Wednesday, September 28, 2005

COMMENT: How the new security laws could deem you a terrorist!

So you think the latest national security laws don’t target people from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds? Think again.

The PM has reached agreement with State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers to enact a raft of new laws that are allegedly designed to protect all Australians. The laws apparently don’t discriminate against a particular group, and are designed to strike a balance between civil liberties and security (as if the two cancel each other out!).

The Prime Minister claims that new “unusual” laws are needed to cope with “unusual” circumstances arising from what he perceives as a direct threat by terrorists to Australia. Following briefings by officials from ASIO and the Office of National Assessments, it seems State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers agree with him.

According to a report in The Australian newspaper on 28 September 2005, ASIO’s briefing to Premiers and Chief Ministers attending the COAG meeting included claims that some 800 local Muslim “extremists” are ready to carry out a London-style attack.

The report came as President of the Police Federation of Australia issued a statement confirming that Muslims will be directly affected by enforcement of the new laws. The Federation has called upon the government to legislate so that police officers are indemnified for civil action.

To describe the proposed laws as unusual would be an understatement. To claim the laws will not lead to racial profiling of persons deemed Muslim is a bald-faced lie.

How will the laws work in practice? Who will be the ones deciding on who is a suspect, who should be detained without charge and who should be forced to wear a strap around their ankles? And on what basis will they decide?

When the President of a union representing police and law enforcement agencies across the state claims Muslims will be racially profiled, you’d better believe it. Police are the ones implementing the laws on the ground. They have already had experience with existing laws and with responding to intelligence reports. They also communicate with their counterparts in other Western countries implementing similar laws.

The police know what is happening. Politicians sitting in their ivory towers or think tank heads counting their private sponsorship dollars simply cannot credibly contradict what the police are saying.

Under existing laws, only Muslim Australians have been charged and convicted. Only Muslim organisations are listed as terrorist groups in Australia. In the US, a similar list has groups from Israel, Northern Ireland Spain and South America.

The last terrorist acts in Australia were committed against Indian and Turkish interests. One attack involved the assassination of a Turkish Muslim diplomat by Armenian extremists. Yep, you guessed it right. Muslims were the last people to be targeted by terrorists in Australia.

And today, they are being effectively targeted by terror laws. It’s not me saying this. It’s the police themselves.

And in case you had any doubts about who is being targeted, consider this. On August 28 2005, the Sunday program on the Nine Network aired a Hypothetical moderated by Geoffrey Robertson QC. The subject was terrorism, and the panel included political leaders, security officials and media representatives. Part of the scenario involved the shooting of a person of “Middle Eastern” appearance deemed a terrorist suspect.

Apart from Mr Robertson and myself, not a single person on the panel saw any problem with shooting the terror suspect based on his appearance.

So where does that leave my former law clerk? She “looks” Muslim despite having a Hindu mother and Catholic father and being born in Canberra. And where does that leave Christians and Jews of Arab descent? And after events in London, where does that leave Brazilians?

There are hundreds of thousands of Australians that could be deemed Muslim. They might be part-Aboriginal. They might have Muslim dads whom they never met and who left them with Arabic or Turkish or Malay surnames. They might have Muslim ancestry of some sort. They might just look a little different. Their liberties will be compromised. And they are just as Australian as you are.

These laws will not make us feel safer. They will actually hand victory to the terrorists. Bin Ladin wants Muslims to believe they are targeted by Western governments. He must be sitting in his cave and smiling right now.

But we still have a few weeks to raise our voices before the laws are enacted. In that regard, all I can suggest is that we all make noisy hay while the sun of liberty still shines!

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, September 23, 2005

COMMENT: Muslims and the Holocaust

Nazi-hunter Simon Weisenthal passed away. He was perhaps the world’s premiere Nazi hunter. His centre built up an intelligence network that provided evidence leading to the trial and conviction of numerous people at all levels of the Nazi regime.

Yet for some Muslims, Weisenthal has been a problematic figure. His stated views on Palestinian rights were sometimes reminiscent of attitudes of some of the very people he was fighting. It seemed as if he lived in denial of Palestinian suffering.

But then, it is hard to blame him. For many holocaust survivors, Israel is a life insurance policy they wish they had access to when Hitler came to power. They lived in a Europe which promised and preached emancipation of Jews in the name of liberalism or socialism or secularism or some other ism.

