Sunday, October 24, 2010

VIDEO/IRAQ: Lengthy report on the Secret Iraq files ...

VIDEO/COMMENT: John Howard's war of liberation ...

According to his recently released memoirs, John Howard says that the Australian Labor Party was absolutely wrong to oppose the invasion and war in Iraq. Why?

John Howard says it was "inconceivable" that Australia would not back the US in Iraq ...

The former Liberal prime minister charges the Labor Party with lacking conviction, hiding behind the UN and outsourcing its foreign policy to the Russians and French on the Security Council.

It's all about alliances. Human beings don't seem to matter. I'm not aware of a single occasion where Howard expressed even a word of sympathy for Iraqi victims. Indeed, any Iraqi victim who managed to escape and make it to our shores was thrown into detention.

As for the ones who couldn't escape ...

Mr Howard should remember some of the families mentioned in this clip next time he goes for a drive with Janette.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

COMMENT: Tim Soutphommasane on multiculturalism in Australia

Tim Soutphommasane is one of the few regular opinion writers for The Australian who is not certifiably mad. He has penned an interesting comparison between Australian and German multiculturalism in response (it seems) to angela Merkel's statement at one of her Party's gatherings that multiculturalism has "utterly failed".

(From my limited knowledge of German history, the last time multiculturalism failed there was when Germany's political leadership decided that people from certain undesirable backgrounds should be rounded up and shot or gassed or have nasty medical experiments performed upon them. Yep, nothing like a good dose of Western European Enlightenment philosophy.)

Merkel's conclusions about German multiculturalism are ... well ... perhaps a little premature. There's no point saying your failed at something before you've even tried it.

... in the German case, pronouncing any death of multiculturalism is somewhat misleading. If Merkel had meant multiculturalism in policy terms - public recognition of cultural differences in settlement and citizenship policies - it made little sense to say that it failed. Germany hasn't practised an official multiculturalism.

Indeed, much of the German difficulty in integrating its Turkish Muslim population can be explained by its lingering ethno-cultural, blood-and-soil (blut und boden) view of national identity.

When West Germany took in Turkish nationals beginning in the 1960s to fill labour shortages, it treated them as guest workers who were to go home once their work was done. The Turks weren't regarded as immigrants who would become future citizens.

It wasn't until 2000, for example, that German nationality law adopted the principle of jus soli, allowing those born in the country to parents without native ancestry to claim citizenship.

What makes all this even more interesting is that a few million Turks and Kurds are described collectively as "Muslims". I mean, what the ...? Has Germany suddenly discovered it is officially Christian? Is German and/or European identity defined by religious affiliation? Does Europe need a few more non-Christian migrants to shake it out of its pre-Enlightenment intellectual stupor and into the 21st century?

And the Australian branch of the Tea Party shouldn't keep pointing to Europe on these issues.

We shouldn't draw the wrong lessons from Europe. There is multiculturalism and there is multiculturalism.

Then again, perhaps all that is required is a name change.

A cultural diversity in which communities end up living in isolation from one another isn't an ideal that should appeal to anyone. But such failure often comes about because of not enough attention to integration, as in the case of the Germans, or because of rigid attempts to assimilate all difference, as in the case of the French. When it is the fault of official policy, it is because government fails to place diversity within limits.

Yet another multiculturalism in practice is possible. A liberal multiculturalism that aims to ensure a national identity can speak for all citizens regardless of their background - that is still worth defending. We just may have to call it something else now.

Friday, October 01, 2010

CRIKEY: Stuff the dirty dunnies, it’s the religious violence that could halt Delhi

Yes, many Indians are very embarrassed over the poor state of the dunnies at the athletes’ village in New Delhi. They’ve openly been writing about it, not ashamed to lash out at the government or even at themselves. One columnist wrote that the urban elite were deluding themselves:

Just when we were patting ourselves on the back for having become an economic dynamo and a growing ‘soft’ superpower represented by Bollywood and yoga, basmati rice and tikka masala ready to take over the world, the Commonwealth Games debacle has come as a slap across the national face.

And Western reporters faithfully reported this collective masochism while ignoring the story Indians were genuinely nervous about. Having dust on one’s dunny is something many Indians can live with. But would the Games be enough to stop some ordinary citizens transforming into religious warriors and slaughtering one another over a 16th century mosque demolished in 1992 to build a Hindu temple? How do you explain to Australian readers that the Cronulla riots were a Sunday picnic compared to the rioting and looting and murder that took place across India after the demolition?

Indians are now nervously praying riots aren’t repeated in response to the recent judgment in the Allahabad High Court in what has become known as the Babri Masjid case. The ancient mosque was built by Mughal Emperor Babar on the alleged birthplace of the Hindu god Rama at Ayodhya in northern India. The decision awards one third of the property to the Muslim religious trust and two thirds to two Hindu groups. Some argue the decision effectively reward the fanatics who tore the mosque down, and who subsequently went on a rampage of violence and looting.

That incident also transformed India’s political landscape. Mahatma Gandhi was murdered in 1948, shortly after independence, by Hindu fanatics who resented his efforts to maintain inter-communal peace and who wanted to implement a virtual theocracy inspired by a far-Right ideology called Hindutva. For years, the Hindutva mob were considered freaks by the political mainstream. The destruction of the Babri mosque and the alleged restoration of the birthplace of a god millions of Hindus revere enabled the Hindutva crowd to hijack the private devotion of followers of perhaps the world’s most tolerate religion.

Eventually the ragtag Hindutva groups aligned themselves with a political party called the BJP. The current BJP website has removed essays such as Semitic Monotheism: The Root of Intolerance in India. But how do these ideas translate on the ground?

Suketu Mehta, author of the 2004 book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, describes meeting with Hindutva zealots who describe a typical scene from the 1992-93 riots as told to him by one “Sunil”:

“Those were not days for thought,” he continued. “We five people burnt one Mussulman. At four am after we heard of Radhabai Chawl, a mob assembled, the likes of which I have never seen. Ladies, gents. They picked up any weapon they could. Then we marched to the Muslim side. We met a pavwallah on the highway, on a bicycle. I knew him; he used to sell me bread every day.” Sunil held up a piece of bread from the pav bhaji he was eating. “I set him on fire. We poured petrol on him and set him on fire. All I thought was, ‘This is a Muslim’. He was shaking. He was crying, ‘I have children, I have children!’ I said, ‘When your Muslims were killing the Radhabai Chawl people, did you think of your children?’ That day we showed them what Hindu dharma is.”
The scene in Delhi was much the same. And it didn’t just happen in Delhi and Bombay immediately after 1992. It was repeated in the 2002 massacre in the state of Gujrat, where textbooks are being modified to glorify Hitler and downplay Gandhi.

And if you think Muslims have been the only victims, ask yourselves why our conservative Catholic commentariat ignored the story of the 2008 massacres of Catholics in Orissa?

This is the kind of stuff most Indians are scared of. The dust-sensitive backsides of foreign athletes don’t rate very highly when the prospect of communalist violence is very real.

First published in Crikey on 1 October 2010.

UPDATE I: An anonymous poet and former Christian Democratic Party official sent this lyrical response:

Imagine there's no nigg3rs
It's easy if you try
Blackheads in hell below us
Above it only whites
Imagine all white people
Living for today

Imagine no shit countries
filled with subhuman poo
Something to kill or die for
a subhuman zoo
Imagine all white people
Living life in peace

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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