Friday, May 30, 2008

COMMENT: AFIC’s commitment to save Muslim youth from the clutches of bin-Ladin

Members of AFIC's interim executive after a recent meeting.


Ikebal Patel, alleged President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils seems to be suffering from the same foot-in-mouth disease as former alleged mufti Sheik Hilaly.

Patel’s brainless contribution to the Camden debate is being reported across the world as a “warning” that Muslim kids might start learning Islam in people’s backyards and garages.

I’m shivering with horror. Imagine the spectre of the 90% of Muslim kids who don’t attend Muslim schools learning about their faith next to a barbecue. Or learning about it whilst vacuuming their mum’s car in the garage. Seriously, what strange ideas could they pick up over a few snags or with the combined noise of a vacuum cleaner and AC/DC blurting out of the car stereo?

Of course, what Patel is really suggesting is that AFIC-managed Muslim schools are a panacea to Muslim kids becoming addicted to the drug of radical Islamism. Patel’s own organisation has, of course, done plenty to stop that process.

AFIC has encouraged its member councils and societies to get involved in its workings. AFIC loves to involve young Australian-born Muslims who speak English as their first language. Just look at all the young females on AFIC’s interim executive. So much fresh blood. Not a hint of musical chairs.

Ms Hafez Malas is a female with extraordinarily good English skills. She is in her early 30’s, and has worked for years as a project manager for a major IT corporation.

Mohammed Berjaoui, 35, brings with him strong management credentials, having worked for 10 years as a project manager for a major Canberra-based building corporation.

And there’s so much more fresh young faces who reflect the youth and diversity of Australia’s Muslim communities.

So Patel and his colleagues are well-placed to ensure young Muslims don’t fall into the lap of radical Islamism, as seems to be their genetic predisposition unless the Federal Government pays AFIC trillions of dollars so they can bid against other non-AFIC schools at land auctions.

Muslim youth from non-AFIC schools at a recent jihadi barbecue.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

COMMENT/UK: Extremists going for the vulnerable?

Nick Reilly, a 22 year old man with a history of mental illness caused injuries to himself when his explosive device caused a mild explosion. It appears the young man was trying to detonate the bomb inside a busy family restaurant in the town of Exeter in England.

Here’s how Reuters reported the police explanation of the incident:

“Our investigations so far indicate Reilly, who has a history of mental illness, had adopted the Islamic faith,” said Tony Melville, deputy chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police.

“We believe, despite his weak and vulnerable state, he was preyed upon, radicalised and taken advantage of.”

Thankfully no one else was hurt in the blast.

It’s impossible to tell whether the man belonged to any particular group. It is also unclear exactly what kind of mental illness the young man had and how the illness affected his behaviour.

The UK Daily Telegraph reports that neighbours believed the young man, who suffered severe facial wounds in the blast, suffered from schizophrenia. They also report that he had the mental age of a 10 year old.

The young man’s defence lawyer said that Reilly used cannabis and would often steal to finance his habit.

Police believe the young man was radicalised by young Muslims who allegedly brainwashed him outside a fish and chip shop in his home town of Plymouth.

A close friend of Reilly said that he was on heavy medication and had tried to commit suicide on numerous occasions. She told the Daily Telegraph:

“He has been sectioned for self-harm, cutting his arms and overdosing on pills but this was some time ago, maybe five years. He has scars all over his arms.”

If it’s true that this young vulnerable man was preyed upon by radicals, one wonders the extent to which this radicalising factor reinforced a pre-existing disposition toward violence. Either way, questions need to be asked about what kinds of messages were being given to this poor young man. What also needs to be explored is what kinds of support networks exist for the mentally ill in the young man’s region. It seems his neighbours were familiar with his condition.

While local police investigators are mentioning the young man adopting Islam, I don’t see any hint of them suggesting that the young man’s conversion in and of itself was the cause of his actions.

Certainly from an Islamic theological perspective, one wonders whether the young man’s conversion was voluntary or even necessary. Anyone with even basic knowledge of Islamic sacred law would know that persons suffering from severe psychiatric illnesses have legal and moral responsibility for their actions suspended to the extent that they are affected by their illness.

Yet as is so often the case with modernist radicalised Muslim youth, Islamic traditions and juristic consensus mean little.

UPDATE: Check out the insensitive and offensive comments appearing on the News Limited tabloid Daily Telegraph Opinion Editor's blog here. There's no point reading the comment publication and moderating guidelines. Clearly no one at the Daily Telegraph gives a rat's backside about them.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

AFIC: Rotting carcus?

