiss as ignorant the rants of bin-Ladin and others who claim we are all a bunch of Zionist Crusaders plotting to destroy the Islamic world.

We might dismiss the bin-Ladins of the Islamic world. But do we dismiss our own bin-Ladins? We know what damage their bin-Ladins have done in London and New York and Madrid. But what about the damage our bin-Ladins have done in Iraq?

Or should we be even making such comparisons?

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

BOOKS: A superb debut novel ...

Neelam Maharaj lives in Melbourne. She has just had Surviving Heroes, her debut novel, published by Bystander Press. I’ve reviewed it in The Australian today.

Unfortunately, word count restrictions didn’t allow me to do justice to this extremely moving and powerful story of how the last days of British colonialism, the Second World War and then the Partition all touched the lives of one Indian family.

When we think of WWII and the fight against fascism, we remember the ANZAC’s, the Americans, the French Resistance, etc. We rarely think of those young men from Europe’s colonial possessions who fought and died.

Perhaps the most surprising conclusion the characters in Maharaj’s novel reach is that the horrors of Partition were worse, much worse, than the atrocities committed by the Japanese in Singapore. I've heard Partition stories many times from South Asian uncles and aunts. But Maharaj's characters give us a glimpse of the true horrors of Partition and how innocent people could so easily become caught in the growing vortext of sectarian violence.

(One can only imagine how these characters would respond to religious extremism that threatens to conquer both India (in the form of the Hindu far-Right) and Pakistan (in the form of Muslim militancy).)

Do yourself a favour. Go out and buy this novel. It will give you a better understanding of South Asian culture, history and political sentiment than reading 100 articles or columns by so-called experts and pundits.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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REFLECTION: On democrats and queue-jumpers

“When you appointed your humble sister to lead this nation, you not only chose the first woman to govern your nation. You also shone a bright light on Islam by being the first modern Muslim nation to elect a woman as its Prime Minister.”
Excerpt from the last speech of former Pakistan Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.

"I lied about my past, but of course I did tell the Liberal Party"
Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Dutch TV.
To think some people are now comparing this stateswoman and leader to a migration fraud and neo-Conservative opportunist like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

BLOG: Shukh Yer'WTF?

Well, it's Boxing Day. Traditionally a day when people place all their Christmas presents into boxes. Or perhaps place their boxes into Christmas presents? Who knows??

Some people, of course, don't know what Christmas is about. They are so busy filling blogosphere with hatred and bile that Christmas just seems to pass them by. Plus they have no friends, no family and no lives. I doubt even Bill Crews or the Wayside Chapel would allow them in for their Christmas lunch.

Among such sick and demented individuals is Shukh Yer'mami. Now Yer'mami likes to call itself 'Sheik'. The word 'Sheik' (also spelt 'Shaikh' or 'Sheikh' or (my favourite) 'Shaykh') in Arabic literally means 'old man'. It is used to describe someone who has reached a certain level of maturity.

I'd say a more appropriate label to apply to Yer'mami would be Shukh, an Arabic word that carries a number of connotations including this and this. Or perhaps even this.

Anyway, in a recent posting on his blob (no, that was not a typo), Shukh Yer'mami praises me for allowing certain comments on my blog. Apart from the one he mentions, I'm not sure which comments he refers to. Perhaps he means the anonymous messages which call for an 'alcoholocaust' and to ANZAC's killing people because of their presumed religion.

Being part of a large neo-Nazi blob-o-sphere, the Shukh clearly relishes the idea of killing nasty Moslems with big noses and sporting embroidered skull-caps. Heck, why stop at Jews?

It wouldn't surprise me if the Shukh has been authoring some of these messages himself. I haven't posted all these messages as they are so offensive. But for the Shukh's pleasure, I will reproduce just one more ...

