Monday, March 21, 2011

MEDIA: Jetlagged analysis of 60 Minutes ...

No, I'm not jetlagged right now. I'm just pain-killer-lagged thanks to having some recent surgery. And so I really couldn't be bothered right now to write something about a recent silly episode of Channel 9's Sexy ... woops ... 60 Minutes show on multiculturalism and other big words tabloid TV hacks find hard to spell, let alone understand.

With that in mind, here is something I wrote for Margo's Webdiary back in January 2006.

Jetlagged analysis on upcoming 60 minutes show

By Irfan Yusuf
Created 31/01/2006 - 16:09

Two weeks ago, while I was sitting in a mini-bus melting in the 300% humidity and then boiling in the heatwave-like conditions of Jakarta, I received a call from a mate in Sydney. The conversation went something like this:

HE: Listen, dude. 60 Minutes wanted to have me on some panel. I’ll be on my honeymoon. I presumed you’d be interested so I gave them your contact details.

ME (somewhat excitedly): You f#cking what?

HE: It’s ok. It’ll go for an hour and will be live. I would’ve done it except the missus would have killed me for cancelling the honeymoon.

ME: What’s this panel about? Industrial relations?

HE: No, some crap to do with Cronulla. You know how they are. They want a few token Muslims who actually speak English.

ME: Mate, you know I’m sick of being the village Muslim!

HE: Dude, I already told the bloke you’d do it. Anyway, they are going to call you, so have your phone on.

ME: Yeah, right. Have a good honeymoon.

The Perfect Face for Radio

Over the next few days, I made sure I sent and received enough text messages to use up the entire charge in my phone. I was not keen to appear on any commercial TV show on the Cronulla issue. Why?

Well, for a start, I am becoming a bit tired of being a commentator on anything remotely to do with that confusing and convoluted group known as the “Muslim Community”. Unless if it’s radio. Heck, if it’s Radio National, bring it on. Even being on the other end of the line with Alan Jones wasn’t terribly devastating.

But TV just isn’t my thing. It might be in 12 months time, once this diet begins to kick in. Until then, in relation to the world of television, my only comment is that I have the perfect face for radio.

(Unless I’m sitting across the table from Maxine McHugh. Lateline – bring it on!)

Not only that, I do have my doubts about 60 Minutes. OK, admittedly the show isn’t as infantile and unethical as Today Tonight, a show that makes Jerry Springer and his guests look like the Op-Ed pages of the New Zealand Herald. But the prospect of being on a one hour panel with a whole bunch of Muslim dimwits who couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag was not my way of overcoming jetlag.

Nonsensical Spokespeople

I’ve been on some forums with Muslim “leaders” before. I remember a forum on Channel 9’s Today Show which took place some 20 days after the London bombing. I was on there with Sheik Fehmi, one of the few imams who can speak English. There was also a lady from the Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia (MWNNA) who sadly didn’t get much of a chance to speak. The rest of the crowd were an embarrassment.

There was the representative from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), which is apparently the peak body of Muslims. This chappy was boasting about how his organisation had issued a letter condemning the London attacks.

From memory, the letter was dated 27 July 2005. The bombing happened on 7 July 2005. It took the organisation 20 days to issue a condemnation of terrorism. But when Michelle Leslie took off her scarf and put on a singlet top and hipsters (presumably so that she could fit in with all the Aussie Muslim chicks in Auburn and Broadmeadows), it took AFIC around 20 seconds to condemn her.

Then there’s that poor fellow who works in a convenience store. Wassim Doureihi is wasting away his life working for the big chief of the fringe group Hizbut Tehrir (HT) who owns a host of convenience stores in and around Sydney. This young Aussie Muslim is talented and full of energy. Why he wastes his time grinding the axes and selling over-priced soft drinks for a fringe group baffles me.

Ethnic Islam & Aussie Mossies

Actually, it doesn’t. Why? Because I could so easily have been him. You see, folks, AFIC and all the other middle aged migrant male-dominated Muslim organisations have created a system of mosques in which Islam is little more than a cultural relic of life in Muslim countries half a century ago.

