Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tim Blair issues fatwa on Sydney Iraqis

Good news to all those Sydney-siders of Iraqi heritage. Tim Blair, the Opinion Page Editor of the Daily Telegraph, has just announced that he doesn't regard you all as psychopathic.

The following post was made on his blog on 24 January 2007 ...

Bomb threats in Sydney:

An Arabic newspaper in Sydney says it fears its office will be blown up after a man claiming to represent al-Qaeda in Australia left a threatening telephone message ...

The caller was said to have claimed his “well structured organisation” would destroy the paper’s offices in Sydney and Melbourne and track down its reporters. “We will destroy the paper’s headquarters in Sydney very soon, God willing … you will be butchered,” the caller is alleged to have said.

"Every Iraqi Kurd and Shiite in Australia will be butchered."

Similar threats have previously been made against non-psychopathic Sydney Iraqis.

Blair effectively implies that Iraqis are, by definition, psychopathic.

Gee, that's so nice of you to say that, Mr Blair. I'm sure our troops serving in Iraq will be so grateful to you for expressing your sentiments on Iraqis. I'm sure they will feel more secure in the knowledge that a senior editor of a major Sydney newspaper has described Iraqis (or at least those in Sydney) as psychopathic.

This is the sort of responsible journalism and blogging that will no doubt go a long way toward winning the war of hearts and minds in Iraq.

John Howard and Alexander Downer may be hoping that the civil war in Iraq is ended and that peace and democracy are restored. Perhaps they are being giving Iraqis too much credit. Perhaps Downer should get advice on the true disposition of Iraqis from a senior DT editor.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Making news out of YouTube

It must have been a slow news day at the tabloid stable when Luke McIlveen has to trawl the video portal to come up with a story about race relations. Still, he had the decency to tell us:

The Daily Telegraph has chosen not to publish links to the offensive

But that’s not all the DT hasn’t published. It also hasn’t explained why it makes an issue of videos that have been online since November 2006.

Further, it hasn’t made any issue of racist videos linked to the and other White Pride website (examples of which can be found here and here), nor was the use of church music as background mentioned. Also not mentioned were comments linked to this website, including this beauty:

I vote we declare Islam Rabies = Muslims – RABID DOGS – THERE IS NO MODERATE

Sounds like the sort of comment that would appear on the personal blog of the DT’s opinion page editor Tim Blair. Or the kind of opinions left by anonymous fruitcakes on this blog.

Although the DT broke the story, the Fairfax websites also covered the story as well as the responses from various politicians.

NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt expressed concern that one video mentioned Granville Boys High School. Fair enough, even if she acknowledged she hadn’t seen the video.

But surely the award for tabloid responses must go to the PM, who claimed that the video serves as

a reminder that there is undoubtedly within a section, a small section, of
the Lebanese Muslim community a group of people who are antagonistic to the
values and the way of life in this country.

Which begs the question – in what sense did the video show traces of being specifically the work of Lebanese Muslims?

I had a chance to watch the video in full before it was taken down. Here’s what I saw and heard:

# Rap music in the background.
# Images of stereotypical young Lebanese boys with bad haircuts and hotted-up cars.
# Prominent and repeated images of the green and red cedar symbol of the Lebanese flag.

The credits section at the end of the video showed the names Amer, Adel and Aleh. Thanks were also given to Lebanese from the following suburbs: Lakemba, Punchbowl, Greenacre, Bankstown, Auburn, Arncliffe, Belmore and Fairfield.

Now let’s consider some cultural facts. Amer, Adel and Aleh are not peculiarly Muslim names in Lebanon or other parts of the Arab world. I know plenty of Maronite, Coptic and Greek Orthodox people of Arab background with these names.

The suburbs mentioned aren’t peculiarly Lebanese Muslim. Punchbowl is home to St Charbels Maronite Cathedral, and Greenacre is home to a Malekite and Syrian Orthodox Churches.

All the suburbs mentioned do have substantial Arabic-speaking Christian communities. In fact, the majority of Australians from Arabic-speaking backgrounds are in fact Christian. Furthermore, Auburn has a large Turkish and Afghan community. Iraqis of all denominations can be found in big numbers in Fairfield.

The cedar tree of the Lebanese flag is known to be a distinctly Christian symbol in Lebanon. The symbol is used more prominently by Christian organisations than by Muslim ones (such as the predominantly Shia al-Zahra Muslim Association in Arncliffe or the predominantly Sunni Lebanese Moslems Association in Lakemba).

And I never knew that Lebanese Muslims had a monopoly on rap music. Either that, or Eminem must have changed both his ethnicity and his religion.

Further, in what sense do images of hotted-up cars and pop music show hostility to Australian values and lifestyle? Growing up in the heart of Howard’s electorate, I remember plenty of young Anglo thugs driving down Kellaway Street East Ryde during the 1970’s in hotted-up Monaros and panel vans. Many of them had bad disco music (you know, like the Bee Gees) blurting out from their cassette players.

But that doesn’t stop the PM from turning this into a religious issue. Yet again, John Howard has shown how quick he is to attack non-Christians allegedly responsible for spreading hatred, whilst supporting fringe Christian and/or White Pride groups who do the same. One wonders how the PM must have known it was in fact people of Muslim heritage who produced and uploaded the offending material onto the YouTube website.

Perhaps the most reasoned response was provided by a current student of Granville Boys High School who said:

I went to 'Cronulla riots' on YouTube and there's all these videos of Anglos
saying 'We are proud of what we did'. So there's already other race hate videos
out there. Why are they only targeting one [community]?

Perhaps that question should be asked of Daily Telegraph editor David Penberthy. And of the PM who found some way of linking the video to Lebanese Muslims without any conclusive evidence before him.

They say that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Sadly, the antics of a few school boys and the selective anti-racism of a tabloid journalist ensure that once again scoundrels are drowning out the voices of reason.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007