Yet all the rhetoric could not face the tsunami of hatred built up over centuries toward the Jewish people. Jews were lambasted as Christ-killers, as nasty bankers and money-lenders, as being involved in a huge conspiracy to destroy Christianity and Western civilisation.

From time to time, I read some disgustingly anti-Muslim editorials and opinion pieces in newspapers. The suspects are well-known – Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine. Some are more subtle and sophisticated – Pamela Bone and Paul Sheehan comes to mind.

I imagine the hatred and venom that goes into these articles, and am reminded of a verse from the Qur’an which goes something like this.

Their lips speak hatred of you, but what their hearts conceal is much worse.
I sometimes wonder whether such editorials hide a deeper hatred which many in this country have toward Muslims. Today, people are able to say things about Muslims which they couldn’t say maybe 10 years or even 5 years ago. Today, a politician can stand up and describe me in Federal parliament as a “bomb thrower”, suggesting I have some links to terrorism.

Had that politician not been the human embodiment of all that is irrelevant and redundant in Australian politics, I would perhaps have ignored her. But then, I wonder – are her attitudes all that irrelevant? Is there an undercurrent of racism against Muslims in Australia?

I wonder whether David Hicks would receive more government support if he had not converted to Islam. I wonder if Schapelle Corby would have received the support she does if she had announced a conversion to Islam and not Christianity? But it goes beyond that.

I wonder if Aussie Mossie Ed Husic would have won the seat of Greenway at the last Federal Election if he had been born to a Bosnian Catholic family. I wonder if Paul Sheehan would have written about Husic’s religion a fortnight from the campaign. I wonder if some Young Liberals would have handed out a false how-to-vote in letterboxes speaking about Husic being “an asset to Islam”.

The attitudes we see in Christendom toward Muslims seem to find a mirror in what Jews saw in Germany and elsewhere in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. And that means that Muslim Australians need to learn some coping mechanisms from Jewish Australians.

The attitudes of the late Simon Weisenthal toward Palestinians should not blind us to the importance of learning to recognise the signs of xenophobia from our Jewish spiritual cousins.

Islamic and Jewish theology, law and culture have more similarities than differences. Today’s Muslims are being demonised in the same way Jews have been, the attitudes are centuries old and are locked into the Christian psyche.

Jews are Christ-killers. Muslims are Saracens or Moors or Turks, the Sick Men of the 21st Century. Muslims don’t understand “our” values and refuse to conform to “our” way of life.

Recently, I bought over $100 worth of books on Jewish culture. I have been wanting to especially focus on how Jews lived as persecuted minorities and survived for so long. As an Aussie Muslim, I feel like an endangered species. I fear a holocaust on the horizon. The rhetoric of conservative politicians, shock jocks and columnists makes me even more fearful.

Muslims don’t know what it is like to live as an oppressed minority with nowhere to go. We have only in the past 200 years been suffering real internal oppression and external domination.

Jews have been experiencing this for thousands of years. We need to learn from them how to keep our theology, our cultures and our memories alive. And many Jewish Australians are reaching out to us. In this regard, I was heartened to read the reaction of the peak body of Australian Jews, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) in relation to the pseudo-debate on the wearing of hijabs in state schools.

If Jewish Australians, especially holocaust survivors, can find resonance in our current position, perhaps we need to learn from their experiences. Our current fears should bring us closer to those who share so much with us.

Let us learn from the victims of a holocaust so that we are prepared to perhaps face our own.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

COMMENT: Time To Come Clean

Recently I read the announcement by our Citizenship Minister, John Cobb, about a Muslim Community Reference Group set up in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s Summit with Muslim leaders.

Among the names was that of an allegedly non-aligned young Muslim male. Non-aligned? Really?

I have known the young chap for some years now. He is associated with a body called “Darul Fatwa Islamic High Council of Australia”, an alternative umbrella Muslim body competing with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) for leadership of the deeply fragmented Muslim Australian faith-communities.

Darul Fatwa is an organisation which is based in Lebanon, and it follows the teachings of one Sheik Abdullah Hareri al-Habashi. Among Lebanese Sunni Muslims, this group has a controversial history of cooperation with the Syrian occupation forces.

