Friday, October 31, 2008

OPINION: First column in Crescent Times ...


The crescent is a religious symbol. Originally it was a religious symbol of the Byzantine church/empire. After the conquest of Constantineople in the 15th Century by the Ottomans, it was adopted by the Ottoman empire. Eventually it became a Muslim symbol, and was adopted by a large number of nominally Muslim countries such as Tunisia, Malaysia and Pakistan.

And now it is the name of a newspaper published in Perth. The Crescent Times is sort-of a Muslim paper. But then, its target audience is the Muslim sort-of community.

I'm not sure if Muslims in Australia form a single community. Perhaps in smaller cities (such as Perth and Adelaide) they form a community. But what a about Sydney and Melbourne, where you can find Turkish and Lebanese and Pakistani and Bangladeshi mosques everywhere but nowhere an Australian mosque?

Anyway, here's my first "Planet Irf" column for the Crescent Times ...
________________

Over the past few weeks, 28 million copies of a DVD have been distributed to homes in swing states across the United States. By swing states, I mean states where neither the Republicans nor Democrats hold a strong sway and which could determine the outcome of the November US presidential election. They are the equivalent of what we call “marginal seats”.

You’d expect the DVD would concern topics directly related to the candidates, their parties and/or their policies. In fact, the DVD’s title is: “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against The West”. Among the “experts” featuring on the video is a blogger who has repeatedly claimed that Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama isn’t being up front about his Muslim past, even suggesting that Obama “practised Islam” by wearing a sarong! In Jakarta!!

As a direct result of the financial crisis, millions of American citizens are having trouble paying their mortgages and even more trouble selling their homes at a price high enough to just cover the principal amount of their loans. Millions more cannot even afford basic healthcare. Yet the hate-mongers aren’t worried about the real issues facing ordinary American voters. Their concern is to spread as much hatred as possible.

This hatred doesn’t just affect people who call themselves Muslims. Some days back, I received an e-mail from an Indian Christian living in New Zealand. I was struck by these words: “When I moved to western nations, I faced the prejudice of looking ‘middle eastern’ by many in the general public”. Hatred is so blind that it cannot tell the difference between an Indian Christian man and a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

When spread far enough, hatred and ignorance affect every sector of society. The first FBI photo of suspects released after the September 11 terrorist attacks included two turbaned passengers, both Sikhs. The first hate-crime in reprisal of the attacks was also against a Sikh. Balbir Singh Sodhi, was gunned down while planting flowers at his family-owned petrol station in Arizona. His killer later admitted he shot the young man thinking he was a Muslim.

How do we overcome such hatred? Some people probably cannot be helped. Others are inspired more by ignorance. The opposite of ignorance is also its ultimate remedy – knowledge. We need to arm ourselves and our communities with knowledge.

I’m not suggesting we all go and enrol in an Islamic studies course. It isn’t so much ignorance of Islamic sciences that’s the problem. It’s more the great ignorance of Muslim reality. If people understood what we ordinary Muslims think, as opposed to what self-appointed Muslim leaders appearing in popular media claim we think, perhaps the hatred would decrease.

We cannot rely on leadership organisations to reflect our views. They don’t seem to care what we think, which explains why they spend more money taking each other to court than surveying ordinary Muslims about their views.

The ultimate solution is for ordinary Muslims to get involved in both other Muslim communities (including those outside our cultural and sectarian comfort zone) and the mainstream community. We need to be seen contributing to mainstream discussions and debates on mainstream issues, and be seen to be active in mainstream organisations. Many of us are already doing this, but many more need to get involved.

Once we do this, we’ll soon realise just how much we have in common. Our non-Muslim neighbours will understand that Muslim women don’t all wear hijab, and our fellow Muslims will learn that Muslim women (hijab or no hijab) are equally concerned about issues affecting all women – domestic violence, a decent education for their kids and a healthy environment for our future generations.

The fact is that there is no such thing as a peculiarly Muslim issue. The issues that affect Australian Muslims affect all Australians and vice versa. Whatever we might think of John Howard, we must surely agree with his mantra: “The things that unite us are more plentiful and more important than the things that divide us.”

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, October 27, 2008

COMMENT: America killing off Islam?


Recently I was scanning some comments left on a Washington Post blogpost by AltMuslim.com associate editor and lawyer Wajahat Ali. One comment went something like this ...

