Sunday, February 27, 2011

PAKISTAN: Can a security contractor claim diplomatic immunity?

There's a chap named Raymond Davis currently in a prison cell in Pakistan. He was in the country as a private contractor working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). David was arrested after he gunned down two men in Lahore. A third person was run over by a US Consulate vehicle.

The Hindustan Times reports:

Davis, a US official, was arrested in Lahore Jan 27 after he shot dead two youths on a motorcycle. He claimed he acted in self-defence as the armed youngsters were trying to rob him.

His arrest has sparked a diplomatic crisis and strained relations between the US and Pakistan. The US has threatened to withhold the $1.5 billion aid package promised to Islamabad for the war on terror.

Views in Pakistan are ... well ... to put it mildly, quite strong. Here is what one columnist, a retired vice-admiral and former vice-chief of the naval staff, wrote in The News.

What sort of “strategic relationship” do we have with each other if America has let loose a horde of CIA operators in this country and is working towards its destabilisation.

The US position is that international conventions cannot be subservient to the laws of a signatory country. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations was intended to specify the privileges of a mission to enable its diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country. It is ironic that in the Davis case this convention has been turned on its head against the host country, for use as a legal cover to protect an American who committed first-degree murder.

The New York Times reports more reaction from Pakistan:

For Pakistanis, many of whom are angry at the apparent impunity with which the C.I.A.’s drone missiles regularly kill terrorism suspects — and, at times, innocent bystanders — Mr. Davis’s case has proved galvanizing. Protesters have called for Mr. Davis to be hanged.

The US government claims that the case is clear - Davis is subject to diplomatic immunity and must be released. Davis, they argue, was in Pakistan as a diplomat. Yet as the NYT reports:

... this case also rests on legal technicalities, with confusion arising from contradictory statements by the State Department in the first days after Mr. Davis’s arrest. Those statements have called into question whether Mr. Davis was working — officially, at least — as a diplomatic official or a consular one. Consular officials are afforded somewhat weaker legal protections because they are thought of as administrators, rather than diplomats.

Initially, State Department officials described Mr. Davis as a staff member for the United States Consulate in Lahore.

Days later, however, the United States government said that Mr. Davis was actually listed with the administrative and technical staff of the United States Embassy in Islamabad — and that it had formally notified the Pakistani Foreign Ministry of his status there on Jan. 20, 2010.

The distinction is crucial. If Mr. Davis was listed as a technical staff member for the embassy’s diplomatic mission, then he would be covered by a 1961 treaty that gives diplomats total immunity to criminal prosecution. In that case, Pakistan should be allowed only to expel him. Victims’ families, however, might still be able to sue him for civil damages.

But if Mr. Davis were instead listed as a staff member for the consulate in Lahore, then he would be covered by a 1963 treaty that governs the rights of consular officials and that allows host countries to prosecute them if they commit a “grave crime.”

The contradictory statements over Mr. Davis’s assignment are just part of the evidence that Pakistani news accounts have cited in criticizing the United States’ position.

I'll have to dust off my public international law textbooks to come up with a definitive answer to this one. Treaty interpretation isn't easy. The rules of international law are not like common law where clear rules of interpretation and construction apply and where case law usually provides clear guidance. Precedents are not binding in international law but are only a guide.

What really matters is international consensus of what the legal position is i.e. customary international law.

Of course, law aside, this case illustrates just how tricky it is for countries like the US that make extensive use of private contractors for off-shore intelligence and defense work.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

COMMENT: Jeremy Sammut tries to be a smartie on M&M's

Jeremy Sammut is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies. He has a PhD in Australian social and political history from Monash University. He has written about child protection laws and health policy.

And now he is writing about what he describes as the 'M&M' debate. M&M equals "multiculturalism and Muslims". His article appearing on the CIS website has been reprinted on the opinion page of The Australian.

Sammut writes about the “multicultural industry” which seeks to stifle “a legitimate debate about the success or otherwise of Muslim integration”.

Sammut's evidence is one part of Sydney he describes as "Lakemba and its surrounds" which he argues

... remain ghettofied.

The usual pattern of dispersal by first-generation children of immigrants has not occurred to the same extent and the area is plagued with poor educational achievement, high unemployment and crime.

The community concerns that exist in western Sydney about Muslims and multiculturalism are based on these 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.

All this raises a few issues. Well, actually more than a few. I'll list some:

[01] Was Jeremy Sammut around when many used to refer to Cabramatta as 'Vietnamatta'? Was he aware of the large number of media reports and conservative commentators talking about 'Asian crime gangs' and the difficulties 'Asians' faced integrating?

[02] Is Sammut talking about Muslims as a race?

[03] Is Sammut asking us to believe that a certain ethnic group of Muslims in Lakemba is reflective of all Muslims across the country?

