Saturday, June 28, 2008

SPORT/COMMENT: Sexism and golf in John McCain's home state ...

Talk about gender exclusion! The New York Times reports on June 28 of a golf club in Phoenix which excludes persons who happen not to have a penis and two testicles from dining at its grill room. Indeed, women aren't even allowed to join their husbands for a meal there, even if their husbands are members.

And it seems this golf club isn't the only one. There's the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia (where the US Masters is held) that bars women from holding membership. And you thought the Lebanese Moslems Association was bad.

Back in Phoenix, there has been some resistance from Country Club members to the Club's exclusion policy. I mean, why shouldn't women be allowed to enjoy a piece of meat after shooting some balls?

OK, I admit that was lame. Still, it isn't as lame as the response of the Club.

When the men of the Phoenix Country Club saw their feeding ways in peril,
they did not tarry. Some sent nasty e-mail messages, hectored players on the
fairway and, for good measure, urinated on a fellow club member’s pecan

The targets of their ire were the women, and some men, who have dared to
speak up against the club’s policy of forbidding women in the men’s grill room,
a center of power dining in Phoenix.
Barbara Van Sittert, one of those women,
said her husband, Logan, 73, has been heckled while playing golf and once found
his locker defaced.

“They hooted and hollered at him and called his wife a whore,” said Mrs.
Van Sittert, 72, a petite, quiet woman with an elegant white bob. “It was not
warm and fuzzy.”

Quite. The wierd thing is that Arizona isn't exactly a huge men's club. Women hold powerful positions in John McCain's home state.

But here in Arizona, where the governor, secretary of state, chief justice
and Senate minority leader are women, it has rankled more than a few women that
nonmember men have more rights than paying female members at the Phoenix Country
Club, a century-old fixture in the city’s social and business life where it
costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to belong.

Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, is not a member of the club, but Dennis Burke, her
chief of staff, is. Mr. Burke has publicly opposed the separated dining rooms,
and in an interview called them “indefensible.” Senator
, Republican of Arizona, does not belong to the club but has spoken
there. (The McCain presidential campaign declined to comment on the separate
dining rooms.) According to a 2007 club directory, Mr. McCain’s son, Andrew, is
a member, along with scores of other notable Phoenix residents, including the
rocker Alice Cooper.

Alice Cooper playing golf? That's almost as awful a thought as him singing! Still, it is for charity.

Some members have complained and taken some kind of legal action. Indeed, one couple ...

... filed a complaint with the civil rights division of the Arizona
attorney general’s office, arguing that although the club is private and not
inherently subject to the state’s antidiscrimination laws, it is the equivalent
of a public accommodation because it receives much of its revenue from
nonmembers, in speeches, tournaments, Rotary Club meetings and the like.

And the outcome of this complaint?

Earlier this month, the attorney general’s office agreed with the couple,
issuing an advisory legal opinion that the club needed to comply with the
state’s antidiscrimination laws.

The office’s investigation, according to a copy of its findings, noted the
inadequacy of the women’s facility, while listing the lopsided benefits of the
men’s: three high-definition televisions, a buffet and a bar, and gorgeous views
of the course. (The office would not comment; parties in a civil rights
determination have 30 days to work out their differences privately.)

Apparently these decisions aren't binding. So this matter may reach the courts. I'd love to act as a lawyer for one of these wealthy parties!

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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UPDATE: Stuff published elsewhere ...

Apart from the op-ed published in the Canberra Times on 28 July 2008, there was some comment about the whole issue (or rather, non-issue) of polygamy in The Age here.

When it comes to racism, some conservatives just don't get it. You can about an incident in the United Kingdom related to this theme published in that wonderful website New Matilda here.

And what is it about human beings and pigeon holes? Check out the comments attached to the version of this article republished by the wonderful folk at Online Opinion here.

UPDATE I: Keysar Trad provides this response in a letter to The Age ...

IRFAN Yusuf's article "Just how many people are behind the polygamy push?" (Comment & Debate, 27/6) is plainly wrong on many counts. It would have
taken a simple phone call to prove that Islamic Friendship Association members
are not all "Trads".

Unfortunately, I have become used to the defeatist response that if you cannot counter the argument, you attack the person presenting it. This shooting of the messenger does nothing to address real social issues, which in this case are not just Muslim issues, but issues of perhaps a third of society engaging in plural relationships.