Why Americans are skeptical of Islam and Muslims, besides the 9/11 and now 5 Muslims tried for a terror plot on Fort Dix ?

Because Islam is easily compared to Communism. Both are intolerant, violent and expansionist ideologies. Only difference is one does it in the name of Allah the other does it in the name of equality for all humans. Both are failed idelogies. When America can ban and destroy Communism, then why not Islam?
Did America destroy communism? Or did communism implode? Or was it a victim of stronger forces such as nationalism?

Is this really a case of America destroying an ideology? Is Islam just an ideology? What about America's core must necessarily contradict the core of Islam? Indeed, what is the core of America?

Is America a society built on religion? Perhaps more Americans are on the surface becoming more convinced about the need for certain forms of conservative Christianity to play a role in politics. But How long will this trend last?

Communism was imposed on many people living in communist countries by force. The same is true for Islam in many countries. It's little wonder that so many young people living in Iran have turned their backs on faith. And if Islam represents a regime that murdered two of my daughters, I'd probably join the faithlessness of Afghan asylum seeker Abdul Azeem Rajabi ...

He had reason to fear the Taliban in 2001. His family had connections to the previous communist government, and as if this wasn't reason enough for the Taliban to want him dead, he had given up his Islamic faith and had married outside his tribal group.

The Taliban came looking for him and captured his father, who refused to say where his son was. So he was beaten with electrical cords. "When he came home he was unable to walk or talk or sit," the son says in the documentary.. "His entire body was blackened with bruises."

He died two days later. So Mr Rajabi fled to Australia, leaving behind his wife and children, in hiding in Iran, waiting until they could join him.

How his two young daughters came to be killed by the Taliban a year later is a tragic consequence of Australia's refusal to grant this Afghan father asylum when he came begging for refuge ...

For other people living in nominally Muslim societies, Islam represents a liberating force, one that guarantees them security and a source of certainty. They include people living in the United States.

So can America destroy Islam? Does destruction of an entire faith represent a realistic goal for the world's only remaining superpower? Does anyone else have anything to say about these questions?

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, October 24, 2008

EVENT: Opera & Koran meet Gregorian ...


Two performances only, both on Saturday 25 October 2008 at the City Recital Hall in Sydney. Click here to purchase tickets online.

The cast includes Tenor Rosario La Spina singing operatic arias; Dr Neil McEwan leading Gregorian Chants with the St Lawrence Singers; Sufi Master Fatih Koca with the Whirling Dervishes and World Champion of Koranic Recitation Ahmet Karali reciting from the holy Koran.

What happens when you combine recitation of the Koran with opera and the Gregorian Chant? Listen to Soner Coruhlu and Dr Neil McEwan talking about this awesome spiritual combination of sound and soul.

To read what the Sydney Morning Herald says about this event, click here.

To read a group of tunnel-visioned narrow-minded moronic imbeciles condemning this event, click here.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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BLOG: Keeping the Nazi dream alive ...


Bloggers at the far-Right Australian Islam Monitor website just can't stop thinking about me. After praising me for speaking out about chronic gender inequalities in Muslim communities, they are now making an issue about the size of my nose.

So I have a rather exotic-looking nose. What will they complain of next? That the spelling of my surname is more Israeli than Arab?

AIM blogger Cassandra then likens my attacks on the "Obama-was-a-Muslim-brigade" to attacks by the anti-Semitic French establishment on Captain Alfred Dreyfus. As if Dreyfus made it a habit to go around spreading false rumours about people's ethnic and religious heritage. As if Dreyfus tried to spread innuendo about people based on their background. As if Dreyfus cast aspersions on people based on their surnames or the size or shape of their noses. As if Dreyfus believed that certain minorities should be kept away from government and public administration.

When I think of prejudice against people based on their nose size, I think of the Nazis. It was the Nazis who determined whether a person was a Jew by the size of their nose. It was the Nazis who were so fixated with the size of people's noses. It is the Nazis who despised certain ethno-religious groups. It was the Nazis who spread the idea that a Jew could never be trusted and that Judaism taught its followers to lie and deceive.

AIM are carrying on these Nazi traditions. They look, sound and talk like Nazis. I wonder what that makes them.



Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

COMMENT: Social Cohesion's misleading report on FGM ...