Lebs shouldn't just be arrested by the hundreds. The whole lot should be gassed or better still fed into the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme. In this way the blood and bone can be used for irrigation. (16/01/06)
That will be the last time one of the Shukh's minions will have their messages posted here. I recommend the Shukh and its minions head back to the blobs of Blair, Bolt et al where they can feel free to throw as much shukh around as they wish.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

OPINION: Joy to the world of non-Middle Eastern appearance

Foreign un-Australian ragger from Lakemba nurses the wounds of her son after he got smashed by patriotic Aussies acting on the orders of Hon Rev Fred Nile MLC.

There's nothing like a fair dinkum Aussie Christmas. Peace on earth, goodwill to all men. Unless if you happen to look like Jesus or his mum and you live in parts of outer Sydney.
On December 20, Radio National's AM program reported a public meeting in Camden concerning a proposal to build a Muslim independent school. One Camden local expressed his Christmas spirit in these words
If it [the school development application] does get approved, everyragger that walks up the street's going to get smashed up the arse by about 30Aussies.
The spirit of these sentiments was supported by the Reverend Fred Nile, leader of the allegedly- Christian allegedly-Democratic Party, who was invited as guest speaker to the meeting. Nile's CDP isn't too fond of anyone it deems Muslim.

And Nile's definition of Muslim is rather broad. During the last New South Wales state election, Nile's party issued a press release entitled ''No More Muslims''.
Nile promised his candidates would share preferences with all Liberal candidates except Muslim ones. Nile targeted one Liberal candidate, Marrickville businessman Ramzy Mansour. Poor Ramzy's Coptic Orthodox Christian faith wasn't enough for him to gain CDP preferences.

Ned Mannoun, a Liberal candidate in Liverpool, was much luckier. The CDP were happy to hand this young candidate their preferences, despite his Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim ancestry.

Sectarian bigotry and prejudice require the suspension of reason and logic.

Let's return to the Radio National report on the recent Camden public meeting. Expecting some crowd-control problems, organisers hired security guards. The poor guards happened to look somewhat Middle Eastern. The crowd behaved even more Middle Eastern, screaming in unison: ''Let us in, Mohammed, you're already dividing us up!''

But why stop at Mohammed? How about that Mediterranean lad who wore a multicoloured jacket and became ancient Egypt's agriculture minister?

Or better still, given it's Christmas, why not the name of that carpenter's step-son who was born in the West Bank town of Beyt Lahm some 2000 years ago?

Indeed, it's likely that the carpenter's ragger wife would suffer the same fate at the hands of 30 Aussies as suggested by the Camden protestor. Certainly statues of her that adorn Catholic churches across the world never show her with an uncovered head.

Speaking of raggers, one Camden local newspaper ran a profile of an Anglo-Australian woman who had lived in the Camden area for over 15 years and who just happens to cover her head with a loosely fitting scarf. Until that article, she had been active in the local community. Now, she feels shunned. One of her adult children described her feelings.

Mum asked one of them, 'What's changed about me?' Then one of the locals said to her, 'We thought you were wearing that thing because you had cancer.' Yeah, right! Cancer for 15 years?
Yes, prejudice does involve suspension of reason.

After the meeting, Fred Nile quoted a verse from the Koran that contradicted the Christian belief in Christ's divinity as a reason to oppose the school. No doubt Nile would similarly oppose a Jewish school in the area.

Yet when the ABC reporter asked Nile whether he took all verses from the Bible literally, he was left dumbfounded.

Nile, of course, didn't quote those verses of the Koran where Mary is described as having been chosen above all women throughout the ages to undergo the Immaculate Conception. Nor does he quote verses in which Mary is advised by the angel that she will give birth to God's Messiah. And it's unlikely Nile has even read those verses where Jesus's miracles are mentioned.

And so in the 2007th year of our Lord, it seems parts of Australia would still be considered unsafe for Jesus to return to.

How ironic that Christmas this year coincides with the most sacred religious festival in the Islamic calendar.