[04] Sammut argues that ...

It is because most Australians believe in the immigration and integration of all comers that what is going on in southwest Sydney is of concern.

Perceptive politicians have picked up on this.

Could he name some of these perceptive politicians? Does he agree with their perceptions and statements?

I might ask him these questions direct.

COMMENT: Running riot across Sydney

The American-owned Sydney tabloid Daily Telegraph carried an article today about a report from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics about rioting in Sydney. Here are some excerpts:

THOUSANDS of assaults occur within 20m of a hotel or club across Sydney, a damning report has found, as authorities yesterday called for further restrictions on late-night trading ...

The assaults were clustered around Sydney's nightspots and more likely to happen near licensed premises than anywhere else.

More than 2000 assaults occurred just 20m from a club or pub, accounting for 37 per cent of all attacks in the city, while 56.8 per cent of assaults happened within 50m of a liquor outlet.

Did you notice the first word? THOUSANDS. But as usual, the left-wing ALP lefty nasty elites just refuse to blame the real culprits.

Crime statistic experts and senior police yesterday said extended trading laws and a proliferation of licensed premises across Sydney had to be addressed if the community wanted to reduce violence.

What rubbish. It's clearly the fault of nasty drunken Muslims who refuse to integrate and adopt genuine Australian values such as sobriety.

And if you believe that, you'll believe these dudes are al-Qaeda suicide bombers.

Friday, February 25, 2011

EGYPT: Terror myth clouds reality of Egypt revolution

What a terrible waste. One of the few moderate Arab nations has been rocked by a revolution. Beady-eyed hairy-faced Islamo-fascists poised to take over, determined to drive Israel seaward and smother what remains of the Middle East under one giant burqa.

This is the Egyptian scenario painted by influential and allegedly conservative pundits. They insist Hosni Mubarak was a moderate, and that the millions gathered at Tahrir Square and elsewhere across Egypt were agents of, or being manipulated by, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

Yes, Mubarak preserved Egypt's peace with Israel and toed the American line in his foreign policy. But there is nothing moderate about a leader amassing a multibillion-dollar personal fortune while half his country lives on US$2 ($2.60) a day or less.

Millions of Egyptians live in overcrowded hovels and hundreds of neighbourhoods characterise hopelessness, unemployment and disease. One quarter of Egyptian adults of working age are out of a job. Egypt has no middle class worth noticing.

The United States provides US$1.3 billion in military aid and about US$800 million annually in economic assistance since 1979. Economist and Egypt's former minister for development and planning, Ismail Sabry Abdallah, negotiated the first package with USAid in 1974.

In 2004 he told the Christian Science Monitor that the aid was

... distributed by the Egyptian government in an anarchic way, through personal contacts and political influence.

There is also nothing moderate about a government instituting a system of torture against political dissidents. Former Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman, who announced Mubarak's resignation on Egyptian state television, was also Egypt's feared security chief.

Suleiman managed the regime's role in its joint extraordinary rendition programme with the US, in which terror suspects were kidnapped and brought to Egypt. Among them was Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib, who spent six months in Suleiman's torture chambers.

Habib alleges Suleiman himself managed Habib's torture, which included being subjected to electric shocks, beaten and drugged. Habib was then transported to Guantanamo Bay where he was held until 2005 before being released without charge.

Mubarak maintained his grip on power for three decades with the full support of the allegedly civilised and democratic world.

His mantra was that without him Egypt would be overrun by al-Qaeda's allies in the form of the MB. Mubarak used post-9/11 paranoia about Islamist terror to manufacture a mythology about the MB in order to maintain his corrupt regime.

Yet the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and Mubarak's regime and its Western sponsors on the other is quite complex. The MB has been a fixture in Egyptian politics and society since it was founded by school teacher Hasan al-Banna in 1928.

Conservative commentators never tire of claiming that Islamist groups such as the MB are allied with Western leftists. Ironically in Egypt, the political wing of the MB is considered socially conservative and laissez faire capitalist. Historically, the MB has always been anti-communist and anti-socialist.

In his 2004 biography, Nasser: The Last Arab, Palestinian journalist Said Aburish writes about Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdel Nasser's problems with the MB during his rule from 1956 until his death in 1970.

Despite being a devout Muslim, Nasser believed in the strict separation of religion from politics. His crypto-socialist economic and land-reform policies were rejected by the MB, one of whose number tried to assassinate him. Nasser then mercilessly repressed the MB, whose leaders and cadres were detained and tortured in what Aburish describes as concentration camps. Britain and the US, which were largely opposed to Nasser, supported the MB.

