Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Muslim babies behind the Vale

There’s nothing like a good dose of Anglican education to give you a healthy understanding of Christian dogma. After 10 years at St Andrews, I thought I knew all the subtle nuances of Protestant theology. Though one teaching I always struggled with was the notion of original sin.

I probably still don’t understand it properly, as the only image the original sin conjures up in my mind is otherwise innocent babies being born in the shadow of their Grandpa Adam’s sin and being sentenced to eternal hell. I’m not sure at what stage the sin is inherited – is it before or after birth?

What I do know is that the theology I was taught at home and at the various Muslim camps I attended led me to believe that babies are born sinless. And not just Muslim babies either. The word “Muslim” literally means “the one who submits to God”. New-born babies are in a completely natural state, and therefore completely surrender to he forces of nature (a pseudo-scientific word often used to describe God). By definition, this makes them “Muslim”.

When it comes to babies and toddlers, Islam knows no demarcation between the faiths. In fact, kids have limited legal responsibility under classical Islamic law until they reach the age of puberty. When it comes to sectarian conflict, Islamic theology tells all parties involved to leave the kiddies out of it.

Baby religion and the abortion pill mass debate

Yet now it seems that religious affiliation and culture are being attributed to babies and even to the unborn. And all this in the context of what is fast becoming a mass debate over the RU482 pill and whether the Health Minister or experts from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) should have the final say.

Liberal backbencher and Member for the Federal Seat of Hughes in south-western Sydney Danna Vale is part of a push by five female Coalition Members of the House of Representatives to amend the Private Members Bill on abortion drugs.

The original PMB says that the Health Minister should not have the final veto on use of abortion drugs. The amendment seeks to place one more obstacle in the way of using the drug by enabling Parliament itself to have a say. Or something like that.

I think we were almost accustomed with the PMB when the otherwise completely inoffensive Danna Vale decided to open her mouth. Following her latest forays, the debate has transformed itself from one about ovaries being strangled by rosaries to one about the need to inject pregnant Muslim women with abortion drugs. Or something like that.

Sectarianism in the mass debate

Sectarianism isn’t a stranger to this debate. Earlier, a Greens Senator was accused of stirring sectarian feeling by wearing a t-shirt requesting Health Minister Tony Abbott (and presumably all observant Catholics) to “keep your rosaries off my ovaries”.

The t-shirt, worn by the Senator, took the form of an apparently sincere request that he remove his “rosaries from our ovaries”. For obvious reasons, I’m unable to comment on how it feels to have one’s ovaries trampled on by the humble string of beads. However, according to the Prime Minister and Coalition MP’s, the feelings generated may be described as bigoted in a sectarian and blasphemous way.

That American newspaper known as The Australian also weighed in on the debate. One of its regular contributors, Adelaide Review editor Christopher Pearson, said the Senator’s wearing of the t-shirt showed that bigotry was making a comeback.

(Admittedly, it also published an article by Democrats Senator Lyn Allison that said the Health Minister’s veto should be abolished. But then, the real issues are way too boring and complicated for most punters. Getting back to the mass debate …)

It was quite amusing to watch a host of conservatives suddenly deciding that freedom of speech must apply to cartoonists but never to t-shirts. It seems the religion of Tony Abbott deserves more reverence than that of Muhammad bin Abdullah al-Hashimi (the full name of the Prophet Muhammad).


As if the mass debate on t-shirts wasn’t enough, Danna Vale has now decided to claim that Australia was in risk of becoming like just about every other country in our region – a Muslim-majority state!

She went one step further than the hysterical claims of Dr Janet Albrechtsen, pseudo-conservative commentator and ABC Board Member, who claimed in her February 8 column that a single piece of Victorian Legislation threatened to turn Victoria into Victoristan. According to Albrechtsen, the religious vilification laws “make the place look like an Islamic state-in-waiting”.

But for Danna, the abortion tablet is even more dangerous than legislation. She wants to make sure an amendment to the PMB goes through so that in half a century’s time we aren’t staring down the barrel of Australiastan.

