Saturday, December 03, 2011

HUMOUR: Breaking winds on jihad ...

During the period of 2005 to 2010, when I was writing regularly and prolifically, some interesting characters were taking quite a deal of notice. For instance, the Cairns author of the Winds of Jihad blog had been following me almost obsessively. He calls himself Sheik Yermami, and the chap clearly has taken a liking for my work. Here are some descriptors he's used to describe me ...
Serial dreck-blogger ... muselmanic master of spin ... the Pretend-Christian ... Australia’s sharia-shyster ... Islamo agit prop ... If the Fed’s are not onto him yet, concerned readers should bring it to their attention. Irfan should at least be on a watch list. His incitement could have worked. The stirring could have resulted in hundreds, if not thousands of Yusuf’s co-religionists running amok, smashing stuff and killing people ... a fanatical Muslim ... We know that the Manchurian candidate Hussein Obama is a Muzz and a fraud. We know what he represents, and we don’t want any of it.
See, I told you he likes me. But even more endearing is that he has commissioned a cartoonist to illustrate me in various poses.

Here's me as presumably a member of the Taliban. Either that, or as the Indian Prime Minister in his pj's.

Here's me engaging in ... er ... a mass debate with a bunch of portraits on my wall.

Here's me engaging in similar activity, except that I have been mysteriously transformed into an orthodox Jew.

Like hey, Sheik, what's wrong with Jews?? Here's me as an SS officer.

Here's me with Waleed Aly, Anthony Mundine and certain other blokes.

Here's me visiting a mosque on Uluru. Yeah, right. As if I'm fit enough to climb that!

Here's me hanging out with some Indian barrister.

Here's my favourite.

And finally, here's Sheik Yermami's dream-come-true scenario as far as my Australian citizenship is concerned.

Friday, November 25, 2011

BOOKS: Henry Reynolds on Tasmania

Work has taken yours truly to a small island off the coast of Mexico. It's a gorgeous place known for its delightful landscape ...

... and for the genocide committed by its early settlers.

So where did all this luscious murderous Tasmanian stuff emerge from? I decided to spend a Friday afternoon finding out.

It didn't involve much research or effort on my part. I just joined some of Tasmania's chattering classes at an upmarket bookshop in Launceston There we were greeted and seated before Henry Reynolds and another historian named Eric.

We all packed together to hear Reynolds tell us about a book he's just written on the history of Tasmania. Reynolds' work certainly isn't the first. There have been plenty of books on Tasmanian history. Go to any bookshop in Hobart or other town on the island and you'll find an entire section on Tasmaniana.

Eric suggested that Reynolds' book was like a distant autobiography of his own dealings with Tassie. Reynolds, it so happens, did most of his study in Tasmania. He then went into exile in Queensland before returning.

Reynolds says that when he was at school, most history taught was about England. Ironically, Tasmanians have had a very rich tradition of writing about the history of their colony/state.

Reynolds tells us that perhaps the reason for this is that everywhere you look, you are reminded of the island's English colonial history which has been preserved in its old buildings.

There's lots of Georgian style buildings. Tasmania was a filthy rich colony, especially during its boom times of the 1830's and 1880's.

Reynolds says he was first approached by Cambridge University Press 10 years ago to write this short history. He was given a 100,000 word limit. He starts his work by looking at European settlement in Tasmania through the eyes of its Aboriginal tribes who has lived in the island for around 300 generations. These tribes were virtually cut off from the mainland by the Bass Strait.

I was surprised to hear that as late as the 1960's, there were indigenous peoples in Tasmania who has not met white people. Reynolds he has spoken to some of these people.

... to be continued.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

SPORT: Bookshop paradise

I believe in heaven. I've always wondered what it would be like. Maybe I should stop wondering and start preparing for it.

But let's wonder for a while. I'd like to think jannah/paradise is a huge library and bookshop where browsing and even shoplifting is permitted.

Books about all subjects, not just God and religion. Hopefully there will be lots of travel books, stuff on anthropology and politics. Entertaining and humorous novels. And books about sport. In particularly a sport I grew up playing in the backyard and being completely obsessed with.

And I hope Peter Roebuck will be there to sign some copies.

Suicide is a shocking thing. But cricket is wonderful.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MEDIA: The Bolt decision

It must have been an awful feeling for one of Australia’s most loved and hated columnist, a rare moment when he did not enjoy the limelight. But dressed in his dark blue suit and a tie that almost matched the colour of his greying hair, columnist, blogger, TV and radio personality Andrew Bolt was genuinely phased by the judgment of a single Federal Court Judge. For a man who otherwise never shies away from talking about race, Bolt wasn’t amused about being found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act.

Bolt described the judgment as

… a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves. I argued then and I argue now that we should not insist on the differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings.

I personally haven’t read all 470 paragraphs and 143 pages of His Honour Justice Brmberg’s judgment. But the word “multiculturalism” certainly isn’t prominent enough for it to feature in the Catchwords on the first page.