In Australia, representatives of this group have been involved in attempts to take over a variety of mosques. At one stage during the late 1980’s, they had taken over the King Faisal Mosque in Commonwealth Street Surry Hills. Their first act was to close the library and burn thousands of dollars worth of Islamic literature which they regarded as heterodox.

In the near future, and on the other side of the ideological spectrum, Mr Ruddock will be dining and enjoying the hospitality of a man who is now known as “Sheik Shafiq Khan Abdullah”. Uncle Shafiq (as I always call him) is an old Pakistani gentleman who used to represent interests of the Libyan Islamic establishment in Australia. After having a falling out with the Libyans, Uncle Shafiq then fell into the lap of the Saudis.

Over the years, Uncle Shafiq has sent numerous young Muslim Australians to study in some of the most conservative Wahhabist institutions in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is the name often given to the official religion of Saudi Arabia. I have described some of the characteristics of this sect in an article published in the New Zealand Herald in the context of a visit by Wahhabist preacher Abdur Rahim Green:

Green is part of a minority so small it could not even be regarded as a sect. He belongs to the "Salafi", an offshoot of a small fringe sect known as the "Wahhabis". The Salafi strain includes elements from the benign to the outright dangerous. Osama bin Laden belongs to the Salafi strain. But so do most Saudi religious authorities. The various Salafi strains have a number of common
features. Salafis take an anthropomorphic view of many of God's attributes. For instance, when the Koran speaks of God's hands, most Muslims take this metaphorically. But Salafis insist God literally has two hands. They regard anyone who rejects this view as "kafir" (infidel). As a result, Salafis regard most Sunni Muslims as kafir. But it isn't just Sunnis that Salafis reject. Salafis reject Shia Muslims as kafir. And their worst venom is reserved for Sufi Muslims (both Sunni and Shia).

… Salafis regard many Sufi teachings as outside Islam. One of Green's fellow Salafi preachers, an African-American named Dawud Adib, once told an audience at Melbourne University that a prominent Sufi text written by Imam Ghazali (known in Europe as "Algazel") was worth less than
a mosquito wing. Because the Salafis reject mainstream Islam, they are regarded as being on the very edge of the Muslim fringe.
I doubt Uncle Shafiq subscribes to such fringe theology. But he does represent the interests of Saudi organisations and institutions that sponsor this fringe from which al-Qaida and so many other terrorist groups have emerged.

The point here is not so much the theology. What is really at issue is the failure of many of the PM’s favourite Muslim leaders to chalk out an indigenous Australian vision of Islam. Most of the PM’s select leaders are still clinging to foreign regimes of questionable democratic credentials who have provided (and in some cases, continue to) support and finance to these Islamic institutional operations.

If the PM wishes to be seen hob-knobbing with this crowd, that is his business and his risk. But what the PM must be prepared for is scandal. Because when the spotlight is put on many of these bodies, there will be scandal and plenty of it.

Many of these bodies have actively sought to push mainstream Muslim Australians away from their institutions. Others represent the most laughably incompetent bunch in the Muslim communities. One school principal invited to the Prime Minister does not have an HSC. He has been the chairman of a peak NSW Muslim body for over 2 decades.

His younger brother was hand-picked to lead a rotten borough “Islamic Youth Association”. The same brother was employed by the umbrella body as an employment case manager. He went onto win a job-search tender under controversial circumstances in 1998, and is yet to have paid the consultants who helped him write the tender.

So you win a $2 million contract, but you won’t pay $4,500 to your consultant. Makes sense?

Lack of professionalism, incompetence, nepotism, jobs for the boys. All the hallmarks of so many of Mr Howard’s favourite Muslim leaders. If it happened in the ALP, Mr Howard would be gleefully scandalising it in Parliament. But he invites the same types of people to be partners in national security.

This culture of nepotism and incompetence was fostered in organisations which always relied on overseas governments and bureaucracies to butter their bread. In Saudi Arabia, all senior government posts are held by the Royal Family and their cronies (including the bin-Ladin’s). In NSW, select Lebanese, Pakistani and Fiji-Indian families are ruling the roost.

It is time for Muslim community bodies to come clean on the exact extent of their links to overseas groups and bodies. They need to disclose the exact extent of their past and present financial and other links to various regimes and religious institutions in Muslim countries. These people claim to speak for Muslims, most of whom have only tenuous links to countries outside Australia. Aussie Mossies have a right to know, especially now that our national security and not just communal reputation is at stake.

