Saturday, June 12, 2010

POLITICS: Oh my God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If someone had told me a decade ago that my politics would be this ...

My Political Views
I am a left moderate social libertarian
Left: 3.61, Libertarian: 2

Political Spectrum Quiz

... there's a possibility I would have shot them and/or myself.

Or perhaps I never was as conservative as I thought. Was I always a feel-good liberal hippy only interested in sowing the seeds of love?

Was I really only ever selectively conservative. Perhaps it's time to start writing the political sequel to this ...

UPDATE I: One of my admirers sent in this balanced comment for moderation:

The women of the world want you to kill yourself so that there is absolutely no danger of any of the sisterhood being sexually abused by you anymore. The test-tube scientists of the world want you to kill yourself so that there is no danger of your flawed genetic material being passed onto some new life form. Irfan it is well known that any opinion you might temporarily hold is purely the result of your own delusions and the varying effects of psychiatric pharmaceuticals. Existing as the most grotesque fat black freak in Australia does not entitle you to have a political opinion. Australian humans are entitled to any political opinion. You are not.

Thank you, Douglas Darby!

UPDATE II: Another message for moderation.

It's sad that your political views mirror your life situation as a nasty little social outcast, vicious gossip and a dependent needy lonely screw-up. It's not too late to give yourself an abortion with a massive overdose of psychiatric medication and an attention-seeking self-immolation. Your self-hatred and dislike of all humanity is the reason you continue to torture yourself and all Australians by continuing to exist. You are not going to get any happier by eating yourself to death so just have some dignity for the first time in your sad and lonely life and end it.

I love you too, Doug.

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OPINION: Who Made The Dogs Bark?

This article was first published in NewMatilda on 6 September 2006.


Howard and Costello's comments about Australian Muslims are classic examples of the dog whistle, writes Irfan Yusuf.

On 1 September, on Radio 2GB, there was the following dialogue between Prime Minister John Howard and a talkback caller:

PRIME MINISTER: what I want to do is to reinforce the need for everybody who comes to this country to fully integrate and fully integrating means accepting Australian values, it means learning as rapidly as you can the English language, if you don’t already speak it, and it means understanding that in certain areas, such as the equality of men and women, the societies that some people have left were not as contemporary and as progressive as ours is.

And I think people who come from societies where women are treated in an inferior fashion have to learn very quickly that that is not the case in Australia. That men and women do have equality and they’re each entitled to full respect. I think Australia has benefited enormously from immigration

[A]nd I think there is a section, a small section of the Islamic population and I say a small section and I’ve said this before which is very resistant to integration. And this is a worry of their community as much as it is of the rest of the community.

RADIO PRESENTER, CHRIS SMITH: Is there own community doing enough to tell and weed out these people?

PRIME MINISTER: Some are, some are, and some aren’t. Most of the Islamic people I know are as appalled by the attitude of a small minority as you are and I am. But there are some who see appeals for people to fully integrate into the Australian community, they try and turn that into some kind of act of discrimination against them and I think that’s the sort of thing [the CALLER] is reacting against and she’s quite right to do so.

Howard was still defending his comments at the time I wrote a response published in the Canberra Times. On the same day, he climed to have ‘clarified’ his comments.

As usual, Howard was testing the waters. He was blowing a whistle and testing how loud the dogs barked. And boy, did the dogs bark loudly!

Sheik Rupert bin Murdoch’s Limited News went crazy. The Australian’s Dick Kerbaj started the howling his sub-editors giving his 1 September article the explosive headline: ‘PM Tells Muslims to Learn English.’ (The fact that most Muslims speak better English than Kerbaj speaks Arabic didn’t occur to the headline writers.)

Piers Akerman followed closely behind, showing off his Arab cultural expertise by claiming Syrian-born female psychiatrist Dr Wafa Sultan was really a bloke. (He now claims it was a typo.)

The headlines flowed thick and fast the Daily Telegraph’s Luke McIlveen exaggerating both the PM’s words and some Muslim responses.