Who is behind the "the polygamy push"? There is no push. There is an opinion, which I expressed, that my faith can offer a solution to people who find themselves in plural relationships. I have repeatedly stated that we have no interest in making any representations to the Federal Government to decriminalise the actions of people who take the responsibility for such relations.

Keysar Trad, Islamic Friendship Association of

Who is this "we", Keysar? And where is the evidence that a third of Australian society engages in what you describe as "plural relationships"? And in what sense is it a personal attack to argue that your views are not representative of mainstream Muslim opinion in Australia? Or that your association has no right to present itself as speaking in any representative capacity?

And how long must we wait before we see the Islamic Friendship Association having a spokesperson other than Keysar Trad? I won't be holding my breath ...

UPDATE II: Someone from an internet forum posted this response ...

"Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association (whose members, I suspect, share the same surname and hold dinner meetings each night in the same home)"
well skewered

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, June 27, 2008

OPINION: Stirring the plot with polygamy

I was catching up on the latest news of my ancestral sport when I noticed that India had just won a cricket match in the Asia Cup. I wasn't surprised by India winning, but I was surprised by who they were playing.

Hong Kong? Playing cricket? Surely this was a misprint. Since when did people in Hong Kong play cricket?

But why should I be surprised? After all, Hong Kong was once a British colony. And one would expect that at least some traces of British culture would remain even after Hong Kong was handed back to China.

Just as one would expect some Muslim men to marry more than one wife. Listeners to Triple J's Hack current-affairs program may have been similarly surprised to learn that some Muslims want the right for Muslim men to marry more than one wife.

President of the self-styled Islamic Friendship Association Keysar Trad even told a broadsheet newspaper that he had made serious attempts at it. He's a brave man to admit this to a national newspaper.

To its credit, The Australian reported the story quite fairly, as did the Fairfax papers. The News Limited tabloids, meanwhile, accompanied their stories with pictures of women in black burqas in various positions some kneeling in submission and others taking a stroll (presumably indoors). Is this a case of Rupert Murdoch's tabloid minions keeping a certain Saudi prince (who owns at least a 7 per cent stake in News Corporation) happy?

Lakemba Sheik Khalil Chami, who I understand doubles as Muslim chaplain for the Australian Federal Police, has called for Australia's marriage laws to be amended. His concern is that there are Muslim men who engage in polygamous marriages "off the record". They have their first marriage registered while any subsequent wives are the subject of purely religious ceremonies. Until the relevant time elapses, these women don't even have the protection of state and territory laws governing de facto relationships.

Chami says he has been approached by men asking him to perform second and third marriages. He has refused, and says many men seeking multiple marriage partners are inspired by less-than-altruistic motives.

But what happens if there are altruistic motives? What happens when a man is prepared to marry a woman to provide her with some much-needed support and in a socially respectable manner?

For many Australians, such notions of social justice may seem unusual. After all, if you're a man who wants to support another woman, why do you need to marry her?

But then, as Uncle Sam (the comedic character from SBS TV's new chat show Salam Cafe) would say, "Vye not?" Especially when we are talking about societies where reputation is everything and where women are almost always expected to hold to higher levels of sexual ethics than men.

I know of one case in Melbourne where a man entered into a polygamous marriage. The man's existing wife had a close friend who had converted to Islam and was in some difficulties with her family. The first wife permitted, indeed encouraged, her husband to marry the woman as a favour to her friend.

The polygamous marriage consisted purely of a marriage ceremony, though they had enormous trouble finding an imam to perform it. The marriage wasn't registered and sadly didn't last long. If it did, the second wife would have eventually gained the status of a de facto partner under Victorian law.

What surprised me was the response of Muslims in Melbourne. It was unequivocal and swift. The family was ostracised. Many of my male friends invited to the wedding, including some very observant Muslims, refused to attend for fear of offending their wives.

Turks were particularly scathing. Melbourne's Muslim community is largely dominated by Turks and Cypriots. Polygamy is banned in Turkey. Unlike the ban on women wearing hijabs to university, the polygamy ban is indicative of Turkish social attitudes.

The verses from the Koran dealing with polygamy have been interpreted in various ways. They don't provide absolute permission for men to marry more than one wife. The most generous reading would provide for conditional consent for a man to marry up to four wives if he could provide for them equally. Jurists of Islamic sacred law have applied this strictly to effectively mean that a man who builds a house for one wife is expected to build houses of identical cost and quality for his other wives. Little wonder polygamy is the exception rather than the rule in most Muslim societies.