Allegedly conservative UK Thinktank Civitas has produced a report entitled Crimes of the Community. The report deals with various forms of violent crime typically perpetrated against women.

I cannot comment on the entire contents of the 169 page report. However, I have read a section on what Islam says about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

A large number of Muslimphobic and jaundiced pundits have made it their business to claim that Islam endorses any and all forms of FGM. There is no doubt that FGM of various kinds is practised in certain parts of the Muslim world, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and other parts of Africa. It is also true that some Muslim religious authorities have justified this practice, as have religious authorities of other faiths in places where FGM is common.

The Social Cohesion report cites the views of a Shafei jurist (Ahmed ibn Naqib al-Masri) contained in his Umdat as-Salik, which has been translated and edited by Shaykh Nuh Keller). The report then speculates as to why Shaykh Nuh Keller would include the section on FGM whilst leaving out sections of ibn Naqib's book dealing with slavery.

The clear imputation is that Shaykh Nuh wishes to promote ibn Naqib's viewpoint. Perhaps the report's authors are even trying to suggest that Shaykh Nuh endorses FGM. No other evidence is provided to support these imputations.

The report then cites an opinion of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is described as "the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood". No evidence is provided from any MB source to confirm this claim.

The report then provides a reference to page 24 of Anne Sofie Raold's book Women in Islam: The Western Experience as source for the claim that:

The Hanafi and Maliki schools traditionally also regarded FGM as ‘noble’.
Roald's book is freely available on GoogleBooks. Nowhere on page 24 is FGM mentioned even once. Either this is a misprint or a complete fabrication.

What isn't mentioned is the attitude of Hanafi scholars in the Indian sub-Continent or Turkey to FGM. The report does acknowledge that the practice is rare in South Asian Muslim communities, who make up around 25% of the entire Muslim world. No South Asian religious texts or South Asian scholars are cited at all. No authorities from the Barelwi or Deobandi schools of thought are mentioned.

Further, no mention is made of what Shia religious authorities have said on the subject. This despite the fact that Shia Muslims represent at least 10% of the Muslim world and are increasing in number in Western countries.

All in all, the report attempts to show that the dominant position in Muslim communities and amongst religious authorities is that FGM is condoned. The enormous number of religious scholars and authorities who have actively campaigned against the practice is conveniently ignored.

The report ignored an international conference held in Cairo in November 2006 which condemned the practice. The report does mention Shaykh Tantawi, but doesn't mention Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa whose views were reported by the BBC as follows ...

Ali Gomaa, Egypt's top official Islamic scholar, or grand mufti, told the gathering no examples of the practice could be found in the Prophet Muhammad's life.

The authors of the report journalists and include one Arabic speaker named Salam Hafez. Both are ex-employees of al-Jazeera. The only article of Salam Hafez I could find on the al-Jazeera site was about Dutch bikies. Further, as an Arabic speaker, one wonders whether Hafez would have been capable of reading influential books on Hanafi law written in Urdu or Turkish.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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VIDEO: Why God (but not Allah, Buddha or even Hindu) is a Republican (??)

I'm not sure exactly which party God is voting for in the upcoming US Presidential election. I'm also not sure which way Allah, Buddha or even "Hindu" will vote. But this Republican paator, delivering a prayer at a Republican Party convention certainly does.

Thanx to Gazza for the tip-off.



Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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VIDEO: John McCain's favourite pastor ...



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COMMENT: Why I am still a dirty lyin' taqiyin' Mozzlem ...


Well, it was only predictable that, following publication of this essay in Eureka Street, far-Right nutbags would come out and issue their FF's (i.e. fascist fatwas) joyfully declaring that they had managed to convince me to leave my ancestral religious heritage. And what has led them to this conclusion? The Australian Islam Monitor (it's official name is "Australian Islamist Monitor", but the url is islammonitor.org) makes this perceptive remark:

Perhaps Australia has had some influence on him.
Well, given that I have lived here since I was 5 months old, and given that I'm now almost 40, you'd think Australia's impact on me might be slightly greater than donning the Wallabies jersey during holiday trips to New Zealand and knowing the lyrics to just about every song sung by genuine Aussie musicians like Tim and Neil Finn.

(And calling them Aussie when in fact they are Kiwi. Now that's the mark of a genuine Aussie!)