Predictably, Peter Costello tried to out-Howard Howard, while the PM himself went in the other direction telling every man and his Middle Eastern dog more or less that ‘99 per cent of Muslims make really good hommus! Only 1 per cent add extreme garlic!!’

On Sunday night, I was relaxed and comfortable in Canberra watching re-runs of Family Guy when Channel 9’s Today Show phoned to ask me to go head-to-head with Andrew Bolt. I reluctantly agreed.

The next morning, a limousine picked me up and took me to the Canberra studio of WIN-9. They hooked me up with a microphone, though there was no screen for me to see either Bolt or my interviewer Karl Stefanovic.

This was supposed to be a cultural show-down, an old-fashioned ‘death match’ from the days of World Championship Wrestling, beamed live across Australia and New Zealand. I was to be the dude defending non-English speaking, wife-beating Mullahs. Bolt was meant to be the reasonable Dutchman defending good ol’ Aussie values.

They played Costello’s sound bite in which he basically said that Muslim leaders need to condemn terrorism so that Muslim converts could get the message that real Islam isn’t a radical violent political ideology. It was the first time I’d heard it. I was shocked. How could this brilliant industrial lawyer now shoot himself in the foot again?

Here’s how the conversation went, more or less:

KARL: Let me start with you, Irfan. In what sense is Peter Costello wrong in suggesting Muslim migrants should preach true Islam and condemn terrorism?

ME: Well, Karl, I have to tell you that I can find nothing wrong in Costello’s statement you just aired.

BOLT: Well I’m really pleased to hear that, Irfan, but there are still crazy clerics and their interpreters opposing the PM and Costello. When will you Muslims oppose these radical clerics?

ME: Andrew, you are right as well. There are extreme clerics threatening people’s lives. There are clerics preaching terror. Then there are clerics opposing stem-cell research that could save people’s lives. There are even clerics threatening the health and lives of women by lobbying to limit access to abortion for those who genuinely need it. It’s terrible!

KARL: Andrew, what do you say about that?

I couldn’t see what happened next, but I could hear Bolt jamming the word ‘Hezbollah!’ into each sentence as many times as possible. I sat back and tried not to snigger. Karl called it game, set and match.

Back in the Channel 9 limo, I switched on my phone. Calls arrived in quick succession from Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Allah-knows where else. They were all from women : ‘Good on you. That bastard is so anti-abortion!’ ‘Well done for exposing the real extremists!!’

(OK, I’ll admit they were from my buddies.)

So Howard and Costello have placed the final nail into the anti-Muslim hate speech coffin. Their combined message can be summarised as follows:

Ninety-nine per cent of Muslims are perfectly integrated, speak English, adopt Australian values, and treat women as badly as the rest of us do. Converts need pastoral support to understand Islam isn’t violent or terroristic.

Thanks, John and Pete.

Now the Bolts and Akermans and Albrechtsens and Stones and Steyns and Sheehans and Devines have lost 70 per cent of their content. They can no longer say Muslims have inherently violent misogynistic cultures, or claim Islam is inherently violent, without directly contradicting their political masters.

It also means that Howard and Costello have effectively dismissed Rupert Murdoch’s suggestion that Western Muslims are likely to suffer from dual loyalties. Because every time they make such claims, I’ll be quoting Howard & Costello.

And throwing in a few stem cells for good measure!

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

OPINION: The Gift of Right Wing Humour

The following article was first published in NewMatilda on 30 April 2009.


Political satirist PJ O'Rourke was warmly welcomed by conservatives on his recent visit to Australia. That is, until he cracked that joke about how we should open our borders to asylum seekers.

The problem with the Right is not that it is at odds with progressives or Democrats. The problem with the Right is that it is at odds with reality. It is at odds with facts, with evidence, with science. And that’s why it has been so dangerous. And that’s why it has been so discredited.

That assessment of the Right by former Republican Party partner (and now new-media matriarch) Arianna Huffington before the last US presidential election might easily be applied to Australian conservatives, be they political parties, publications or even think-tanks.