The social justice considerations behind polygamous marriage do not exist in Australia. Our social-security safety nets provide at least some coverage to single-parent families in financial crisis.

Nor do we see much evidence of demand for changes to marriage laws from Muslims, Mormons or followers of other faiths often associated with polygamy. When not even observant Muslims are clamouring for polygamy, our marriage laws should remain as they are.

Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and associate editor of This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Friday 27 June 2008.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

CRIKEY: Media briefs and TV ratings: ... more polygamous fun

The polygamy circus continues.

The Herald Sun has added yet another crazy graphic to their story showing two women-in-black taking a stroll:

It also had a poll asking readers: "Should Muslims be allowed to have more than one wife?" As at 1:27am, after some 104 votes were cast, 71% answered yes. I reckon it was the work of Turkish soccer fans getting tipsy on arak whilst waiting up to watch the UEFA Cup semi-final. Not to be outdone, the Daily Telegraph added an extra 1.5 completely veiled faces to the graphic accompanying its story.

It’s great to see Sheik Rupert bin Murdoch's tabloids giving News Corp's Saudi shareholders some value for money.

To its credit, The Australian refused to join this hysterical bandwagon. It published two thoughtful pieces which covered the issues thoroughly and which mentioned that polygamy concerned Mormons as much as Muslims. The issue raised wider concerns about unregistered polygamous relationships, many of which are more a case of infidelity than religiosity. A wide variety of views were canvassed in what was quality journalism. I'd take off my burqa to Natalie O'Brien and Sian Powell, except that I don't wear one.

The Age's piece is also worth reading. The Sydney Morning Herald website, as far as I could see, largely ignored the issue. Fair enough. What's missing from all this is Uncle Sam from Salam Cafe asking Keysar Trad to perform a few on-the-spot polygamous marriages for him.

First published in the Crikey daily alert for Thursday 26 June 2008.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

MEDIA: Big Bruzzer?

Writing in The Independent on 23 June 2008, columnist Johann Hari tells us what reality TV can teach us about non-Christian faiths. In particular, he sees an increasing secularisation of Islam in Britain.
Reality TV has long shown a face of British
Islam that contrasts with the murderous smirk of the Tube-bomber Mohammed Sidiq
Khan. It gave us Chico Slimani, the buff, rippling ex-Chippendale who blagged
his way through The X-Factor; Kemal Shahin, the smart, tart young gay man who
dominated Big Brother 5; and Saira Khan, the feminist entrepreneur from The
Apprentice who refuses to let her religion be hijacked by "bearded old men from
the Middle East". They represent the first fragile shoots of a secularised Islam
that – like most Christianity and Judaism in Europe – can be shrunk until it is
a matter of custom and private conscience.

Hari makes the distinction between secularists and fundamentalists. His definitions aren't extremely precise, but then precision isn't the easiest thing to locate in religion.

Anyway, what happens when a so-called fundamentalist teams up with another Muslim we;d expect to be a fundamentalist? The results can be quite the opposite of what you'd expect. I'll let Hari do the typing ...
But on our reality TV shows, this has always
been a one-sided fight. Fundamentalists, by their you're-all-damned nature, are
not inclined to take part in reality TV. Until now.

If you were told the biographies of Big
contestants Mohamed Mohamed and Alex De-Gale, you wouldn't find it
hard to guess which one is the fundamentalist. Mohamed was born in Somalia in
1985. When he was five years old, he saw his mother being held at gunpoint, and
thought she was going to die. Since then, he has spent most of his life fleeing
from one civil war to another – until, finally, he was granted asylum in
Britain. De-Gale was born in the same year in south London, to black British
parents. She is now a lithe accounts executive with high cheekbones, short
skirts, a BMW, and a seven-year old daughter she brings up on her

You guessed wrong. They wouldn't use these
terms, but Mohamed became a convinced secularist on the run from Somalia, while
Alex learned a Wahhabbi interpretation of Islam on the streets of Tottenham.
This emerged, as everything does on Big Brother, through a thicket of
trivia. Mohamed's birthday fell a week into his stay in the Big Brother house,
so the producers threw him a party, and let him pick the theme. Remembering a
fun night he'd had at university, he said he wanted the male housemates to dress
as women, and vice versa. Everyone cheered and howled for

