Saturday, August 27, 2005

Humiliation by Glorified Clay

Last night, I attended a meeting of a peak organisation. A variety of people spoke at the meeting to discuss a recent summit organised by the PM with certain people claiming to be leaders of the 400,000 Australians that have Muslim faith as a segment of their identity.

Following the meeting, I received a lecture from someone who regards themself as a senior worker and leader of the community.

I have a lot of respect for this person. Notwithstanding the fact that this person has family members that owe me and my former employer over $15,000 in fees for legal and other services rendered, and that I assisted these people with a Federal Police investigation that could have landed them in gaol.

I respect this person notwithstanding that the organisations with which they are associated were almost single-handedly responsible for bringing down the most successful Muslim youth body in Sydney (known as the Islamic Youth Association or IYA) in 1991/92.

I respect this person notwithstanding the fact that I acted for one of the organisations associated with this person’s family members in an industrial law matter. The organisation was an independent school, and they were being sued by a former administrative staff member for unfair dismissal.

I ran the case for that organisation, and it went for a 5-day hearing. I charged a discounted rate of $100 per hour, around one-third what I should have charged. I engaged a top industrial barrister who charged under $10,000 to run a 5-day hearing plus preparation.

It took that institution 5 months to pay the barrister, and they only did so when he threatened to wind them up. It took them some 18 months to pay me.

The former administrative worker who was forced to settle made a complaint about me to the Law Society. That complaint was eventually dismissed as frivolous and vexatious. However, it was the first time anyone had complained against me. The investigation took place during the early months of my marriage. The pressure of the investigation was a major factor that led to the break-up of my marriage.

So there you have it. This person and their family have dominated certain Muslim institutions for over 20 years. I have protected them, covered their collective butts and saved them from almost certain imprisonment. I have defended them at discount prices, and am still owed over $15,000 in fees. My marriage broke up thanks to assisting them in their legal affairs.

And then this person tells me that I need to work with them. I sit there and listen.

“You are so talented, ‘3arfan. Why do you waste it on attacking the community? I do all this work for free. I am helping the community. You shouldn’t hang our dirty laundry on the line. I want you to work with me. You shouldn’t work by yourself.”

And on and on. All in public, in the presence of 10 or so people. I kept my mouth shut and smiled. And I could feel the angel on my right shoulder writing furiously.

So let me take the opportunity of telling these so-called community leaders what I really think of them.

Before you start lecturing me on community leadership, pay me the $15,000 that you and your family owe me from 1997. You earn all this money holding paid community posts. Pay me. The Prophet (peace & blessings of God be upon him) said: “Pay the worker before their sweat dries”. My sweat dried back in 1997.

Before you start telling me about family and community, write a letter of apology to my ex-wife for not helping us as we faced this investigation and stress jointly and as we struggled to survive financially because it took you so long to pay my fees.

Before you start asking me to help you, just accept that God doesn’t need you to do Hid work. I don’t need to work through you to get the job done.

You have had 20 years to do the job. Instead of doing the work, and instead of letting me do the work, you actively obstruct me.

And don’t lecture me on airing your dirty laundry on the line. You are the dirty laundry, not me. You are our dirty laundry, and we must hang you on the line so that our people, our fellow Australians of all faiths, can see that you are not from us.

We are not dirty because you people stack branches for Labor Party MP’s. We are not dirty because you appoint persons without even a Year 12 certificate to run community schools. We are not dirty because you give false intelligence to ASIO and other security apparatus against your internal enemies. We are not dirty because you have been leaking things to journalists for over a decade.

I am not hanging dirty linen on the line. I am exposing you. You are the dirty linen. Go have a wash.

I don’t need you and your organisations to work for God. If you want to speak to the ghetto and for the ghetto, go for it. I have no time for the ghetto Muslims, the loud-mouthed minority that marginalise me and that claim to speak for me.

You say you are the community. Which community? The community of unemployable dole bludgers? The community of permanent consultants to Centrelink? The community of people who refuse to speak English and who insist on always looking and acting differently?

Muslims have been at the heart of mainstream Australia for over 150 years. We are part of this country. We are sons and daughters of the Australian soil. But because of your inaction and stupidity and hogging of resources, we are being marginalised.

The time has come for you to move over and move on. But you cannot move on. Because these organisations butter your bread. You are professional Muslims. You make money out of being Muslim.

As for the rest of us, we are Muslim professionals. And Muslim students and businesspeople and academics and artists and writers and public servants. We contribute to this country. We see our community as the Australian community. We operate within Australian parameters.

When John Stone talks assimilation, he means you, not us. When Dr Nelson speaks of learning Australian values, he refers to you, not us. Because people like you give us a bad reputation.

You are the scum of the Muslim Australian community. You are our worst. We suffer because of you. And we also suffer because we do nothing to rid ourselves of you.

Thank you for your advice, your lecture and your public humiliation. I will consider it and file it in the appropriate part of the council bin.

God doesn’t need you for God’s work to be done. You are just glorified clay. Stop pretending God needs you. Stop pretending you are the community.

© Irfan Yusuf

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

REFLECTION: Covering the hair, not the mind ...

On Monday night, Andrew Denton interviewed a genuinely Australian couple. He had a masters degree in economics, she a masters degree in education. He ran a small business. She was a teacher at a suburban Sydney school. They were your typical aspirational Aussie couple.