The MB is not a monolithic organisation. Dr Israel Elad Altman, a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya, Israel, is no friend of political Islam. In a 2006 paper entitled Democracy, Elections and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, delivered at the neo-conservative Hudson Institute, Altman notes:

For almost two decades, two distinctive age groups within the MB have been waging an internal ideological struggle. The first group - the 'old guard' - was formed during the harsh experience of the MB's repression under the former Egyptian ruler Gamal 'Abd al-Nasser ... By contrast, the second or middle generation is made up largely of the student leaders of the 1970s, when Anwar al-Sadat allowed the MB to take over the university campuses ... [showing] interest in building alliances with other political organisations.

Furthermore, the MB has deep links with Egyptian society through an impressive network of social service institutions - schools, hospitals and orphanages. They claim to control one-fifth of Egypt's active non-government organisations. One of its organisations, known as Gami'a Shar'ia, manages 4000 mosques and has two million members.

The Mubarak regime, while officially banning the MB, allowed the organisation to manage these services. The MB's social network has been described by some observers as a state within the Egyptian state.

With such a strong grassroots base, it's little wonder that in the 2005 elections MB candidates won more than 60 per cent of the seats they contested. Now they are represented on a 10-man constitutional amendment committee, though their representative, Mohamed Morsi, told al-Masri al-Youm magazine recently that they had no intention of running a presidential candidate.

By now, some readers will be shaking in their shoes at the prospect of an Iran on the Nile. They should calm down.

No protesters were seen at Tahrir Square in Cairo holding posters of Khomeini, let alone bin Laden or Zawahiri.

Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and author of Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist. This article was first published in the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday 22 February 2010.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

OPINION: Reflect reality, and reject monocultural nonsense

Don’t let politicians and other pundits lecture us on who we are, IRFAN YUSUF writes

Something really tragic took place in the Sydney suburb of Rouse Hill last week. Five Christians of various ages were buried. An entire Christian family - mum, dad, two children and an aunt - died in a tragic boating accident. An Anglican priest presided over the service.

A smaller number of people who died in the same accident were being buried at the Muslim section of Rookwood Cemetery in western Sydney. A huge media contingent was there. Virtually all attention was on the Muslims who died, as if the greater number of Christian dead didn't matter.

Virtually all public discussion about asylum-seekers, immigration and multiculturalism focuses on Muslims. It's as if Muslims were this singular wave of migrants who all recently arrived from the Kingdom of Muslimistan in boats. As if the demographic reality that about half of all our Muslims were born in Australia and aged under 40 are a figment of the collective imagination of employees at the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

One need only visit Mareeba in northern Queensland to understand just how entrenched Muslims are in the Australian heartland. You can find Muslims who have lived and worked and farmed in this area since the 1920s. Women from the local mosque have established a dance group consisting of Albanian, Greek, Italian and Irish-Australian backgrounds.

Even when Muslims originate from a country home to many faiths, we assume they're somehow different. I find it hilarious when I hear people say that Lebanese Muslims are different to Lebanese Christians because of their culture. How so? Do Muslims inject chilli in their baklava? Do Christians slip a bit of pork into their felafels? It's a bit like saying that meat pies made by Catholics are different to those made by Protestants.

Some years ago, I was at a function where the majority of the audience were Lebanese Sunni Muslims. Bob Carr had been invited to speak. He had a special message for the crowd.

I'm pleased to announce that the next Governor of NSW will be Professor Marie Bashir.

The roar from the crowd was instantaneous. People whistled and clapped and cheered. Some readers might wonder why Muslims would be excited about the appointment of a Christian. But they miss the point. She was a Lebanese Australian. These people are Lebanese Australians. She is a symbol of their progress.

The same crowd would cheer on a player from their favourite rugby league team regardless of what his faith was, and even if he was roughly tackling Hazem el-Masri. Cricketing fans among them would cheer a non-Muslim Australian bowler if he managed to bowl champion South African batsman
and devout Muslim Hashim Amla out for a duck.

Forget government policies. Australian multiculturalism is a deeply individual affair for those of us with at least one overseas-born parent. We all have layers of identity. At different times, different layers come to the fore. It's our right as individuals to decide how and when we express any of these layers. It isn't for governments to dictate to us how this is to happen.

What governments can and must dictate is that we act within the law. Different interest groups can shape and influence laws and government policies. In this respect, Muslims as a collective have been rather hopeless. They have little impact in the politics of this country and almost no impact on foreign policy. In political parties, their role has been all but marginal, acting largely as branch stackers than factional heavyweights.

Yet still this notion persists that they are somehow receiving special benefits. I wish I knew what these special benefits are. A local council closing off a pool for a few hours for women to swim? Surely that must beat easy access to members of cabinet and shadow cabinet that groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby enjoy to pursue agendas most Christians are uncomfortable with.