Millions of Muslims have gathered in Mecca to take part in rites dating back over 3000 years in a place they believe was consecrated by Abraham. Their relatives and friends back home will be celebrating with prayers, exchange of gifts and visits to family and friends. In Australia, the end of festivities will approximately coincide with Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, Jewish Australians have recently completed the eight days of Hanukkah, commemorating the sacrifices of the Jewish warriors who defended their House of Worship and their faith in the Maccabean revolts some two centuries before Christ.

A calm and rational study of Abraham's triplet faiths would lead any reasonable person to conclude their similarities well exceed their differences. To believe otherwise, and to manufacture hatred between followers of these faiths, requires a suspension of reason.

Whatever some people in Camden might think, the rest of us should make sure we don't allow this Christmas to be consumed by sectarian prejudice.

Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and associate editor of This article was first published in The Canberra Times on Saturday 22 December 2007.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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COMMENT: Why Fred Nile should leave Australia …

Whether Fred Nile opposes the establishment of the Quranic Society's school in Camden is neither here nor there, as far as I'm concerned. For me, there are deeper questions. I think Fred Nile is a threat to our liberal democracy. Here's why.

Fred Nile has drawn the line. He has declared Australia to be a Christian country. He has also declared that we shouldn’t allow schools that reject Christian doctrines such as the divinity of Christ and the idea that Christ is the Son of God.

On that basis, I challenge Fred Nile to call for the closure of Moriah College. I call upon Rev Nile to hold a public meeting at St Ives which will support the closure of Masada College.

Jews, like their Muslim spiritual cousins, reject the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. Indeed, Judaism goes further. Whilst Muslims accept Jesus as God’s Messiah, Jews reject this notion.

So are we now going to say that Jewish schools are even more undesirable than Muslim ones?

Australia’s first Australian-born governor-general was a Jew. Jews have served in prominent positions at all levels of government, as well as in business, academia and the arts.

Muslims have also served in local and state governments, as well as in academia, the arts and business.

Believe it or not, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Druze, Bahais and followers of other faiths have also contributed to this nation. As have atheists and agnostics.

By sponsoring shadowy meetings and attracting racists and neo-Nazis from outside Camden to spread sectarian hatred, Nile is doing a grave disservice to the people of New South Wales.

Further, Nile’s antics are giving Christians a bad name. Christianity is an inclusive faith that teaches compassion, mercy and good will to all. Nile is preaching a message that has little or nothing to do with Christianity.

Some months back, neo-Con far-Right columnists and politicians were wondering why more Muslims weren’t calling for Sheik Hilaly to be silenced. I wonder whether they will be calling on Christians to silence Nile.

But unlike the Howards and Robbs and Costellos and Albrechtsens and Bolts of this world, I don’t subscribe to the Hitleresque doctrine of collective responsibility. Why should all Christians be held responsible for the mad senile rants of an ageing and increasingly irrelevant fundamentalist politician?

Let’s do some numbers. How many Australians tick the ‘Christian’ box on their census form? How many of these people voted for the Christian Democrats at the last Federal Election?

Need I say more? Here’s a claim that doesn’t need social research to back it up. The overwhelming majority of Australian Muslims and Christians and Jews and Sikhs and Hindus and Christians and people of other faiths and no faith in particular want to live in a country where people are free to believe and worship in any manner they wish. If Fred Nile and his gang of religious fruitloops cannot accept this, they should give up their Australian citizenship and set up their theocracy elsewhere.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, December 21, 2007

COMMENT: Chemo in Camden?

Republican Presidential contender Mitt Romney once said he’d have no Muslims in his administration. Of course, Romney is the sort of chap who follows a Christian sect that all Christians regard as mainstream.

Fred Nile and his friends at Camden have gone one step further than Romney. They want no Muslim independent school in their backyard, and no Muslim migrants for at least a decade.

(And no preferences to Coptic Christian Liberal candidates with Muslim-sounding names!)

But don’t for a minute call them sectarian bigots or racists. No. According to Katie McCulloch of the Residents’ Action Group, the issue isn’t religion but rather integration. Ms McCulloch tells The Oz ...