Multiculturalism does appear, however, in the 8-page summary of the judgment. In paragraph 15, His Honour remarked:

Whether conduct is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a group of people calls for an objective assessment of the likely reaction of those people. I have concluded that the assessment is to be made by reference to an ordinary and reasonable member of the group of people concerned and the values and circumstances of those people. General community standards are relevant but only to an extent. Tolerance of the views of others may be expected in a multicultural society, including from those persons who are the subject of racially based conduct.

In paragraph 22, His Honour notes:

In reaching those conclusions, I have observed that in seeking to promote tolerance and protect against intolerance in a multicultural society, the Racial Discrimination Act must be taken to include in its objectives tolerance for and acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity. At the core of multiculturalism is the idea that people may identify with and express their racial or ethnic heritage free from pressure not to do so. People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying. Disparagement directed at the legitimacy of the racial identification of a group of people is likely to be destructive of racial tolerance, just as disparagement directed at the real or imagined practices or traits of those people is also destructive of racial tolerance.

Is His Honour really seeking to limit freedom to talk about (let alone criticise) multiculturalism? Read the rest of the summary. Remember, it’s only 8 pages.

As for Bolt suggesting that he has always insisted on the things that unite humanity, do yourself a favour and just read the comments that he allows to appear on his blog whenever he writes about just about any subject.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

Sunday, September 18, 2011

MEDIA: American-owned newspaper plays the Manne

It was bound to happen. That American-owned newspaper that likes to call itself The Australian has shown itself to be the 'Heart of the Nation' with a vicious and vitriolic attack on La Trobe University academic Robert Manne.

And why? Because Professor Manne wrote 25,000 critical words about the paper.

And in its response, The Oz left not a single angle uncovered, with even an exceptionally tasteful cartoon showing Manne ... wait for it ... sitting naked on the toilet and farting.

It really was intelligent stuff from The Oz. I'm just wondering whether they had to tap Manne's phone to put all this together.

Then again, to be fair, Manne probably doesn't keep his mobile in the dunny.

Perhaps the most hilarious feature of the critique was that they couldn't get regular indigenous writer Noel Pearson (or indeed any indigenous writer) to respond to Manne's criticism of The Oz's coverage of indigenous issues. Instead, Uncle Chris Mitchell from the WelovetheNTIntervention Tribe was given (or rather, gave himself) the task of responding.

Seriously, is it any wonder The Oz is fast losing as much credibility as it is readers and revenue? Perhaps they should stick to printing shonky op-eds.

I feel sorry for all the genuinely good journos and writers and photographers and other media professionals who have to share page and website space with this kind of near-psychotic babble. I mean, all that vitriol for one single politics academic?

UPDATE I: A regular writer for The Oz (who once wrote for Crikey) goes completely ballistic on his Facebook wall, describing Manne's

... grotesque and evil approach to the Malaysian solution ...


Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DIVERSITY: Ten years on, 9/13 a milestone for minorities

Today is the 13th day of September -- 10 years after an important milestone for the United States and the West. Ten years ago our way of life and our freedoms, our liberal democracy and our rule of law were all assaulted and violated.

No, it didn't take place in New York or Washington. It took place at a small family-run petrol station in Mesa, Arizona. A young man named Balbir Singh Sodhi, sporting a smartly kept beard and a turban, was shot dead. He was planting flowers in the garden of his family business.

But why mention his beard and turban? Was this at all relevant to Sodhi's murder?

When the planes first crashed into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, men sporting turbans and beards were all suspected of some kind of involvement. The first pictures released by the FBI of suspected terrorist passengers included men sporting beards and turbans. Even Sydney's Daily Telegraph carried a front page showing a man, his head bowed, sporting a small beard and a blue turban, being taken into custody. The headline screamed "FIRST ARREST".

Turbans and beards were now the symbol of terror. Why? Because Obam ... whoops ... Osama bin Ladin wore a turban.

Frank Silva Roque, 44, of Harvest, Ala., was sentenced to death or first-degree murder in the death of Balbir Singh Sodhi:

Roque was convicted of killing Sodhi, a Mesa gas station owner whom prosecutors said was targeted because Roque thought Sodhi was Arab. Sodhi wore a turban and beard as part of his Sikh faith.

According to an AAP report about Roque's sentencing in 2003, after shooting Sodhi, Roque shot at another gas station where the clerk was a man of Lebanese descent, and shot at the home of an Afghan family. They were not injured.  

This was just the beginning. The New York Times reports that

... an eclectic Sikh temple called Gobind Sadan was burnt down by four teenagers who thought that the turbaned worshippers were Muslims and that the temple's sign said 'Go Bin Laden'.

Sikhs, like other minorities, have suffered a disproportionate amount of prejudice since 9/11. They have stood out due to their visible religious devotions including wearing the dastaar, a traditional Punjabi-style head dress.

Until recently, Sikhs had to remove their turbans when flying. Sikhs also have their turbans frisked at airport security, a ridiculous and humiliating practice.

Paranoia about turbans has become so great that they even became an issue in the US Presidential elections when a picture of Obama wearing traditional clothes of Somali elders was leaked by opponents.

