Saturday, May 05, 2007

And you thought Melanie Phillips was nutty ...

Some readers may recall British tabloid columnist Melanie Phillips as author of a great work of conspiratorial fiction entitled Londonistan, which I reviewed here for the Canberra Times.

Last night, Phillips was interviewed on ABC's Lateline. Phillips was upto her nutty best again, accusing British intelligence authorities of compromising security by failing to adopt her pet prejudices.

I mean we have a very, very serious problem in Britain of domestic home-grown Muslim boys who are turning to terror. There are a lot of them.

Yes, Melanie, there are lots of Muslim boys in the UK. Apparently, MI5 and other security services haven't realised just how many Muslim boys there are in the UK. Hence her comments ...

But I have to say also, I think that, you know, they're on a very steep learning curve, our security service. And I don't think that they were up to speed at that stage.

Phillips then describes a classic mistake in how officials define "moderate" Muslims ...

I mean I think there is a great problem here in that there's a tendency in the British official class to define a moderate as somebody who doesn't actually believe or support, support the blowing up of British citizens.

So Melanie, where do you draw the line? Are you suggesting that people who don't believe in or support terrorism aren't moderate enough? Phillips then goes onto cite one study that suggests ...

... roughly around a third of British Muslims wish to live under Sharia law in Britain. Now that means that they don't wish to live under the conventions and laws of Western civilisation. Now to me, that is not moderate, that is extreme.

Yes, it is extreme if your knowledge of sharia is based on tabloid columnists. Phillips' problem is that she regards sharia as little more than allegedly sacred surgery, not acknowledging that for many Muslims, recognition of certain aspects of sharia is largely limited to equal treatment for non-interest financial products and commercial arbitration clauses.

Then again, Phillips has next-to-zero understanding of the law. In her book, she claims judges are undermining the common law system. How so? By developing new precedents and understandings in the interpretation of human rights legislation. So when judges make law, it undermines a system of judge-made law.

Phillips then effectively suggests the need to consider British Muslims being deported from Britain.

We have 2 million Muslims at a conservative estimate in Britain. In absolute terms that is a horrific number of individuals in Britain, British citizens who hold views that are, in my view, are demonstrably extreme. And the terrible thing is that those kind of views of hostility to Britain, to the West, conspiracy theories that say we are under attack, that provides, that swells the sea in which terrorism swims. And that's the real problem. We haven't begun to kind of hold back the tide of that sea, to kind of drain those poisoned waters.

I'm not quite sure what Virginia Trioli made of this diatribe of hatred. She certainly didn't challenge Phillips' assertions. I guess that's a reflection of the fact that we are living in an age when you can say things about Muslims that 65 years ago Europeans could also say about Jews.

The ABC does have a policy of avoiding bias at all costs. On that basis, Lateline should consider interviewing a more balanced and nuanced voice. Perhaps someone like Karen Armstrong or Robert Pape or Kaled Abou el Fadl.

Then again, if you though Phillips was nutty, check out this lawyer and blogger from the United States. I'm surprised she doesn't have Phillips on her blogroll.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Mufti Heffernan?

The following letter was sent to the Fairfax broadsheets ...

I have a solution for voters unsatisfied with Howard's leniency toward Bill Heffernan. They should write to the Australian National Imams' Council seeking Heffernan's immediate appointment as Australia's next Mufti. I'm sure Howard will then be happy to repeatedly punish the recalcitract senator.