But Australian conservatism has a different kind of parochialism to its American equivalent. Our conservatives aren’t just pro-life and pro-war simultaneously, nor are they uniformly anti-science and obsessed with the teaching of "intelligent design" in schools. Our conservatives manifest their parochialism somewhat differently.

When they’re not beating their chests about religious and cultural issues, some conservatives prefer to pretend they’re radical by challenging what they see as the new orthodoxy of a nebulous group known as "the Left". The editorial writers for The Australian, that elite bastion of anti-elitism, heralded the arrival of American humorist PJ O’Rourke in an editorial published on 25 April. They claimed that "much of what [O’Rourke] said this week would have upset supporters of the accepted wisdom" in relation to the free market and the role of governments in helping us out of the recession. Unlike Kevin Rudd, and like New Zealand’s PM John Key, O’Rourke understands that "economics is about the way the world is, not the way we want it to be".

Janet Albrechtsen, leaping at the opportunity to talk about how clever and witty the Right can be, gleefully cajoled "the hard left of politics" (as in one Margot Saville) to "laugh with us". PJ’s visit is perhaps the first time she’s had a good laugh since her "man of steel" lost the federal election and his own seat, and since US voters elected a man whom Janet’s side of politics doesn’t exactly like.

Still, why should I be surprised? I mean, who better than the employees of an American-owned newspaper to toast a visiting American? I myself am not an American, nor am I employed by Americans. Indeed, the only passport I’ve ever held is an Australian one, and I’m not about to give it up even for the pleasure of owning a few US media assets. But as a long-time fan of PJ O’Rourke, I also wish to join in the chorus of those having a good chuckle at his gags.

However, my aim isn’t to laugh with Janet Albrechtsen and her buddies. Rather, I want to laugh at them. Janet has been among those leading the charge against nasty Afghan, Iraqi and Sri Lankan asylum seekers jumping the invisible (and indeed fictitious) queue and paying people smugglers to transport them to our shores.

happily challenged supporters of the accepted conservative wisdom on asylum seekers and miscellaneous dark-skinned riff-raff when he appeared on ABC TV’s Q&A program last Thursday. In what was a very wise and very funny performance, O’Rourke’s analysis on the show about how we should deal with asylum seekers outshone even David Marr’s.

So what does PJ say about asylum seekers? What does he say about how conservatives in America deal with the issue? While fellow panellist Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop was frothing at the mouth that "since last August there has been an increase in the number of people arriving by boat" and how "the people smugglers are back in business", PJ had this to say:

You know, we in the States have much, much more experience with being all wrong about immigration than you do. I mean 36,000 you said in Italy? … We laugh. That’s a day in the United States. And we are so wrong about it. I mean, build a fence on the border with Mexico, give a huge boost to the Mexican ladder industry, you know […] the thing is when somebody gets on an exploding boat to come over here - they’re willing to do that to get to Australia - you’re missing out on some really good Australians if you don’t let that person in.

With righteous indignation, Julie Bishop made some indistinct noises about smugglers. To which PJ responded:

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. You know, if you open your borders, you don’t have people smugglers.

Then PJ did something that will probably put him in the bad books of many in Australia’s conservative establishment. He actually suggested Indigenous people might have something to say about all this.

I’m not seeing any Aborigines on the panel here. I am not a Comanche or a Sioux. You know, my people came over to the United States in a completely disorganised way. Doubtless by way of people smugglers […] I really believe in immigration … Let them in. Let them in. These people are assets. [O]ne or two of them might not be, but you can sort them out later … Oh, I think conservatives are getting this wrong all over the world, I really do.

And when Bishop finally pleaded for an "orderly migration system", O’Rourke wondered whether such a system would have turned back his ancestors.