Words © Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Making A Difference On the Margins

“What right do they have to speak for us? She doesn’t even wear hijab properly. He doesn’t have a beard. You never see them at the mosque. They don’t belong to our madhab/manhaj/tartib. She isn’t Sunni/Shia.”

How often do we hear these words. And how often do they cause grief to people on the margins.

What we often forget is that, in the current environment, marginal Muslims feel the most pain. They spend most time with the broader community. They don’t hide in the coat-tails of the ghetto. They hear first-hand the nasty words and attitudes of some ignorant and hostile non-Muslims toward their culture and faith.

And they are always the first to experience the first spray of an oncoming tsunami of hatred toward Muslims. They then start building the bridges to enable the wave to flow underneath. And when they go to their Muslim communities to warn them, those very same Muslims sabotage the bridge-building process with excuses such as those in the opening paragraph.

We, the so-called “practising Muslims”, the ones who go to the mosque and refuse to go to the pub, we think we have the sole right to represent this faith. But our history has always shown that it is people on the margins who often make all the difference.

The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) recognised this at the Battle of the Ditch. He was approached one night by Nuaym bin Masud, a man with a reputation for drinking and womanising and for his excellent relations with the enemies of the Prophet.

“I have come to declare my allegiance to you, but my tribe don’t know it. I want to stay with you now”, declared Nuaym.

“No, stay where you are. Do what you need to do. For war is treachery and deception”, was the blessed response.

Using careful diplomacy, Nuaym ended the Battle without a single life being lost. He manufactured suspicion and resentment between a treacherous Jewish tribe and their allies, the Quraysh and other invaders.

Of course, if Nuaym had approached us ghetto Muslims today, we would find excuses to condemn or to pick faults or find excuses. Or worse still, we would allow Nuaym in and give him a sensitive post without testing his true intentions. We are either on one extreme or the other, not using our strategic sense.

Why do we have this attitude? Do we think we own Islam? Do we think God is not powerful enough to make Islam strong unless we are involved? Does God really need us?

Some weeks back, I appeared on a late-night current affairs show. I was accompanied by a prominent Victorian of Turkish origin. He was a young Labor MP, and we spoke about the state of Muslim Australians and their leadership. Yet today I visit Muslim online discussion forums and read ghetto Muslims say this man is a “kadhab” (liar) and a charlatan. These same people then complain about lack of Muslim representation in parliament.

Yet this fellow has no incentive to identify himself as a Muslim. If anything, him doing so is compromising his political career. He faces a backlash in a future preselection and election.

Some weeks back, I felt my faith was dropping a few notches. I had stopped praying. I told a friend of mine whom many would hardly describe as a practising Muslim. On her way to work at a watering hole, she took time out to advise me on salaat and Islam.

“Irfan, have you ever tried meditation? You should try it. Maybe if you meditate for a while, you will feel the urge to get up and make salaat. And try reading Deepak Chopra. You know his greatest inspiration was Rumi.”

She was right. And I am right. Muslims on the margins often make all the difference!

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

John Cobb and Marginalising Muslims

Australian Citizenship Minister John Cobb claims that there is a huge communication divide between Muslim Australians and the rest of Australia. He says this is caused by cultural and language factors. He says much racism against Muslims arises from the fact that Muslim leaders just do not know how to communicate honestly and appear up-front in the eyes of the broader community.

Thanks, John, We could have told you that years ago. I am now 36. I could have told you that 20 years ago after going to my first Muslim youth camp. And I could tell you a whole heap more now.

Young Muslim Australians brought up in Australia and speaking English as their mother tongue could have told you and the PM all this. But instead of inviting us and our representatives, you chose to invite a group largely consisting of the same unemployable bunch of no-hopers.

These “uncles” (women are rarely welcomed in their circles) have been hogging Muslim leadership positions. They have little or no loyalty to Australia, having built their empire and fortunes from the largesse of shonky despotic Arab governments. At least one of them is still on the payroll of Saudi religious institutions (not to mention Saudi intelligence).

Mr Howard chose to invite 2 delegates from the irrelevant Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, an umbrella body of state and territory councils of little relevance to mainstream Muslims. AFIC is riddled with nepotism and corruption. Soon, the executive officer of AFIC will be exposed in the media was a fraud who made a substantial fortune out of picketing halal meat funds. Also revealed will be his setting up of a secret account containing a donation from a Libyan organization.

