Wednesday, February 27, 2008

MEDIA: Reviewing the Review ...

I’ve just purchased my copy of the March edition of Review, the rather funky magazine published by the right-of-centre Institute of Public Affairs.

Unlike other right wing thinktanks, the IPA doesn’t deny its political leanings. It openly describes itself as being a combination of conservative and liberal. Compare this to the Centre for Independent Studies, a thinktank which seems to have an identity crisis and whose head honchos blush and deny when you suggest they might be best described using that word beginning with “c”.

IPA don’t put on a pretence of neutrality or complete objectivity. They don’t pretend they aren’t pushing an ideological barrel. In his editorial, the ever-perceptive Chris Berg speaks of the not-so-royal “we” as being “[r]ight of centre”.

If you’ve got it and it hangs to the right, flaunt it!

Executive Director John Roskam follows with the announcement that from now on Review will be published every two months (instead of quarterly as up until now) thanks to ...

... substantial growth in sales and an overwhelming response from readers ... Sales of the IPA Review from newsstands around the country have doubled in the last twelve months.
Christian Kerr, formerly known as Hillary Bray until he came out of the Crikey closet, will have his own column. Kerr uses his latest column to compare young governments to young kids. Will that mean a steep rise in paedophilia in Canberra? Time will tell.

There’s much more in the magazine, but I’d better read it before continuing with this discussion. In the meantime, I’d better go finish that article for Gerard Henderson’s favourite website ...

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

HUMOUR: Barack Obama becomes a Sikh?

Senator Obama - fully Sikh!

And in breaking news, we've just received reports that Democratic Presidential hopeful and Senator Barack Hussein Mohammed Sheik Ayatollah Mullah Amrozi Ehud Menachem Shamir Sharon Obama has now adopted the Sikh faith.

Obama's new spokesperson, Jasminder Singh, made the announcement earlier today. "Yoh, man. Da boss is like fully Sikh", Singh told reporters.

(On a serious note, for how long will the anti-Obama crowd go on smearing this guy? Why don't they just stick to the issues?)

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

COMMENT: More on guide dogs and cabbies ...

Poor Daniel Pipes. He's been caught out misrepresenting an Australian Human Rights Commissioner. In an effort to manufacture group-hatred against anyone deemed Muslim, he has repeated a report from a tabloid newspaper without bothering to check the source. And he's sent his trumped-up article to op-ed editors of Australian broadsheets.

Who knows how many other lies and distortions Pipes has knowingly or recklessly peddled in other articles promoting his kind of sectarian bigotry. But will this pseudo-academic polemicist stop?

(And will his followers stop leaving abusive and racist anonymous messages on this blog?)

Pipes has struggled to find a response to my allegations. He knows he has been caught out. He knows he should have checked with Commissioner Innes before repeating the discredited claims of a reporter from the Daily Telegraph tabloid.

At the end of his article, Pipes provides an update which refers to my "long analysis". But does he provide a hyperlink? Does he want his readers to decide for themselves whether what I wrote was an accurate reflection of what he said? Does he want his readers to be able to make up their own mind about what he describes as "screed"

If we were talking about someone seriously and sincerely searching for truth, or at least someone interested in intellectually honest debate, we would expect Pipes' update to contain a hyperlink. But we aren't talking about truth and intellectual honesty. We are talking about neo-Conservative rcism and bigotry.

In short, we are talking about Daniel Pipes.

And what is Pipes' precise complaint against my exposure of his deceipt? Pipes alleges that I have criticised him for making "a mistake in the caption to the picture [of Commissioner Innes] that accompanies [his] column".

Having re-read my post, I must concede that Pipes may have a point if we were to consider my treatment of his caption out of context from my entire post. But as any reasonable reader will concede, Pipes' so-called critique misses the broader point. Hence Pipes is able to repeat the dishonest claim that ...