O’Rourke’s commonsense approach may be the kind of feel-good pinko-lefty elitist inner-city nonsense one would expect of the Fairfax/ABC cabal. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why, when the Australian had so much else to say in support of PJ’s take on the world, that paper didn’t even canvass, let alone champion, PJ’s views on asylum seekers. Weren’t the jokes funny enough? Or is PJ just one of those "moralising elites"? Do Janet and her colleagues lack a sense of humour? Or (to use Huffington’s analysis), are they simply at odds with facts, with evidence and with reality?

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

POLITICS/COMMENT: Religious Freedom in the Land of the Free ...

This column was first published in NewMatilda on 17 January 2008.


Barack Obama could convert to Judaism, have a sex-change operation and marry Daniel Pipes. He’d still be eligible for the top job, writes Irfan Yusuf

Here’s a memo to all you God-fearing American voters out there: Barack Obama is not a Muslim. He never has been, even if his biological father was a Kenyan Muslim and his step-father was an Indonesian Muslim. And even if he went to school in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority State.

So what exactly is Obama’s religious affiliation? Who knows? Indeed, who cares?

No Mormons please, we’re evangelical

Believe it or not, many Americans do. Just ask all those evangelical Christian Republican voters in Iowa who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the smart and talented Mitt Romney, and that minority of Michigan Republicans who refused to vote for him.

Romney might be a self-made man. He might bring much needed political skills to the White House. Unlike a certain Texan who once appointed John Howard as his Deputy Sheriff, Romney might actually be able to string a sentence together without inadvertently injecting too much wit and wisdom.

But forget all that important stuff. What really matters to a huge number of Americans is that Romney is — perish the thought — a Mormon. You wouldn’t think he was, would you? Romney doesn’t wear a black name badge on the front of his coat or even sing his amended version of that old Christopher Cross song (which goes something like “When you get caught between the moon and Salt Lake City ).

But I guess for evangelical warriors, Romney’s faith is a deliberate deception of all those poor God-fearing real Christians.

In my high school year, I had two close mates, one Jewish and another Mormon. Ours was a low-church evangelical Anglican school, and our school chaplain one day decided to show us all a video called The God Makers. The video claimed to expose Mormon teachings, which Mormons allegedly hide from the rest of us.

After the movie, some evangelical kids poked fun at my Mormon friend, saying: “What kind of stupid religion teaches that men can become God?"

My Jewish mate retorted: “I know. It’s almost as dumb as claiming God became a man!"

You’d think American Republicans would show more maturity than a couple of 16-year-olds.

No (former) Muslims please, we’re Neo-con

Romney may not be prepared to disown his ancestral faith, but Democratic candidate Barack Obama can’t get enough of disowning his. Obama has used every opportunity to reassure Americans that he has absolutely no trace of Islam in him.

Obama sees Christianity as a faith mobilising people to pursue social justice. In this respect, his vision is similar to that of our own Kevin Rudd. Further, Obama’s statement on faith clearly states that religion shouldn’t be used to divide the nation.

Given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers.

But all this doesn’t help Obama. As American Muslim stand-up comedian Azhar Usman told one audience:

Check this guy out. He’s first name rhymes with Iraq. His middle name is Hussein, and his last name is almost Osama!

If you believe what lunar-Right commentators like Daniel Pipes say, you’d think Muslims were lining up to kill Mr almost-Osama. On Christmas Eve, published a sectarian rant written by Pipes titled ‘Was Barack Obama a Muslim?’

Pipes concluded Obama was an ex-Muslim who converted to Christianity in his college years. Because of this, Pipes claims

Mainstream American Muslims … would … be angry at what they consider would be his apostasy.

I can’t find any evidence of mainstream American Muslims getting angry over Obama’s religious choices. Perhaps Pipes could show me the anger in this column by one of America’s most widely read Muslim writers?

Pipes doesn’t stop there. Eight days later, he provides evidence that ...

Obama was an irregularly practicing Muslim who rarely or occasionally prayed with his step-father in a mosque.

On that basis, Pipes titles his article ‘Confirmed: Barack Obama Practised Islam’.