Then there is the royal family who have been ruling one of three Islamic Councils in NSW. Members of the family owe at least 2 lawyers over $15,000 in legal fees, including one member who was investigated by the Federal Police in relation to a tender for employment services. This fellow was employed by his older brother as a case manager, and his older sister has also been at the heart of operations of that council and many of its member-societies.

The ex-chairman of that council is currently Principal of a government-funded Islamic primary school, despite not having even a Higher School Certificate.

Then there is the PM’s favourite wahhabi Muslim. The PM loves visiting his school, and has even allowed Mr Ruddock to have dinner at the man’s house. Mr Howard wants a scandal. He is not satisfied with the industrial relations debacle, Telstra fueds and revelations of religious extremism inside the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party. Mr Howard wants to be seen hob-knobbing with a man who has sent hundreds of young Australians to extremist seminaries in Saudi Arabia and who invites and hosts extremist Saidi religious scholars to give lectures and classes in Australia.

Mr Howard will not invite young 2nd and 3rd and 4th generation Muslim professionals and business people. He won’t talk to Ahmed Fehour or John Ilhan or Irfan Yusuf or Adem Somyurek or Waleed Aly or Hanifa Dean or Randa Abdel-Fattah or Dr Tanveer Ahmed or others of that ilk. He is too busy talking to middle-aged Indian men to worry about what Aussie Mossies think.

Mr Howard only speaks to self-appointed leaders on the very margins of the mainstream Aussie Mossie community. He wants to speak to those busy marginalizing Muslim Australians. He would rather speak to institutions most Muslims ignore, bodies that appoint people to positions such as “Mufti” without defining their role of giving them proper resources.

John Cobb is correct in saying that young Muslims needed to be involved in the security debate. After all, these same young Muslims live and study and work in Australia. Their closest ties are to Australia. Their loyalty is beyond dispute. They understand Australian culture and values because they practice these as their own.

Yet sadly, it is these genuinely Aussie Mossies who will be the first to be attacked and humiliated and marginalized. They feel hurt the most by infantile comments of ignorant Liberal backbenchers like Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Whatsherface. If things get too bad, the “uncles” can always go back to Fiji or India or Sri Lanka or Lebanon. But the Aussie Mossies have nowhere else to go!

Of course, Uncle Osama is sitting in his cave, hoping these young Aussie Mossies will join his disgraced pseudo-jihad. He wants these Aussie Mossies to feel marginalized, to feel out of place like foreigners in their own country.

And Uncle Osama can always rely on his loyal friends on Mr Howard’s backbench (and even on the Treasurer and Education Minister) to make stupid comments aimed at marginalizing Muslims from the rest of the community. He can rely on NSW Liberal MLC’s and their staffers recruiting new members with a pathological hatred from Muslims and Jews.

When extremism hijacks the public discourse in Australia, the only beneficiary is Uncle Osama. He and his agents can whisper in the ears of some depressed lonely marginalized nominal Muslim. And before we know it, Sydney or Melbourne has its own 9/11 or 7/7. No amount of draconian “anti-terror” laws will be able to stop the process.

Marginalisation of Australian Muslims is a bigger threat to our society than terrorism or bird flu. Muslims are one of the oldest and well-established faith communities. They have been at the heart of Australian life for over 150 years. If you marginalize them today, tomorrow it will be Sikhs, then Hindus, then Buddhists. And eventually we will go full-circle, back to marginalizing and hating Jews.

Uncle Osama will then really be smiling. And perhaps so will the ghost of Uncle Adolf.

iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Monday, September 12, 2005

4 Years To The Day

On Sunday 11 September 2005, exactly 4 years following the horrific attacks on New York and Washington, the Affinity Intercultural Foundation organised a “Summit” to discuss terrorism, community harmony and other topics.

The Summit was billed as a chance for Muslims to express their views in front of the mainstream media. The program was aimed at providing a more representative selection of Muslim leaders to those represented at the Prime Minister’s Summit.

I could always report on the event in a nice fluffy way. After all, I acted for the Feza Foundation Limited and for Sule College for some 5 years. I have close friends from university who are heavily involved in the Foundation. But I would be doing the Foundation a disservice if I did not give an honest assessment.

