Tuesday, September 21, 2021

PhD: Random thoughts.

So this post is to collect random thoughts, brain farts and similar shite in one post. Here goes.

[01] Could the War on Terror itself be deemed a form of cosmopolitan virtue? Wasn’t Australia’s commitment to prosecuting this (at least in rhetoric) about maintaining an international order free of terrorism? Were Australian Muslims in fact being asked to commit to a universal cosmopolitan goal to fight international terrorism that claimed to be inspired by and was in fact corrupting their faith traditions?

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PhD: Cosmopolitanism -v- Communitarianism

Shaykh Ayatollah Meow

Cosmopolitanism questions the moral (and potentially political) legitimacy of state boundaries, treating them as arbitrary. As such, it insists we have responsibilities to those beyond the borders of our state. Our moral concerns must have a universal basis that transcends state borders.

This cosmopolitan ethic is often posited as contrary to a more state-based or localised (“communitarian”) sense of moral responsibility to those within our state borders. Hence political boundaries of the sovereign state take on a moral flavour and set our boundaries of responsibility and hence belonging. Our legal responsibilities to our fellow citizens are of primary importance and form a litmus test of our loyalty to the state as good citizens.

Cosmopolitanism as “humanitarian obligation” (at 200) beyond the legal obligations of citizenship.

But many cosmopolitans are happy to incorporate this communitarian spirit within their broader cosmopolitan sense of moral responsibility. Charity beginning at home does not exclude charity abroad. There should be no conflict between a sense of responsibility to the state and that to those residing outside the state. The authors cite Onara O’Neill who is able to “incorporate the particularist special obligation virtue ethics which motivate communitarians” (at 197) with a vision of cosmopolitan virtue beyond the state. She does this by distinguishing between perfect and imperfect obligations.

Although critical of cosmopolitans, her approach produces arguably similar outcomes to Appiah and his notion of rooted cosmopolitanism. It is also closer to my formulation of umma but very dissimilar to the jihadist notion of umma. 

Boucher, David International Justice in Bellamy, Richard & Mason, Andrew (2003) Political concepts, Manchester University Press

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PhD: Little Johnny and his MCRG

OK there's a fair bit here to unpack.

Blurring of dividing line between "Islam" on the one hand and "extremism" and "terrorism" on the other. Government statements and policies have exacerbated this process.

"Howardism" placed domestic and international terrorism "at the epicentre" of the Commonwealth's "political cosmology” (at 46).

Prior to 9/11, very little government policy on terrorism threats.

Howard become "the staunchest member of the 'coalition of the willing' and one of the strongest advocates of the 'War on Terror'" (at 46)

In his rhetoric, Howard insisted the war on terror was not a war on Islam itself or on Australia's neighbouring Muslim-majority states.

Howard's deeply held view that the War on Terror was morally correct. This would "underline all subsequent internal and external policies and pronouncements" (at 47)

The “moral panic” concerning Islam meant that issues related to "Muslim identity  and culture featured heavily whenever politicians or journalists brought out the 'dog-whistle'" (at 50).

Howard's non (if not anti) cosmopolitan vision. " ... he spoke of the importance of re-affirming Australia's Judeo-Christian and British cultural core". Diversity was not emphasised.

Costello: "subscribe to Australian values or don't bother coming here".

Terrorism was raised in PM's speeches some 762 times between September 2001 and April 2006.

Australian and Western media treating Muslim world as closed spaces. Essentialist and simplistic view of Islam and Muslims as being necessarily violent and a problem. This internalises the war on terror and means domestic events are seen as part of a broader international Muslim problem.

By globally framing Muslims and Islam as a 'problem', you automatically internalise the 'War on Terror', allowing the insertion of domestic events in a perpetual cycle that reinforces preconceived notions that Islam and Muslims constitute a problematic, and therefore threatening, proposition". (at 52)

Before 2002, Australia had no dedicated legislative counterterrorism law outside the conventional criminal law. Only NT had an offence proscribing a terrorist attack.

"Australian governments moved to establish a comprehensive anti-terrorism framework, which expanded incrementally ... typically with increased strengthening in the wake of 'peak' terrorist events around the globe." (at 56)

Impact of London bombings. "unprecedented toughening of Australia's counterterrorism regime" with legislation largely based on UK legislation (at 58).

Part of the tranche of legislation was passed after Howard declared the government "had received specific intelligence and police information this week which gives cause for serious concern about a potential terrorist threat ... [T]he immediate passage of [the Bill] would strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to effectively respond to this threat". Legislation made on the run.