Except Alex. "First and foremost," she said,
"I am a Muslim." And that meant the idea of a man dressing as a woman "made me
feel sick". Jabbing her finger and shouting, she said to Mohamed: "Tell it
to Allah [that] it's all in the name of fun. It's bad enough that we drink and
smoke ... You're supposed to be a Muslim man, someone I can look up to for
guidance. You will have my friends and family in uproar. I am disgraced by you
... 85 per cent of the people I know are Muslims. And trust me – the sheer
horror they would have experienced ... [You have] disgraced

"You can't tell me I'm a bad Muslim," Mohamed
replied. "I am old enough to be responsible for myself. Don't bring religion
into it!" She snapped back: "It is! There's nothing else!" Alex was so enraged
she announced she has "gangster friends" and, if she was evicted, "I get to go
out [and] see everyone's friends, I get to see their family. I get to do the
shit that I wanna do. Pow, pow, pow." This threat wasn't necessarily idle: Alex
has a restraining order against her after she waged a "hate campaign" against a
former friend.

In that little exchange, you see the contrast
between two understandings of Islam. I live in the middle of the Muslim East
End, and I see this raw, rubbing conflict being played out every

Alex believes that Islam offers Absolute
Judgements, immutably cast in stone in the Koran. These are (of course)
hellishly patriarchal, since they were formulated by illiterate desert merchants
in the seventh century AD. She has been taught there is "nothing else". Later,
she explained to another housemate that Islam forbids drinking and smoking.
"What can you do then?" he asked. "Pray." That's all. If you see somebody acting
in a way your pre-modern system judges to be "sick", is it perfectly moral to
threaten to kill them?

Mohamed, by contrast, sees the religion as
consisting of metaphors and moral guidance – and he thinks it has limits. There
are places it shouldn't go. "She always brings religion into an equation that
religion has nothing to do [with]," he said angrily. But what makes this
argument even more fascinating – turning it from a scene by George Bernard Shaw
into one by David Mamet – is the ambiguities within Alex's character. She howls
about the morals of seventh-century Arabia, when they would have her stoned to
death. Almost every Islamist I have met has this dissonance running through
them. The 9/11 hijackers went to a strip-bar and got drunk before staging their
cry for the construction of a Caliphate that would kill them for doing just
that. The "moral" vision they believe in is so inhuman even they can't follow it ...

So watch that row between Mohamed and Alex
again. It is a shouting match – "This is nothing to do with religion!" "Tell it
to Allah!" – playing out in a million variations in souqs and madrassahs and
Muslim homes across the world. Now that's what I call reality

Perhaps Australian Big Brother could follow suit. Maybe they could have polygamist-wannabe Keysar Trad going head-to-head against lawyer and author Randa Abdel-Fattah. Or former mufti of Lakemba Sheik Hilali up against Unkle Sam. Or yours truly intellectually wrestling feminist author and academic Shakira Hussein.

They can do what they want. I still wouldn't watch Big Brother on Channel 10. Seriously.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CRIKEY: Media brief - much ado about polygamy ...

Talkback bigots are having a field day with the AAP and ABC story about Sheik Khalil Chami and Keysar Trad, both of whom reckon marriage laws should be amended to allow for polygamy. The Herald-Sun’s website even has a graphic showing what appears to be a woman wearing a black veil kneeling.

I’m not sure where they got it from, but I haven’t seen many Aussie Muslim women wearing veils like that.

Most papers reported the story as "2 members of Sydney’s Islamic community". But The Australian decided to change this to "MEMBERS of Australia's Islamic community" (emphasis mine), as if the two individuals spoke on behalf of ALL 360,000-odd Aussies inclined to tick the "Muslim" box on their census forms.

Let’s see if Albrechtsen and/or Devine and/or Sheehan will write an opinion piece claiming Muslims are involved in a devious conspiracy to turn Australia into an Islamic caliphate run by some dude who probably looks like some dude George Negus likes to hug.

First published in the Crikey daily alert for Wednesday 25 June 2008.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, June 23, 2008

HUMOUR: Marriage guide ...

A reader recently sent me the following graph which provides a fairly accurate summary of gender relations within the confines of the traditional family unit.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

EVENT: Screening of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour ...

The nice folk at Cultural Media are putting on a filming of the popular Axis of Evil Comedy Show on Sunday 29 June 2008 at the family-friendly time of 4pm. The tour features a host of popular American comedians including Maz Jobrani. Entry is by donation of a gold coin. I'm not sure if e-tags will work. Book now because places are filling fast.