And who was wearing the pants from amongst them? Not unusually for 21st century Australia, it was the wife. Anyone sitting in the studio audience at Ultimo could see it. Having known the couple from university and watching them fall in love on campus, I already took it for granted. And Maha Shiyab did not disappoint me as she gently took over the show by describing the President of the United States of American as “just plain dumb”.

Then on Tuesday night, three of these power-women descended on Canberra. While the men pussy-footed around and satisfied themselves with motherhood statements, these mothers and wives and daughters stole the show in front of the PM and his ministers.

Iktimal Hage-Ali ruled the roost on the radio and TV waves. This 21 year old youth leader held her ground in the presence of the world media, telling reporters that Islam had no place for violence. She was “110,000 per cent” against violence. When asked about Usama bin Ladin, she said: "We … don't need to talk about a deranged person that is missing somewhere in the mountains … Don't want to think about him, don't want to talk about him.”

Azizah Abdelhalim was tough and took no nonsense from reporters or politicians. But as Anwar Ibrahim knows, all Azizah’s are like that. He feared telling a joke about his wife, the good Dr Wan Azizah, and not just out of fear she might put extra chilli in his beef rendang.

And what can I say about Queenslander Yasmin Khan? I've never met her, but I have two close friends from either side of the Tasman of that name.

The Kiwi version speaks little and thinks carefully before she says anything. She is highly intelligent, a research scientist who would do her late Muslim father proud. Her giggle is “unfikshus”. She has been blessed with external beauty, but her mind shines as its radiation emerges from her tall regal forehead. When she finds out I have written about her, I know she will scold me ever-so-gently.

The Aussie Yasmin just scolds me. And she scolds her young son. And her husband. And any other male who gets on her nerves. Her quiet husband Mohamed seems to have given up trying to wear the pants in that marriage. And when “Yazza” (as her Aussie Mossie mates call her) and her nurse-friend Layla get together, the blokes are always the target of the ferocious wit of these covered women cracking barbs like the two old men on the Muppet Show.

As anyone on the Aussie Muslim circuit knows, you never mess with a Yasmin!

On Tuesday night, I saw the same scene at the Channel 9 studies. Geoffrey Robertson QC, one of the world’s foremost international lawyers, was grilling the likes of Tony Abbott, Dr Mahathir and Kim Beazley.

I was on that panel. I could see Mr Abbott, an experienced and brilliant public speaker, a man who gave one of the best pre-selection speeches in Liberal Party history, shiver in his shoes when placed in the spot with tough questions from my very smooth and very learned friend.

Of course, Mr Robertson could not phase the women. And one woman stood out as the star of the show. Nada Roude was phenomenal. She struggled with the notion of her 24 year old daughter being labelled a terror suspect and a potential suicide bomber. Nada spoke firmly and resolutely, showing lots of other Aussie mums what should be done. Hopefully her words will not be edited too much by the Channel 9 Sunday crew.

The 1950’s and 60’s saw a mini-revolution in the Arab world. More and more Muslim women were liberating themselves from the strictures of of their culture and emerging from their homes into the modern world. It seemed the Muslim woman was finally being liberated.

A major symbol of thise revolution was seeing women appear in public with their heads uncovered. It seemed this piece of cloth (known as “hijab” in the Middle Wast, “chador” in Iran and “tadung” in Malaysia) was covering the hair and the mind.

The 1990’s saw something unusual. The daughters of these women decided they wanted to keep their minds open but cover their hair. Many of their western sisters could not understand this phenomenon. Why would you want to cover your hair? Who was forcing you?

The answer? In most cases, no one.

These covered feminists emerged as the new leaders of the Muslim world. They were tough, resilient and not afraid to boss us blokes around.

Aussie (and Kiwi) Muslim women, with or without anything on their heads, are not to be messed around with. They are tough, resolute, educated and ready to face the challenges life and other contingencies place before them. Don’t even try to patronise them.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Learning & un-Learning To Hate Jews

Mr Howard has invited what he describes as moderate Islamic leaders to a summit on Tuesday 23 August 2005. Amongst the organisations attending is the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) who are being represented by their President, Dr Ameer Ali.

Dr Ali is an economist teaching at Murdoch University. He is a highly educated and well-spoken man with bright ideas and plenty of enthusiasm. He is perhaps new to the AFIC structure and is not aware of some of the matters you are about to read on.

Indeed, many of the things I am mentioning will be totally unknown to many people associated with AFIC. But anyone who has attended AFIC camps will confirm what I am saying.

In 1985, I attended my first Muslim youth camp, held at Harrietville, a small village in country Victoria. The camp was organised by AFIC, a body which is now asking the Australian government to legislate to give it exclusive powers to regulate and monitor Muslim religious affairs in Australia.

At the conclusion of the camp, all participants received a certificate and a set of books. These books were printed in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and were published by the International Islamic Federation of Student Organisations (IIFSO) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).

Among the books was on the Afghan Jihad. It had substantial quotations from Sheik Abdullah Azzam, a prominent Muslim religious scholar and spiritual leader of all Afghan mujahideen movements. Those were the roaring ‘80’s, a time when jihad was synonymous with fighting communism.

Another book was a small brown-coloured book. It was entitled “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”. At the time I received my copy, I had no idea what the book was about. The book had no author and seemed a cheap pirated reprint. What I do recall was that the book had the official seal of AFIC on the inside cover. It was being distributed as prizes to camp participants, and I received a copy of the book as a result of winning the camp essay competition.

