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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Morgaan Sinclair said...

The problem, Irf, is that although almost EVERYONE wants to trust Muslims, they just don't understand why they will not deal with the minority of them that are murdering people on a daily basis and threaten to turn the world into a huge conflagration.

Because Muslims WON'T fix their own problem, they leave it to the curious little "infidels" who are expected to fight for them. The Shi'a community in the USA lobbied five successive US administrations for 25 years to invade Iraq and take Saddam out of power. The day they did it, they became "occupiers."

Meanwhile, if the heads of the eight Mahdhabs got together and issued joint fatawa declared Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the Muslim Brotherhood's violent wing, Hamas and Hizbollah functions that are violent, and all else apostate, it would be over in three weeks.

You call the DVD Obsession hate speech, but virtually all of the "speech" on this DVD consists of radical imams threatening to cut the heads off Jews with swords drawn.

This problem is now so huge that there have been more than 12,000 radical Islamist attacks in 20 countries against the people of five religions since 9/11.

That's 12,000 ATTACKS, not deaths. The deaths are now running upwards of half a million, and the vast majority of them are Muslims. In fact, nearly all of them are Muslims or non-Muslims who are being "purged" from the southern provinces of Thailand, from all over Iraq (nearly all the Christians are gone from the whole country). In Malaysia any semblance of pluralism is dead. In Indonesia, sharia' law, which Pancasila was invented to hold back, is creeping in everywhere, and coming with it are the Arab hudud punishments and spurious "pornography" laws that are intent only upon the compulsory veiling of women.

Odd indeed, since veiling wasn't common in ANY Muslim society until the 10th century, nearly 300 years after Muhammad, who would certainly have made sure every woman was veiled if he thought it was necessary, which apparently he did not.

I know this is difficult. And the reason it is, is that you are right when you say that most Muslims wouldn't think of harming anyone. But some combination of pride or denial, religious supremacism or fear, or a belief that if you are just beautiful enough, this will all go away.

It wont'. Because the people who are destroying your religion aren't the people you're screaming. The people you smear with a term like Islamophobia when they are trying to save both themselves and YOU are not your enemy. They have no desire to remove Islam from the world. They only want Islam to be safe. But unless you are willing to press your leaders to end this -- and only they can -- you leave non-Muslims only the choice of exposing what is happening and/or fighting it, which nobody wants to do.

People are absolutely correct when they say that Islam is being hijacked by terrorists who don't understand it, but IF YOU DO NOTHING ABOUT IT, YOU ENABLE IT, WHICH DOES MAKE YOU RESPONSIBLE!

Just smearing the people who are NOTICING that half a million people are dead in just 7 years, that Islamists are trying to get the bomb and the worst possible bacteria and nerve gas, and that all over the world Muslim women who are NOT free as you are in Australia to choose a hijab or not are being treated like slaves, isn't going to cut.

You have to stand up. And if you don't, you force us to do it for you, because the same people that are attacking you are attack us. And while we give you refuge in Western countries — and Muslims are POURING out of repressive Islamic republics just as fast as they can — you attack us on a daily basis while taking from us the safety and freedom which you cannot get in Muslim lands.

For example, if, in Saudi Arabia, you even suggested something like Muslim women may or may not wear cover, you would yanked out of your house tomorrow morning and interrogated by the muttawiyyan and begging to die in about half a hour.

You gotta real. We are trying to help you, and you won't let us, and on top of that you call us names.

I have a friend, Ali Alyami, who is a Saudi dissident, and his son volunteered to go fight in Iraq to try to handle Al Qaeda, which he feels is destroying his beloved Islam.

And I agree. It is destoying Islam.

Think about, Irf, my friend (and I mean that):

The Prophet said the destruction of Islam would come out the Nejd (where Wahhabism was born, then spawning Salafism and Talebanism).

He was right. And we ought to take him seriously.

Morgaan Sinclair said...

BTW ...

I have had a copy of the Tarjuman al Ashwaq beside my bed for evening reading for three years, and Rumi is my favorite poet of all time. I think that Sufism is the answer, and I would suggest that the Sufis in the United States are one of the best possible models for this. Shaykh Haqqani has been brilliant about modeling perfect pluralism, peace, kindness and justice while being incredibly outspoken against terrorism and Wahhabi violent extremist ideology.

His genius is that he does both at once, and he never makes an excuse, never whines, never blames. He takes it upon himself to do everything in his power to stop the bad guys, and he never complains that non-Muslims being attacked complain about what is going on.

I don't know what we would do without him.

Anonymous said...

If morgaan thinks that wacko sheiks represent the Muslim mainstream, he should stay where he belongs with sickos like Qubrussi and Kabbani and al-Alawi and Schwartz.

There is no difference between Wahhabis and pseudo-Naqshis and al-Ahbash, even though they hate each other. Their approach to dealing with differences is exactly the same. That explains why they will always be on the fringe of the Muslim world.

Phil said...

we have 8 madhabs, now? wow never knew that....

Jeff Miller said...

Morgan has been watching too much TV. These problems are NOT a driving force of the problems in the Muslim world. To say that Hamas an Hizbollah are the cause of problems in the Middle East, while completely disregarding the Israeli(/US) role in the siege of Gaza and the invasion of Lebanon shows that Morgan is informed mainly by the Murdoch press.

I am intrigued as to why you do not mention the American backign of the Saudi regime, but attack this 'Salafism' as 'destroying Islam'. hmmmmm. I am not laying blame solely at the feet of the western countries for these problems. But surely you must recognise that your analysis is simplistic in the extreme.

Your comments do nothing to help solve any of the problems taking place in the Middle East, and reveal a narrow-minded ignorance on your part.

Jeff Miller said...

Another thing, I don't want to give the impression I sympathise with Salafism in any way. In fact I despise Salafism as much as the next man. However, my point is that it is not the problem that it is made out to be in the corporate media (as reported on Indonesia etc.).

Jeff Miller said...

"we have 8 madhabs, now? wow never knew that...." - Phil

The Mufti of Al-Azhar in Cairo issued a fatwa declaring that it is illegal to call someone a 'kafir' if they belong to one of the following 8 schools of Islamic law:

The 4 Sunni schools
the Ja`fari school(Shia)
the Ibadi school
the Zaidi school
the Zahiri school
= 8 madhhabs