The evidence

I understand that before entering Federal Parliament, Ms Vale was a Sydney solicitor. Which means she was (and perhaps still is) a colleague of mine.

Most solicitors I know are fairly fussy when it comes to evidence. They tend to insist on seeing evidence from their clients before filing proceedings in court. In fact, the Civil Liability Act requires solicitors to file a certificate together with a summons or statement of claim that seeks compensatory damages. That certificate says that the solicitor believes that the state of the evidence and the law ensure that the proceedings have merit.

Parliamentarians, however, aren’t required to file such certificates before commencing a trial-by-media. And from what I have read in the papers thus fair, the evidence produced by Ms Vale certainly makes her case lack merit.

Samantha Maiden, reporting in The Australian on Valentines Day (February 14), said that Ms Vale’s remarks on abortion were based on “economic grounds.”

And what was her economics? Was it Keynesian? Was she reading Milton Freidman? Or Galbraithe?

Nope. It seems Ms Vale relies on the expertise of the Lakembian school of economics. Here are her words …

“A certain imam from the Lakemba mosque actually says Australia is going to be a Muslim nation in 50 years time … I didn't believe him at the time. But when you look at the birth rates ... we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100,000 abortions every year. You multiply that by 50 years -- that's 5million potential Australians we won't have here.”

I can see some references to theology in these words. And perhaps some elementary arithmentic. Maybe even some demography. But where on earth is the economics?

Offending the converted

Seriously, Mr Abbott’s attempts to scuttle the PMB haven’t had much success lately. It seems that apart from Mr Abbott, not a lot of people on his side of the debate are making much sense.

Jackie Kelly, the author of the most recent amendment to the PMB which Ms Vale was trying to support, was clearly not impressed. She remarked that Ms Vale “was on her own on that one”.

Her words probably resembled those of just about every columnist in The Australian newspaper’s op-ed stable. “Janet, when it comes to Victoristan and the Caliphate of Sheik Bracks, you’re on your own!”

Of course, Jackie Kelly knows that in this mass debate, her side needs all the sensible support from the community it can get. Like Danna, Jacky has a substantial Muslim community in her electorate. Most of these people are socially conservative and would probably be happy to support anything that makes it harder to have an abortion.

But instead of gathering the Muslim converted, Danna has single handedly managed to piss them all right off. At the next federal election, as she goes door knocking on the well-heeled Muslim streets of Wattle Grove and other suburbs, Ms Vale will certainly have some explaining to do.

From abortion debate to mass debate

So now we have the prospect of this very crucial debate on the availability of abortion drugs being once again hijacked by sectarian jinx and transformed into a mass debate. Although, on this occasion, I doubt the issues are as emotional as to cause any Muslims to burn our embassies overseas.

Instead, like the rest of Australia, Muslims will probably spend the night dining with their spouses and partners and enjoying the Valentines Day spirit of love and affection and … well … maybe even reproduction. Far out! Maybe Danna had a point after all!!

In that regard, I’d like to suggest my own amendment to the PMB. I suggest we make consumption of the RU482 pill compulsory for all Muslims on Valentines Day. Any takers?


It has now been reported that Danna Vale stood up in Parliament and apologised for her comments. All credit to her for doing so. She has certainly shown far more sensitivity and sense than her colleagues, Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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Jack said...

Hi Irf,

So what is your best estimate of the proportion of Muslims in Australia, and what do you base your assumptions on?

My guess is that Australia would be around 15% Muslim in 50 years time. This assumes around 15% of Australian immigrants are Muslim, that Muslims have a 2.3% fertility rate versus around 1.7 for the rest of Australia and taking into account a possible further decline in Australia's non-Muslim fertility rate. In other words Australia would have a similar proportion of Muslims, say to Singapore, but without the political limitations placed on the Muslim community.

For France, I would estimate around 29%, taking into account a higher starting base, and larger proportion of fresh Muslim immigrants and not taking into account broader European trends (see next paragraph).