So many people who tick "Muslim" on census forms see themselves as so much more than religious actors. They're rarely seen at the mosque even for the congregational prayers on Fridays. For many, religion isn't a matter of conviction. Writing about the India he grew up in, American author Suketu Mehta remembers a place where

... being Muslim or Hindu or Catholic was merely a personal eccentricity, like a hairstyle.

That was my experience growing up in a subcontinental family in John Howard's electorate. That's how it is everywhere in Australia. Australians should be allowed to decide on their personal eccentricities and hairstyles.

When politicians and pundits start lecturing us on what our culture is, we should give them the one-finger salute. It isn't their job to tell us who we are, what layers of identity we should value more. In this respect, we should add an extra finger when this kind of monocultural nonsense is sprouted by those claiming to be Liberal.

Seriously, what kind of Liberal MP tells his or her constituents that we're a Christian country? I mean, which of Jesus' disciples preached the gospel 40,000 years ago in Arnhem Land?

My advice to pollies and commentators who persist in sowing the seeds of monocultural revolution is: save yourselves the effort and move to a country where such revolutions have been won. Say, North Korea.

Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and author of comic memoir Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist. This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Thursday 24 February 2010.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, February 21, 2011

POLITICS: Bad intelligence ...

The New York Times reports the hilarious antics of a Californian conman who took advantage of Washington's terror hysteria.

For eight years, government officials turned to Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer, for eye-popping technology that he said could catch terrorists. Now, federal officials want nothing to do with him and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his dealings with Washington stay secret.

This chap managed to make a tidy sum out of bogus anti-terrorism software.

... Mr. Montgomery and his associates received more than $20 million in government contracts by claiming that software he had developed could help stop Al Qaeda’s next attack on the United States. But the technology appears to have been a hoax, and a series of government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Air Force, repeatedly missed the warning signs, the records and interviews show.

The implementation of this software had some interesting outcomes.

The software he patented — which he claimed, among other things, could find terrorist plots hidden in broadcasts of the Arab network Al Jazeera; identify terrorists from Predator drone videos; and detect noise from hostile submarines — prompted an international false alarm that led President George W. Bush to order airliners to turn around over the Atlantic Ocean in 2003.

The software led to dead ends in connection with a 2006 terrorism plot in Britain. And they were used by counterterrorism officials to respond to a bogus Somali terrorism plot on the day of President Obama’s inauguration, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Did anyone notice the fraud?

C.I.A. officials, though, came to believe that Mr. Montgomery’s technology was fake in 2003, but their conclusions apparently were not relayed to the military’s Special Operations Command, which had contracted with his firm. In 2006, F.B.I. investigators were told by co-workers of Mr. Montgomery that he had repeatedly doctored test results at presentations for government officials. But Mr. Montgomery still landed more business.

In 2009, the Air Force approved a $3 million deal for his technology, even though a contracting officer acknowledged that other agencies were skeptical about the software, according to e-mails obtained by The New York Times.

Of course, who could suspect that such an upstanding gentleman would engage in such a huge fraud.

Mr. Montgomery described himself a few years ago in a sworn court statement as a patriotic scientist who gave the government his software “to stop terrorist attacks and save American lives.”

Read the whole story. Not very good intelligence.

Friday, February 18, 2011

CRIKEY: The media pigeonholing Muslims is not helping any cause

Scribes used to talk about “the Muslim community” and ascribe to this monolithic blob the views of several religious talking heads from fellafel land. Rarely would they bother with the vast majority of people who felt inclined to tick the “Muslim” box on their census forms. In fact, the average punter for whom Islamic religion was just one layer of their identity was left out of the discussion.

Then one day an unelected and unpopular mufti made some comments about catmeat and suddenly every media outlet in town was alleging that his word was gospel for everyone from a Malay factory worker in Port Headland to an overweight South Asian solicitor in northern Sydney. It was about this time that a whole bunch of us decided that we were sick of being typecast by religious wackos. And journalists began recognising very familiar diversity where they once only saw an alien blob.

But reading the reports in Fairfax and Murdoch press in recent days, again I’m getting the feeling that we’re going back to the future. Sally Neighbour focuses on people from one of two Arabic-speaking ethnic groups, citing one or two new faces and the usual talking heads of self-appointed ethnic leaders.

Neighbour managed to find a Lebanese medical student. Gee. I’m impressed. She might come along to a gathering of Aussies of Pakistani or Bangladeshi or Egyptian or Palestinian origin (or indeed a different group of Lebanese) and find dozens of students studying medicine, law, dentistry, engineering, mass communications, etc. Many of them are females, with and without head covering.

She might have gone to ANU and had a chat to the Foundation Professor of Medicine Dr Mohamad Khadra, who happens to be of Lebanese heritage and a former president of a campus Muslim students association.

Then The Oz editorial pompously lectures again about what “Muslim leaders” and “the Muslim community” needs to do. It says that ...