I never took much notice of the book until I attended my next AFIC camp in 1987. This camp was held at Jindabyne. I was again in the “advanced” group. Our teacher was an elderly Sydney imam. At the end of the camp he took our names and addresses and promised to send us some books.

Some 2 months after the camp, he sent me a book. It was a copy of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I telephoned the imam and asked him about the book.

“You must read this book. You must learn what the Jews are doing to Muslims and to the world. You are a young man and an educated man. You should learn to be careful about the Jews.”

I showed my mother the book. Without my knowing, she slipped into my room that evening and threw the book in the bin. I never saw the book again.

Some years later, I was organising a Muslim youth camp for the Islamic Youth Association of NSW. Our office was in Zetland, in the same complex as the AFIC headquarters. We wanted to borrow the AFIC photocopier so that we could photocopy the camp educational materials.

The AFIC CEO, Mr Amjad Mehboob, was happy for us to move the photocopier downstairs to our office. However, in return, we were to assist him in cleaning the store room adjacent to the mosque.

I remember entering the store room and assisting Mr Mehboob and others in lifting boxes and shelves and rugs. One box was sealed and had a sticker which said that it was a gift from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

I opened the box. Inside it were multiple copies of the same book with the same brown-covered English reprint of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I asked Mr Mehboob what I should do with the box.

“You might want to hand them out as prizes at your youth camp”.

I took a copy of the book to the camp organiser. He threw the book back at me and told me to destroy all copies.

Around 2 weeks later, I was in my university library and saw a book entitled “Index of anti-Semitic Propaganda”. It was a book containing titles and summaries of books which were regarded as spreading hatred toward Jews. The first book listed was the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

My mother’s first friend in Australia was a Jewish lady named Anne. My parents had many Jewish friends and colleagues. Some of my closest friends at school were Jewish. Yet I was being taught at a youth camp organised by the peak body of Muslim Australians that an old anti-Semitic forgery from Russia was to be treated as a legitimate Muslim religious educational text.

At university, I was passionately pro-Palestinian. I had numerous Palestinian friends. The first novel I ever ordered from overseas was a copy of Sahar Khalifeh’s “Wild Thorns”. I bought the book from Abbeys Bookshop in York Street in the city, a few minutes walk from my school.

I always saw the Palestinian struggle as a national one, a battle against an essentially nationalistic and irreligious ideology called Zionism. The war was against extreme Zionism, not against Jews or Judaism. If anything, the struggle to liberate Jerusalem would have to involve Jews (and indeed Zionists) of goodwill.

Saladdin could never have defeated the crusaders and liberated Jerusalem without the advice and wise counsel of the famous Shaykh Musa bin Maymoun al-Qurtubi (Moses Maimonides).

I support the idea that Muslim youth need to be educated in proper, real Islam. But I am afraid of having Islamic education managed by an organisation which was involved in distributing an anti-Semitic text. I am aware that certain Imams have not been invited to sit with the PM. Amongst the crimes of these Imams is that they distribute anti-Semitic literature.

But the Protocols is just the beginning. Schools managed by AFIC have refused to sign an Islamic school manifesto committing signatory schools to Australian values and to opposition to all forms of terrorism. By implication, it seems AFIC schools are against Australian values and support terrorism. I am sure this implication is wrong, but it may be regarded as a legitimate interpretation.

So why did some people from AFIC distribute anti-Semitic literature to young people at Muslim camps? Was it unwittingly done given the lack of English language skills people had? Was it pure malice against Jewish people? I am not sure.

The books were not locally printed. Rather, they were printed in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The books were being distributed by pro-Saudi religious bodies in Australia, including by at least two organisations being represented in the meeting with the PM.

Many young Muslims would read this literature and develop hatred and resentment toward Jewish people. But when they moved into wider society and worked and studied and made friends with Jewish Australians, they realised such sentiments were absurd. However, a seed planted at an early age tends to leave some traces on the garden. And sadly, anti-Semitism has been one of the seeds planted in the minds or Muslim youth in Australia.

Today, AFIC don’t run Muslim camps. Groups such as the Australian Islamic Cultural Centre are no longer (as far as I am aware) active in the education of young Muslims (apart from running the odd school). Young Muslims are taking control of their own education.

The Melbourne Age recently reported on an initiative by Young Muslims of Australia (YMA) based in Melbourne. Women from YMA are running a program teaching Muslim girls and women to swim. Groups like YMA and FAMSY are offering relevant services and activities to young Muslim Australians. YMA and FAMSY people are slowly but surely taking over peak Muslim bodies such as the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV).

But groups like AFIC and others are resisting generational change. They are resisting the involvement of young people committed to their faith and their country. They are resisting women’s participation. Instead, they are locked in the old mindset of migrant settlement and welfare. And of unwittingly distributing books like the Protocols.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Aussie Pollies & Aussie Mossies

In recent times, there has been plenty of focus on a meeting between the Prime Minister John Howard and a small select group of allegedly “moderate” Muslim “leaders”.

The goal of this meeting, according to the PM, is to promote and encourage “moderate” leaders and to marginalise “radicals”. Mr Howard says he wants to "prevent impressionable younger people in particular from coming under the sway of extremism".

Kim Beazley, seeking to out-Howard Mr Howard, has suggested that Dr Nelson should also attend as Education Minister. Why? Because “Australian values” must be taught in all schools including Islamic schools.

We have not yet heard from the real opposition leader, whom we understand at this stage to be Senator Barnaby Joyce. Or is it Dr Evans? Who knows.