OK, here's one that will raise some eyebrows. Yesterday I used some fairly colourful terms to describe the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC). Here's a taste:

But Sydney-based writer ... Irfan Yusuf says the change in AFIC's leadership will have little effect on muslim communities in Australia.

He says federation members are out of touch with those they claim to represent.

YUSUF: It's dominated by middle aged migrant males - first generation migrant males - many of whom have poor english skills who many of whom don't understand mainstream Australian life very well. And again it's a problem of representation: they don't really reflect the reality of muslims, at least 50% of whom are female, most of whom are brought up in Australia and are under the age of 30.

He says another problem is that the organisation only represents religious institutions.

YUSUF: Muslims by and large are fairly sort of, you know, like the rest of the population, they are fairly secular - some of them are interested in religion, some of them are not.

Despite it's apparent narrow representation, the federation is also an advisory body to state and federal governments.

But Irfan Yusuf says that doesn't matter.

YUSUF: I think governments tend to talk to AFIC because they have to be seen to be talking to AFIC, but I think they know quite well that this is an organisation that has had its day and it's really irrelevant, largely.

AFIC also manages over $50 million of assets, mostly land housing Muslim schools.

But Irfan Yusuf says muslim communities see little benefit from the money earned by AFIC in the form of grassroots community projects.

YUSUF: A lot of AFIC's money has gone into litigating, a lot of their litigation is pretty much intra council litigation - they have tried to kick out state councils and introduce new ones and then kick them out , then they have to go to court - so I guess really the people who are benefiting the most from AFIC are the private legal profession, so I guess for he sake of those for those lawyers I think AFIC should continue to exist, because otherwise I guess those lawyers would be out of a job.

He says there is not much the group can do to save it's reputation.

YUSUF: I guess there is really not much AFIC can do I think it's pretty much a rotting carcass and perhaps the best thing that can happen is that it is buried.

Am I exaggerating?

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

COMMENT: Sadanand Dhume - another Daniel Pipes?

Sadanand Dhume is a journalist who has worked for a variety of international newspapers and media organisations. He is also the author of a book about Indonesia called My Friend the Fanatic, as well as a variety of op-eds published in major newspapers across the world.

In his writing, Dhume doesn't hold back. His criticism of what he sees as political Islamism is unrelenting. But does his criticism turn into an obsession with Islam itself? Has Dhume become just another Daniel Pipes?

It's hard to tell, and it would be unfair to pass judgment without reading his book and his other writings on Muslim societies. However, one could argue that Dhume's singular obsession with Muslim extremism (as opposed to other forms of extremism) is problematic in the same way as one could argue that those who parrot on about Israel's human rights violations but ignore violations of its neighbours are being anti-Semitic. Certainly Barry Cohen has used this argument today in The Australian.

The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman responded: "Criticising Israel is not anti-Semitic and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction, out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East, is anti-Semitic and not saying so is dishonest."

It's the double standards by which Israel is judged that incenses Jews and their supporters ...

Selective indignation, dear readers, is anti-Semitism.

Applying the same logic, could one argue that journalists who focus on Islamist extremism but ignore the excesses of the Hindutva hounds or American Christians conservative war-mongers are being Muslim-phobic?

Certainly Dhume is no stranger to this line of questioning. Just over 12 months ago, Dhume was interviewed by Nermeen Shaikh in New York. Here are some excerpts from that interview.

In all your articles, you speak in rather alarmist language about Islam and Muslim societies in general, without trying to give a serious political account for why Islamist movements (both violent and non-violent) all over the world have been growing in recent decades. The most striking silence, in this regard, both in the context at least of Indonesia and Pakistan, has to do with the consequences of the Cold War. This is apparent also in your review of Musharraf's In the Line of Fire where, in the first paragraph, you say that the Taliban were armed and funded by the ISI, which is why, of course, it is difficult for them to disentangle now. But the ISI would simply not have been able to do that without being a part of the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA. The fact that you don't mention this is rather odd. Why are you so conspicuously silent on these facts?

I know where you're coming from and I think it's a fair question. Let me tell you broadly where I stand on this. There are two ways, if you like, to sort of boil this down to extremes, here are the two prisms you can bring to this issue. You can say that, well - and I'm making this a little bit of a caricature, which is for the sake of argument or simplicity - it's all America's fault, or it's not America's fault at all.

But in fact I will acknowledge and I do write about this in my book, that for example what happened in Indonesia - and you could argue that obviously what happened in Afghanistan also [in the 1980s and 90s]- was a result of US policy. Definitely, but I don't buy the idea that it was primarily because of the US.