... Innes indicates that the drivers sometimes cite a religious reason for refusing his guide dog, a clear allusion to the Shari‘a, the only religious law with strictures about contact with dogs.
Where does Commissioner Innes say this, Mr Pipes? Have you asked Innes? Have you contacted his media officer? Have you contacted the man himself? Have you spoken to the Commissioner directly? Or are you relying on a discredited report from a tabloid newspaper?

Even on the Barking Buddies website, it mentions in relation to cab drivers that ...

They claim they’re afraid of the golden Labrador, or that she will make their vehicle dirty. One said it was against his religion to carry the animal in his car.
A number of cab drivers have expressed fear of the golden labrador. Others have expressed concerns that the dog might cause their cab to become dirty. At the very most, only one cab driver has mentioned some religious concern, though no religion is mentioned.

Yet Pipes happily uses the words of one cab driver are used to spread hatred and venom toward an entire sacred legal tradition and the 1.2 billion people across the globe who respect it (even if many don't follow it).

Pipes then concludes that this must be a reference to ...

... the Shari‘a, the only religious law with strictures about contact with dogs.
Perhaps Mr Pipes isn't aware that many non-Muslim cultures across the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia also regard dogs as unhygeinic animals. Perhaps he isn't aware of the hygeine rules of some upper-caste Hindus or observant Sikhs.

But forget all that ecumenical and cross-cultural stuff. Pipes simply ignores the fact that Commissioner Innes has specifically stated on the record that ...

I never mentioned any specific religion and never intended to cast aspersions on any religion.
So if Commissioner Innes doesn't think this is an issue about Islam or Muslims or sharia, why does Daniel Pipes think it is? And why does Pipes insist on involving Innes in his unholy war against the religious law of 1.2 billion people?

Will Pipes now acknowledge that his article and update misrepresented the views of an Australian Human Rights Commissioner? Will Pipes admit he was wrong and apologise to Commissioner Innes?

Finally, it's clear Pipes hasn't even bothered to read Dr Williams' speech on sharia. Because if he had, he'd have realised that Williams specifically states that any reference to sharia in his speech equally applies to Jewish sacred law.

If Pipes was intellectually honest, he would spread hatred and venom toward Jews in equal measure as he does toward Muslims. He talks about the draconian punishments of sharia whilst ignoring the equally (if not more) draconian and violent teachings of Jewish sacred law.

There are parts of the Jewish law that talk about slaughtering women and children of gentiles. And stoning blasphemers and adulterers. These provisions still exist. The verses are there in the Old Testament. But seriously, how many Jews (other than the Israeli far-Right that Pipes often champions) seriously wish to implement these rules?

Scholars of the Jewish sacred law know that there was a time and a place for certain aspects of the sacred law. That time and place is not now. It has long gone. The same applies to Muslim jurists and the Islamic sacred law. Only the most fringe individual would suggest that we should start stoning adulterers in Sydney or London or New York (or even in Karachi or KL or Sarajevo).

Understanding and appreciating such issues requires a certain degree of intellectual sophistication. This is esoteric and complex stuff. It isn't the sort of stuff you'd expect to read on CampusWatch or a Pipes column in the New York Post. If this discussion and debate is out of Pipes' league, he should consider leaving it to others.

UPDATE I: Melanie Phillips, tabloid columnist and author of pseudo-conservative conspiracy thesis Londonistan, specifically refers to Pipes' fixation with guide dogs in a blog for The Spectator here. As expected, Phillips just cannot handle criticism. Hence she allows comments of those who share her big-"R" acism and huge-"X" xenophobia but not comments of her critics. Check these beauties out ...

... the chaff of Islamic dissembling.
... daily insights into the more disagreeble aspects of the Islamic world by the media (well, not Al Beeb and Al Gruaniad) and alerting people to the shape of the enemy ...

... any excuse to impose themselves on their host nations and express their disapproval ...
None of what is required to protect our culture is going to happen without an uprising taking place in the general population ... The best we can hope for is an after the fact resistance movement and guerilla warfare for the 50 or so years after takeover.
You don't have to be a Human Rights Commissioner to realise how scary and wacky these people are.

