Monday, December 11, 2006

Varying approaches to media and Muslims

Last week, the NSW Parliament played host to a conference on the difficult subject of The Journalist and Islam. The conference ran over 2 days.

The first speakers included Tom Switzer from the News Limited broadsheet The Australian. Switzer defended The Oz’s reporting of 3 issues pertaining to what he described as “the Muslim question” – Hilaly, the Cronulla riots and the anti-terror laws. In relation to Hilaly, Switzer repeated almost word-for-word the criticisms of myself he made here. His criticisms didn’t go as far as the hysterical lynching I received in his paper’s editorial yesterday.

In question time, Switzer was asked to define three terms he frequently used – the “Muslim question” (a re-hash of Nazi Europe ’s obsession with the “Jewish question”?), the “Muslim community” and “Muslim clerics”. Switzer acknowledged diversity within Australia ’s Muslims, but mistakenly claimed that a Muslim cleric has the same authority and role as a Catholic priest.

Melbourne journalist and academic Nasya Bahfen dealt with how lazy journalists manufacture stories from internet forums. She castigated Luke McIlveen’s manufacturing of a story alleging Iktimal Hage-Ali is the subject of an organised vilification campaign. Instead of talking to Muslim critics of Hage-Ali, McIlveen lazily relied on infantile comments left on the Muslim Village forums by anonymous persons probably too young to vote.

(Presumably McIlveen won’t be doing a future story about hate-speech at this blog.)

Vic Alhadeff from the Jewish Board of Deputies made a brave presentation on anti-Semitism in (often government-controlled) media of Muslim-majority states. He certainly opened up my eyes to this scourge of anti-semitism which has been exposed even by prominent Muslims.

Alhadeff hardly mentioned Israel or Palestine during his presentation. That didn’t stop some people from asking him to explain the actions and attitudes of Israelis. When I criticise Western media for their anti-Muslim bias, I’d be insulted if people turned around asking me to explain the actions of al-Qaida and the Taliban. Surely some supporters of the Palestinian and Lebanese causes could relate to this and not have treated Alhadeff so shabbily.

The second day of the conference saw two contrasting conservative approaches to Islam.

Health Minister and former journalist Tony Abbott reminded us that for over a half a century, Catholicism had been the officially despised faith in Australia .

When asked in question time what Muslims could learn from Catholic experiences, Abbott admitted that he saw little violent anti-Catholic prejudice. Abbott said Muslims needed to understand that, while group defamation is easy, Australians find it difficult to demonise their neighbour or workmate.

Further, Catholics and Protestants were forced to share nation-building tasks. Muslims could overcome group defamation by simply getting on with mainstream life. Abbott said the presence of prominent Muslims like John Ilhan, Hazem ElMasry and Ahmed Fahour would assist in this process.

Both Abbott’s parents were converts, which perhaps might explain the overt fervour in his faith. It also explains why Abbott is more respectful to Islam and more sympathetic to the current Muslim experience in Australia . Abbott knows what it is like to be pilloried in the media for holding unfashionable religious beliefs.

Janet Albrechtsen showed little of that empathy, choosing instead to lecture her audience on the alleged clash between “conservative and radical Islam” and “Western modernity”.

Albrechtsen’s precise views on Islam as a mainstream religion were difficult to gauge. On the one hand, she acknowledged that terrorists had hijacked Islam, an assessment few Muslims would argue with. On the other, she called for Muslims to adopt the approach of allegedly “moderate” Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan, both of whom had openly renounced their faith.

Albrechtsen described Hilaly’s views as part of the Islamist attack on the West, similar to that of extremist groups in Europe . When further probed, she admitted Hilaly’s views posed no security threat and that he had no known links to terrorist groups or ideologies. She therefore contradicted the views of others expressed in The Oz.

After skirting around various questions, Albrechtsen finally described the struggle as not one between Islam and the West but rather an internal Muslim struggle for “the soul of Islam”. Yet she could not define exactly what this soul was. When asked to define “moderate Muslim”, the best she came up with was “someone who comes to terms with liberal democracy”.