Amateur (and indeed, amateurish) journalist Wendy Larkkson of the Australian (or should that be Kiwi?) Islam Monitor writes under the headline of "Sydney Muslim Speaks Out - Slams Gender Inequality". But is this really news? Or do the simple folk at the AIM only read headlines imposed on my articles by sealous sub-editors? Haven't they noticed another (albeit much shorter) article written for the New Zealand (or should that be Australian?) Herald and which can be found here? And other articls of similar import?

Larkkson's summary of my 1,500 word essay is ...

No you have not read a misprint. A Sydney Muslim, Irfan Yusuf, who often speaks out in defence of Islam, has written an article, which will surprise many readers. He has expressed lament about the appalling treatment of women in Islam. Perhaps this is a new venture for him in speaking out what the evidence of his eyes cannot deny. Perhaps Australia has had some influence on him. It is interesting that his article has been published in a left of centre Australian Catholic magazine ‘Eureka’, which has a caring, sharing, feel-good agenda most of the time.
No doubt the AIM's anti-Catholic arm will soon be publishing an article announcing that Eureka Street have come out and declared they are no longer Catholic. And no doubt Larkkson will be wondering whether, in a previous article, I had declared that I was now no longer a person of part-Indian heritage.

What the good folks at AIM don't seem to understand is that there is a difference between criticising (allegedly) Islamic cultures, countries, leaders etc and abandoning one's faith. A huge difference.

I've been doing the former for years. I haven't yet (and certainly have no plans to, unless someone puts a gun to my head and insists otherwise) done the latter i.e. abandoned my faith and heritage.

And with 1.2 billion Muslims around the world, even if only 1% were as crazy as the folk at AIM, I'd have plenty to write about. The fact is that you don't cease to be Muslim by defending Sudanese teddy bears or castigating pro-American dictators or condemn madcap terrorists or even lambast the nasty rants of former muftis. Just as you don't cease to be liberal if you manage to upset Liberal backbenchers.

The AIM take the matter further and pontificate ...

Working as a lawyer in Australia, he would be exposed to a number of situations and of course, to Australian law. At some point the evident maltreatment of women within his own society would have become crystal clear and would have forced some response from him.
Yes, I have done plenty of cases involving applications for Apprehended Violence Orders, some of them in the context of domestic relationships. I've unfortunately had to see Australian women and children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds be forced to resort to court orders. The Local Courts' AVO lists aren't exactly full of happy news. Domestic violence, much of it alcohol and drug related, affects Australians across all communities. But don't tell that to AIM. Let them assume this is a uniquely Muslim problem.

And as if to underscore the inherently anti-Semitic nature of AIM's rhetoric, they again repeat the taqiya smear, albeit in a rather amusing manner ...

On a more suspicious note – could Yusuf’s attack on Islamic maltreatment of women be an advanced form of Taqiyya? Have we moved beyond Taqiyya 101 and gone on to Taqiyya 202 or 303? Is this an attempt to ingratiate himself with the leftie Christians who would hold gender equality in all its forms as a fundamental principle? Does he want to make inroads to this section of the
Catholic community? Does he want more invitations to their barbeques? Is it espionage?
Indeed? Or am I part of that giant Judeo-Islamic conspiracy to impose unitarianism? Will I join Barack Obama's Muslim-in-hiding plot to take over the world? Does this all-American fruitloop have a point?

But it isn't just the AIM nutbags who have discovered that Irfan occasionally criticises Muslims. Australia's self-declared representative of the views and aspirations of all Christians, the Australian Christian Lobby, has suggested that I have written ...

... [a]n article ... for which he deserves thanks.
Well all I can say to ACL is thanks, but no thanks. It's interesting that ACL's "thanks" to me also carries a link to the AIM's note. And as if to confirm the imbecilic nature of the ACL thicksheiks, their last few lines are as follows ...

Related article White Ribbon Day - 25 November 2008 : http://www.acl.org.au/national/browse.stw?article_id=24715

Australia looks forward to hearing from Mr Waleed Aly, on this subject.

If the ACL researchers knew how to use the Rev Google, they'd know that Waleed has used his White Ribbon Day Ambassadorial status to pen sone devastating critiques of the treatment of women in nominally Muslim societies.

Still, as far as ACL are concerned, their mob never engage in domestic violence. You'd never see Christians engage in physical or sexual violence towards women or condoning such violence. Only nasty Mozzlems do that kind of stuff. If you don't believe me, check out ACL's moronically jaundiced analysis here.