What is happening with Islam in the world, whether it's Wahhabism or similar strains, I don't believe that this is something that is America's fault. So you can say that particular policy decisions, for example in Indonesia support for Islamists or troubles with the left-leaning Sukarno government, had consequences. Absolutely, you saw the textbooks change in schools and so on. There are very few people who would disagree with that. But I don't believe that America is the major engine of this change. Is it a factor? Of course. Is it the factor? I don't believe so.

There are many factors. I would say in Indonesia the single biggest factor was massive dislocation. If I had to point to one thing I would say massive dislocation combined with enforcement of uniform religious education.

To what extent does your position on the "Muslim question" draw from the policies and insights of parties such as the BJP in India or the neoconservative wing of the Republican party in the US?

You'd find very few people in either the Republican party or in the BJP who advocate in favor of either Playboy or many of the other things I do.

On the Muslim question, not in general.

It's a loaded question. I personally don't see any particular parallel but perhaps you can point something out to me and I will be able to answer that better.

Why for example do you argue that Islamists of any variety - violent or non-violent -- should not even be engaged with?

I believe they should be opposed. So it's not about engaging. But if you can engage them to change their mind, sure. But I think the ideas that they hold are terrible ideas.

But not all Islamists hold the same ideas.

What is my definition of an Islamist? A person who believes that Sharia should order all aspects of human life. That's my definition. That's my working definition. I think that's a terrible idea and it should be opposed. It's very straightforward.
I'll reserve my judgment until I meet the man and read the book. Meanwhile, here is an interesting discussion in which Dhume recently took part.

UPDATE: An interesting discussion on Barry Cohen's anti-Semitism thesis is being conducted at an online forum here.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

EVENTS: Suffer the little children ...

Christ is reported to have once said ...

Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Two thousand years later, the people of his town are suffering. Now the Sydney-based Friends of Bethlehem have put on a superb exhibition of children's art. It starts tomorrow, 21 May 2008. Don't miss it.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, May 09, 2008

You just can't trust them towel-heads ...

Here's what Rupert Murdoch said about those nasty ragheads ...

You have to be careful about Muslims, who have a very strong, in many ways a fine, but very strong, religion, which supersedes any sense of nationalism wherever they go.

Here's what Daniel Pipes writes in The Australian today about Israeli Muslim citizens ...

... the Muslim citizens of Israel, the sleepers ... They benefited from Israel's open ways to grow in numbers and to evolve from a docile and ineffective community into an assertive one that increasingly rejects the Jewish nature of the Israeli state, with potentially profound consequences for the future identity of that state.

Is there any difference between the attitudes of Murdoch and Pipes expressed here? What do readers think?

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

CRIKEY: Media rant - SBS declares Dave Hughes mufti of Australia!

SBS broke the news last night that Australia’s 360,000-odd Muslims now have a new Mufti.

Last night’s premiere episode of Salam Café saw Dave Hughes dressed up in ceremonial robes and a turban and declared mufti by compere Ahmed Imam (whose dad, coincidentally, is current mufti Fehmi el-Imam). Sheik Hughsy left the live Melbourne audience in hysterics.

SBS picked up this community-based show from Channel 31, where the show picked up a bunch of Antenna Awards in 2006 including Best Program on Community TV. The show features a panel of talented young Victorians including a couple of brilliant young stand-up comics, three charming hostesses, an author and that son-of-a-mufti I mentioned earlier.

The show was filmed before a live Melbourne audience, though rumour has it they’re filming some shows in Sydney.

One panel member is no stranger to mainstream TV. As a university student, ophthalmologist Dr Ahmed Hassan raised eyebrows among conservative community leaders by appearing on and (if my memory serves me correctly) winning a “Red Faces” segment on an episode of that Channel 9 classic Hey Hey! It’s Saturday. Back then, the idea of using popular culture to break down stereotypes was a little too cutting-edge for the middle-aged men that ran Australia’s mosques.

But times have changed. At least they have in Victoria. A fair few stars of this show hold senior positions on the Islamic Council of Victoria. And with Sheik Hughsy as their spiritual leader, it looks like mufti day has just hit the big time!

First published in the Crikey daily alert for Thursday 8 May 2008.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

MEDIA: How supporting Palestinian human rights makes you a believer in Saudi-style hardline Islam ...

Hardline Saudi wahhabi jihadist salutes his fellow mujahideen.

It was June 2006. The Mufti of mass-media, Sheik Rupert bin Murdoch, was in Australia to receive an award for being the most influential Australian - an awesome honour for someone who showed his commitment to Australia by throwing away his citizenship to become an American. During an interview with Channel 9, Sheik Rupert issued this fatwa:

You have to be careful about Muslims who have a very strong, in many ways a fine, but very strong religion which supersedes any sense of nationalism wherever they go.
In other words, these blasted Muslims are disloyal to Australia because their loyalties lay elsewhere. It’s like those bloody Jews who are more loyal to Israel. Or those nasty Catholics more loyal to some German dude who now lives in Rome.