... we cannot simply ignore reports of behavioural problems among young, unemployed and disaffected Muslim men in the outer suburbs of Sydney … The difficulties among largely Lebanese Muslims are mirrored in some Pacific Islander groups in the same areas …

Yes, them Samoan imams need to get their butts kicked.

How wonderful it would be if the next generation of Lebanese-Australian kids held as their models the successful chief executives and footballers from their communities, rather than drug barons and nightclub owners.

Yes, and how wonderful it would be if you stopped giving space for ridiculous sheiks and their interpreters and started interviewing and allowing on your pages the voices of the huge array of academics, business people, CEOs, professionals who happened to be Muslim. And if you started realising that:

  • Writing editorials that sound like something authored by Glenn Beck doesn’t do much to improve your poor circulation.
  • Being Muslim is not the same as being Lebanese and vice versa.
  • Most nightclubs are not owned by Muslims or vice versa.
  • Most drug barons are not Muslims or vice versa.
  • You choose to create this perception of Muslims by focusing on their religious identity rather than anything else.

Yes, there’s a lot that all ethnic and religious communities in Auburn and Lakemba community need to do, but to assume that gangland is defined purely by one religion is just ridiculous. Last time I checked, the Morans weren’t praying five times a day.

If journalists and editors and pundits and politicians self-appointed Muslim talking heads would just allow Muslims to get on with their working lives, and stop trying to define them as some kind of monolith, common sense might prevail and the haters might stop hating.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

COMMENT: Things I learned about the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) over the years

There's this scary creature in Egypt that has spread its testi ... woops ... tentacles across the world. It's a huge conspiracy that wants to transform each and every part of the planet into one huge bearded caliphate. Soon each nation will covered in a massive black burqa. At this time, no man will be allowed to lodge a develop application at their local council unless it makes provisions for a huge dome and at least 5 minarets surrounding each building.

Okay, now that I got that Murdochian bullshit out of my system, here are some things I've learned recently about Egypt's largest and most organised opposition movement:

[01] Here are some excerpts of what one Israeli neo-Con writes about the MB. I think he is surprisingly accurate in his assessment. Then again, I cannot read the original Arabic sources on the MB.

[02] One of the main ideologues of the MB during the 1950's was Syed Qutb. He was imprisoned by the military regime led by Neguib and then Nasser. Qutb was not a trained religious scholar but rather more of an intellectual. In prison he underwent severe forms of torture and was eventually executed. Qutb was one of numerous MB figures imprisoned by Nasser after the latter just dodged an assassination in Alexandria by an MB person. Nasser was a rather paranoid chap who assumed the entire MB was involved in some huge conspiracy to kill him. Believe it or not, Qutb did go to the United States, but found the experience extremely troubling.

[03] Qutb's books are widely available in the West and have been since the 1970's when the Saudis started spending petrodollars on spreading various forms of Islam they found friendly. The Saudis have always been big sponsors of MB.

[04] Among the most popular works of Qutb is his commentary of the Qur'an which has been translated as In the Shade of the Qur'an. Its English translation is widely available in bookshops across the Western world. Also widely available are other Qutb books such as Milestones which is also easily available on the internet.

[05] Qutb's works became especially popular during Ronald Reagan's Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. MB activists took an active role in that conflict, and their literature was widely available.

[06] It is commonly claimed that Qutb was the founder of, if not the inspiration for, al-Qaida and other like-minded violent terror outfits. In a sense this is true. Bin Ladin and his colleagues do refer to Qutb. However, many peaceful political Muslim movements also make reference to Qutb.

[07] It is also claimed that Qutb is a founder or ideologue of the Salafi sect. I'm not sure what denomination of Sunni Islam Qutb belonged to or whether he subscribed to some form of Salafi/Wahhabi thinking. But I do know that many Wahhabis have attacked him for being akin to a Marxist.

[08] The MB have been active in Egypt since the 1950's. They gained a large following and infiltrated the Egyptian army. They were known to be a conservative rightwing party and were supported by both the Saudis and the British due to their strong anti-Communist stance.

COMMENT: Things I learned about asylum seekers today

Here is a summary of learnings I gained from various smart, important and influential people today on the subject of asylum seekers today:

[01] If you pay for the funeral of a dead asylum seeker, it just encourages more of them to jump on boats.

[02] If an asylum seeker wants to bury their 9 month child at taxpayers' expense, s/he needs to come up with a decent policy proposal.

[03] Funerals cost so much money, and we should all be angry. They explains why Scotty Morrison remarked on Macquarie Radio:

I know probably more than anyone how strongly people feel about this issue, how angry they get about the costs that are involved. I share that anger, and I want to see that changed ...

Funeral directors can look forward to tough times ahead.

[04] Both compassion and sex are not beyond budgetary constraints. As Barnaby Joyce correctly remarked, the price of compassion is ...