Affinity Intercultural Foundation is the interfaith wing of a Turkey-based religious congregation (or “cemat”) linked to Turkish Islamic scholar Muhammad Fethullah Gulen. That cemat’s interests are represented in Australia by the Feza Foundation Limited, a company limited by guarantee and registered back in the mid-1990’s.

The Foundation runs two schools, including Sule College in Sydney. These schools claim to be non-denominational, though are modelled on other Islamic schools run under the auspices of the Gulen-led cemat.

The summit was unashamedly an Islamic event, one of the few times an organisation linked to the cemat as acknowledged their Muslim identity. It is not unusual to have representatives of the cemat approach me and hesitate in greeting with salams, especially in the presence of non-Muslims.

Amazingly, cemat members are less circumspect about being Turkish, especially in the presence of Turkish government and diplomatic officials or Turkish media.

Of course, not all persons in the cemat are like this. Many are open about their Muslim Australian identity, and wear their Islamist credentials openly. They speak with pride about their leader, regarded as one of the most sensible and moderate Islamic leaders in the Muslim world.

The Summit consisted of a range of speakers. These included the President of the Anti-Discrimination Board, Stefan Kerkesherian. Also speaking were an ALP and Green MP (though no Liberals or Democrats were given a chance to speak).

Apart from the Turkish consul-general and the imam of Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, all Turkish speakers were from the Gulen-led cemat. I myself requested that other prominent Turkish Muslim speakers be allowed to speak.

I suggested Mulayim Iskander (NSW Prison Chaplain) and Dr Abdur Rahman Asaroglu (Muslim Chaplain of UTS & Sydney University). I was advised by one organiser that these two speakers would not be invited to speak as their organisations never allowed Gulen-led cemat speakers to speak at their functions.

Instead of these two experienced chaplains, the podium was given to someone described as the Muslim chaplain of Macquarie University. As a former President of Macquarie University Muslim Students Association, a life member of the Macquarie University Union (known as "Students At Macquarie") and a regular attendee at the Friday prayer services there, I was surprised to hear for the first time that this fellow had been appointed chaplain. Indeed, I have hardly ever seen him on campus.

What made me extremely circumspect was that this fellow was described as a graduate of the Islamic University in Madeena in Saudi Arabia. This is the same institution from which Sheik Feiz Mohamad studied. But in the case of Mr Afroz Ali, no one has ever cited his qualifications, nor does he allow anyone to cite it.

When challenged to produce his qualifications, Mr Ali has always been reluctant to produce a copy of his degree from Madeena. Further, inquiries from the Madeena Islamic University have thus shown no one by his name has ever graduated from that university, though it is possible he may have used a different name.

I have asked Mr Ali on at least 3 occasions to advise me and show me his qualifications, both in private e-mail exchanges and in public debates online. Others have also made these requests. Thus far, he has been reluctant to show his qualifications.

It concerns me that Affinity Intercultural Foundation would allow to the podium someone whose claimed qualifications are yet to be proven, yet refuses the podium to accredited and qualified chaplains and scholars.

The highlight of the event was the speech of Osman Softic. Mr Softic is a graduate from the Faculty of Theology at the University of Sarajeva, and holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of NSW.

Mr Softic took the wind out of the sail of the hard-Left and the blind followers of Noam Chomsky by reminding the audience that the United States had saved Bosnia and Kosovo from near-oblivion. He also reminded them of the crimes of communism. His speech drew muted applause from many peace activists unprepared to recognise the evils of an ideology that have grown to love.

Mr Ali Roude read a speech that had been prepared for him. It was well-read. I am not sure who wrote it, but its content was clearly out of his league. I saw him after his lecture speaking with a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald about Muslim community leadership and internal political issues.

To think he and his Nada sister castigate me for hanging dirty linen on the line.

At its peak, the hall was half-full. It seemed that, following a controversial appearance by organisers on a tabloid TV show, many chose to keep away from the event. It seems the organisers have a long way to go before being able to manage the media. As one senior member of the Foundation said to me: “These Affinity people are well-intentioned but na├»ve. They have a long way to go yet before they will make any real difference.”

Affinity should be congratulated for at least trying to host an event. But in the end, it was little more than a selection of speeches given by people whom Affinity wanted to impress or curry favour from. There was little chance for audience participation. Indeed, at one stage it seemed the speakers and their families outnumbered the real audience.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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