What we do know is that the politicians have basically sought to invite another bunch of politicians to talk politics. Mainstream Muslim Australians are once again being side-lined. The twin pillars of Muslim Australia – women and young Muslims born and raised in Australia – are being ignored.

I am in no way suggesting that no one amongst the lucky 15 or so people should not be part of the meeting. But let’s look at some of the people.

One participant is a man who for years ran a shadowy body called the “National Federation of Islamic Societies”. The chap is a Pakistani of Pathan origin who originally was aligned to Colonel Gaddafi and then switched sides to the Saudi royal family.

This fellow has for years been sponsoring young Muslims to study in some of the most extreme and radical religious institutions in the Muslim world, including the Islamic University of Madeenah.

Perhaps a good test of the moderate nature of this university can be seen in its Australian graduates. Three prominent names come to mind – Sheiks Omran, Feiz Mohamed and Abdus Salam Zoud. All these three individuals have close links to the gentleman in question.

Mr Howard regularly speaks with this gentleman and chooses to visit his school in Auburn. Mr Howard lends his support to a man at the heart of the process of radicalisation of Muslim youth. Mr Howard is supporting the training of more young Australian Muslims into the likes of Zoud, Omran and Feiz.

Further, this gentleman has been found by an Australian court to have been involved in an interesting use of funds meant to be used by Turkish Muslim groups for their activities.

Turks are one of the largest and most established Muslim ethnic groups in Australia. One of Australia’s most successful Muslim businessmen, John Ilhan, is of Turkish background. Yet the PM has not invited a single Turk. Nor are other established communities (Bosnians and Albanians) represented in the list.

Then there is Dr Ameer Ali from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC). Dr Ali told Perth talkback radio that he wants the government to hand special legislative powers to his body so that they can police and regulate Muslim Australian activity. His CEO, my old Uncle Amjad Mehboob, has also suggested that the government should move to ensure that only AFIC be allowed to operate Muslim independent schools.

The majority of Muslim schools are run outside the AFIC structure. Most of these schools form an umbrella body known as the Council of Islamic Education in Australia. The CIEA schools have all signed a manifesto condemning terrorism and violence. AFIC schools refuse to sign the manifesto.

Could Mr Beazley please advise what kind of Australian values would lead schools part of a peak Muslim body to refuse to sign their name to a document condemning terrorism? Could Mr Howard please advise what is so moderate about the refusal of AFIC schools to sign the manifesto?

Then there is one chap who has been the chairman of one of three peak Islamic councils in NSW. This chap is the principal of an independent school, yet he does not even hold a higher school certificate. He has a history of employing family members to perform services for his body, using government funding to pay them.

This gentleman was responsible for the closing down of the oldest umbrella Muslim youth body, the Islamic Youth Association of NSW (IYA). Up until a few years ago, the IYA existed in all but name. This gentleman had appointed his younger brother as president of the IYA. Other members of his family were ruling the roost of the Muslim Womens’ Association and the Muslim Aged Society.

The same younger brother who presided over the IYA also won a tender to provide job services to unemployed youth in 1998. He was the subject of a Federal Police investigation, and was represented by a Melbourne law firm who to this day have not been paid for their services. The amounts owing exceed well over $10,000.

Members of this family may be tempted to sue the writer for defamation. Before doing so, they should consider paying the fees of at least 2 other Muslim solicitors who have substantial amounts outstanding for services rendered at a heavily reduced rate.

It is people like these that Mr Howard believes are the moderate voices of the Muslim community. It is people like these that Mr Howard wishes to promote. Who is advising Mr Howard? In what way can these people contribute to national security?

In Sydney, there are over 5 Muslim womens’ bodies. Mrs Halim, the former President of one such body, will be attending the meeting. But what about Sally Mousa, President of the Muslim Womens Association? What about other womens’ representatives?

Muslim women make up over 51% of the Muslim Australian community. Where are they being represented? Why aren’t they the majority of those attending?

Mr Howard talks about not wanting to encourage young people to head toward extremism. So where are the youth representatives? Or is it just AFIC’s youth adviser, Sheik Hilali, who will be attending together with a token person from the NSW Youth Advisory Council? Why is the entire event being dominated by middle-aged migrant men?

But then, is it really Mr Howard’s fault that many on the list are unrepresentative? After all, AFIC has overseen a national structure which has been completely disorganised and disoriented. AFIC has created fake state councils when existing ones fall out of its favour. AFIC has allowed itself to be dominated by middle-aged sub-continental men.

Muslim Australians need to make AFIC accountable. Ordinary Aussie Mossies must ensure AFIC becomes their voice. They must ensure that the sub-continental and other ethnic types be shipped out and be replaced with a genuine bunch consisting of women and people brought up in Australia.

In short, Muslim Aussies must ensure AFIC becomes truly Australian.

The author is a Sydney lawyer.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

OPINION: Protocols of the Learned Mullahs of Wellington

Winston Peters believes that there is a militant underbelly in all countries where large Muslim migrant communities exist. He made these comments in a speech on 10 August 2005.

His comments were almost immediately being discussed on the discussion forums of popular website islamicsydney-dot-com. They have been repeated by former Australian National Party Senator John Stone in a series of articles published in The Australian newspaper.

And what evidence does Peters produce? Peters claims to have sources amongst “moderate Muslims concerned about the impact of fundamentalism in their ranks”.