Not very convincing.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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28 comments:

Spacehamster said...

Irfan,
You know you're doing your job well when you start getting the kind of hostile responses from all the "right" (pun intended) quarters. You've certainly opened up my eyes to a part of Muslim Australia that isn't reported in the press.

Keep up the great work.

Dan Lewis said...

It is encouraging that your eyes were opened by Vic Alhadeff's speech to some serious problems in the Muslim World.

It is wholly disappointing however, that Antony Loewenstein, another 'presenter' didn't feel the need to mention Alhadeff at all in his undergraduate blog. What a shame his eyes are so tightly closed, and his head so firmly inserted.

I would write a comment to this effect on his blog, however he never lets critical comments through, howsoever civil, preferring instead to censor them, all the while bitching about how it is he who is stifled. An utter hypocrite as well as underperforming writer. I don't agree with a lot of what you say Irfan, but I do commend you for letting me say mine.

wali said...

Dan Lewis said...
"I would write a comment to this effect on his blog, however he never lets critical comments through, howsoever civil, preferring instead to censor them"

You are a liar. Loewenstein only censors statements that are out-and-out racist sewerage and (what initially prompted his change of policy) abominable calls for (literal) acts of genocide.

If you have been censored, it is because you have made comments that are self-evidently evil. It is at least possible that this is true, given your obvious propensity to engage in bare-faced lies about him here.

Daniel Lewis said...

You are a liar. Loewenstein only censors statements that are out-and-out racist sewerage and (what initially prompted his change of policy) abominable calls for (literal) acts of genocide.

Wali,

That is absolute and utter bullshit, and I suspect you know it very well.

Here is the latest example.

In a recent post, Loewenstein called a journalist from The Australian sloppy, for reporting that according to Neilsen Bookscan, his book had sold only 5987 copies.

He referred to Bookscan as "notoriously unreliable" without specifying why every other publisher regard it as the industry standard. More importantly (or tellingly) whilst claiming to have sold "many more" copies, he didn't disclose how many, nor has he (or his publisher) ever disclosed that. For a "best-seller", your average publisher would be screaming it from the rooftops, yet Loewenstiein keeps quiet.

So, I posted this comment:

"How many copies have you sold?"

That is all the comment said. It has never come out of "moderation". That is, Loewenstein doesn't like it (or more likely is embarrassed by it), so nobody gets to see it.

It was as far from "self-evidently evil" or "racist sewerage" as is possible and your claim is manifestly false. You owe me an apology.

Now one could argue, it's his blog and censoring comments is his right. Perhaps. However, for a first-time author who has built his reputation on the basis he is "censored" and "silenced" (despite more media attention than any other first-time author in recent memory) it is totally and utterly hypocritical to censor and silence those who disagree with him. He is an intellectual fraud.

You are also completely wrong, and I can imagine why you probably have no trouble getting published on his site. In fact, I get the distinct impression you own the site...

Nell Fenwick said...

Wali wrote: "Loewenstein only censors statements that are out-and-out racist sewerage and (what initially prompted his change of policy) abominable calls for (literal) acts of genocide."

If Wali is not Loewenstein, how does he know what Loewenstein allows through and what his policies are?

Loewenstein does in fact censor dissenting views.Visit his blog and take a look around; you will find no recent dissenting comments.

Further, I used to comment regularly at Loewenstein's blog but none of my later comments - all civil - made it through.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, are you that ratbag from the eastern suburbs who writes hysterical and anti-Semitic letters to the editor of The Oz and the Jewish News?

I've read some of your conspiratorial garbage. You seem to blame Muslims for every ill on the planet.

I also noted you appear regularly on Andrew Blair's blog. You even made some comment accusing Irfan of molesting Mark Steyn.

You sound like a right royal loser.

Daniel Lewis said...

I write antisemitic letters? Who knew?

Or are you one of those (anonymous) morons who are actually stupid enough to believe antisemitism means anti-Arab?

Who's Andrew Blair?

Have you been drinking?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daniel Lewis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Irfan said...

I deleted the comments of both Anon @ 1148 and Daniel Lewis @ 308.