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

COMMENT: Daniel Pipes caught out misrepresenting HREOC Commissioner

Photo of Commissioner Innes appearing in the body of an article distributed by Daniel Pipes ...

Neo-Conservative American columnist and chronic Muslim-hater Daniel Pipes is using the controversy over the recent speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury to peddle lies about sharia, the Islamic sacred legal tradition.

Pipes has started distributing an article to various newspapers which seeks to explain why the West should unite ...

... to stop the progress of this medieval legal system so deeply at odds with modern life, one that oppresses women and turns non-Muslims into second-class citizens.

Given that the Archbishop spoke about sharia tribunals in his speech in the same breath as Beth Din tribunals, it would be interesting if Pipes was prepared to make the same assertion about the sacred law of his own faith.

More intersting is the fact that the body of the article includes a photograph of Graeme Innes, a Commissioner of the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission. The photo is accompanied by this caption:

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes and his guide dog. Innes is often denied service by taxi drivers.

It is unclear how Pipes reached this conclusion about Commissioner Innes. However, I would suggest that Commissioner Innes would not agree with Pipes' comments, and certainly would not agree with how his name has been mentioned in what is essentially an exercise in manufacturing hysteria against a particular faith tradition and those associated with it.

When this alleged story first appeared in the tabloid Daily Telegraph, I thought I'd give Commissioner Innes a call to confirm the report. Commissioner Innes and I are both UNIFEM White Ribbon Day ambassadors. After speaking to the Commissioner, I wrote a column for Crikey which can be read here.

Here is what Commissioner Innes told me:

"If religion was used as an excuse by a cab driver, it was maybe mentioned once out of twenty times. The cab driver never mentioned any particular religion and just said it was for religious reasons. I never mentioned any specific religion and never intended to cast aspersions on any religion. I have spoken to the Telegraph editor yesterday and expressed my concerns about how the editorial focussed on a particular sector of society while I expressed frustration with taxi drivers across the board."

I'm not sure if the Daily Telegraph apologised to Innes. I am also not sure if Pipes will be apologising to Innes. On his weblog (referred to in his op-ed submission), Pipes writes these words:

Human Rights and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, himself blind and reliant on a guide dog, said he is refused service on average once a month, including twice in two days recently. "He has been told on a number of occasions that it would be against a driver's religion to allow a dog in the cab," writes Heath Aston in Australia's Daily Telegraph. "He has also been refused by drivers claiming to be allergic to dogs and even scared of dogs. He has also been left clutching at air on busy Market St by one belligerent driver who told him he had to take the non-existent cab in front."

Pipes is now trying to drag Commissioner Innes into his personal web of sectarian bigotry. One wonders if Mr Pipes was aware of Commissioner Innes' comments on the incident reported in the Tele.

Some 11 months ago Commissioner Innes issued this press release concerning taxi drivers and guide dogs. Nowhere in the press release is the ethno-religious background of the offending drivers mentioned.

Pipes is using Commissioner Innes' experiences with a small group of taxi drivers to incite hatred toward persons of nominally Muslim background, faith and/or heritage. Pipes owes Commissioner Innes an apology.

UPDATE I: A version of this article (without reference to Commissioner Innes) has been published here.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

COMMENT: Archbishop of Allah?

According to his profile on OnlineOpinion, Jonathan Ariel is ...

... an economist and financial analyst. He holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management.
He also enjoys dabbling in political polemics. Heck, so do I. Who doesn't?

But after reading his take on the pseudo-controversy surrounding a recent academic speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it seems clear to me that Ariel should stick to financial analysis.

Ariel makes his position clear with this quote ...

Sharia law is simultaneously undemocratic and unChristian.
In a sense, any religious law is unChristian. This is because Christianity (at least in its protestant format) is a faith which has rejected any role for law within religion. Unlike Jews, Christians have rejected the laws of Moses as espoused in the Torah and explained in the various Jewish scholarly commentaries.