So? Many Maori friends of mine tell me of a militant underbelly in the Maori community. And who do they point to as a prime example?

Yep, you guessed it. Mr Peters.

Mr Peters’ claims are heavy on innuendo and anecdotes and light on facts. He has clearly not done his homework on what kind of speakers and media and magazines and sermons New Zealand Muslims are reading and watching and listening to.

Recently, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) hosted Abdur Raheem Green to conduct a series of lectures as part of their Islamic Awareness Week. Mr Green does hold some extreme views on certain issues. I criticised some of these views in an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald on 15 August 2005.

Despite the enormous controversy surrounding the proposed Green tour to Australia (which was organised by a fringe Salafi youth group in Sydney), the FIANZ tour went without incident. It appears Green has changed his views or at least toned them down.

But Peters’ claims that FIANZ are funding a Maori Muslim to spread radical Islamic views in NZ prisons is the stuff all good conspiracy theories are made of. It seems Peters is not satisfied with four mosques being vandalised following the London bombings.

In Australia, views such as those expressed by Peters were once fashionable. They were personified in one Pauline Hanson, founder of the virtually-defunct One Nation Party. Ms Hanson has moved on from her earlier xenophobic days to the real stage where she dances and sings quite well.

Hanson’s colleagues in New South Wales have been busy spreading all kinds of conspiracy theories about alleged radical Muslims trying to spread venom and hatred amongst Muslim youths.

Are there radicals amongst Muslims? Of course there are. Just as there are radical Jews opposed to the Israeli dismantling of settlements in the Gaza Strip. Just as there are radical Hindus who believe Muslims and Christians should be slaughtered in India. Just as there are radical Protestants and Orthodox Christians who believe in reviving the crusades and massacring Muslims and Catholics in the same manner as Bosnian Serbs did in Bosnia during the mid 1990’s.

And just as there is at least one radical Maori who believes Muslims are funding extremism.

But what really annoys me about Mr Peters’ comments is that he uses the alleged extremism as a means to claim that Muslim migration should be curtailed. He suggests that Muslim migrants hate New Zealand culture and values. Try telling that to Hazara Afghan refugees who risked life and limb to reach Australia and New Zealand, many (to use Neil Finn’s phrase) spending six months in a leaking boat.

And even worse is the fact that not only are Muslims demonised but even many people with some distant link to Islam. Muslims have been marrying non-Muslims for centuries. The children of these unions are being demonised. Persons with Arabic-sounding names are being castigated.

And all in the name of national security and social cohesion.

My law clerk was born in Canberra. She studies Nursing at a Catholic university. Her father is Anglo-Australian Catholic, her mother Indian Hindu. My clerk was born in Canberra. She speaks English with a posh private-school accent. Yet she keeps getting told that she should go back to where she came from. And she is now too scared to catch the train to my office in case someone thinks she is an Islamist terrorist.

One of our shared friends was born in Christchurch and never met her Muslim father. Her mum is a prominent lawyer and activist who agitates on behalf of Maori causes. Our friend has an abbreviated surname which, in Arabic, suggests her father was a descendant of the Prophet’s great-grandson. Yet she mixes champagne with orange juice and loves watching live bands at the local pub. She is the sort of girl Peters wants to see removed from New Zealand.

Both of these friends feel more demonised and fearful of anti-Muslim backlash than their activist Muslim lawyer-friend who sticks his neck out almost weekly publishing columns in newspapers in Australia and New Zealand.

When prominent political leaders attempt to marginalise an entire ethnic or ethno-religious group, it usually involves the making of gross generalisations and conspiracy theories. In times past, Jews were demonised in a forgery known as “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”.
Today, certain political leaders are re-writing that document. In the case of Mr Peters, the document should perhaps be entitled “Protocols of the Learned Mullahs of Wellington”. Yet it isn’t the learned mullahs who are being affected as much as ordinary Aussies and Kiwis deemed to be Muslim even if they have little if any link to Islam. Indeed, hatred thrives on ignorance and stereotypes.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

An Open Letter to Peter Faris QC

Mr Peter Faris QC

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to you concerning your blog located at …

I gave read your CV. I am impressed by your contributions to Aboriginal rights, ro community legal centres and to law enforcement. I note you were a chair of a national crime-fighting body.

You have been a champion of the oppressed, of victims of crime and of those unable to afford all the benefits of legal representation without outside assistance. Further, your crusade against white collar crime has been exemplary. You are one of the few voices in the profession to openly attack the inconsistencies in the treatment and prosecution of white collar criminals.

Sadly, your comments on issues pertaining to national security are not in this productive and sensible league. Instead of enlightening your readers on the real threats to national security, you are demonising 400,000 Australians of a particular faith-community at the heart of Australian life.

I have frequently visited your blog. I read headlines such as “Muslims must become Aussies now”. Further, your 10 or so points on “Defending Australia” are designed to incite hatred and violence against Muslim Australians.

I note that you currently have a contract as a radio announcer with 3AW. I wonder whether your station management are aware of the comments you have made on your blog. I wonder if your advertisers and sponsors are aware of the contents of your blog.

I encourage you to put your views on Muslims to some of the advertisers and sponsors of 3AW and its affiliate stations. Perhaps you could invite John Ilhan or Ahmed Fahour to comment on your blog. Or perhaps you could invite other prominent Muslim Australians for their views.

Your views on immigration and citizenship are particularly interesting. I wonder if senior Department of Immigration, Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) bureaucrats such as Mr Abdul Rizvi would agree with your sentiments.