Today in Pakistan and Bangladesh guys and girls may be hitting the nightclubs, but women are still not allowed in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi mosques of Sydney. The Lebanese Moslems Association may have had some kind of generational change, it Islam is still a strictly Lebanese phenomenon at the Imam Ali Mosque in Lakemba. The congregation there may be multi-racial, but most of them are barred from joining the LMA due to constitutional apartheid that only allows persons eligible for a Lebanese passport to be on the committee.

Most Imams cannot speak English. They are imported from overseas and poorly paid. Their job description is simple – do whatever it takes to make sure Islam remains a cultural relic for first generation migrants, thereby guaranteeing its almost complete irrelevance to young Australian-born Muslims who make up the majority of Australia’s Muslim community.

So what has this to do with Aussie Muslim kids following wacky fringe groups? The mainstream Imams may not speak English. Their employers may be lost on a cultural time warp. But mainstream Islamic theology which these imams can teach when they extricate themselves from their employers’ cultural time warp is not something anyone should be worried about. In fact, it is the best antidote to religious extremism.

But the migrant self-appointed elders and leaders are keeping this mainstream Islam from young Muslims who are brought up in Australia and cannot recognise fringe groups for what they are. Further, so many of the English-language materials we grew up with and which were given to us by lazy and stingy leaders were hand-outs from some radical Saudi and Pakistani publishers committed to an isolationist theology.

Getting Over Radicalism

Hence, so many of us forced to learn Islam from books have been exposed to writers on the more radical end of the Muslim literary spectrum. This in itself is no big deal. I’m sure more senior readers here will recall dabbling in those little red books of Chairman Mao.

And I do recall some months back spending an hour or so with a theatre full of well-heeled ex-lefties as they cheered on that mad Argentinian dentist as he swam across the Amazon after riding a motor cycle across South America before hanging out with Ayatollah Castro for a while.

Was I in Newtown or Glebe at the time? Nope. Roseville. In the heart of Sydney’s North Shore.

I may have read my fair share of Dr Ali Shariati and other ideologues of the Iranian Revolution. I might have attended a few lectures given by Afghan mujahideen leaders. Though admittedly that was the time when they were directed by the Grand Ayatollahs Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr.

I’ve read my quota of radical stuff. But it didn’t take me long to get over it.

(Actually, in Shariati’s case, I haven’t quite gotten over it. If anything, the current lot of conservative Iranian mullahs are well and truly over this super-funky Sorbonne-educated Iranian sociologist. His work is deemed too liberal and is banned in Iran.)

But not all young people get over their flirtation with radicalism. For many Aussie Mossies, their first impressions of Islamic faith are lasting. Mainstream imams and mosques often cannot provide them with spiritual and ideological antidote.

I strongly doubt people like young Wassim will do anything risking national security. Their rhetoric is radical, but their actions are harmless. Although it only takes just a handful of serious wackos to … I don’t even want to think about it.

Individual Responsibility

Yes, I realise that each individual has to take responsibility for their own actions. We can’t go on always saying society is to blame. Unless, of course, if we are on the funnier end of the human spectrum and do talk shows for ABC TV.

In a sense, all Muslim individuals are responsible for the near-complete cultural irrelevance of their imams. In the same sense that all Catholics and Anglicans are to blame if a small group in their churches try to cover up for paedophile priests.

If Muslim dimwits keep speaking for Aussie Muslims, it’s because educated articulate Muslims able to understand the Aussie mainstream don’t speak out. And their silence is allowing the dimwits to confuse the hell out of mainstream Australia.

Getting Back to 60 Minutes

You might recall my leaving the mobile phone uncharged for a few days in Indonesia so that I could avoid receiving a call. The following week, I felt a bit guilty and sent an e-mail to the producers. I vaguely recall someone ringing me the next morning, but it was at around 4am.

The 60 Minutes dude finally managed to track me down when I had just touched down in Sydney. He sent me the blurb via e-mail. Here it is...

Cronulla Forum

On February 8, the 60 Minutes program is holding a forum to discuss the Cronulla riots. The forum, chaired by 60 Minutes, will be filmed and televised nationally in late February.