For Europe as a whole, it really depends on whether Turkey joins. If Turkey joins Europe, leading to wide spread transmigration internally, then Europe would probably be 49% Muslim in 50 years. In a hundred years it would be around 65%. At any rate, in my lifetime I'm honestly expecting Europe to be majority Muslim.

That may not be a concern for you as you are already a Muslim. However, it is a concern for those who aren't, and don't appreciate the Islamic system of values.

We are entitled to have this debate, but I would urge politicians to rely on credible inputs from population experts. I'm not such an expert but I have had a go with an excel spreadsheet using reasonable base assumptions.

"New-born babies are in a completely natural state, and therefore completely surrender to he forces of nature (a pseudo-scientific word often used to describe God). By definition, this makes them “Muslim”."


"Yet now it seems that religious affiliation and culture are being attributed to babies and even to the unborn."

Well you are already classifying all babies as Muslim by definition....

My view is that the majority Muslims don't get to choose their religion. Instead they are born into a Muslim family, and are ostracised should they convert to Christiantity or become overtly athiest, sometimes to the extent that they are physically endangered.

So Muslims do not have free will and do not choose their religion. That is why Muslims cry "racist" when someone criticises Muslim beliefs, as allegience to Islam is as immutable as the colour of one's skin.

Given the lack of choice for people born into Islam, the market place for ideas for individuals does not apply. That is why as a society, we need to debate what role do we want Islam to play in Australia's future. It is not enough to blinker ourselves with PC arguments and allow slow demographic trends to take their toll without considering our future.

Anonymous said...

Jack, not only are you politically incorrect. You are also statistically incorrect. The Immigration Minister disagrees with you, as do Australia's top experts in demography.

The birthrate amongst Middle Easterners (of all faiths) is a little higher than the rest of the population. But most Muslim migrants don't come from the Middle East.

Jack said...

The birthrate of Muslims in many societies is statisically quite high, even in Asian countries. Singapore has a very high immigration level (almost exclusively non-Muslim), because the Malay Muslim population has a much higher fertility rate than the Chinese population (who are Budhist/Taoist/Christian). Without absorbing huge amounts of mainland Chinese immigrants (as well as Indian, and increasingly Western immigrants), the Muslim population would growth within a generation so as to totally change the politics of Singapore. As it is, they have set their immigration rate at just enough to keep the Muslim population at about 14% of the total population, while at the same time they have introduced (invented) the baby bonus scheme to dry and boost fertility rates of the Chinese population.

Anyway I'm not sure that you are right about where Australia's Muslim migrants come from. I read in the newspaper (I'm not bothering to go to the ABS website to confirm), that Arab migrants are around 10% and has increased under the Howard government. I'm assuming the majority of them are Muslim. So what proportion of our annual immigrant intake are Muslim?

I don't think the situation for Australia is as developed as it is for Europe. So I also disagree with this Danna women, in that it is unlikely that Muslims will be a majority population in Australia in my lifetime based on current trends. But I don't disagree with discussing the general issue. But the response from 99.9% of Danna's critics is verging on the idiotic and brainwashed. No consideration of the facts at hand, just a simple dismissal of her comments as "racist", end of discussion.

I would never disciminate against an individual Muslim living in Australia. I would always give equal opportunity in employment etc, and Muslims that I know are personally people that I respect. But, despite that there is no denying the correlation between conflict and Muslim populations around the world. There is no denying that the Koran urges Muslims to live a very seperate life from the broader population. You realise of course that once Muslims are around 15% of Australia or so, we should not be surprised if they begin demanding a Sharia court to apply only to Muslims do judge issues of marriage, divorse, death and finance etc? We don't want to go down this route.

BTW in my calculations above, I did not take into account conversions to Islam. If Islam records a positive conversion rate, then the "Islamification rate" is much higher. Indeed it is the most sensitive variable to the analysis. I set the net conversion rate at zero. But given the difficulties of Muslims to renounce their faith, and that if a non-Muslim wants to marry a Muslim then they have to convert, I would expect Islam to have a positive net conversion rate in Australia and will continue to do so.