We live in a free country. You are free to say and write what you wish. But as a Queens Counsel, you have certain ethical obligations to the legal profession and the community.

I would humbly submit that the contents of your blog are inconsistent with your ethical and professional obligations.

I encourage you to reconsider your views on these matters. I welcome your response and am happy to discuss the matter with you face-to-face, including in the media. I would be happy to appear with you on, for example, the ABC 7:30 Report, Lateline or the Today Show. We can have a frank expression of views, and we can let viewers decide.

I look forward to your response. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at the following address …

Yours faithfully,
Irfan Yusuf., BEc, LLB (Macq), GradDipLP (UTS)
Barrister & Solicitor

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Numbers count for nothing and everything ...

Whoever takes the life of one human unjustly, it will be treated as if he has taken the lives of all humans whoever walked this earth.

We find this message in the Qur’an and in the Bible. Similar messages can be found in the scriptures of other religious traditions. Human life is always sacred. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands and take revenge on some perceived injustice by killing innocents.

Perhaps the worst excesses in murder and genocide in human history were carried out by the Mongols. I mention them because they were my ancestors. The Mongols swept across China, forcing the king of China to build a huge wall whose trail to this day can be picked up by satellites in space.

The Mongols then smashed down the doors of Baghdad and other cities. They plundered, raped, murdered and burnt wherever they went. No one was safe. We read reports of Mongol troops grabbing babies by the feet and smashing their heads against the walls of Baghdad. All in the presence of their mothers, who were typically raped and then murdered.

Baghdad back then was what London is today. The Mongol attack on Baghdad involved terrorising the heart of civilisation. Baghdad was a place where scholars and dissidents, students and artists would all meet under the protection of the Caliph. The Tariq Ali’s and Salman Rushdie’s and Abdul Majid Khoei’s of that time found security and sanctity in Baghdad. At least until the hordes arrived.

Apart from Hitler’s treatment of European Jewry, it is hard to find a modern equivalent of the Mongol massacre. The closest would perhaps be the war in Bosnia.

Human life is all sacred. We all have the same coloured blood. Among the victims of the London bombing was a young English Muslim girl named Shahara Islam. Her surname is a powerful metaphor in this conflict. If anyone needed proof that Islamic civilisation is much a victim as any other, it could be found in her name. Islam is a victim. Islam is innocent.

London had some 80 Shahara Islam’s die in the bombing. And hardly 10 years before, another place in the heart of Europe saw 8,000 Shahara Islam’s brutally murdered. Yet sadly little coverage was given to this anniversary.

In case anyone still remembers, the name of this town was Srebrenica. In July 1995, some 8,000 men and boys were massacred in this town. Their crime was that they supported a multi-ethnic multi-religious state. The inhabitants of this town were largely Muslim. The defenders of the town were a Bosnian army unit consisting of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The invading army were Serb ethnic chauvinists.

The UN peacekeepers sat back and watched the massacre take place. The world watched. The Bosnian army, hampered by a UN-imposed arms embargo, were powerless to do anything. The ethnic chauvinists won the battle. Humanity lost the war.

80 Britons died in London. 8,000 Bosnians died in Srebrenica. 6,000,000 Jews died in the Second World War. No one knows how many died at the hands of the Mongols. The numbers just keep getting worse. Humanity keeps losing the war.

So what is the answer? Civilisational war? Seeking justice for past crimes? There will always be Christians who never forgive Jews, Jews who never forgive Christians, Hindus who never forgive Muslims, Muslims who never forgive Sikhs.

And a God who will be happy to forgive the lot of them if they just stopped fighting and tried to get along!

You cannot fight terror with terror. Mongols terrorised the world. But one day a sufi Muslim introduced Islam to a Mongol warrior. Within a month, the vast Mongol horde had been adopted by the most civilised nation of the day. Centuries later, they arrived in India and left us with such wonders as the Taj Mahal.

If there is one thing all faiths teach, it is that you can never write off anyone. The ones society damns are often the most blessed. Christ spent much of his time with tax collectors and prostitutes. Muhammad’s closest followers were slaves and the homeless. Religion teaches love. Terrorists teach hate. Terrorism knows no religion.

Whether it be 80 or 8,000 or 6 million. Human life is human life. As one holocaust survivor said, we should not focus on numbers. Rather, we should look at it as one life lost, then another, then another, then …

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I had just parked my car near the intersection of Elizabeth and Cleveland Streets in Strawberry Hills. It was almost midday, and I was meeting a colleague for lunch at our favourite Lebanese restaurant.

He was standing near a shopping trolley containing bottles of water and different kids of soaps. He was babbling away in conversation with people I couldn’t see. He then approached me, holding a wet window cleaner.

“Can I clean your windscreen, Sir?”

Before I could say no, he was already onto the second window. Within 5 minutes, the windows of my humble Daihatsu hatchback were sparkling.

I asked him his name. “My name’s As, short for Aslam”.

I remember having a depressed uncle named Aslam. I also remember a close friend telling me of her relative of similar sounding name who lived on the streets and survived by wiping windscreens. Could Aslam be him?

I stayed with Aslam for a while. We looked an unusual pair, me in my business suit and Aslam in his t-shirt, trackies and sneakers with no socks. He told me he had been wiping windscreens for a couple of years. He answered my questions and those of others. It seemed like he was talking to people I couldn’t see.