And as always, Sheik Rupert has plenty of attack dogs on his payroll, busily spreading his sectarian and political preferences. Among them is my old buddy Dicky Kerbaj, who has just co-authored a piece on the allegedly secret and confused agenda of Saudi Arabia in sponsoring various religious and academic projects in Australia and other Western countries.

Kerbaj et al writes about how

The Saudi Government - largely through its embassy - is believed to have funnelled at least $120 million into Australia since the 1970s to propagate hardline Islam …
Kerbaj commences his article with an example of this hardline Islam:

THE cheque from the Saudi Government for $360,000 was enclosed in an envelope.

It was a donation, a gift, a part payment to subsidise the construction of a building that would become Sydney's Muslim heartbeat: Lakemba mosque. More than 35 years after Sydney cleric Khalil Shami received the cheque, he insists it came with no strings attached. But while the cheque had no tangible conditions in the form of written instructions or binding contracts, the cleric received a message from his donors several months after depositing it.

"They said: 'Please, can you mention the tragedy of the Palestinian people and what's happened to them in your sermon?"' Shami tells Inquirer. "Which is really a very noble cause, a very noble cause, I couldn't see a negative in their request."
So according to Kerbaj, talking about “the tragedy of the Palestinians and what’s happened to them” is clearly an example of “hardline Islam”. If you don’t want to be seen to be a follower of “hardline Islam”, you basically have to deny any Palestinian suffering. You have to believe that the Palestinians are living in absolute utopia, free to practice their high-jumping skills on the “security barrier” being built through their farms, villages and towns.

If you support or even express sympathy for the Palestinians, you are obviously a recipient of Saudi petro-dollars. Either that, or you are a hardline Wahhabi who is a threat to Australian security and deserving of being declared so on the pages of our national broadsheet.

By why should Kerbaj stop at mosques? Why doesn’t Kerbaj investigate the houses of worship of his own ancestral religion? Is he not aware of the pro-Palestinian pronouncements made by leaders and clerics of the Druze faith in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria?

And what about other non-Muslims who have expressed sympathy for the Palestinians? Will Kerbaj also suggest that the Pope of Egyptian Coptic Christians is also a follower of hardline Islam?

And how about the Mayor and the parish priest of Bethlehem? And what about Jimmy Carter? And former Deputy PM and National Party leader Tim Fischer?

But there are so many more followers of hardline Islam. Check out this chap. And these two dudes.

Naturally, the evil tenticles of radical Saudi Islam have spread far and wide. Even prominent actor Stephen Fry has joined in the radical fun, along with 130 other prominent British men and women who are clearly extremist Wahhabis.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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COMMENT: New Zealand's Muslim heritage ...

Click here to discover New Zealand's Muslim heritage. You will find an article published in the NZ Listener on 21 April 1979 which discusses a mosque being established in Ponsonby, as well as some of the pioneers of Islam in New Zealand.

There's plenty of stuff here for Sheik Dicky Kerbaj to make an issue of. Even here, in New Zealand, the nasty Saudis had their tentacles. Too bad they invested more in Kerbaj's employers!

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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EVENT: Indonesian Festival @ Queanbeyan ...

You and family are cordially invited to an Indonesian Cultural Festival to celebrate the first anniversary of the Indonesian Community of Queanbeyan Association. This special event has also aimed to provide an opportunity to showcase Indonesian culture to the whole communities in surrounding Queanbeyan and the ACT. The Indonesian Cultural Festival will be held:

Venue : Queanbeyan Conference Centre
Crawford Street, Queanbeyan
Date: Sunday, 18th May 2008
Time: 11.00am to 02.00pm
RSVP by Friday 9th May 2008
To Mrs Titha Febritasari (email:

The festival will present diversity of traditional foods, handicrafts, and dances from all parts of Indonesia. A special short talk on the topic of ‘The journey of Islam in Java’ will be delivered by Dr George Quinn, an Indonesia’s specialist and senior lecturer from the Australian National University (ANU). In addition, there will be an auction of Indonesian handicrafts from our sponsors in the festival, and it is also anticipated that about 500 people will attend this performance. The admission is a gold coin donation.

This event would be an important opportunity for wider communities in Queanbeyan and the ACT to learn more about Indonesian culture.

On behalf of the Indonesian Community of Queanbeyan Association, we look forward to seeing you at the festival.

Queanbeyan, 22nd April 2008

Yours sincerely,
Mrs Ida Palaloi Suhadj

(Thanks to SJH.)

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