Friday, February 24, 2006

Why the PM and the PM-Wannabe should consider putting a sock in it ...

In the past two years, members of prominent Jewish business families have found themselves prosecuted and convicted of offences under corporations and taxation law.

We have also seen a number of Christian clergymen convicted of sexual offences against children. Sometimes there have been suggestions of cover-ups by the Churches involved. In one case, the allegations forced a Governor-General to stand down.

Of course, white collar crime and paedophilia are matters of grave concern. All Australians, regardless of their background, would regard these as serious crimes that need to be investigated and punished. Vigilance is necessary.

But how would our vigilance benefit from politicians and pundits continually harping on about the fact that a minority of Jews or Christians are involved in these activities? How will talking about the criminals in terms of their religious and/or ethnic background assist?

Even if the people involved claimed to commit their crimes in the name of religion, would harping on about their being a minority of a faith contribute to the effort to crack down on such crimes? Or would it serve to make the majority feel somewhat uncomfortable and perhaps even unwelcome?

Constant mention of the religious attributes or identity of certain people has been rightly described as sectarianism. John Howard rightly criticised those who make an issue of Tony Abbott’s deeply held Catholic faith. Repeated mention of the faith of corporate crooks who happen to be of Jewish background might rightly be described as anti-Semitism. So why the repeated fuss about a tiny minority of people who happen to be Muslim?

This morning, Dr Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute spoke to Fran Kelly on Radio National. He briefly addressed some of the issues arising from comments made by Peter Costello at Dr Henderson’s Sydney Institute.

Dr Henderson made a point of mentioning that it was largely Lebanese and North African Muslims who were the problem in Australia. He said that the Turks were well-settled.

He supported Costello’s remarks, saying that if there is a problem out there then it needs to be addressed and spoken about.

And what is the problem? Dr Henderson mentioned terrorism. Conventional wisdom tells us that terrorists of Muslim background are fighting a war against Western nations. We are also told that terrorist groups seek to recruit alienated and disgruntled Muslims (especially young people and converts without much exposure to mainstream Islamic theology) to their cause.

Following recent remarks by both Howard and Costello, a range of Muslim leaders from across the ethnic and sectarian spectrum of Australian Islam have stated that these comments do little more than make the majority of ordinary Aussies who might happen to be Muslim feel alienated in their own country.

It takes a lot to get Muslim leaders to agree on anything. Let’s face it – they can’t even agree on when Ramadan ends! So in this case, they must have a point.

In my opinion, the remarks of Howard and Costello may assist al-Qaida in their recruitment. It is not for the Liberal Party to be providing free propaganda services to al-Qaida. Nor is it for Dr Henderson and his Sydney Institute.

Repeated mention of allegedly alien Muslim cultures, sharia, jihad and a range of other issues, especially when couched in language and rhetoric saturated with ignorance, is of no benefit to the fight against terrorism. The best way to fight terrorism is through sensible intelligence and law enforcement.

The worst way to fight terrorism is to alienate young Muslims and confirm in their minds the messages that terrorist groups send out.

Bin Ladin and his henchmen want Muslims to believe that Islam is unwelcome in Australia. He wants them to regard Australia as hostile to them because of their religious faith. Bin Ladin wants to drive an emotional, intellectual and cultural wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia.

He doesn’t have to try very hard. John Howard and Peter Costello are providing him with plenty of assistance and support. The Australian government is trying to convince Australians that Muslim cultures are alien and that Muslims are unwelcome. If you don’t believe me, go to the websites of any News Limited tabloid and read what the punters are writing on the feedback pages.

Or go to the blogs of friends of the Howard government. Go to the websites of Tim Blair and Peter Faris QC. Have a read of what kinds of sentiments are expressed. Or read some of the comments left by anonymous persons on one of my blogs. And ask yourself whether such sentiments in any way assist in developing our social cohesiveness and furthering our national security.

If John Howard and Peter Costello wish to continue harping on about a handful of lunatics calling themselves Muslims, whilst at the same time expressing their views in a manner betraying of ignorance, they will be doing Australia great harm.

Talking about sharia or jihad or other religious concepts in a manner completely betraying of ignorance makes our nation look like a ship of fools floating aimlessly in the region.

Perhaps John and Peter need to get on the phone to Bill Farmer, our Ambassador to Indonesia, and find out what damage and embarrassment their remarks are doing to our image with the people of our closest neighbour. Then perhaps they can ask the Vice Chancellors of our universities whether such remarks will assist in securing more places for overseas students in Australian universities.

Perhaps John and Peter could take a short drive to ANU and ask some of our leading experts on Asia and the Middle East what negative impact ignorant remarks on sharia and jihad etc could have on our international relations and on our business interests overseas.

Lefties love hacking into George W. Bush for his occasional gaffs. But even with all the emotion post September 11, President Bush never dared comment on issues like jihad and sharia. His advisers immediately corrected him when he made an accidental reference to the Crusades.

This is how an international statesman behaves. Get the facts right, understand the issues and then talk.

Some of our greying male politicians in their dark suits are behaving just like some middle-aged migrant Muslim leaders. They say stupid things in the sort term, oblivious to the fact that it is young people like us who will have to stick around and sort out the mess after they are buried and their old-fashioned politically senile views set our country on fire.

So if I could provide some simple advice as a former endorsed Liberal Candidate who achieved a swing of over 5% in the 2001 Federal Election. John Howard and Peter Costello – with all due respect, put a sock in it!

iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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3 comments:

Saleh said...

Irf, Brisbane is full of Muslim fundamentalists that want a rigid Islamist State in Australia - so I have to agree with Howard for once

Spacehamster said...

Apologies for the lengthy post, but I had to vent my frustrations somewhere there were people of like mind.

Irfan, thanks for posting the most measured response that I've seen to this issue so far. I'm really dissapointed that a moderate like Costello has chosen to express views that actually denigrate all immigrants that have come to this country. When I read through the original speech, there was never any acknowledgement of the contribution that migrants have made in Australia - I find that insulting and upsetting.

I read the comments on your other blog, and I can't help but notice that it's always the same cowards abusing you that don't even dare to use their own name. Don't these idiots have anything better to do?!?

It's always frustrating for me when I point out to others that 99% of Muslims fit into this country just great, and don't believe the garbage that you hear on the TV or Newspapers. I sometimes feel like I'm talking into a howling gale, it often seems so futile.

Parents: Oh, those Muslims, they're just too much! Remember in Malaysia, how they would always wake up at 5am in the morning and play all that loud music. I don't want the same thing to happen here.
Me: Not all Muslims are the same. Ever read Irfan Yusuf's blog? I'll give you the weblink if you want.
Parents: Why would I want to read the blog of someone who obviously supports Al Qaeda and terrorists?
Me (patiently): Irfan is more "Aussie" than either you or I. He used to be a member of the Liberal Party, and no, he doesn't wear a turban or have a beard. And I've worked with plenty of Muslims when I was in Melbourne - don't believe that crap you hear in the paper.
Parents:....Oh those Muslims, it's all too much!!!
((sigh))
About ten years ago, they were saying exactly the same things about Asians. "We don't assimilate". "They're scum, they bring drugs here!" Blah blah blah. Isn't it amazing and frustrating how the sentiments are exactly the same, but the target changes?

Anonymous said...

People have been saying that leb muslims are scum for 30 years. In 30 years they haven't changed. They are still lazy, criminal, unemployed, uneducated, ignorant, stupid and un-Australian