September 11 was the day when tragedy struck the US and when men and women of all nationalities and faiths were murdered by crazed fanatics. But 9/13 is the day when minorities of all nationalities and faiths started becoming subjected to abuse and denial of liberty in the name of protecting us from terrorists who wish to abuse our way of life and deny us liberty.

It isn't just about airport searches. Men from certain minorities have been detained more readily and for longer periods of time. Paranoia was even present in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, when immigrants such as painting contractor Abdurrahman Zeitoun were detained and treated like terror suspects.

The war on terror hasn't just led to imbecilic wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents. It has created a scud missile mentality where at home our collective hatred is hardly ever directed at the right people. Just ask the Sodhi family.

First published in Crikey on 13 September 2011.

Monday, July 25, 2011

DIVERSITY: Centre for Independent Studies hosts genetics expert ...

As part of its Big Ideas Forum this year, the Centre for Independent Studies is hosting German Thilo Sarrazin, a German former banker and politician who claims Muslims are lowering German intelligence and that all Jews share certain genes.

Lovely. Janet Albrechtsen will also be sharing the podium. You can read a gushing tribute to Sarrazin in The Australian authored by Oliver Marc Hartwich, a research fellow at the CIS. Hartwich believes that Sarazzin is the victim of German political correctness.

Heck, why shouldn't a German, less than a century after the Holocaust, claim that Jews have shared features that are inherited? Why shouldn't the CIS be allowed to host someone with such rabid views? And why shouldn't those sponsoring the CIS, among them some major Australian corporations that supply goods and services to Jews and Muslims, not be able to finance the promotion of such opinions?

And why shouldn't I and my Jewish friends be allowed to name and shame these corporations? It's a free country.

Friday, July 22, 2011

MEDIA: Numbered paragraphs on scandalous tapping ...

Far be it from me to revel in someone else's sorry. But seriously, the Murdoch press has caused sorrow to so many people that it's time to have a good laugh. So here goes.

[01] Here is an excellent summary and analysis of the line taken by that American newspaper that calls itself The Australian. .

[02] Here are some legalistic thoughts ...
It’s midnight. I’m sitting in front of the TV with two work colleagues. One is an experienced crown prosecutor who has run major jury trials in two common law countries and has over 3 decades advocacy experience. The second is a criminal defence lawyer who has practised in three Australian states. And then there is me, a humble civil and employment litigator.

We’d just finished washing our sides off the sofa after they were split by viewing The Naked Gun. We switched onto BBC. We’re watching history being made. And we can’t help but watch with our lawyer’s glasses on. Here are some of my colleagues’ responses.

“This poor old man is passing the buck,” says the former prosecutor. “He’s trying to dodge the question. It’s not working. It’s so obvious.”

“This bloke’s the client from hell. Fancy admitting you take tax issues seriously but not hacking phones,” says the defence lawyer.

“These are simple questions. Why is he taking so long to answer them? Is Rupert’s dementia natural or deliberate?” says the prosecutor again.

To say the least, the Murdochs were clearly unprepared. The MP’s on the Committee asked simple, direct and at best only mildly probing questions that would have sent Rumpole to sleep. One female MP asked a super-gentle question. James Murdoch thanked her and praised her question. My criminal defence colleague said: “The reason he’s thanking her is because she gave him a question he’s actually prepared for”.

Unlike the Murdochs, the MP’s were on top of the brief. They seemed to know more about News Corporation than the two men claiming to run the show. One interesting thing Mr ex-Prosecutor noted is that a number of the MP’s kept referring to Rupert as “Mr Murdoch” and James simply as “James”.

And I lost count of the number of times one MP called out words to this effect: “James, I will come to you later. My question is for Mr Murdoch.”

“Why is that young fella always butting in?” It wasn’t so much a question from the former prosecutor as an observation. James Murdoch seemed to play a Saif al-Islam type of role in selling and then defending his father’s regime to the world. But my learned colleagues were left with the impression that James was just a young upstart kid trying to protect his dad from the assassin’s bullets using a water pistol.

Here’s one you don’t have to have a practising certificate to understand. The CEO/Chairman and directors of a company like News Corp would have no knowledge of serious wrongdoing, if not serious criminal activity, is quite frankly unbelievable. Murdoch explained it away by telling us that News of the World represented a mere 1% of the entire organisation. So how big must a proportion of the empire be before criminal conduct is worthy of becoming a serious issue of corporate governance?

What shocked me as an employment lawyer was the complete absence of any internal investigative and disciplinary procedures to deal with unethical (if not unlawful and downright criminal) conduct. At least that was my impression after watching Mr Murdoch (as opposed to James) giving his testimony. It was a case of “well, I didn’t know it was going on and in any event the police are now handling it.”

What kind of company sees police investigation as a substitute for serious internal disciplinary investigation?

Based on their performance before the UK Parliamentary Committee, I can’t help thinking that perhaps Lieutenant Frank Drebin of Police Squad was better at policing LA than the Murdochs are at policing their own empire.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

CULTURE WARS: For the week ending 19 June 2011

[01] It seems New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is hiding the fact (?) that his untucking of his tackle is part of some devious form of taqiyya.