Aslam told me he stayed at Matthew Talbot Hostel sometimes. I remembered something Cardinal Pell had written in the Sunday Telegraph on the refurbishment of the hostel which serviced hundreds of homeless men.

Of course, the Hostel cannot accommodate the many thousands of homeless people, many with untreated psychiatric illnesses who have been turned away by their families. These men can often be found sleeping on park benches or outside churches.

Yet even the most unwell of people have dignity and pride. I felt inspired watching Aslam approach people confidently and sell his services. He didn’t insist on drivers offering him tips.

“I just wanna do something useful”, Aslam told me.

Later, my colleague finally arrived for lunch. I told him about Aslam, and we could see him from the front window of the restaurant cleaning away. My colleague was of Lebanese background, and suggested that perhaps Aslam was Muslim.

The words “Aslam” and “Muslim” both come from the same Arabic word which means to surrender and find peace. Standing with Aslam watching him content with a few dollars and his dignity intact made me feel a strange peace.

In most religious and legal traditions, the mentally ill are regarded as without blame. In Islamic traditions, the mentally ill are not subject to the law whilst affected by their illness. A person who lives and dies whilst in a state of mental illness is a veritable saint.

Islamic tradition ascribes the highest spiritual states to the homeless. The spiritual tradition of Islam, known as Sufism, is named after the People of the “Suffah”, referring to a platform in the Prophet’s Mosque where the homeless were accommodated. These men were largely refugees and spent their days either in worship or seeking work.

The Prophet Muhammad is reported as spending much of his time with a women suffering from schizophrenia. She would take him by the hand to an old ruined house she squatted in. He would sit and listen to her babbling. He would ask her to pray for him.

A Prophet asking a schizophrenic to pray for him? Why? Because he knew that her prayers would always be answered. Because this woman was a veritable saint.

Christ spent much of his time with the socially stigmatised – sex workers, tax collectors, the poor and homeless. He gave them his time and his love. He realised that true greatness arises from service to those less fortunate.

“Beware the prayer of someone you oppress, for their prayers reach God without any barrier.” People damned by society are the truly oppressed. When they pray against you, watch out. But when they wish you well, expect to find peace and joy.

I found that after spending just 15 minutes watching Aslam. I gave him $20, a small price to pay for peace of mind. And if he reads this, I hope St Aslam prays for my soul.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Hanging Dirty Linen on the Line - Part 1

“Irfan, why are you hanging our dirty linen on their line!”

I have lost count of how many times I have heard this statement being made. Especially now, with Muslims really feeling the pressure over terrorism. It seems everyone is ready to blame Muslims for the acts of a few lunatics. And many Muslims see their institutions as a barrier between themselves and the rest of the broader Australian community.

For some Muslims, public criticism of Muslim community bodies is akin to treachery. It is indicative of a siege mentality in which the Muslim “us” is forever at risk of being overrun by the broader Australian “them”. It perhaps presumes that non-Muslim Australians have sinister or even hostile intentions toward Muslims.

What it does not, however, seek to do is recognise why “they” may not be all that favourably inclined toward “us”. Further, it locks “us” into a marginalised fringe. It creates suspicion and paranoia which drives Muslims to search for conspiracies and other unrealistic explanations.

Already, such conspiracy theories are being rattled off about my not-so-good self. I have had a fairly good run so far in the press. At least four of my articles have been published in the Daily Telegraph, two in the Financial Review, two in the Canberra Times and one in the Sydney Morning Herald.

I have been interviewed twice on Channel 9’s Today Show and once on the prestigious ABC current affairs program Lateline. I have also been interviewed by 5 talkback hosts in Sydney and Canberra.

For some, this is evidence that I am a Freemason or a Zionist agent. After all, a Muslim Australian is not allowed to be published in mainstream media, nor is s/he allowed to be given a fair go by the allegedly Jewish-controlled media. After all, being a lawyer and former Liberal candidate for a safe Labor seat is bad enough.

But my worst crime is that I have dared to speak about internal Muslim community politics. I apparently have a personal agenda and am abusing my role as spokesperson to pursue personal vendettas.

Let’s examine some of the underlying assumptions. Firstly, there is the notion of “internal Muslim community matters”, of “our dirty linen”. There are strong suggestions that the London bombing was the work of locally recruited and trained British Muslim youths. These were not necessarily youths with a history of radical activity (although some did attend training camps in Afghanistan).

We are all familiar with the scenario. Young Muslim kids disillusioned with their community and national leadership. Youth ignored by community organisations and with little outlet for their talents. Their aspirations and ideals are constantly challenged by hypocrisy they see all around them.

These young kids are then recruited by radical organisations. They feel empowered by these fringe groups who encourage them to speak out. And their rhetoric becomes more hostile and extreme.

Many of these young people suffer from all kinds of illnesses, especially untreated depression. It is well known that depressed youngsters are often suicidal. Combine depression and suicidal ideation with radical rhetoric and a bit of military training.

Why do these young people get sucked in by extremist fringe groups? Where are these groups coming from? What is their ideology? Who funds them? How did they end up active and resourced in countries like Australia?

And if a bomb does go off in Sydney or Melbourne, where will law enforcement officials be looking to first? Where will media focus be? Where will the trails lead?

Yes, we know that Muslims are not the only terrorists. After all, we all saw recently images of Israeli Muslims mourning their dead killed by a Jewish terrorist who boarded a bus and opened fire. We also know that this terrorist was part of a wider movement opposed to the dismantlement of heavily fortified Jewish extremist camps in Gaza. We also know that some Australian Jews are supporting and bankrolling this extremist fringe.