So now that the bigotry brigade have declared their approval of my writing, what next? Will I get a guernsay to address the Big Ideas Forum hosted by Centre for Independent Studies? Will Daniel Pipes be singing my praises on his blog? Will I get to write an op-ed for that part-Saudi and part-American-owned newspaper that calls itself The Australian? Will I be appointed a fellow to the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and/or the Hudson Institute?
And will I finally be awarded a book deal by Allen & Unwin? Speaking of which, I'd better get back to writing the damned thing!

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

OPINION: Something rotten in the states of Islam ...

Those wonderful people from the Eureka Street ezine have just published an essay I sent them as part of the Inaugural Readers' Feast/Eureka Street Award for a human rights essay.

The headline put on the essay is Something rotten in Islam. This is a deliberately provocative headline designed to get people to read the article. But will Muslims read it? Or will they be turned off it?

Before reproducing the article, I've reproduced a brief exchange of e-mails between myself and the editor. I think these e-mails will provide readers with a better understanding of the editorial process.

Eureka Street is not and has never been a racist or Islamophobic publication. Another colleague of mine, Saeed Saeed, also writes for the publication.

________________________

When one submits an article for publication, it is the sub-editor/editor's job to write the headline. It isn't for the contributor to select a headline. The editor also chooses a graphic if appropriate. It isn't my role to tell you what headline to place on this article.

With that in mind, I should tell you that this article was addressed to all men but in particular men of Muslim faith/heritage/background/ancestry. The headline is good in that it will attract and perhaps even shock people to read the article.

On the other hand, many Muslims will find it offensive. This in itself isn't a bad thing, though it might turn out to be counterproductive.

Many will argue that the graphic is the sort of graphic fit for the Daily Telegraph. I myself have hacked into the Tele for using such graphics. Still, when the Tele uses them, it is often on issues unrelated (or tenuously related) to Muslim women.

I cannot say for certain as I doubt any research has been done on the topic, but my own experience is that the vast majority of Muslim women don't wear a face-veil. Further, many do not associate the face-veil with physical or sexual violence against women.

In this sense, some Muslims will argue that the graphic does little more than entrench stereotypes. Hence Muslim women may find the graphic offense.

Perhaps a better graphic may be a photo of one of the victims. Perhaps a better headline could be "Something rotten in states of Islam". That way a distinction is made between Islam as theology/law/texts and Islam as modern post-colonial political orders.

However, this is only my view. It isn't for me to be telling Eureka Street how to edit an article in their own publication.

People should be free to say what they like about any faith tradition. My own personal practice is not to criticise faith traditions but rather to criticise people whilst praising traditions. Hence my last piece attacked Hindutva as a political movement but pointed out that Hinduism itself was above all this.

Just some feedback.

Regards
Irfan Yusuf

___________________________

Hi Irfan,

Thanks for feedback. Our title was, as you acknowledge, designed to pique people's interest and get them to click through and read the essay. It is lifted almost directly from the essay itself: the subtitle 'Something is rotten' is followed by the sentence 'Something is rotten in the state of Islam', adapted for the title to 'Something rotten in Islam'. But I take on board your comments regarding sensitivity.

Your point about image selection is also fair. I confess it crossed my mind that I was running the risk of 'entrenching stereotypes' by using that image. Ultimately my intention was to use something that would be immediately recognisable to the general public as a 'Muslim woman'. Perhaps that is just another way of saying the same thing! I'm sorry if you feel the image reflects badly upon your essay.

In any case, you are most welcome (and I would encourage you) to post your feedback at the base of the article, as it adds to the dialogue about Islam and makes valid points about the editorial process.

Thanks again Irfan.

Cheers.

__________________________


EUREKA STREET/ READER'S FEAST AWARD
Something rotten in Islam
Irfan Yusuf October 22, 2008

A Muslim proverb says that a child's first university is her or his mother's lap. Young children at this age are like soft clay and can be moulded into more or less a permanent shape that will prove difficult to change in later years. It's a process that might be called education by osmosis.

I graduated from the university of my Indian mother's lap with a fear of the prayers of others, especially those I have wronged. The word for oppression in both Arabic and Urdu (my mother's North Indian dialect) is zulm. An oppressor is zaalim and the oppressed is muzloom. Mum's Urdu formula was fairly straight forward.