For those of you who don't know, the word taqiyya is an Arabic term used in Muslim jurisprudence. Basically what it means is that if someone pulls a gun out and threatens to shoot you if you confirm you are a Muslim, you are permitted to lie about your faith if it means you don't get shot. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

But according to some fruitloops in the mainstream Right of the United States, taqiyya is the mechanism by which Muslims, like their Jewish forebears, use deception and cunning to hide their true intentions - to take over the world. The protocols of the learned imams of ... um ... well everywhere!

Some rightwing Jews are also getting into the profoundly anti-Semitic act. Among them is Elaana Benador, who was once a darling of the neo-Cons and ran her own speakers bureau which had some of the most influential neo-Cons on its books.

Now Benador has turned her sights to former Congressman Anthony Weiner, claiming that he in fact is a secret Muslim. Her evidence goes something like this:

1. Some imam made a comment calling on Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, to counsel her husband and have patience with him.

2. Huma Abedin comes from an Indian Muslim family.

3. The imam and Ms Anedin seem to be involved in some strange form of taqiyya.

4. The imam's excuse for Weiner is the kind of excuse that would only be made for a Muslim husband.

5. Weiner must have been converted to Zombi'ism after being his neck bitten by both the imam and Ms Abedin. He also became a Muslim.

Of course, this all means that Ms Abedin now has access to the upper echelons of power. She can use this access to ensure that by next week, the White House will have a Muslim president. That is, if it doesn't have one already.

Read more about it here and here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

HEALTH: Mental illness and magistrates ...

Is it an essential element of the role of a magistrate that they not have a mental illness of any kind? Including one that is easily treatable?

Former NSW Attorney General Frank Walker doesn't believe so. After all, plenty of elected officials suffer from mental illness, whether they admit it or not. And they are involved in lawmaking and often in executive decisions that affect the nation and that are often enforced by magistrates.

Frank Walker has been a carer for two sons who were both diagnosed with schizophrenia. He lost both to the illness. He knows as well as any carer the stigma attached to the illness.

Magistrate Brian Maloney's own psychiatrist, who first diagnosed him with bipolar disorder, has stated that His Honour is fit to return to work. The Judicial Commission doesn't agree.

In the case of Magistrate Maloney, complaints were not made about his decisions but rather about aspects of his manner.

If Magistrates are hung out to dry for being mentally ill, what message does this send to others in business, politics, professions etc who look forward to the day when they can be open and up front about their mental health?

Here's how the Daily Telegraph reports former Opposition Leader John Brogden's response:

... depression sufferer Mr Brogden, former state Liberal leader while in opposition and now CEO of the Financial Services Council, said mental illness should not prevent someone from being successful in business or public life.

"I am medicated daily and receive regular counselling," Mr Brogden said in the letter to MPs. "My disclosure of this has not prohibited me from leadership roles in business and the community.

"You must, of course, satisfy yourself that Mr Maloney is medically fit.

"From that point, you cannot make a judgment that someone with a mental illness should be barred from judicial office."

I'd like to think our elected officials will show some good sense in this matter.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

LOONWATCH: For the week ending 2 June 2011

I don't get much time to blog these days. Or to write. Lots of work. Lots of travel. But there's still so much to write about, so much lunacy to laugh at.

So here's an experiment. I'll cover the best bits of lunacy from Thursday to Thursday. The lunacy can take various forms - imbecilic politics, hypocritical comment, whatever. Let's start.

[01] A small cabal of twits at that American-owned newspaper that likes to call itself The Australian have become obsessed with the twittering activities of a single Sydney academic. I mean, seriously obsessed. I don't know what Larissa Behrendt has done, but it seems hardly a day goes by without some mention of her allegedly scandalous tweet about something appearing on Q&A. Today they're still going on about how Behrendt is being paid $641 a day by Ms Gillard's government to review indigenous higher education.

The headline describes Behrendt as "[d]ivisive" (which makes you wonder why she hasn't been given a regular column at The Oz) and says he was

... embroiled in a Twitter slur scandal ...

Um, what scandal? The only publications making a big deal about it are the even more divisive Quadrant and The Amer ... woops ... Australian. And it all happened back in April. And she said sorry. What more can she do?

Senator Evans yesterday again rejected criticism that she was not suitable for the role; he revealed he had met her once since the incident. "(I said) that I regarded the comments as inappropriate and offensive," he told the hearing. "She told me she had apologised and she was highly regretful of the incident."

But that isn't good enough. All kinds of dirt is being whipped up about this poor woman. What on earth do Chris Mitchell's minions expect her to do? Apologise to Andrew Bolt? Tweet some undying love for Irish Republican terrorism? Join Alan Jones' Galileo Movement? Still a photo of John Santamaria on her office wall? Support the extension of the Federal indigenous intervention to New Zealand and the Solomon Islands?

Behrendt may well have opposition. She may well be divisive. But so what? Why hassle someone because of one tweet? Especially when you are a newspaper that has spent so much of its space printing divisive tripe about a host of minorities.