In this sense, both Judaism and Islam are similar. They both regard religious life as being governed not merely by prayer and minimal liturgy but also by a sacred law revealed by God that explains to us how we should live, both as individuals and as communities.

But apart from this sense, I'm not sure in what way the sacred law of Islam is unChristian. Then again, I'm not entirely sure which version of Christianity Ariel follows.

I don't want to waste too much of my time on Ariel's rant. It seems to me he isn't too fond of non-white and non-Christian migrants in general. But what intrigues me is the headline to his article.

Of course, it is quite likely that Ariel did not actually choose this headline. It may have been chosen by the sub-editors of the website.

Yet regardless of who picked the headline, the fact is that the term "Allah" is a title give to God by Arabic-speakers of all faiths. Arab Christians across the Middle East (indeed, across the world) use the word "Allah" when addressing God in prayer. In that respect, if the next Pope were to be Palestinian or Lebanese, One could safely say he would be the "Pope of Allah".

So the term "Allah" is not one limited to any particular faith. Indeed, many Muslims don't use the term "Allah". In Farsi and Urdu, other words and phrases are used e.g. "Khuda" and "Parvar Digaar".

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

Mel & Steve do the sharia shuffle ...

Here’s a rather funked-up summary of the interview between Melanie Phillips and Stephen Crittenden (or should that be vice versa?) that appeared recently on Radio National’s The Religion Report. The purported subject was a recent speech on religion and secular law delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The real subject was why everyone should become scared sh*tless of anyone who doesn’t blame all the ills of the world on sharia.

STEVE: Yoh, sis. Sharia sux badly! ‘Em bloody Moslems wanna establish demselves as a separate entity. That Ro-bro Williams fella like dis kinda stuff ‘coz it’s da happnin thang in his own church. Yoh tell, Mel. You waz there at da lecture. Give us the low-down run-down.

MEL: Yeah, like innit! These nasty Moslems ain’t happy with da English common law. For that reason, they wanna impose dis parallel jurisdiction sh*t on us, a kind of supplementary jurisdiction. Dis is da Islamisation by stealth. Them Moslems are gettin married two three times and doin dat dangerous sharia-compliant mortgage sh*t where da interest amputated from da loan and sh*t.

STEVE: Sh*t, man! What else did da funky Ro-bro say?

MEL: Man, don’t ask me. I waz like way spaced out, man. I borrowed some stash from dat Winehouse sista. Man, when you sniff up her stash-a-hash, you get some pure stuff. Like implementin sharia. Man, you can’t just pick and choose and mix it all up. Once it’s there, you just can’t control it. OK, I hear there are liberal interpretations of Islam, but then how can a non-Moslem like moi talk about dat liberal sh*t? But I so spaced out, I wanna give this f#cktup fatwa: Everywhere sharia has been applied in the world at the moment, the more authoritarian, draconian form holds sway. Dat’s right, bro. Everywhere.

STEVE: Yoh, sis, you freakin’ me out wid dat sh*t.

MEL: Dat’s not all, bro Stevie. Here’s one more fatwa: we already haz da situations where we got lotsa honour killings, honour-based violence, sexual violence, gender violence against women and dat sh*t. Man, all dis is rooted in da view dat women is having half the value of men. Dis sh*t is rooted in Islam.

STEVE: But man, sis, I don't think all dem Moslems agree. What you say to dem, sis?

MEL: I tell yah, Stevie. Any genuine Moslem scholar who challenges my f#cktup fatwas are just doin spindoctorin as if dey are to be true reformers. Bro, you know da reality dey are subtle and sophisticated operators with dubious records and are banned from entering the US of A and France coz dey havin links to extremists.

STEVE: You sayin, sis, dat dey havin links to you?

MEL: No, bro Stevie. I say day havin links to da wrong kinds extremists. Da cure is to stop readin their books and start readin mine!

STEVE: Thanks for coming on da show, sis.

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

LETTER: A response to the anti-Williams pundits ...