Zulm na karo. Kiyun kar Allah Ta'ala muzloom ka dua hamesha soontahey, chahe muzloom kaafir ho aur zaalim musalman.

Literally this means: 'Do not oppress. Because God Almighty always hears and responds to the prayers of the oppressed, even where the oppressed refuse to acknowledge Him and the oppressor believes in Him.'

Collective oppression

What happens when the oppression is collective? What happens when communities oppress themselves? And do so in the name of establishing God's law?

I could apply mum's proverb to many Muslim communities and come up with an explanation as to why so many are politically, economically and socially backward. At least 51 per cent of Muslims are women. And whether Muslim men accept it or not, many are the subject of the collective negative prayers of their mothers, sisters, daughters and wives.

So often I hear Muslim imams, preachers and apologists reminding me that Islam gave women certain rights at least a thousand years before Europe did, that the rules of Islamic sacred law (also known as the sharia) cannot be legitimately applied in a manner which causes injustice to women, and that Muslim women have equal (if not always the same) rights as men.

That might be the case in textbooks of theology and sacred law. But what is the current reality on the ground?

Something is rotten

Something is rotten in the state of Islam. Perhaps not in the sacred texts nor even in the vast legal tradition. Muslims can debate among themselves whether the source of the problem lies in the religion itself. But the reality is beyond debate.

Something certainly is rotten in many of the 58 states that make up the organisation of Islamic Conference. A cruel sickness of absurd and oppressive gender-based practices and attitudes is poisoning the lives of men and women in Muslim societies.

Such practices and attitudes aren't limited to ignorant villagers, nor are they random acts of murder committed by strangers. It wasn't an unlettered stranger who murdered 17-year-old student Rand Abdel-Qader in Basra on 16 March this year. She was murdered by her father, a government employee who worked in Iraq's Health Department.

Rand's mother tried to save her from this barbarism but to no effect. The Observer reported on 11 May:

Though her horrified mother, Leila Hussein, called Rand's two brothers, Hassan, 23, and Haydar, 21, to restrain Abdel-Qader as he choked her with his foot on her throat, they joined in. Her shrouded corpse was then tossed into a makeshift grave without ceremony as her uncles spat on it in disgust.


What was her crime? This young student at Basra University had worked as a volunteer with displaced Iraqi families. Over a period of some four months, and after a few short conversations, the young woman had become infatuated with a 22-year-old British soldier.

That's it. She had feelings. Her father came to know of this. He saw her talking to the British soldier in public. He dug a makeshift grave. He murdered his own daughter. His sons joined in, spilling the blood of their own sister, their own flesh and blood.

Why? Apparently this act has become known as an 'honour killing'. It seems that for some men, the only way to restore the honour of their family is to kill family members.

Concentric circles of oppression?

Some have argued that this incident was a symptom of the wider oppression of Iraqis, of the foreign occupation which hasn't brought the promised peace and order promised by the self-styled Coalition of the Willing.

It is true that the brutality of occupation can lead to other forms of brutality. Tortured, humiliated and oppressed men need some kind of outlet. All too often, such men end up torturing, humiliating and oppressing their wives, sisters and even mothers.

But such incidents also happen where there are no brutal occupiers present. In April 2006, hacked pieces of 20 year old Bahnaz Mahmod Agha's body were found in a suitcase in London. In June 2007, a London court had convicted Bahnaz's father and uncle of her murder.

Bahnaz had entered a marriage arranged by her Kurdish-Iraqi father when she was just 17. Her husband had repeatedly raped and abused her, even knocking out one of her front teeth after she called him by his first name in public. In late 2005, by which time she was 20, Bahnaz had left this abusive relationship and fallen in love with another Kurdish man from a different tribe.

Bahnaz's uncle convened a family council during which it was decided that the family's honour could only be restored by killing her. Bahnaz's mother alerted her to the plot, but police didn't believe the story. With her family against her and the police refusing to assist, to whom could this young woman turn?

Again, concentric circles of oppression operated. Again, Muslim religious and community leaders had more important things on their mind, such as the pressure of the post-7/7 environment, the increased public scrutiny, the struggle against oppressive anti-terror laws.

The ultimate victims of these concentric circles of oppression are the 51 per cent of Muslims that happen to be female. So what is the solution?