While calm has been restored to Sydney’s beachfront, the underlying problems that caused this unprecedented eruption of violence remain.

This was not just a suburban territorial dispute, nor simply a law and order issue – it struck at the very heart of multiculturalism in Australia, highlighting serious social problems caused by mistrust, alienation, frustration and anger.

Why did it happen and how can this potentially explosive situation be resolved?

60 Minutes is keen to involve young Muslims and non-Muslims to hear their views on what is undoubtedly the most important social issue in Australia today.

Er, I never knew Muslims were an issue in Cronulla. I understand persons of Middle Eastern appearance may be problematic to some Cronulla locals. Perhaps we might even narrow that down further to persons of Lebanese extraction and of Middle Eastern appearance.

The forum will be held in the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Apparently Ray Martin will be hosting it. It will go for around an hour, and will then be edited down to 20 minutes.

So we might have 200 people in the hall from all different sides of the argument – Cronulla locals, white supremacists, non-English speaking imams, Leb kids with bad attitudes and even worse haircuts, non-Leb surfie kids with bad attitudes and smelling of too much beer and cheap Byron Bay gunja, etc. We each have to try and contribute something within a space of 60 minutes. This gives us all a space of 18 seconds to say something. Then the show will be edited down, enabling each person to get 6 seconds on the channel. That’s 6 seconds to express one’s self on multiculturalism and alienation and Lebbos and all that stuff.

And what will be the focus of the edited version?

From the wording of the blurb, it seems the 60 Minutes crew regard the entire Cronulla thing to become a debate about Aussie Mossies. And with 6 seconds each, even the most articulate Aussie Mossie (or indeed Aussie anything) will have little chance to say anything useful.

And what is the point of running things this way? In what way will viewers be more enlightened about the issues underlying the riots?

Once I get over my jetlag, I will address more on this issue. Until then, I’m off for another nap. Selamat Lemmegetsomesleep.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

VIDEO: The mother of Salman

The late Salman Hamdani was an American hero. He was a 'first responder' on September 11 2001, placing himself in harm's way to save other human beings. For 6 months, he was regarded as a suspect. Then when his remains were found at Ground Zero, Salman Hamdani was finally exonerated.

For those 6 months, his parents lived a double jeopardy of distress - their son was missing and they had neighbours looking at them suspiciously as rumours spread that their son may have been a terrorist.

Now with a terror-loving congressman holding hearings into Muslim radicalism, Salman Hamdani's story was being cited by Congressman Keith Ellison in his emotional testimony. And the American Right are having a field day of bigotry, alleging Ellison made the whole thing up. Matthew Shaffer, a Fellow at the National Review Institute, does some googling and alleges that there really weren't any serious rumours about Hamdani at all.

Shaffer should tell this to Talat Hamdani, Salman's mum. Here's what she has to say:

Despite his noble instincts, the tabloid media initially suggested that because of his Pakistani-American heritage, he might have been involved with the attacks.

My grief was compounded by the suspicions that clouded Salman's name and the suggestion that his faith -- my faith -- not the acts of 19 murderers, was somehow responsible.

Her entire piece, written in response to the IRA-supporting Peter King witch hunt, should be read in full.

All of which just goes to show how irrational is racial and religious profiling.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

VIDEO: Protecting victims of violence against women in Dubai

This is a report from 2007 about an American woman living in Dubai who has set up an organisation providing shelter to victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and other forms of abuse. Yes, it happens in all societies including nominally Muslim ones. And even the wealthiest of them are not immune.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

PROFILE: Brigitte Gabriel - American wacko

Brigitte Gabriel isn't her real name. Apparently she is too afraid to use her real name in case she is attacked.

Attacked? By who?

Gabriel is an all-American wacko, a master xenophobe who has made it her mission to convince Americans that any and every Muslim anywhere and everywhere is plotting and scheming to destroy America.

Gabriel has visited Australia in May 2007 when she was keynote speaker at a dinner hosted by the Jewish National Fund. Then Prime Minister John Howard was also present at the dinner.