A New Zealand academic and widely published author on religion sent me a letter he had submitted for publication in The Press (a Christchurch newspaper) in response to an op-ed recently published (and now republished at Online Opinion). That letter reads as follows ...

In view of the brouhaha about Archbishop Rowan’s lecture relating to Muslim Shari‘a law, I googled it and read it. I found it to be thoughtful, well informed and almost unreadable. Far from simply calling for the recognition of the Sharia, he reflects on what the implications of such a move might be and how it might be done, as well as discussing various issues of both Sharia and Western law. Basically he seems to say that any recognition of the Sharia would have to leave the secular state with power to enforce basic human rights and would have to give individual Muslims the right to choose whether to live under Sharia law or secular law. It is a shame his lecture was not written in a more accessible way and a double shame that some commentators have substituted shrill condemnation for an effort to understand.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

UPDATE/COMMENT: Recent stuff related to Rowan Williams and Sharia ...

There has been some interesting commentary on the issue of the Archbishop's speech on sacred and secular law. I've printed out the Archbishop's speech from his website, and it comes to 6 A4 pages in small type. It's a very difficult and esoteric read, and I'm only upto page 4.

What I notice is that in each place the Archbishop talks about the possible application of sharia, he also mentions Orthodox Jewish sacred law. Those who claim that Islamic law and the English common law are mutually exclusive should consider that their objections equally apply to the sacred law and jurisprudence of Orthodox Judaism.

It's particularly amusing when commentators of Jewish background (such as Melanie Phillips) condemn the Archbishop without bothering to read his speech. The caustic remarks Ms Phillips makes about sharia are equally applicable to Jewish sacred law. Islamic jurisprudence doesn't have a monopoly on capital punishment for sexual crimes or on apparently sexist family and estate laws.

A Muslim view on the issue can be found here. The author notes that Muslim response to the Archbishop's proposals has generally been negative.

My own views on this latest cultural mass debate are expressed here and here.

An Australian Christian cleric has defended the Archbishop at ABC Unleashed here. According to this report in the Financial Times ...

Church of England representatives on Monday rallied round the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, after he publicly repented for the “distress and misunderstanding” caused by his stance on Islamic law ...

The assembled delegates – over 450 bishops, clergy, and lay men and women – rose almost to a person to applaud Dr Williams as he addressed them and gave him a similarly warm ovation after the speech.

Dissenters were muted and those who called for his resignation were reduced to a minority of two.

“Dr Williams has shown outstanding leadership and signalled that the Church must move on from this controversy,” said Nicholas Reade, the bishop of Blackburn.
No doubt the comments and criticisms will continue. The irony is that sharia and English law had been interacting in England's colonial possessions for centuries. Funny how some people conveniently overlook that.

Personally, I must say i do have some serious reservations about any proposal to recognise sharia or other sacred law that does not provide the parties with an appeal mechanism. Naturally, I am very opposed to even the partial implementation of sharia-based (or indeed any) capital punishment.

I also think that Muslims who believe sharia-based tribunals can and should operate in a common law jurisdiction should study the Beth Din model and see how it operates. The Beth Din model has been particularly useful in resolving disputes involving religious institutions as well as civil disputes. Given how busy our courts are and the waiting lists involved, I'm sure secular courts would appreciate any assistance they could receive from any method of alternative dispute resolution!

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

COMMENT: Brendan Nelson declares war on the Beth Din

Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a speech in which he argued that certain religious communities should be allowed to refer their disputes to religious tribunals located outside the court system. He gave the example of orthodox Jews who refer many of their civil law disputes to the Beth Din.

Often secular courts are asked to rule on Beth Din decisions. Generally, these decisions are confirmed on the basis that the parties agreed to submit to the Beth Din’s religious authority. Hence, the Beth Din decision effectively represents an agreement by the parties in dispute.

Dr Nelson isn’t happy with this approach to the law. He argues that those who come to Australia should accept the law as it is. In his view, that means submitting to the existing court system. Here's what he told ABC recently ...