[02] My old factional partner Peter Phelps has come along way since he used to edit his far-Right newsletter The Atlas. In those days he called for Medicare to be dismantled. Now as a member of the NSW Upper House, Phelps is comparing climate scientists to Nazis. What the f#ck??

Phelps, of course, is an expert on climate science. He has a PhD from the University of Sydney. In history.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

QUOTE: Nir Rosen on media fraud ...

Here is Nir Rosen, a senior writer for the New York Times Magazine.

Too often consumers of mainstream media are victims of a fraud. You think you can trust the articles you read, why wouldn’t you, you think you can sift through the ideological bias and just get the facts. But you don’t know the ingredients that go into the product you buy ...

According to the French intellectual and scholar Francois Burgat, there are two main types of intellectuals tasked with explaining the “other” to Westerners. He and Bourdieu describe the “negative intellectual” who aligns his beliefs and priorities with those of the state and centers his perspective on serving the interest of power and gaining proximity to it. And secondly, there is what Burgat terms as “the fa├žade intellectual,” whose role in society is to confirm to Western audiences their already-held notions, beliefs, preconceptions, and racisms regarding the “other.” Journalists writing for the mainstream media, as well as their local interlocutors, often fall into both categories.

A vast literature exists on the impossibility of journalism in its classic, liberal sense with all the familiar tropes on objectivity, neutrality, and “transmitting reality.” However, and perhaps out of a lack of an alternative source of legitimation, major mainstream media outlets in the West continue to grasp to these notions with ever more insistence. The Middle East is an exceptionally suitable place for the Western media to learn about itself and its future because it is the scene where all pretensions of objectivity, neutrality towards power, and critical engagement faltered spectacularly.

Journalists are the archetype of ideological tools who create culture and reproduce knowledge. Like all tools, journalist don't create or produce. They are not the masters of discourse or ideological formations but products of them and servants to them.

Friday, May 06, 2011

OPINION: Muddled thinking in Anzac tweet

I spent part of the Anzac Day weekend in true Australian style at the Rooty Hill RSL Club. This huge complex in Sydney's far west includes a hotel, a tenpin bowling facility and more pokies than you can poke a truckload of cash at.

I joined a bunch of ordinary punters and some blokes sporting military medals in a small hall before a big screen and watched a game of rugby league.

As I sat, I wondered what Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace would make of my presence at the club. That very day he had hit the news with a tweet about the meaning of Anzac Day. He didn't remind us about what the diggers fought for, but what they didn't fight for. Wallace told the twitterati that the reason we went to war "wasn't gay marriage and Islamic!" Later, clarifying his remarks, he said that "the nature of our society that our soldiers fought for was based on Judeo-Christian heritage".

I doubt I was the only person of Muslim heritage sitting in an RSL club that day. Ironically, Rooty Hill is in the federal seat of Chifley, whose member is none other than Ed Husic, an Australian of Bosnian Muslim heritage. For some reason, Husic's and my heritage are seen by the head of a powerful lobby claiming to represent Christians in the political sphere as being a threat to the Anzac legend and the Judeo-Christian heritage (whatever that means).

I would have thought that the tens of thousands of poker machines in RSL clubs across the country should be seen by a former SAS officer and devout Christian as a bigger threat to our heritage. The amount of social misery caused by these blasted things is extraordinary. A machine that attracts people to part with their hard-earned cash must surely be a bigger threat to Judaism and Christianity than another Abrahamic faith and a change to marriage laws in line with existing laws dealing with de facto relationships.

Wallace might also consider the interests of current Australian servicemen and women of all faiths (and no faith in particular). He might look up Commander Mona Shindy, an engineer, who, aged 21, was one of the first women on a guided-missile frigate. Shindy has also become a face of recruitment, appearing in Australian Defence Force promotional material and on its recruitment website. Whatever Wallace might think, the bosses at the ADF don't regard Islam as an impediment to service in the armed forces.

Shindy isn't the only person of Muslim heritage to serve. Squadron Leader Rais Khan moved to Australia from Pakistan with his wife in 1995. He now works as a civil engineer in the RAAF. And who knows how many non-heterosexual people serve in the armed forces. Or indeed how many heterosexual people support gay marriage.

Wallace's ridiculous comments have highlighted the extent to which Anzac Day has been highlighted by people with weird agendas. In much the same way that our continued involvement in armed conflicts elicits absurd sentiments.

If any conflict must disgust our troops, it is the "war on terror". No doubt many would support individual conflicts in places such as Afghanistan. But the idea of political leaders showing complete disdain towards the torture and mistreatment of prisoners must send shivers down the spine of troops for whom the relevant Geneva Conventions are the only instruments stopping them from being mistreated if they fall into the hands of the enemy.

Worse still is the treatment of innocent civilians who have been detained and tortured, and released without charge. One can only wonder how many of our troops would feel at former foreign minister Alexander Downer's remarks that Mamdouh Habib was a horrible person undeserving of sympathy. Habib was subject to torture in Egypt. He was then transported to Guantanamo Bay before being finally released without charge. WikiLeaks documents confirmed Habib was tortured.