... not limitless. You can't do it with a completely open cheque book.

I'd hate to do it with a chequebook fullstop!

[05] We need to have an asylum policy that favours Christians over Muslims. We don't have that at the moment. Hence you have this kind of thing happening:

At Castlebrook Cemetery in Rouse Hill, five more coffins were lowered into the ground; a husband and wife, their young son and daughter and an aunt. A little girl in a purple dress and leggings stood out against eight weeping family members and friends dressed in black.

The victims were Protestants from Iran. "They had dreams of a better life and they came to our country searching for something,'' said the Reverend David Misztal from St Jude's Anglican Church, Dural. ''They desperately wanted a place to call home."

This would never have happened if we had a pro-Christian asylum policy. But we still shouldn't pay for the funerals.

OPINION: Prejudice among our pollies is alive and well

Tony Abbott doesn’t have much talent to choose from, IRFAN YUSUF writes

It's official. Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi doesn't like halal meat. He argues halal slaughter contradicts his values and he doesn't see why he should have to put up with it.

I too am a victim of halal slaughter. My first experience with it left me severely traumatised. It was 1977 and I was a wee lad of seven. It was the festival of Eid al-Adha, a time each year when Muslims celebrate Abraham's preparedness to sacrifice his son. (Seriously, what kind of value system is that? Middle Eastern people prepared to kill their own kids should be locked up and deported!)

Our family were invited to the farm of a Pakistani doctor in Newcastle for what I was told would be a nice barbecue and a chance to play with some animals. After a four-hour drive along the long and winding Pacific Highway, we finally reached the farm. There was no barbecue in sight. One of the Indian uncles asked:

"Where is lunch, Doctor Sahib?"

“Lunch is out there on the paddock. There are enough animals for each family.”

Within minutes, I saw my parents and a host of uncles in their safari suits and aunties in their saris running in the general direction of the lambs and goats. The poor animals recognised the nefarious intentions of these men and women, and ran for their lives. The little lambs looked rather skinny; if anything, there was more meat visibly hanging from between the sari cloth of the aunties!

One or two lambs were finally caught. Their throats were cut in my presence. I cried, not just for the poor lambs but also because, instead of barbecue, the meat was placed into large pots and mixed with chilli and spice to make traditional Indian casseroles. No fair dinkum seven-year-old Aussie kid can stomach that!

By now, I felt like vomiting instead of eating. To make matters worse, the remaining animals were too afraid to play.

The experience wasn't enough to make me a vegetarian, though eating meat from an animal I had seen slaughtered was now out of the question.

Still, someone has to slaughter the animal. Meat doesn't grow on trees.

So when I read Bernardi's recent comments in the Herald Sun, I couldn't help but wonder if he too was at that pseudo-barbecue in Newcastle. He told the Herald Sun that halal slaughtering ...

... is anathema to my own values.

And what values are they?

Cory isn't terribly good at declaring what he is. A look at his website shows he's much better at telling us what he isn't. He is one of numerous Liberals who have followed the Tea Party line, replacing political correctness with political erectness, a kind of macho ideology in which people work themselves into an ideological frenzy.

Most conservative politicians (and ideologues, editors and columnists) think that the only way to prove you are really conservative is to reach positions on all issues that are completely opposite to what anyone they deem "the Left" would come up with.

Bernardi waxes unlyrical about people he describes as “Islamists”. Among their characteristics is their “insistence of consuming Halal food”. Those Bernardi describes as “moderate Muslims” don't share this fixation with cutting throats.

I wonder what Bernardi makes of “Judaists”, who share this fixation with an identical form of slaughter. Indeed, “Judaists” go much further, as anyone who has kept a kosher kitchen would know.

A good friend of mine is a “Judaist”, and everywhere he goes he carries plastic utensils and refuses to eat meat offered to him. Apparently these “Judaists” don't believe in our legal system. They prefer to have their disputes handled by the Beth Din, a special tribunal of “Judaist” jurists who make decisions in accordance with “Judaist” laws that are around two to three thousand years old.

In fact, it would be fair to say that if Bernardi were holding public office in a European parliament during the 1930s, he would almost certainly be writing the same remarks about Jews. But it isn't just Bernardi talking sects.

Kevin Andrews, John Howard's bumbling former immigration minister, told the Herald Sun that there is ...

... a risk [of enclaves] in Australia. What actually concerns me the most is that we can't have a discussion about it.

Now this statement really confused me. Let's face it. Almost every time Kevin Andrews opens his mouth in front of a TV camera, it's to talk about ghettoes and enclaves and immigrants not integrating. It's true that what he says rarely makes much sense. Perhaps what he should have told the Herald Sun reporter was that he is incapable of having a sensible discussion about it.

Andrews has a strange view of ethnic enclaves. Back in 2007, Andrews declared that

... some groups don't seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life.