But how many Australians would blame Jewish extremists and their Australian backers for a terrorist act? How many associate Jewish chauvinism with suicide bombings? How many Jewish Australians openly espouse the views of Israel’s Jewish Ayatollahs? How many Australian rabbis do we see describing the Jewish terrorist as “a great man”?

Jewish institutions are well-oiled and powerful. And this is not related to any conspiracy or infiltration. It is just plain hard work and a willingness to understand the sources of anti-Jewish prejudice. When Jewish community spokesmen speak, it is in a language and using terms mainstream Australia understands and related to.

What language do Muslim spokespeople speak in? Why is it that we are always embarrassed by what our people say? Why is it that a radical youth like Wasim Dureihi sounds more credible than Sheik Hilali or the President of AFIC or the chairmen of any one of three competing Islamic “pizza” councils in NSW?

Some two weeks ago, the Islamic Council of NSW was approached with a proposal for a media committee to be delegated the role of talking to the press. A list of names was presented. Little was done until the writer decided to publish a few home truths about the dominance of one family on ICNSW affairs.

Now a meeting has been organised. And when will it be? On Thursday 11 August 2005. At what time? 10am.

As a colleague of mine said: “Mate, it looks like only people with workers comp claims will attend!”

To be continued …

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Servants of al-Qaida

I was sitting in a TV studio in Ultimo when a brainwave hit me. I was all painted and covered in make-up, my hair severely gelled, my suit feeling hot and uncomfortable, cameras staring at me. Maxine was looking and talking a million dollars, I didn’t feel like I was contributing 2 cents and I was lost for words (not because of Maxine but because I was nervous!).

Then it hit me. Out of nowhere. I was talking about conservative rhetoric needing to get beyond Islam-bashing. And then I saw the image in my mind.

It was Usama. Usama bin Ladin sitting in his cave, watching me on the TV. Usama reading Aussie newspapers and planning his next attack. Usama generating a desirable result for al-Qaida. Usama trying to think of ways to push the reluctant and sceptical Muslim mainstream in his general direction.

Usama’s Jihadi Salafite vision of Islam is regarded as the stuff fruitcakes and breakfast cereals (as in fruitloops) are made of in the Muslim world. The overwhelming majority of Muslims regard his rejectionist thinking as worthy of people with heads plonked firmly in the sand. Usama is the archetypal Muslim ostrich, ready to be slaughtered and eaten. Except that his ideological flesh is simply not halal!

Young disillusioned Muslim kids (such as the Dureihi brothers of the Sydney branch of Hizbut Tahrir) may find this rhetoric attractive. They might even get a few hundred kids to turn upto the Auburn Town Hall to listen in. But they are on the fringe, almost universally ridiculed when not pitied.

But the real allies of Usama are not the Hizbos (as they are known in the broader Aussie Mossie community). The real allies of Usama are allegedly conservative columnists and commentators who demonise Islam and anything or anyone even remotely associated with it.

When you want to fight the enemy, you can use a scud missile. This large and clumsy creature usually misses its target. Sadly, unintended others are often hurt. In the war against terrorism, neo-Con columnists are like ideological scud missiles. They miss the target but end up hurting others unnecessarily if not unintentionally.

One of my closest friends never met her Muslim father. She works behind a bar. When she told me about her father, I somehow doubted whether this would lead to her feeling passionate about her background and faith.

Then one day, we spoke for an hour about Feiz Mohamed and his comments on rape. I told her I had published something in this newspaper about it, my first foray into mainstream journalism. Her response left me stunned.

“I am so glad someone has spoken out about it! I’ve been up here in Newcastle arguing with people about it. They keep teasing me about it!”

My friend is not the most observant Muslim on the planet. She enjoys mixing champagne with her orange juice. She looks even better than Maxine did on Lateline. And she gets so hurt when she hears or sees someone give her father’s faith a bad name.

My friend gets even more upset when she reads Dr Janet Albrechtsen claiming that her late father would have taught her brothers to rape white women. Or when Piers Akerman claims Muslim citizens are answerable for the actions of terrorists. Or when she logs into the blog of Peter Faris QC and reads stuff that would make Pauline Hanson look like Mother Teresa.

And this young barmaid reads this stuff and gets pushed into the direction of the broader Muslim community. But even here she finds no succour as Muslims condemn but refuse to speak out. She might then begin to believe that there is no hope.

Many isolated irreligious Muslims are angry and frustrated. I know how they feel. I used to be one of them. The first time I published a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, I was criticised by an uncle of mine, an Indian doctor.

“Irfan, you are just a law student. Wait until you have finished your degree and are at the top of your profession. Then do something!” he advised.

“But uncle, you are at the top of your profession. What are you doing?” I responded.

If my uncle was just another Macquarie Street general surgeon, his concern might be justified. But he was the Vice President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, the national body whose very constitution mentions community advocacy as one of its goals.

When people like my uncle refuse to speak out, inexperienced naïve kids like the Dureihi brothers take their place. And the more silent or incoherent Muslim voices are, the louder the voices of Islam-bashers grow. Social discord and loss of liberty result. The only beneficiary is a beady-eyed terrorist hiding on a cave.

Between Muslim leadership silence, Muslim youth frustration and pseudo-conservative hate-columnists and shock jocks, the only beneficiary is Usama bin Ladin.

The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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