Our men and women in uniform fight to defend all Australian citizens. Even Wallace agreed that the Anzacs fought for all Australians. Downer and his colleagues in the Howard government, on the other hand, believe that some citizens are more deserving of legal protection than others.

And so the muddled thinking over war, Anzacs and diggers continues. Perhaps watching the football at the local RSL club makes more sense than all this militant rhetoric.

Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and author of Once Were Radicals. This article first appeared in the Canberra Times on 29 April 2011.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

POLITICS: More on Peter King's radical fiasco

Republican Congressman Peter King, Chair of the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, has just commenced a set of controversial hearings on the "radicalisation of American Muslims".

Writing in the Boston Globe, John Tirman from the MIT Center for International Studies notes:

The START database on terrorism in America, which tracks all incidents of political violence, shows that most attacks in the last two decades have been on black churches, reproductive rights facilities, government offices, and individual minorities. And those have been committed mainly by right-wing extremists. From 1990 to 2009, START identified 275 “homicide events’’ that killed 520 people and were committed by right-wing ideologues. There were many more incidents of destruction of property, nonfatal attacks, and other acts of thuggery by white supremacists, private militias, and the like ...

King should expand his investigation to the largest sources of extremist violence in America — the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazis, and their newer versions — and ask how hate speech and war fuel attacks. Those would be congressional hearings worth listening to.

Peter Bergen, director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation, writes in the New York Times:

If law enforcement officials find it difficult to track down “homegrown” terrorists, then why have only 17 Americans been killed in the United States by jihadist terrorists since 9/11? Clearly law enforcement is having some success against such militants.

In the same time period, there were 73 homicides that the F.B.I. classified as hate crimes, and few lawmakers are suggesting that the agents aren’t doing enough about that issue. There are more than 15,000 murders in the U.S. every year, and few congressmen are claiming that law enforcement isn’t doing enough about such crimes.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

USA/COMMENT: Peter King's terror fantasy

A Republican Representative from Long Island in New York has just commenced Congressional Hearings in the United States on the dangers posed by Muslims. Apparently they haven't been doing enough to fight terrorism and extremism among their ranks. As a result, the whole of the United States is threatened.

No, Peter King isn't holding Congressional Hearings on extremism or terrorism. He's holding hearings on Muslim terrorism. Because as we all know, not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims. Just ask King, who was quoted in the NY Daily News on 29 November 2010 as follows:

Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to designate WikiLeaks a "foreign terrorist organization," saying it "posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States," and to prosecute founder Julian Assange for espionage.

Hey, let's be honest with ourselves. King can spot an Islamic terrorist a mile away. I mean, the dude pictured below sure looks like a Muslim to me.

Making matters more interesting, King chairs the Homeland Security Committee.

And you thought having Cory Bernardi as Tony Abbott's Parliamentary Secretary was nuts.

There's just one problem. Peter King himself is (or at least was) a supporter of terrorism.

Back in June 22 2005, the New York Sun reported:

Since the late 1970s, a Long Island congressman, Peter King, has been aligned with one of the most violent terrorist groups in recent European history, defying critics in his own Republican Party and elsewhere, and yet managing to prosper ...

The Nassau County politician ... used to travel to Belfast as often as twice a year ...

Once a vocal and frequent House champion for the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, and its leader, Gerry Adams ... The politician once called the IRA "the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland," he was banned from the BBC by British censors for his pro-IRA views, and he refused to denounce the IRA when one of its mortar bombs killed nine Northern Irish police officers.

It makes interesting reading. Here's some more.

He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions. He spoke regularly at Noraid protests and became close to the group's publicity director, the Bronx lawyer Martin Galvin, a figure reviled by the British.

Mr. King's support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge's view, "he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA." When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches.

During his visits to Ireland, Mr. King would often stay with well-known leaders of the IRA, and he socialized in IRA drinking haunts. At one of such clubs, the Felons, membership was limited to IRA veterans who had served time in jail. Mr. King would almost certainly have been red-flagged by British intelligence as a result, but the experience gave him plenty of material for the three novels he subsequently wrote featuring the IRA.

If Peter King helped give the IRA a respectable face in America, in Ireland and Britain the IRA's reputation as a ruthless and skilled terrorist group was solidifying. The product of street disorders in 1969 in the wake of a civil rights campaign on behalf of Northern Ireland's minority Catholic population, the IRA's violent effort to end British rule against the wishes of the majority Protestant population lasted 25 years. Despite killings by state forces and Protestant terrorist groups who favored retaining Northern Ireland's British links, the IRA emerged as the single most violent group. More than 3,600 civilians, soldiers, and policemen died in the conflict between 1969 and 1994 - the per-capita equivalent death toll in America would be nearly 700,000 - and the IRA was responsible for around half of those killings.