His comment was triggered by the murder of 18-year-old Sudanese man Liep Gony. Clearly migrants should adopt Australian values by ensuring they are not murdered so readily.

So this is the kind of "talent” Tony Abbott must work with in his parliamentary party. Ah well. Shit happens.

Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and author of Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist. This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Wednesday 16 February 2011.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, February 14, 2011

MEDIA: Andrew Bolt's anti-racism poetry

The January 2011 edition of the notoriously left-wing magazine IPA Review includes a lengthy profile piece on Andrew Bolt by one Tony Barry. It features a revealing poem Bolt wrote and had published at age 13. Barry notes:

It certainly isn't Les Murray, but it is a fascinating insight into the young Bolt's mindset ... it is unmistakenly written as an outsider railing against racism and the mob mentality.

Or is it? I'm not so sure. But I'll let readers be the judge.

by Andrew Bolt (aged 13)

The jeering, gloating ring of youths
Closed in around a solitary boy,
Teasing and taunting him
Because he was black

The boy staggered from a blow,
The yells grew louder,
Humiliating and bewildering the boy

The colour of his skin was a cause
For ridicule

I wanted to help him
But fear sealed my mouth,
Held me back.

And soon I was yelling with the rest.

By the way, in case you were wondering why I described the IPA Review as a notoriously leftwing magazine, it is because Tony Barry describes The Age as ...

... the notoriously leftwing Melbourne broadsheet.

And when I look at the IPA's website, I notice all these crazy leftwingers like Chris Berg and Julie Novak writing for both The Age and IPA Review. What a bunch of Commies!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

COMMENT: The neo-Con fantasy comes unstuck

Here’s an example of the kind of fruitloop reasoning that makes so many American conservatives such a laughing stock:

Are the Arabs capable of democracy? And if so, can Americans be the agents of their transformation? The answer, of course, is that no one knows. The lack of a single democratic Arab government gives grounds for skepticism. The claim that something in Arab culture makes it resistant to democracy cannot be refuted until the first Arab democracy comes into being. (Joshua Muravchik, former resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute)

Here's a simple bullshit-free translation: Sorry, sand-niggers. Your raghead culture is inferior to ours. You can’t have democracy unless we become the agents of your change. Without us, you won’t get anywhere. In the meantime, we'll blame your culture for shoving down your throats dictators that you hate but that guarantee us access to cheap oil.

Ordinary Egyptians took a mere 18 days to show what a load of crap this thinking was. And who opposed their peaceful uprising? Why none other than a large number of the same American conservatives. Funny that.

UPDATE I: Here's a few choice words from an Australian of Egyptian heritage as reported in the Sun-Herald today:
... Nour Eldin Tarraf, a 35-year-old orthodontist who moved to Sydney from Cairo five years ago, said the real threat to Egypt's prosperity was not religion. ''I'm a Muslim who grew up in a building that was half-Muslim, half-Christian - no one cared,'' said Mr Tarraf, of the Sydney Egyptian Revolution Solidarity Committee.

''The real problem is corruption. It infiltrated every rank of Egyptian society, and changing that will not be easy.''
UPDATE II: Even those who sold Mubarak to the nation are suddenly trying to reinvent themselves. The Washington Post recently published a piece about the editor of a pro-Mubarak (as in state-owned) newspaper:

For now, Osama Saraya is still editor in chief of al-Ahram, the state-run Egyptian newspaper that has long been a deferential mouthpiece for the president and his ruling party. 
But his main preoccupation seems to be reinvention. 
Portraits of Hosni Mubarak no longer adorn his office walls (one is stashed under the television, others behind a curtain). Photographs of Saraya with top government officials have been turned upside down. 
It was only last week that Saraya was denouncing the chaos caused by pro-democracy demonstrators. His editorial in al-Ahram on Sunday carried a very different tune. 
"A salutation to the revolution and respect to its youth," Saraya wrote. "The corrupt in Egypt were only a few that led to the destruction of the country, and their era is gone now.''

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

Joe Jackson - Right And Wrong

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

COMMENT: Show us your (average) face!

There's been alot of talk in the Herald Sun lately about that nasty thing called multiculturalism. I guess it's been a slow news period, and many tabloid readers perhaps believe Egypt is still ruled by pharaohs.

Conventional wisdom on planet Murdoch tells us that when wogs come to town, they have to adopt our ways. They need to be just like us.

Meanwhile, back here on planet Earth, The Age reports of a South African photographer who came up with a composite morphed Aussie face after a visit to Sydney University.

Mike notes that Sydney boasts one of the most multicultural populations in the world and this was reflected in the faces he photographed. 35 per cent of Sydney's population were born outside of Australia and this rises to 70 per cent in downtown Sydney, Mike claims.