If I start hearing of non-Muslims marrying Muslims without converting, and without the Children necessarily becoming Muslim, then I will be much less concerned over this religion.

dawood said...

There is no denying that the Koran urges Muslims to live a very seperate life from the broader population.
I have never seen any such stipulations in the Qur'an, and many Muslims who sincerely practise their faith falunt this very 'rule' every single day, working in the wider Australian society amongst other things.

Lets not confuse the immigrant cultural-protection mechanism with something that is or isn't Islamically required. They are 2 very different things.

Jack said...

First of all I must apologise for all of my typos in my above posts... Totally shocking...

"I have never seen any such stipulations in the Qur'an, and many Muslims who sincerely practise their faith flaunt this very 'rule' every single day, working in the wider Australian society amongst other things."

Special dietary requirements mean that Muslims often eat seperately, in halal eateries (the religion that eats together stays togther). The veil that Muslim women wear clearly seperates Muslim females from other females (don't you dare take our females). Islamic banking. Islamic divorce laws, Islamic funeral traditions (Muslims require their own special cemetary, and heaven forbid if there is a disagreement over whether the deceased was Muslim or not, better let the Sharia court decide that one)

I don't know if this is a joke, but I've even seen an Islamic guidance website stipulate whether it is appropriate to urinate standing up of sitting down and using hadiths (have I used this word correctly?) to justify one method over the other (I think the conclusion was that it was Islamic to urniate sitting down, which goes completely against the best of Aussie male traditions).

I'm not saying that Australian Muslims are strictly following all the above issues currently. I am saying that as the Muslim population grows, they will demand special laws for Muslims and claim that we are racist , insensitive and anti-Muslim if as a society we don't provide them. This will further separate the Muslim community as a very identifiable and seperate community from the rest.

Islam needs its enlightenment/reformation process. I don't think we need to experiment with letting it take place in Australia or Europe. Work the details out in Saudi Arabia (we could start for example by allowing churches to be built in Mecca), and when Islam as commonly practiced is more palatable, let the Muslim immigration begin... Until then, no thank you.

Non-Muslim, non-thinking Australians - you have been warned. Take the blinkers off and revaluate the world around you.

As for Muslim Australians, please have some bacon every once and a while, marry a non-Muslim girl and don't pressure her to convert. Publicly support those that have converted from Islam, just as you support those that convert to Islam. Lighten up and integrate for the sake of all of us.

dezhen said...

Your post makes a number of generalizations that have no basis in reality. Firstly, Muslim men have been allowed to marry non-Muslim females since the get go. Some people may pressure them to convert, but that is not a religiously stipulated thing, merely a cultural practise. Infact, men are generally required to accept his non-Muslim wifes religious practise, even down to such things as not attempting to stop her attending religious services and so on.

Secondly, the Islamic tradition includes many things that are not established doctrine, as in, they are not legal judgements or pronouncements. Many are moral recommendations. One such is to "smile because it is charity". Another may be to wee a certain way in order to avoid the infamous splash at the end of the deed, basically to avoid any getting on your clothes.

Your error is in assuming that everything mentioned in the hadith has to be followed, and is obligatory to do so. This is not true. Islam and "Islamic Law" are complex traditions based on 1400yrs of scholarship. This is why we have religious specialists to figure all this stuff out.

Since when did things like this, and choosing not to eat bacon mean someone cannot be 'properly' Australian? Is this what it has really come down to? Any Australian who chooses not to eat bacon sandwiches for breakfast, or chooses to not drink alcohol is no longer 'fully' Aussie? Come on... A sizeable minority of youth who follow the "Straight Edge" punk/metal culture would then be un-Australian. They don't drink alcohol, don't smoke and avoid promiscuous behaviour unless in long-term relationships.

Or is it just the pork you are worried about?

If so, what about the 613 mitzvot that orthodox Jews follow, this includes many aspects that are similar to what practising Muslims also follow, especially relating to religiously slaughtered food, promiscuity and other things.