Daniel Lewis said...

Thank you Irfan. However I note that you personally approved the offending comment to begin with.

Perhaps you dropped your guard momentarily? An innocent error no doubt.

You could always adopt Loewenstein's policy of not approving most comments ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not fussed if you don't publish my preceding comment (or this) by the way. You don't need trolls.

Irfan said...

Dan Lewis, what was the meaning of Comment number 12 you left on Tim Blair's blog for his posting "Sheik Speaks" dated 13/10?

And what about your comments in relation to Tim Blair's false and defamatory allegation that I threatened Mark Stein with violence?

Just curious.

Daniel Lewis said...

Irfan,

If you could provide links to the relevant articles, I'll get back to you. Maybe. It's "Steyn" by the way.

It appears the link I provided in my comment at 8:24pm above, to a Loewenstein post wherein my comment was censored, has also disappeared. I am not sure if this is a function of your website, though haven't seen this on other Blogger driven sites.

Incidentally, for one concerned about defamation, you seemed rather easy going about anonymous threats toward me being posted to your blog. As you are a lawyer, this act does prompt the question: "What the hell were you thinking?".

Irfan said...

Dan, you engage in group defamation all the time. Why are you so afraid of being criticised a little?

Maybe I should go to Factiva and dig out some of your letters to the editor. Especially the ones where you hold Islam and all Muslims responsible for the vile and violent acts of a few ...

Daniel Lewis said...

Irfan,

I think you have some issues.
Firstly, and completely out of the blue, you are referring to my letters to the editor, along precisely the same lines as an earlier anonymous comment and the 'anonymous' person who subsequently threatened me, and whose comment you just happened to 'let through' moderation.

Anything you care to confess? Hmm?

Secondly, I don't know what Factiva is, however I'm sure Google will be just fine. I have no problem with anything I wrote to the papers, nor it seems did they. I fail to see your point. You have your opinion, I have mine. Ditt our respective comments on The Australian's blog - I assumed you were 'Irfan of Sydney'.

Again - what's your point?

On that topic, having Googled my own name on your blog, I came across a paper you wrote which quoted one of my letters and jumped to the conclusion I automatically assumed "Yusuf" was a Muslim sounding name. Wrong. I knew who you were, it wasn't a guess (although in fairness it probably would have been a good one)

As for 'group defamation' - huh? Perhaps I don't have your legal training(?) however what does that even mean? My position has always been pretty consistent:

a) Islam has a problem with terrorism
b) Moderate Muslims have largely failed to deal with, or in many cases even acknowledge this problem.

Do I hold Islam and all Muslims responsible for these acts as you claim? No. However, I do expect moderat Muslims to do more than say "it isn't all of us", which seems to be the status quo. Why is it, 100 000 Lebanese Muslims (yes, I know you aren't Lebanese) can march in the streets at 5 minutes notice to protest Israel and the USA, but couldn't get 20 people together to protest terrorists? The double standards reek, and at some point, the excuses wear a bit thin.

I am not alone in this opinion, and to a lesser extent from what writing of yours I have read, I suspect you agree with much of it (though don't expect you to side with me).

You throw this term "defamation" around a whole lot. Is that your legal specialty?


You have still not pointed me to the specific posts of mine to which you take exception (and I now feel I'm being stalked) however in relation to the Mark Steyn thread, I did look that up and I also note that your own blog post on it was subsequently pulled.

You claim Tim Blair defamed you. He's a professional journalist and no lightweight. So sue him, or get over it.

I was pointed to much of your writing via other contributors on his blog. I did notice an older comment of mine where I questioned the chumminess of yourself and Loewenstein - something I have alluded to in this thread as well. Associating with him does little for your credibility. He has done it again, just yesterday, inventing quotes for which Crikey.com had to issue a retraction (and for which Loewenstein is yet to do so, if ever).

Feel free to do a hatchet job on my letters if you wish. It would probably be more sporting however for you to submit your responses to the letters editor and let the broader population decide. Believe me, the letters editors at Fairfax aren't on my side.