The idea that in some way you would change your basic values, culture and law to accommodate some people who feel that they don't want to see themselves as Australians first, above all else - under no circumstances would I support that.

I guess that means bye-bye Beth Din. I wonder how Nelson’s Jewish voters will respond to that.

Still some will argue that the Beth Din should be allowed because Jews are part of the allegedly dominant ‘Judeo-Christian’ mainstream in Australia. I wonder how Australia's former Chief Rabbi responds to such a suggestion. Here's what he said in a speech in July last year ...

Consider the so-called “Judeo-Christian Tradition” or its other name, “The Judeo-Christian Ethic”, neither of which actually matches the reality.

If there were really a Judeo-Christian tradition, we would basically be the same – almost clones of each other – with only cultural baggage to differentiate us. But that is not how it works.

Judaism and Christianity have a common origin in the Hebrew Scriptures, but they read the texts quite differently. They believe in God, but they view Him and His nature through different lenses.

They have a story, but it is two stories: a concept of man, but it is two concepts. They are ethical religions, but their ethics, as Ahad HaAm pointed out, are widely apart in emphasis.

Their ideas about man’s nature, salvation and destiny are far apart. For Christianity, Jesus is crucial (in every sense of the word): in Judaism, though a Jew, he does not figure. Christianity, as Leo Baeck argues, prefers “the finished statement” of dogma: Judaism, “the unending process of thought”.

Judaism and Christianity both lay claim to the truth, but there are rival versions of the truth. And we haven’t even started looking beyond Judaism and Christianity ...

Arthur A. Cohen argues in “The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition” that there is not only no tradition of religious brotherhood but a tradition of theological enmity.

The so-called Judeo-Christian tradition is, he contends, a myth produced by Christian guilt and Jewish neurasthenia to obscure the basic fact that Christians and Jews, to the extent that they are seriously Christians and seriously Jews, are theological enemies.
So much for a Judeo-Christian culture.

One can only conclude from all this that Dr Nelson insists that all of us submit our disputes to secular courts. Further, secular courts should not rule on matters referred by religious courts. Anyone who isn't happy with that clearly doesn't regard themselves as Australian first.

Australian first. Or should that read Australia First? Perhaps Dr Nelson is in the wrong party.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, February 11, 2008

UPDATE: Stuff published elsewhere ...

An alternative view of the recently deceased Padraic McGuinness can be found at the ABC Unleashed portal by clicking here. Also on ABC Unleashed is a comment on why conservatives should be the first to apologise to the Stolen Generation.

There was a piece in The Age on the so-called jihad sheilas which can be found here. A slightly shorter version was published in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

CRIKEY: ABC's Jihad Sheilas have only themselves to blame ...

The ABC documentary Jihadi Sheilas broadcast on the evening of 5 February 2007 profiled two very confused women from troubled backgrounds sucked into the whirlpool combining emotional trauma with jihadist politics.

These women were among many Muslim converts in the 1980s swept away in the hysteria of the US-backed Afghan war against the Soviets. That war was fought by a loose coalition of Afghan tribal militias and a more organised band of Arab fighters led by, amongst others, a man who should really be known as Usama bin Reagan.

Many Western converts left that conflict spiritually scarred and disillusioned with the so-called jihad which, following Soviet withdrawal, descended into brutal tribal civil war. But a small minority, including those with whom Rabiah Hutchinson and Raisa bint Alan Douglas associated, now turned their weapons toward their American ex-backers.

The documentary showed just how easy it is for the wrong set of dominoes to tumble in the lives of desperate converts with few support mechanisms outside the tiny paranoid radical fringe. I remember the period in which these women adopted Islam as one where mainstream Muslim religious institutions were most unwelcoming to converts. It was also a time when two competing forces of political Islam – the US-backed jihadi form of wahhabism and the Iranian revolutionary form of Shi’ism – competed with each other for the hearts and minds of zealous youth and converts.