Ireland was no stranger to episodic political violence, but the strife in Northern Ireland was the most intense and prolonged of all. At one stage, Britain had 30,000 troops stationed there to quell the violence. Meanwhile, the IRA took its campaign to Britain - where London's financial district was twice devastated by bombs - and to mainland Europe, where British NATO bases were frequently targeted. The IRA nearly killed Prime Minister Thatcher and her cabinet with a bomb in 1984, and it assassinated prominent British politicians and members of the royal family. The IRA's primary contribution to international terrorist know-how, the car and truck bombs now commonplace in Iraq, were devised and first deployed by the IRA in Belfast in 1972. The organization also developed homemade explosives, like the fertilizer-based device that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma in 1995.

Much of the conventional weaponry and a great deal of the money necessary for IRA violence came from Irish-American sympathizers. Mr. King's advocacy of the IRA's cause encouraged that flow and earned him the deep-seated hostility of the British and Irish governments. In America, official animosity was no less intense. The GOP in Nassau tried, unsuccessfully, to muzzle him, and he complained that the FBI was opening mail sent from Ireland, including letters from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. In 1984, the Secret Service listed him as a threat when President Reagan made a trip to Nassau County to watch a Special Olympics event.

Mr. King and the IRA made the oddest of political couples. While Mr. King was an opponent of legalized abortion, a fiscal conservative, and a prominent supporter of English First - which campaigned against federal funds for bilingual education - the IRA and Sinn Fein are close to supporting abortion rights, have campaigned to give the Irish language official parity with English, and were in a pseudo-Marxist phase when Mr. King made his alliance with them. None of that bothered the IRA's American supporters.

"People like Adams were banned from America, there was censorship in Ireland, and there was no one around who would support armed struggle," a former head of the Manhattan unit of Noraid, John McDonagh, said. "But here you had this guy whose father was an NYPD cop - a politician, a lawyer, and from Queens. We may not have liked his politics, but it was so good to have someone like that, a very credible person who spoke up for us."

As Mr. King became more outspoken in his support for the IRA he was also fashioning his political career. In 1977 he was elected to municipal office in Hempstead, and four years later he became Nassau County comptroller. His breakthrough came in 1985,and for that he could thank IRA supporters in New York.Four years before, 10 IRA prisoners had starved themselves to death on a hunger strike in protest of being denied political status by the British. Week after week during the lengthy fast, tens of thousands of Irish-Americans turned out for noisy Noraid protests - and mainstream politicians, from Mayor Koch to Senator D'Amato - lined up to speak from Noraid platforms.

King happily supported radical extremism and terrorism when it suited his own understanding of his ethno-religious identity. It was okay for him to spend years promoting and raising funds for violent terror cells. The Irish Catholic jihad was his jihad.

Now things have changed. Funny, that. Still, it isn't just terrorists of the wrong religion that Peter King has a problem with.

HUMOUR: Islamic French superheroes

It’s often said that Paris is the city of lovers. Which might make you wonder whether such wimped-out lovey-dovey Parisian types might ever need superheroes to protect them. After all, isn’t love supposed to conquer all?

But like any big city, the real Paris is a place where organised crime and terrorism can flourish. This might explain a recent decision by the board of multinational Batman Incorporated to expand its operations beyond Gotham City, with new branch offices established in Paris and Tokyo.

Heading up the Parisian operation is some bloke named Nightrunner. Nicely tanned and sporting black and grey tights, Nightrunner is on a mission to defeat a group of highly organised criminals and leftist and rightist terrorists carrying out high-profile assassinations.

There’s just one problem. This particular Frenchman isn’t really French at all. One righteous blogger, Warner Todd Huston, complains that DC Comics and “Batman couldn’t find any actual Frenchman to be the ‘French saviour’”.

It’s easy to laugh off the likes of Huston as just a bunch of far-Right fruitloops. But their claims seem to resonate across so much of the mainstream. For a change, let’s try and take Huston’s argument a little seriously. Not too much. Just a little.

So what’s so un-French about Nightrunner? Apart from Nightrunner’s attire suggesting dubious sexual preference (heck, real blokes wouldn’t be caught dead in black and grey tights!), what else could any conservative blogger have a problem with?

I did notice that Nightrunner’s skin is of a slightly darker Mediterranean shade. Does Mr Huston imagine that persons of Mediterranean appearance aren’t welcome in a country with a Mediterranean coast? Not exactly.

You see, DC Comics has decided that the ‘French saviour’, the French Batman, is to be a Muslim immigrant ... The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at gymnastic sport Parkour.
Mr Huston goes further:

The whole situation is a misreading of what ails France. The truth is, neither communist union members nor neo-Nazi parties are causing riots in France. Muslims are. Yet DC Comics is absurdly making a Muslim immigrant the 'French saviour'?

Bloody oath! These immigrants can never be real Frenchmen. Marshall Philippe Benoni Petain understood this well. He was a French national war hero and eventually headed the government of the French State during the 1940s. Petain’s government managed to rid France (which in those days included Algeria) of many nasty foreign types – Jews and Gypsies. I wonder how Petain would feel at his beloved capital having yet another foreign superhero!