You can find out more about the tour and watch the comix in action here.

COMMENT: Anti-terror futility in Northern Ireland ...

Many of us think that the current “war on terror” is unprecedented. We are told that special circumstances call for special measures, that we are now traversing a new threat and that new measures are required to meet this threat.

But anyone familiar with the Northern Ireland conflict and the measures taken by the British government there over the decades leading to the recent settlement will know what nonsense such claims are.

In 1971, the British government introduced internment. This measure was similar to preventative detention under current anti-terror laws. The goal of internment was to contain separatist sentiment. Its results were otherwise. The ranks of the IRA were packed with disaffected working class youths and adults with any nationalist sentiment.

Internment was also accompanied with torture of select detainees. Five techniques were used, many of which were similar to allegedly new techniques used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Such humiliation and torture were common practice within the British army and had been used for centuries with approval at the highest level.

Very early in the Northern Ireland conflict, powers to stop and search, detain and arrest were extended throughout the UK. Thousands of innocent civilians went through humiliating experiences at airports and in the street. The few that were charged weren’t charged with terrorism offences but ordinary criminal offences.

The result was the creation of suspect communities in the UK. Virtually anyone who was Irish or had some connection to Ireland became a suspect. Often police acted on mere suspicion on the basis of a person’s accent or appearance.

Police-community relations are essential in fighting terrorism. Police rely on intelligence from the allegedly suspect communities. Arbitrary and draconian police powers alienate these very communities. You can hardly expect members of a community to provide police with information when they suspect that they or people they know could end up being the subject of arbitrary abuse of power or humiliation.

To be continued …

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

UPDATE: More of my crap ...

In case you have nothing better to do with your life, read about Maharaja Shane Warne, who might well become Bollywood's next dancing and miming sensation.

Rupert Murdoch has ordered Piersed Akumen to run in a Sydney by-election. Yeah, right. And pigs will fly, you say. Well, they certainly are flying in a seat in the English House of Commons. Click here to read about Uncle Rupert's candidate who is running on the platform of having people wipe their feet with the Magna Carta before walking into gaol for upto 42 days.

What is it with some American citizens? I reckon these guys might be onto something. Or if you don't like the song, perhaps try reading the book ...

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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CRIKEY: The Australian misses new uni funding scandal

A foundation directly linked to the Chinese Ministry of Education is providing half the funding for the University of Sydney’s new Confucius Institute. The funds involved are approximately $100,000 per year for “start-up costs”. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

China's consul-general, Shaofang Qiu, said Beijing would not take kindly to the institute hosting students or academics who were opposed to China's policies on Falun Gong or Tibet.

This isn’t the first time a foreign government has funded a foundation. The Australian ran a long series of articles and op-eds concerning a donation of $100,000 made by the Saudi embassy to the Griffith Islamic Research Unit (GIRU). You can read more about that fracas here, here and here.

The Oz brought out some expert heavyweights -- including a district court judge and three religious broadcasters -- to prove Saudi money always means only extremist Wahhabi teaching will be tolerated.

One of its reporters even claimed that GIRU’s head was a member of an allegedly secretive group (read about their secrets here) proved he was part of a giant Saudi conspiracy. The fact that the group in question has been declared heretical by Saudi religious authorities didn’t stop the hysteria.

In the case of GIRU, there was no indication from the Saudis or from Griffith University itself that there was an expectation that Saudi-style Islam would be taught or that views critical of Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be tolerated. Compare this to the situation with the Confucius Centre, where the Chinese consul-general has already declared that China wouldn’t tolerate criticism of his country’s human rights record.

Of course, it’s quite possible The Australian hasn’t picked up the story yet. By now, they must know about it. Let’s hope, for the sake of consistency, that our national broadsheet stirs up at least as big a ruckus as it did over Griffith Uni.

First published in the Crikey daily alert for 18 June 2008.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, June 16, 2008

MEDIA: Excerpts from pro-Action

Just over a decade ago, I started producing a conservative youth rag called pro-Action. The name was designed to steal the thunder of the official NSW Young Liberal rag which was called Action. The following is the first half of an article published in edition 2 of pro-Action, published at some time in 1996 ...

Pauline Hanson
… how should “ethnic” australians respond?

In her maiden speech, the Member for Oxley made remarks which appeared to offend persons of Asian and Aboriginal extraction. Ethnic community leaders have expressed outrage and righteous indignation at her comments. Meanwhile, the press and media are almost suggesting that Ms Hanson speaks for a silent undercurrent of “mainstream Australia” (whatever that means).