In fact, Rabid antisemite Evan Jones of Sydney University has already compiled a nice collection of them on his monotone blog, if you want a starting point.

He was postitively fuming that I kept getting printed and he never did. Evidently further proof of Zionist control of the media.

I know you are a bit more sensible in this regard than both he, and Loewenstein. If you read my earlier comments, you will see I have been positively complimentary.

Irfan, based on the gist of your writing, I believe you are part of the Muslim community's solution, not the problem. Try to keep it that way.

The tone of your latest comment, and the underlying hostility, together with some rather noteworthy circumstantial evidence leading up to it, does concern me.

Daniel Lewis said...

Dan, you engage in group defamation all the time. Why are you so afraid of being criticised a little?
I have no problem with criticism.

I do have a problem with open threats, which was the comment you have now hidden (after originally approving).

This is not how civilised people behave.

Irfan said...

Daniel, how would you define a "Muslim"? And how would you define a "moderate Muslim"?

wali said...

Daniel Lewis said...

"...whilst claiming to have sold "many more" copies, he [Loewenstiein] didn't disclose how many, nor has he (or his publisher) ever disclosed that. ...
So, I posted this comment:
"How many copies have you sold?"
That is all the comment said. It has never come out of "moderation". "


Err - then why don't you either:
(a) post the question again; or
(b) send Mr Loewenstein an email asking him the question; or
(c) ring up MUP and ask their sales department?
Jeeez Louise. Don't you have any initiative? Do I have to do all your thinking for you? If you're a little frightened, do you want me to ring MUP on your behalf? *rolls eyes*

"It was as far from "self-evidently evil" or "racist sewerage" as is possible and your claim is manifestly false. You owe me an apology."

Nope. No apologies just yet. I would at least like to see evidence of the censorship first.

"Now one could argue, it's his blog and censoring comments is his right. Perhaps."

Perhaps? What on earth do you mean? Are you suggesting there is some doubt about the matter? Are you suggesting that people's blogs relating to their own thoughts should be subject to say, your say-so, or the state's say-so, rather than the blog-owner's? Weird.

"He is an intellectual fraud."

How so? I've see things like this said in a few book reviews and angry letters, but no-one has backed it up with anything beyond fairly unimaginative rhetorical recapitulation of the same old unsupported assertions. As far as I can tell, there has been lots of trash-talk from outside the ring by Mr Loewenstein's enemies, but no-one has had the guts or the ability to actually come up with any substantial criticisms yet. I imagine he's waiting with baited-breath for some poor fool to step into the ring.

"In fact, I get the distinct impression you own the site..."

Now I'm confused. Should I take that as an insult or a compliment?

****

Nell Fenwick said...

"If Wali is not Loewenstein, how does he know what Loewenstein allows through and what his policies are?"


I know because I read Mr Loewenstein's statement about why he was going to start censoring his comments section. It was prompted by a few extremists making outrageously racist statements about Arabs, and one person in particular calling for the genocide of all Arab peoples.

"Loewenstein does in fact censor dissenting views.Visit his blog and take a look around; you will find no recent dissenting comments."

That doesn't in itself establish censorship of dissenting views. Another equally plausible explanation is that Zionist extremists are boycotting the site in an attempt to reduce the publicity Mr Loewenstein would otherwise get. This was, after all, essentially the strategy suggested by Mr Michael Danby MP regarding his book.

"Further, I used to comment regularly at Loewenstein's blog but none of my later comments - all civil - made it through."

Really? Maybe your understanding of 'civility' doesn't meet the industry-standard. Maybe you're lying. I don't know. Can you demonstrate one way or the other? Thanks.

Daniel and Nell, one last thing: assalaamu alaikum.

Daniel Lewis said...

Daniel, how would you define a "Muslim"?

A Muslim is anyone who believes they are a Muslim.

And how would you define a "moderate Muslim"?

Let me say at the outset, that Islam is the only religion in the world, whose adherents need to be identified as "moderate". I've never heard of "moderate Buddhists", "moderate Jews" etc.