The New York Times recently profiled Gabriel recently. She is described as

... one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders.

Here's how the NYT quotes her.

“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America,” she said. “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”

Any reasonably objective person would hear Gabriel's message and realise she is trying to push a barrel.

She presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion.

Like so many xenophobic fruitloops, Gabriel insists that she has no truck with 'moderate' Muslims. She's only worried about Muslims as extreme as her.

She insists that she is singling out only “radical Islam” or Muslim “extremists” — not the vast majority of Muslims or their faith. And yet, in her speeches and her two books, she leaves the opposite impression. She puts it most simply in the 2008 introduction to her first book, “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America.”

“In the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream,” she wrote. She said that there is a “cancer” infecting the world, and said: “The cancer is called Islamofacism. This ideology is coming out of one source: The Koran.”

And in case you thought Gabriel's followers only had problems with Muslims, think again.

ACT! members are challenging high school textbooks and college courses that they deem too sympathetic to Islam. A group leader in Eugene, Ore., signed up to teach a community college course on Islam, but it was canceled when a Muslim group exposed his blog postings denouncing Islam and denying the scope of the Holocaust.

And while Gabriel and her ilk claim to target terrorism, the reality is that their conspiracy-mongering and hate-speech is actually helping extremists.

Brian Fishman, a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said, “When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.”
Unfortunately I cannot embed this interview on CNN. Gabriel belongs to the Hilaly school of answering questions, forever claiming to be quoted out of context. She also claims that the Prime Minister of Australia is some person named Erbekan.

Still, here's Brigitte talking about Obama being a Muslim.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

COMMENT: Critical Muslim Studies?

The University of South Australia has just established the Bob Hawke International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding. Here is an excerpt from its website.

Critical Muslim Studies draws on and extends the insights of post-Orientalism, post-colonialism and post-structuralism in examining the assumptions of western hegemony, the political formations of Muslim and non-Muslim subjectivities and the unresolved imbrications of multiculturalism and racism ...

One of the ways of conceiving coloniality is to see it as a framework in which the distinction between the West and non-West becomes the overriding dyad that structures the world. The reduction of the non-West to a residual category announced the subaltern position of the rest of the world as a lack in relation to the West.

I believe English language interpreters will be provided in all courses at the Centre. And I thought lawyers were bad at communication.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

INDIA: Eleven sentenced to death as mass murderers remain in power

Eleven Indian Muslims have been sentenced to death by a court in Gujarat for setting fire in 2002 to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, amongst them a contingent of supporters of a fundamentalist political party. Some 60 people were killed in that fire which led to communal rioting that saw over 2,000 civilians systematically massacred. Those orchestrating the massacre have managed to escape responsibility.

63 other accused were acquitted while some 20 were given life sentences. Here is a timeline of the case. All accused had been detained since 2002.

The sentence was awarded as Indian Muslims across the world commemorated the 9th anniversary of the Gijarat pogrom.

Here is an excerpt from an AlJazeera report:

Narendra Modi, Gujarat's chief minister and a prominent member of the BJP, was accused of failing to stop the riots, and even of encouraging them.

Gujarat officials have denied the claims.

Last month an Indian supreme court panel criticised Modi for his "partisan" handling of the unrest, but found no evidence to justify criminal prosecution of him.

A national enquiry into the fire concluded the fire was an accident, but other official investigations have differed in their findings.

One prominent civil rights lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, questioned the verdict and the evidence used.

It is a totally wrong verdict, based on wrong evidence ... Though the sentenced persons can go to the higher courts, what is needed is a re-investigation. The case is based on wrong premise that warrants a re-investigation ... On any account, the sentenced persons cannot be charged with murder and conspiracy. At the worst, they should be charged for arson.

One of those acquitted was one Muslim religious scholar, Maulana Husain Umarji, who has been demonised by the Gujarati media. Here is what a columnist from The Hindu has to say about Maulana Umarji.