"The city's population is primarily of European extraction (British, Irish, Italian, Greek and Maltese) with about 15 per cent being of Asian origin (Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai and Indian)," he says.

"There are also sizeable communities of Pacific Islanders, New Zealanders, Lebanese, Turks and South Africans."

Mike described his visit to Sydney University as a "veritable United Nations", saying out of about one hundred people he photographed there were 30 nationalities represented.

But heck, you don't have to like multiculturalism as a government policy. You just have to accept it as a social reality. Australia no longer has just a white face. It's a fact only the white trash appear to be worried about.

Now here's some word of wisdom from a bunch of allegedly real Australians.

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VIDEO: 30 years of dictatorship ended in 34 seconds ...

... and after 18 days of protests across the country in which hundreds were murdered using US-supplied bullets by thugs under the employ of the dictator's regime.

UPDATE I: Here's a tweet from Wael Ghonim (@Ghonim):

Dear Western Governments, You've been silent for 30 years supporting the regime that was oppressing us. Please don't get involved now

Fair call.

UPDATE II: Egyptian protesters all seem to be singing with the same voice. Either that, or they mime much better than Bollywood stars.

Below is what I presume is a translation of this song sourced from the Afro-Europe International Blog:

"I went down and I said I am not coming back, and I wrote on every street wall that I am not coming back. 
"All barriers have been broken down, our weapon was our dream, and the future is crystal clear to us, we have been waiting for a long time, we are still searching for our place, we keep searching for a place we belong too, in every corner in our country. 
"The sound of freedom is calling, in every street corner in our country, the sound of freedom is calling.. 
"We will re-write history, if you are one of us, join us and don't stop us from fulfilling our dream.

UPDATE III: Interim military rulers declare peace treaty with Israel will stay in place. Makes sense.

UPDATE IV: Even members of the animal kingdom are celebrating the resignation of Mubarak. Check out this cool cat.

UPDATE V: Palestinian journalist Said K Aburish's 2004 biography Nasser The Last Arab talks about a dictator as being someone with two characteristics::

... a brooding secretive psychopath, or one who thrive[s] on conflict.
Mubarak had shades of both. He used conflict against his opponents even to the last days of his regime when he unleashed his secret police on protesters His use of torture made him a complete psychopath..

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VIDEO: How Omar Suleiman made a mickey of the United States

The Americans and Israelis are very close to Egypt's long serving intelligence chief and recently appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman. And what has Suleiman offered in return? Watch this video from CNN's Parker Spitzer show to find out.

UPDATE I: Suleiman has also been personally linked to the torture of an Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib. I wrote something about this in Crikey back in 2008. Natalie O'Brien writes more about this for the Sun Herald here.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

VIDEO: Anti-Semitism Texas style

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jewish Speaker of Texas State House
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

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COMMENT: Angela Shanahan and Lebanese fertility ...

Angela Shanahan, a columnist for The Australian, has every reason to be concerned about the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt, who are regularly the subject of discrimination by the Mubarak regime, not to mention threats from a minority of Muslim wackos.

Though in defending the Copts, she might consider her targets as well as the old adage about people in glass houses.

In a recent column, she makes these remarks:

As for the international reaction to the New Year's massacre, it was condemned by many heads of state and foreign ministers, although in the past few have bothered with the fate of the Copts, including our own Kevin Rudd, who was singled out by the Australian Coptic movement representing our own 80,000 Australian Coptic Christians of Egyptian origin.

Referring to Rudd's December visit to Cairo, the movement observed that although he was in Egypt for three days, and met Mubarak, "he failed to convey . . . concern over the ongoing persecution of Egypt's indigenous population".

According to Day, ignoring the Copts on this occasion was partly driven by timorousness from Rudd in the face of Australia's own large and possibly strategically significant Muslim population. In an interview with the Cairo daily Al-Ahram he estimated that population at "a million", about 4.4 per cent of the population -- a startling figure compared with the 2006 census figure of about 340,000 or 1.7 per cent.

However, the Islamisation in many urban areas of Australia, such as Sydney's southwest, is slowly proceeding.

Lebanese Muslims in particular have a fertility rate four times the average.

What the ...? What do Lebanese Muslims in Lakemba or Bankstown or Arncliffe have to do with Kevin Rudd's failure to mention Coptic persecution during a recent visit to Cairo?

And what does Lebanese fertility have to do with the price of bread or eggs that poor Angela fed to her own nine children?

How many English and/or Australian women give birth to nine children? And do Catholics having lots of kids have any impact on our foreign policy? Why bring this up in the first place?

Surely Angela should know what kind of nonsensical prejudice was used in England and Australia about Catholics over-breeding and having lots of kiddies to take over the nation. Monty Python had enormous fun with such prejudices in this skit ...

... and this one ...

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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