So, let's start by defining Militant or Radical Islamists. These are Muslims who wish to see the spread of Islam, through violent means. The conversion of Dar ul-Harb to Dar ul-Islam and the resurrection of a pan-Islamic Caliphate. The subjugation of non-Muslims (e.g. Dhimmi) and those who support or perpetrate Islamically motivated acts of violence against non-combatants.

The above is not exhaustive. However, I'd define "moderate Islam" as the portion of the Islamic community who reject the above.

Unfortunately, whilst we've been hearing for years now, that radical Islam is the minority and moderate Islam the majority, I am growing increasingly skeptical. As I mentioned earlier, the Muslim community can get 100 000 to march at the drop of a hat, to condemn America or Israel. Why however, has there never been any such outpouring against suicide bombers, or Islamically motivated violence against civilians?
One or two Muslims writing articles and going on speaking tours referring to the moderate masses, simply doesn't cut it in light of the above.

Perhaps you should lend me your definition of "moderate Muslim" and answer this question: Where the bloody hell are they?

wali said...

Daniel Lewis said...
"a) Islam has a problem with terrorism"

Islam is a system of metaphysical beliefs combined with a moral code. Do you rather mean that Muslim communities have a problem with terrorism?

"b) Moderate Muslims have largely failed to deal with, or in many cases even acknowledge this problem."

Actually, what's amazing is that there isn't more terrorism. That there has been so little (relatively speaking) can be counted as a relative success of Muslims. For example, no Muslim countries have sought to physically and politically destroy other countries in the last couple of decades. This is a great virtue. Contrast this to the United States which, in the space of five years, has physically and politically destroyed two countries (and threatened to destroy another - Pakistan). Yes, there are a few crazies who have been so enraged by various perceived injustices that they have violated the shariah, but they have not - in contrast to the Coalition of the Killing - been institutionalised in the state apparatus itself and presented on national TV as heroes. If these crazies' responses had been institutionalised as state policy, then one could justifiably say that Muslims had failed to deal with the problem of terrorism. As it is however, this is not the case. Yes, the people who taught and influenced Al Qaeda and Jamaat Islamiah do have the blood of a few thousand people on their hands, and they should be punished for that, but the United States government and all those who voted for it (the second time) have the blood of 600,000 (and counting) on their hands. Perhaps all these people should be similarly punished.

Irfan said...

Daniel, who refers to the followers of Islam as "moderates"? Can you refer to any authors or books that legitimise these adjectives? Do you think this descriptor is valid? If so, why?

Dan Lew said...

Wali,

Actually, what's amazing is that there isn't more terrorism. That there has been so little (relatively speaking) can be counted as a relative success of Muslims.

Relative to what? What other successes can we attribute? Literacy? Welfare? Development? Equality? Human Rights? I don't think so.

Your argument typifies the sort of Arab/Muslim denial which has seen the Arab world turn into such a disaster. For example:

Yes, there are a few crazies who have been so enraged by various perceived injustices that they have violated the shariah, but they have not - in contrast to the Coalition of the Killing - been institutionalised in the state apparatus itself and presented on national TV as heroes

Rubbish. One only need to look at Arab television (start with http://memritv.org or http://pmw.org.il for examples) to see how suicide bombers and mass murderers have been canonised. Streets and children named after them and widespread adulation. You are in total denial.

You continue:
the United States government and all those who voted for it (the second time) have the blood of 600,000 (and counting) on their hands.

I assume you are referring to the Lancet Survey figures, despite there being considerable research (including the Iraq Bodycount Project - no friend of Bush) that has discredited it.

However, even taking your figure at face value. Do you apportion any of the responsibility to the Islamist groups who actually caused the terrorist attacks responsible for the bulk of those fatalities? Or is a guy who shouts Allah Akhbar and then blows himself up in a crowded marketplace, also a victim of the US?

So, in summary, everything's fine in the Muslim world yes?

What a long way it has to go...

Irfan,

Thank you for answering my question with a question. You are evidently more than capable of doing your own research. Might I suggest Google?

Leigh said...