It's true that these practises are not religiously sanctioned (though theological justification is often found by misogynistic religious authorities), are not limited to Muslims and are found in non-Muslim communities in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa also. But Muslim men can not afford to live in denial about their prevalence.

The double standard

Muslim faith communities suffer from multiple personality disorder, applying one standard to the male and another to our female side. And we impose our double standards under the garb of tradition or sharia.

We speak of reviving the age of Muslim glory, when Muslims were the most civilised nation on earth. But what characterised that civilisation?

There is the story of one Muslim woman who was kidnapped by the Byzantine empire. The Caliph in Baghdad wrote a letter threatening to send an army whose length stretched from Baghdad to Constantinople.

Today, Muslim Presidents and Kings and Generals do nothing to help women being mistreated and held in captivity in their own countries. Without international pressure, one wonders whether Pakistan's General Musharraf would have allowed Mukhtar Mai liberty within her own homeland.

Perhaps the most obvious example of our double standards is in our domestic relations. Many Muslim men regularly beat their wives. Unlike their non-Muslim brothers, Muslim men don't require excessive alcohol or narcotics in their system to beat their wives.

There are few laws in Muslim countries protecting women from domestic violence. Worse still, those responsible for enforcing the law — police and the judiciary — are open to bribery by the usually wealthier male perpetrators. What makes the problem worse is that imams rarely mention the problem to their (mostly male) congregation.

Muslim and ethnic language newspapers commonly read by Muslims rarely mention the issue. It is as if we are pretending the problem just doesn't exist. Or worse still, it's as if it isn't even a problem.

Raising voices

Some years back, a group of men in Canada decided that they would take a stand on violence against women. The result was UNIFEM White Ribbon Day. Each year, men where white ribbons to take a stand, to show that they regard violence against women as an abomination.

I'm not suggesting that the solution is Muslim men merely wearing white ribbons. But the philosophy of WRD is one worth promoting — that violence against women is a men's issue and that the situation won't change until men speak out against it.

Because if we stay silent, we might as well be lending a hand to the perpetrators of violence. Today it may be a stranger. Tomorrow, it could be our mother, our sister, our daughter. Paradise can be found under the feat of mothers. Yet millions of Muslim mothers and sisters and daughters are living in hell on this earth.

I wish more Muslim men stopped justifying theology or pointing to historical precedents and address current gender realities in Muslim communities. I wish more influential men in nominally Muslim communities and countries raised their voices against the continued exploitation of at least half of their community.

With that in mind, I'll start by raising my voice.

First published in Eureka Street on Wednesday 22 October 2008.

UPDATE I: Some discussion on the piece can be found here.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

VIDEO: Time to stop polarizing America ...



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VIDEO: Islam in America Part I

Narrated by Rageh Omaar, this special series was made for al-Jazeerah. Watch and be enlightened. And enjoy the African American Muslim who plays superb guitar!!

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf



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Monday, October 13, 2008

VIDEO: ILLUME-inating America ...

The folks at Illume magazine in the United States are doing their bit to promote religious pluralism and understanding across cultural and religious divides. They deserve our support.

Australian Muslims haven't yet consistently produced a decent publication of similar quality. The least we can do is benefit from and support such projects from other countries.

This video was initially launched as part of a fundraising effort to coincide with the last ten nights of the sacred month of Ramadan.



Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

COMMENT: Musaji gives far-Right jihadist Robert Spencer 10 slaps ...

Muslim blokes often boast to their mates about how their religion allows them to marry four women. But seriously, how many Muslim men can handle even one wife? I have a theory about this. I think it's because Muslim women are as tough as nails.

American Muslim Sheila Musaji seems to fit this description very well. And if you don't believe me, read this response she gives to professional hate-monger and pseudo-scholar Robert Spencer.

All I can say is "Ouch! That must have hurt!!"

Spencer has established his own test to determine which Muslims are sufficiently "moderate" to live on the same planet as he. Naturally such a test is only fit for Muslims. Spencer clearly doesn't believe in administering a similar test to other faith-based groups, including those nasty theocrats currently persecuting Christians in India. Heck, what's wrong with burning churches, gang-raping nuns and burning missionaries alive? We'll only notice when those filthy dirty Mozzlems do it!

Will Spencer be administering a similar test to the Hindutva thugs that destroyed this church in the Indian state of Orissa? Don't hold your breath ...



Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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