Huston continues:

This is PCism at its worst. Not only that but it is pretty condescending to France, too. France is a proud nation. Yet DC Comics has made a foreigner the 'French saviour'. This will not sit well with many Frenchmen, for sure. Nor should it.
Huston is absolutely right. The French have had experience with nasty undisciplined foreign Mozzlems. This explains why they never allow Muslim guys like Bacary Sagna or Abou Diabyinto their national side. The French only allow real actual Frenchmen like Franck Ribery to be their football saviours, not a bunch of non-Christian immigrants. Anyone who disagrees deserves to be headbutted by this dude.

And so we have a problem. To fight Parisian terror, the folks at Batman Incorporated have chosen a superhero whose background means he is genetically disposed to being a nasty Ay-rab Mozzlem jihadist Islamist fundamentalist Islamofascist extremist Talibanist terrorist.

Seriously, if Batman had to choose an immigrant as the first French superhero, couldn’t he have found a Christian? Perhaps a Christian of Romanian heritage, a kid emerging from a Roma gypsy camp and with a history of fighting street crime. French people love gypsies because they’ve never been involved in rioting anywhere in France. We also know how welcome these good European Christian Roma folk are made to feel in the Republic. Just ask the current head of the French State, Nicolas Sarkozy.

OK, I've tried my best to take Huston's argument seriously, but I just can't. The idea that migrants from particular backgrounds cannot be saviours of their (or their parents’) adopted country is just ridiculous. It’s too dumb even for the world of comic strips. If only it was too stupid for certain elements of the allegedly conservative blogosphere.

First published on ABC The Drum on 18 January 2011.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

CRIKEY: NSW election: the ethnic vote battle that is Lakemba

With the NSW election coming up on March 26, there will no doubt be plenty of attention paid to the so-called ethnic vote. And with even safe ALP seats up for grabs as O’Farrell’s barrel of promises rolls across western Sydney, ethnic organisations will use the opportunity to promise votes. For a price, of course.

In Lakemba, things aren’t exactly promising for the Libs. Although the Liberal candidate for Lakembasecured a two-party preferred swing of some 13% in the 2008 byelection, it remains rock-solid Labor. The only problem is that an outsider wouldn’t be sure who the ALP candidate actually was. Sitting MP Robert Furolo for some reason has omitted words such as  ALP and Labor from his posters. Unlike last time ...

Lakemba isn’t a popular place in some circles. Dr Jeremy Sammut, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, sees Lakemba as an example of the "M&M" problem of "disintegration". Sammut claims that "Lakemba and its surrounds ... remain ghettofied ... [with] jarring realities on the disintegration of some parts of Sydney from the mainstream, and the failure to repeat the successful patterns of integration of other ethnic groups".

And presumably ghetto-dwellers presumably vote the same way, obeying the dictates of their leaders. Enter the Lebanese Moslems Association (LMA), which manages the Imam Ali ben Abi Taleb mosque on Haldon Street, the largest of around 10 mosques in the seat and where Sheik Hilaly often leads the service.

In the 1995 state election, which then Premier John Fahey lost of Labor’s Bob Carr, Hilaly openly backed Michael Hawatt, then (and indeed now) the Liberal candidate. Hilaly’s voice could be heard on a loudspeaker stuck to the roof of a station wagon telling voters in chaste Arabic how to vote for Hawatt. A few days before the ballot, a host of Fahey ministers were at the Lakemba library showing their support for Hilaly’s campaign. And all to no avail. Tony Stewart easily defeated Hawatt, and Carr managed to knock off Fahey.

The LMA is also no stranger to politics. It was often involved in branch stacks on behalf of competing ALP factions. Back in the 1990s when Tony Stewart competed with former premier Morris Iemma for the Lakemba preselection, a former LMA president and local solicitor allowed his office to be used as a base for a dummy branch set up to support one of the factions.

In the 2001 Auburn byelection, whose ballot was held on the Saturday before the 9/11 attacks, Liberal leader Kerry Chikarovski sought endorsement for her candidate in Auburn from Hilaly and the LMA. She got it. The Liberal candidate obtained a primary swing of less than 1% in a ballot with no compulsory preferencing. Scott Morrison was campaign manager and state director.

Just how representative is the LMA anyway? Last time I checked, the LMA excluded over 50% of voters by not allowing women to be full members. Then again, "mainstream" Australian organisations such as the Melbourne Club are also happy to only have chicks working in the kitchen.

And like the Melbourne Club, the LMA is becoming a bastion of Liberal Party activism, throwing its support behind a swag of Liberal candidates, among them Michael Hawatt in Lakemba. Personally I think this is a politically inept move for any community organisation, but then again I’m probably one of those ghettofied M&M types.

The Libs shouldn’t fall into the trap of accepting ridiculous claims by community organisations of delivering votes. People don’t vote because of some alleged ethnic or organisational affiliation. People vote because their parents voted a certain way or because they like the candidate or for some other reason usually divorced from race or religion. And they hardly ever vote a certain way because their imam tells them to.

And that makes the LMA’s reported move of endorsing candidates completely futile. Still, at least this time around they’re backing a party and not some Muslim-only ticket as their senior imam did recently.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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