If it was an integrated school, we wouldn't mind.

Of course Islamic schools simply refuse to integrate and adopt Aussie values. Look at that nasty seminary in Chullora called Malek Fahd Islamic College. I mean, just look at what un-Australian extremist nonsense they teach there? You only have to click here to see just what damage non-integrated schools do to innocent kids.

McCulloch then asks:

How can we understand when we don't have the opportunity to talk to anybody from the organisation?

Fair enough question. To which my answer is: Why don’t you get on the phone and ring Jeremy Bingham?

McCulloch says more. Here's how The Oz quotes her ...

In every group there is good and bad, there may be a few bad seeds protesting, but religion is not our issue with it ...

This is a historic town - if people want to come here, they have to integrate. If it was an integrated school, we wouldn't mind.

Some people may think of me as a racist but I'm an open-minded person. I just want this country to stay nice and quiet.

Fred Nile and Liberal MLC Charlie Lynn attended the public meeting two nights ago, along with this dude and his friends who were waving Aussie flags and making tasteful and Christian statements to ABC reporters such as ...

If it does get approved, every ragger that walks up the street's going to get smashed up the arse by about 30 Aussies.

Speaking of women emulating Jesus’ mum, a mate of mine told me about his mum. She’s an Anglo-Aussie who has lived in the Camden area for over 15 years. Recently she was profiled by one of the local papers (whose journalists have been bravely reporting both sides of the dispute) explaining the piece of cloth on her head.

Since the profile was published, some locals have changed their attitude toward her. Here’s how my mate put it:

Mum asked one of them: ‘What’s changed about me?’ Then one of the locals said to her: ‘We thought you were wearing that thing because you had cancer’. Yeah, right!
It must be one hell of a chemo!

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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UPDATE: Holiday stuff ...

I'm sure most of you have better things to do during your holidays than read my crap. But for those who don't, here's a sample of recently-published shite:

An Irreverent Guide to the Aussie Hajj (ABC Unleashed)

Slaughtered Sheep and Saints on the Street (New Matilda)

'Australian way' too tarnished to serve as Kiwi economic blueprint (NZ Herald)

Fighting jihadists with inkjet printers (A/M)

The Protocols of the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey - Part I (ABC Unleashed)

All the best for the holday season!!

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

COMMENT: A rather unconservative use of inkjet printers ...

Earlier this year, Crikey reported of how columnist Gerard Henderson went all the way to the United Kingdom to publish a monograph about Australian Muslims, doing so without interviewing a single Australian Muslim.

The publisher of his report was the allegedly conservative (I say allegedly because there’s nothing conservative about sectarian bigotry) thinktank Policy Exchange. The tank describes itself as being

... committed to an evidence-based approach to policy development … in partnership with academics and other experts.

Since that time, PE has published another report about how a fair proportion of UK mosques were distributing allegedly extremist literature. Yet an investigation into the research methodology used in the report shows a substantial amount of fabricated evidence.

It’s interesting to note that the volunteers who allegedly visited the mosques on behalf of PE are apparently from an organisation called the "Sufi Muslim Council” which was recently endorsed by the UK government. The chairman of that council is a Sufi "teacher" named Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani.

Sheik Kabbani follows a line of Turkish sufis known as “Naqshbandi”. This order of sufis was described in an article in the most recent issue of Quadrant as promoting jihadist political ideology and of being “Islam’s Trojan horse” in the West.

So there you have it. One conservative think tank uses to expose jihadist literature members of a group which another set of conservatives describes as themselves being jihadists. Go figure.

As for Gerard Henderson, methinks he should think twice before allowing his name to be tarnished by association with groups exposed as fabricators of evidence.

UPDATE I: Here is how an anthropologist critiqued the report.

UPDATE II: The anthropologist writes to the PE report author here, and receives a response here.

UPDATE III: A somewhat flippant response here.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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