Personally, I find Ms Hanson somewhat of a non-entity. She really doesn’t deserve the attention she is receiving. Her views are ill-informed and simply do not accord with present economic, social and political realities.

But I don’t think that political correctness and labelling is going to be sufficient to deal with the points she has raised in her maiden speech. In this regard, I don’t believe certain ethnic community “leaders” have done great service to their communities by their reactions to Ms Hanson.

What all Australians should understand is that there is a genuine constituency for the sorts of views which Messrs
[Graeme] Campbell [former Federal Member for Kalgoolie] and Hanson espouse. This is a fact we have to accept. We also have to accept and expect that this constituency will want to be represented in Parliament. Australians of all persuasions deserve to find representation in our national parliament.

Naturally, we would like to keep this constituency as small as possible. And yet by getting so uptight over Ms Hanson and by attacking her personally, some ethnic “leaders” are actually generating sympathy for Ms Hanson. In doing so, they are actually increasing the size of her constituency and the number of her supporters.

Politically correct labelling is simply not going to work anymore. Australians are tired of the labelling of controversial individuals by their opponents. Most of us watched quite dazed and perturbed at the vicious treatment received by Helen Darville (though I was amused when a Ukranian organisation threatened Darville critics with action under racial vilification legislation). Desperate and immature labelling is simply not going to gain sympathy for anyone other than the person labelled.

What supporters of immigration and multiculturalism need to do is to tell the community the facts about immigration. We need to explain to Australians the economic and social benefits of our large migration program. We need to remind Australians that the only other nation to accept migrants with as open arms as us is now the most powerful and wealthy nation on earth (“give me your tired, your weary …")

[Clearly I’d never heard of Canada or Brazil in 1996.]

To be continued …

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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COMMENT: Discovering paternal prejudice ...

Last spring, I started a spring clean of my office. That was 2007. It’s now winter 2008, and I’m still at it. I’ve just pulled out an essay that I started reading years ago. Perhaps as long ago as 2002.

The essay is by Mira Kamdar and is entitled The Struggle for India's Soul. It was first published in the Fall 2002 edition of the World Policy Journal.

The article is a reflection on the rise of religious prejudice in India, and how it is infecting even otherwise educated and tolerant middle-class Indians. It's a topic that I find very uncomfortable talking about, given my own SOuth Asian background. It's always hard to openly recognise and identify the log in one's own eye.

Kamdar talks at some length about her "immigrant Gujarati father" who is "a liberal Democrat" yet at the same time "a supporter of Hindu fascism". She discusses how Hindutva as a political ideology has become a tool for those wishing to transform India into a religious state.

Hindutva is the ideology of the Sangh Parivar, an amalgam of groups which includes the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, now India’s ruling party; the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS; the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP; and the Bajrang Dal. The BJP plays the role of the moderate, mainstream entity, friendly to multinational capital and mature enough to lead India onto the global stage of the great powers, against the RSS’s frankly fascist youth corps activities, the VHP’s worldwide propaganda machine, and the Bajrang Dal’s street-level enforcement and terror gangs.

I've been told by a number of sources that Liberal Party MP's and organisational officials regularly attend gatherings organised by the Australian branch of the VHP.

Kamdar goes into great length about the massacre that took place in Gujarat in March 2002. She writes of ...

... the participation in the violence of large numbers of white-collar, educated men, and the presence of middle-class women, who screamed filthy insults at the Muslims and cheered on male attackers as they targeted members of the Muslim elite: business owners, academics, lawyers, former legislators ... In Ahmedabad, Ehsan Jafri, a poet and former Congress Party MP, was burned alive at his home, along with several members of his family, despite a series of desperate cell phone calls to the authorities for help.

Kamdar acknowledges that extremists from all sides participate in such massacres. What troubles her is that such extremism is now becoming mainstream even in middle class circles in India.

Kamdar wrote this essay in 2002. She has just released a book Planet India, and it would be interesting to see if she maintains the pessimism she felt some 6 years ago.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, June 13, 2008

MUSIC: She Will Be Loved ...

The amazing Kate Ceberano has a new album entitled so much beauty. She is an amazing live performer. For what it's worth, I last saw Kate perform last year at the Sydney Jazz Festival before a large crowd at Darling Harbour.

Click the arrow to watch her do wonders with this old track.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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