Recently Rebecca Weisser, Opinion Editor of an American-owned newspaper known as The Australian, wrote a profile of Swiss-born author Dr Tariq Ramadan. In her profile, Weisser made much of the fact that Tariq Ramadan's grandfather was the late Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Islamist movement al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood). My own take on that profile can be found here.
Effectively, Weisser was engaging in a slur by association. At least one Liberal Senator would regard this kind of behavious as "distasteful muckraking", as "unfair" and "un-Australian".
In case any readers are wondering, I'm talking about Tasmanian Senator and former minister in the Howard Government Eric Abetz. In an article on today's Sydney Morning Herald website, it is reported that Eric Abetz's uncle was a convicted Nazi war criminal. Here are some excerpts:
Senator Abetz, the deputy Liberal leader in the Senate, last night volunteered that his great uncle Otto Abetz had been a high-ranking Nazi as he sought to head off what he said was a slur by association.In the same manner as Senator Abetz, Dr Ramadan has spoken out against violent religious extremism, against draconian criminal punishments and against monocultural politics. Yet Ramadan allegedly shares such demented intellectual facinations which, according to Weissner and other critics, Ramadan inherits from his grandfather.
... Otto Abetz was Nazi ambassador to occupied France, where he is believed to have ordered anti-Jewish drives and adopted a style that earned him the nickname King Otto I.
Senator Abetz ... was confirming the connection because some newspapers would today be carrying the story, which he suggested most Australians would find distasteful muck-raking. "Can I say that he died the same year I was born? I never met the man," Mr Abetz said.
"I think most reasonable Australians would regard any attempt to slur me by association with such a distant relative as completely unfair and, if I might say so, un-Australian."
... Otto Abetz was heavily involved in the Nazi regime as Hitler's ambassador in Paris, then tried and jailed for war crimes in 1945 ...
... Senator Abetz said the story of his connection had been "around for a while", and was raised before the last election by Labor interjection in the Senate.
"I don't have any links with national socialism," he said. "Indeed, anybody who knows … my public record knows it has been one of speaking out against socialism, be it national socialism, or Soviet-style socialism."
One wonders if Weisser will now attach Senator Abetz on the same basis. After all, Otto Abetz was responsible for orchestrating the massacres of thousands of Jews, communists and others in France murdered and persecuted for their ethnicity, religious and political beliefs.
Or does Weisser suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood is comparable to the Nazis? Does she have evidence that Hasan al-Banna called for the genocide of Jews, Gypsies and other allegedly undesirable races?
I can't say I agree with Eric Abetz on alot of things. But I do agree that to slur someone based on the actions or words of a distant relative is just cheap muck-raking. There is no evidence that Ramadan supports any of the racist, sexist or xenophobic views Weisser attributes to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Weisser owes Dr Ramadan an apology. I certainly won't be holding my breath waiting for one.
© Irfan Yusuf 2008
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