Many converts I know went through the phase these two women are still afflicted by. However, the spread of mainstream Islam (and with even the Saudi government seeking an alternative to discredited jihadi-wahhabist neo-Conservative theology) has meant most converts have moved on.

Even after making allowances for unfriendly editing, the most damning statements were made not by the assortment of "experts" but by the women themselves. One claimed that Muslim women are attracted to men who carry the sword and espouse jihad. Yeah, right. Speak for yourself, honey. The same woman also claimed Usama bin Reagan took on a pure form of Islam. A bit like suggesting Opus Dei represent pure Catholicism.

The other woman claimed Afghan people want Islam (by which she meant Taliban rule). I encourage her to tell that to Afghan Hazara refugees whose family members were tortured and murdered by the Taliban and whose villages were destroyed because they were Shia. Presumably, like most followers of the jihadist version of wahhabism, she regards Shia Muslims as infidels who can be legitimately put to the sword.

With so much material emerging from the horses’ mouths, one wonders why the documentary makers would compromise the credibility of their work by citing discredited neo-Conservative cultural warriors like Steven Emerson.

One chap named Sheuer, allegedly a CIA operative, claimed Yemen was "a place where radical Islam is taught". It is also a place where Western students go to learn Arabic and classical Islamic sciences such as Sufism which are shunned by jihadi-wahhabis. You won’t see mainstream Yemeni Islamic scholars like these guys spouting terror.

What many Muslims will find grossly insulting was the constant replay of the Islamic call to ritual worship (known as the adhaan) and the images of the Koran’s Arabic text. Repeatedly these two universal symbols of Islam accompanied images of the burning Twin Towers and other acts of terror. Were the producers trying to send a message that the adhaan is a call to arms? That the Koran was a terrorist training manual?

After watching the women rant on about the boob-jobs of female ASIO agents and claim their fringe version of Islam is truer than all others, I concluded that the Prophet Muhammad was right when he said (more or less):

The best of people inside Islam were once the best of people outside Islam.

Which implies that dysfunctional people outside Islam rarely change after adopting the faith.

These women weren’t made dysfunctional by Islamic theology. Sadly, many viewers will now see all Muslim converts through the prism of the Jihad Sheilas.

(A version of this piece was first published in the Crikey daily alert for Wednesday 6 February 2008.)

UPDATE 1: A colleague of mine sent me the following response to this piece ...

Fantastic response. Hit the nail on the spot. The documentary made me feel physically ill. The two women pissed me off so much and i'm afraid it wasn't a case of 'misquoted'. Crass, vulgar, stupid, brainwashed and misinformed don't change, no matter how long the hijab or how many 'ya Allahs' sprinkled into the conversation. The one who had married 5 men- been a 2nd wife to 2, annoyed me the most. Kids to different dads, with 4 divorces. Felt strangely like a run-of-the-mill trailer-trash story except lo and behold she's converted to Islam and simply whacked on the abaya.
UPDATE 2: Another colleague sent this message ...

Thanks for writing this piece. I couldn’t bring myself to watch this garbage last night – I need to watch my blood pressure. Several of my colleagues were concerned about what they had seen on the ABC last night but thankfully, talked about their concerns... with me and another Muslim in the team. I’ll be forwarding your article to them also.

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

EVENT: Maz hits Mexico …

Attention All Melbournians!! You seriously cannot afford to miss Maz Jobrani. This dude is one of the funniest Americans to perform this side of the equator. Not bad for an Iranian!

You can read more about Maz here. His Sydney show on Saturday night 2 February 2008 was an absolute hoot. Yes, there was a large Iranian/Persian element in the audience, but they certainly were not the majority. Maz attracted people from across the ethnic and religious spectrum with his simple message of culturally “mixing it up”. If only John and Janette Howard could have been there. They might have actually learned something!

So stop what you’re doing, siddown, shuddup, grab your laptop and purchase a ticket online for tonight, Sunday 3 February 2008 before they all sell out. It’s his only performance in Melbourne and the last gig of his current Australian tour. Don’t miss out!!

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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