... the 70-plus maulvi became the monster that he remains now in the eyes of most of those who lost family members on the Sabarmati Express. The acquittal of 63 accused in the train burning case has annoyed them, but it is for the Maulana that they reserve their anger, citing his “role” in inciting the mob — as reported by the media. The tragedy is that the role played by the Maulana was exactly the opposite. It was only he who, after the burning of the train, expressed regret on behalf of his community, repeatedly and publicly. Again, he alone restrained the young Ghanchi Muslims whose blood boiled at the sight of raped and battered Muslims pouring into the relief camps in Godhra during the massacres which followed the Godhra train-burning, and who itched to retaliate against the police for their continuous combing operations in Muslim localities after the incident.

Anil Dharker writing in the Hindustan Times also has some pertinent things to say about the verdict.

On the face of it, the judgement seems to contradict itself. As we now know, 31 people were convicted for criminal conspiracy, while 63 were acquitted. Significantly of the 63, there were two people, Maulvi Hussain Umarji and the then president of the municipality, Billal Hussain Kalota, who were accused to be the main conspirators. If your main conspirators are innocent, how can you have a conspiracy?

Can't argue with that.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

NEWS: Housemaids in Saudi Arabia resorting to suicide

I've blogged about abuse of women in Saudi Arabia in the past. An article published around 12 months ago in the Arab News (a Saudi paper) reports about the situation with domestic servants working in the Kingdom. This includes violence and mistreatment of various forms.

In the last couple of years there have been countless reports of abuse in the media, including testimonies from maids about the withholding of salaries, verbal or physical abuse and restrictions on their movements ...

Maids who are physically or emotionally abused have no choice but to either run away or attempt suicide. Those maids are expected to work around the clock, sleeping for only two or three hours a night.

“I worked in a house where the sponsors used to feed us one meal a day and lock the fridge later to make sure we didn’t eat anything else,” said Salma, an Indonesian housemaid.

Earlier this year, a maid tried to hang herself from the ceiling. Another tried to drink detergent to end her life. Yet another threw herself from the window of a building. The lucky ones were saved. Maids are also beaten up or sexually abused by their sponsors. An Arab News report published on Feb. 27 told the story of an Indonesian maid taken to hospital when she fell from the third floor of her sponsor’s building.

The doctors later found that the maid had been beaten up and tortured and found burns and lashing marks on her back. They also detected internal bleeding and an injury to her head.

I'm not sure whether the Prophet Muhammad would recognise those employing these servants as his followers. And in case you thought it was just happening in Saudi Arabia ...

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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COMMENT: TreasoNamaz in Tennessee

Five times a day Muslims are supposed to perform a special kind of worship. In Arabic, it's called salaat. But to millions of Muslims in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia etc, it's known as namaz.

It is performed in accordance with certain regulations concerning washing and physical postures. All of these are governed by a sacred law known as sharia.

And if a number of lawmakers in the poor state of Tennessee have their way, it will become an act of treason.

The Tennessean website reports on 23/02:

A proposed Tennessee law would make following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail.

Wow. That's more than what you might get for bashing your Christian wife. So who is behind this unusual piece of legislation?

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, introduced the same bill in the Senate and House last week. It calls Shariah law a danger to homeland security and gives the attorney general authority to investigate complaints and decide who's practicing it.

It exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous. It claims Shariah adherents want to replace the Constitution with their religious law.

Believe it or not, similar bills have been moved in other US State legislatures. But the Tennessee one goes much further. It provides for criminal sanctions against anyone found to be involved in the practice of sharia.

And who drafted this bill?

The Tennessee bill goes further by proposing criminal penalties for following Shariah ... the bill was model legislation, given to him by the Tennessee Eagle Forum, a conservative advocacy group.

Bobbie Patray, state president of the Eagle Forum, confirmed that the law had been drafted by David Yerushalmi, a Chandler, Ariz.-based attorney. Yerushalmi runs the Society of Americans for National Existence, a nonprofit that says following Shariah is treasonous.

And so we see a bunch of alleged Christians attacking the liturgy of another monotheistic faith. The language is largely the same. The only difference is that the targets aren't Jews this time round.

And sadly some Jews are involved.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

Throw this treacherous sandnigger in jail for 15 years!!

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