On that basis, I can confirm that former Liberal Member for Parramatta, Ross Cameron, also practised Islam. On the day before his election to Federal Parliament in 1996, I took Cameron to a Friday prayer service. Cameron addressed worshippers, then joined them in prayers, copying all the postures of Islamic congregational worship. To this day, I’m not aware of a single Muslim from Parramatta or elsewhere who has threatened to kill Cameron for abandoning the faith.

Why God won’t get to vote in the US Elections

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson successfully moved Virginia’s Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom. In his autobiography, Jefferson praised the inclusiveness of the Statute which allowed for ...

... the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and the Infidel to play an equal role in public life.

Other Founding Fathers made clear the new federal republic would allow followers of all religions and none to hold high office. This has been enshrined in the US Constitution, which states...

... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

That means Hillary can become a Mormon, divorce Bill and become Mitt’s second wife. Obama can convert to Judaism, have a sex-change operation and marry Daniel Pipes. They’ll still be eligible for the top job.

American Neo-cons can only make an issue of a candidate’s faith by ignoring the clear intent of the Constitution. And to think they call themselves conservatives.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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COMMENT: Ayaan Hirsi Magaan and the Enlightenment

Ayaan Hirsi Magaan, the Dutch-Somali evangelical athiest and neo-conservative, has just published a second instalment of her memoirs entitled Nomad. She has some interesting things to say about her ancestral culture and faith. She also has some interesting things to say about her new faith which she calls the "Enlightenment".

Pankaj Mishra, writing in the New Yorker, has some interesting things to say about all this.

The book opens with an account of her visit to her father’s deathbed, in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, in 2008. Her father, a highly respected political opponent of Somalia’s Soviet-backed military dictator, became more religious during exile and old age. Father and daughter hadn’t spoken since 2004, when Hirsi Ali and van Gogh made the film “Submission,” about the oppression of Muslim women, and she learned that he was fatally ill only a few weeks before his death. She didn’t want to visit him at his home, since it was in “a mostly immigrant area and overwhelmingly Muslim,” ...

Yep, migrants are such a blight on society. If only her late father could have been more white for his daughter's sake.

The Muslims in Whitechapel “had brought their web of values with them,” values of a culture that she has left behind. She deplores her “conflicted” half sister Sahra, who is interested in studying psychology in London while remaining a devout Muslim, and who has an annoying habit of saying “Inshallah” after every phrase. “How long will Western societies . . . continue to tolerate the spread of Sahra’s way of life?” Hirsi Ali asks.

Clearly, the only real option for the West is intolerance.

“The only difference between my relatives and me is that I opened my mind,” Hirsi Ali writes.

Opened her mind to what? Well, obviously to Voltaire and the Enlightenment.

In denouncing Islam unreservedly, she has claimed a precedent in Voltaire—though the eighteenth-century scourge of the Catholic Church might have been perplexed by her proposal that Muslims embrace the “Christianity of love and tolerance.” In another respect, however, the invocation of Voltaire is more apt than Hirsi Ali seems to realize.

Voltaire despised the faith and identity of Europe’s religious minority: the Jews, who, he declared, “are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts,” who had “surpassed all nations in impertinent fables, in bad conduct and in barbarism,” and who “deserve to be punished.” Voltaire’s denunciations remind us that the Enlightenment was a much more complex and multifaceted phenomenon than the dawn of reason and freedom that Hirsi Ali evokes. Many followed Voltaire in viewing the Jews as backward, an Oriental abscess in the heart of Europe. Hirsi Ali, recording her horror of ghettoized Muslim life in Whitechapel, seems unaware of the similarly contemptuous accounts of Jewish refugees who made the East End of London their home after fleeing the pogroms.

The rhetoric is the same. The hatred is the same. Will the outcome be the same? Do Hirsi Magaan and her supporters want to see forced conversions of European Muslims to Catholicism as Jews were once foribly converted? Is their "enlightenment" incapable of accepting religious and cultural minorities? Does the European Right want a chance to shoot and gas 6 million European Muslims before they accept minorities as part of their community?

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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