Wali, re your comment "Can you demonstrate one way or the other?" over Loewenstein's policy of comment moderation: Daniel Lewis's main example of comment censoring can be found here, plus other examples here and here. Every time I have asked Antony for a correction, posting a link that shows he is either wrong or lacking serious amounts of context, my comment has never left the moderation queue.

Irfan said...

Daniel Lewis, don't avoid the question. Answer it. How do you define the term "moderate Muslim"? What are the criteria a Muslim person must fulfil in order that s/he be considered "moderate" in your books?

I look forward to your response. Though I won't be holding my breath ...

wali said...

Daniel Lewis said...

"However, I'd define "moderate Islam" as the portion of the Islamic community who reject the above."

Interesting - a negative definition. "A crow is not a seagull." Brilliant. We'll make you the Grote Professor of Logic yet.

Anyway ... so, a "moderate Muslim" is, on your definition, someone who, for example, (1) believes they are a Muslim and, say, (2) believes that God's instructions to the Jews in the Torah to commit genocide left-right-and-centre is a great idea? Actually, your definition of a moderate sounds pretty radical to me.

Perhaps you should pull up you intellectual socks and try for a positive definition.

wali said...

Dan Lew said...

"Relative to what?"

Relative to other religions of late. For example, the avowedly Christian government of President Shrub has killed hundreds of thousands of people, lost two wars, wasted billions and billions of dollars, and has not instituted democracy but rather sectarian violence resulting in even more deaths of innocents to come. There isn't a Muslim country on the face of ther planet that can get anywhere near matching that kind of human disaster. Thus, relatively speaking, Muslims haven't done too bad really.

"One only need to look at Arab television to see how suicide bombers and mass murderers have been canonised."

Yes, yes, every night is wall to wall advocacy of death, death, death. *rolls eyes* Let's pretend that's true (remembering that MEMRI is a notorious cut-and-paster for Israel - it was set up and staffed by Israeli military officers) - nonetheless, as per my main point which you seem to have missed, it is not state policy in any Muslim-dominated country to destroy other countries, unlike it is for the USA, the UK and sadly, Australia (although I concede it is not really fair to label Australia in this way because Australia doesn't really have its own foreign policy in this regard).

"I assume you are referring to the Lancet Survey figures, despite there being considerable research (including the Iraq Bodycount Project - no friend of Bush) that has discredited it."

Discredited, hey? By whom? And you're not allowed to cite as "authorities" blogs by nutcases. Please cite academic investigations with more accurate numbers published in reputable, peer reviewed journals.

Frankly however, since the death and destruction is universally recognised to be massive (whatever the precise numbers), I don't see the point debating it myself (halve the number - does, say, 300,000 or say, 150,000 give you a warm glow instead?) Anyway, please direct your omnipotent light of truth about deaths to the Lancet authors. I'm sure they'd be glad to hear from someone who roolly troolly knows the facts on the ground.

"However, even taking your figure at face value. Do you apportion any of the responsibility to the Islamist groups who actually caused the terrorist attacks responsible for the bulk of those fatalities?"

Here's one way to apportion blame based on causality. [Numbers dead per 3 years due to invasion] - [numbers dead per 3 years under Saddam] - [numbers dead per 3 years due to illegal sanctions] = [deaths that occurred because of the illegal behaviour of the USA].

But that's just to stir the possum. Of course militia-members who kill civilians should also bear responsibility. But that doesn't let the Bush Anti-Administration off scot-free. The members of this administration should face the same justice as anyone else who kills innocent civilians. Should it be Texas-style justice? Oh, the irony.

"So, in summary, everything's fine in the Muslim world yes?"

Absolutely not. The Middle East is awash with US-backed dictators whom almost everyone hates. Turkey can't come to grips with the fact that the Armenian genocide was a genocide, just as the US can't come to grips with the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were grotesque war-crimes. And Indonesia is about to flog off a 1,000 year old ship and its booty. Disaster.

Daniel Lewis said...

I look forward to your response. Though I won't be holding my breath ...

Feel free to exhale Irfan.

I sent a very long response to this and more, yesterday, however it is yet to appear on your blog. Check your email, comments moderation, whatever. I know I sent it and won't be retyping it.