Before 9/11 Muslims were perceived by ethnicity rather than religion. Most lived in Sydney (47.3%) and Melbourne (30.3%) according to 2006 census. 180 different birthplaces, with largest group (37.9%) born in Australia.

"September 11 was followed by a marked increase in number and intensity of reported instances of attacks, harassment and culturally offensive behaviour aimed at Muslims generally" (at 59)

London terror attacks triggered concern of prospect of home grown terrorism. Consultations were commenced with religious organisational representatives, most of whom were not born in Australia and represented mainly cultural and ethnic mosques. The first batch of leaders were almost exclusively men.. A statement of principles declared "overriding loyalty to Australia" (a requirement which implies such loyalties didn't already exist, that Muslims were too "cosmopolitan" and too bound up by loyalties outside Australia). It also insisted "members of the Muslim faith, and in particular its leaders, have a responsibility to challenge and counteract those who seek to encourage the use of violence and terrorism in the name of Islam"  and "take a lead with their communities and other Islamic organisations ... to challenge violence and extremism" (at 60). An enormous responsibility placed on a leadership that was often criticised for being largely unrepresentative of those identifying as Muslim. Terrorism and violence was linked to Islam (and by direct implication those who deem themselves belonging to it in some way) with Muslims playing some kind of policing rule in counteracting violence. It was a patronising policy agenda which was readily agreed to by religious leaders with little understanding of political processes, public policy, let alone a working knowledge of the English language. 

The establishment of the Muslim Community Reference Group of members hand-picked by the Federal Government specifically excluded more "hardline" and "extreme" groups. This in effect created a division between "moderate" and "extreme", good and bad Muslims, those Muslims worth talking to and those to be excluded from the engagement process. It created an impression that dealing with national security involved the government (representing the mainstream Australian electorate) entering into dialogue with a small subset of a very small group.

Muslims were expected to take ownership of and hence responsibility for homegrown extremism. This may be seen as government deflecting responsibility for essential elements of counterterrorism. Another purpose was to have a Muslim rubber stamp on a revolutionary legislative agenda impacting potentially upon civil liberties of not just Muslims but also used as a blueprint for future legislation curtailing other groups such as bikies.

The MCRG tended to focus on leaders of either ethnic mosques or campus groups. Important omissions were women's groups, business groups and professionals. It was an attempt by government "to construct and superimpose a single communal structure contrary to the history, composition and demography of Muslims in Australia" (at 61).

Michael, Mich├ílis S.(2009) Australia's Handling of Tensions between Islam and the West under the Howard Government, Asian Journal of Political Science,17:1,45 — 70

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PhD: To what extent does a retreat from multiculturalism really affect Muslims?

They argue there has been a retreat from multiculturalism especially when it comes to Muslims. The irony is that these same Muslims by and large are not beneficiaries of multiculturalism in the sense of being recipients of government settlement services. They have by and large settled and access the same government services as other settled Australians. Yet they are still seen as beneficiaries of multicultural policies.

John S. Dryzek & Bora Kanra (2013), Muslims and the Mainstream in Australia: Polarisation or Engagement? Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40:8, 1236-1253

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Monday, September 20, 2021

PhD: The Gap between scholarship and everyday interaction

[01] Islamic radicalism and Islamophobia don't figure much in everyday interactions even if they are prominent in academic literature and popular discourse. The dominant position among Muslims in Australia seems to be one of “reciprocal engagement … one that recognises problems on [all] sides but seeks resolution through cross-cultural problem-solving” (at 1238).

So in a sense Muslims are cosmopolitan in their outlook toward their fellow Australians. They are more nation-centric than umma-centric.

[02] A retreat from multiculturalism especially when it comes to Muslims. The irony is that these same Muslims by and large are not beneficiaries of multiculturalism in the sense of being recipients of government settlement services. They have by and large settled and access the same government services as other settled Australians. Yet they are still seen as beneficiaries of multicultural policies.

A retreat from multiculturalism especially when it comes to Muslims. The irony is that these same Muslims by and large are not beneficiaries of multiculturalism in the sense of being recipients of government settlement services. They have by and large settled and access the same government services as other settled Australians. Yet they are still seen as beneficiaries of multicultural policies.

John S. Dryzek & Bora Kanra (2013), Muslims and the Mainstream in Australia: Polarisation or Engagement? Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40:8, 1236-1253

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Turkish Muslims and the Diyanet

Turkish Muslims are one of the largest and oldest Muslim migrant groups from the post-WWII era. They have established a large network of mosques across Australia, most of which are affiliated with the Diyanet, a Turkish government body that provides and pays for imams. This is a situation unique to Turkish Muslims. It is reflective of the Turkish government's attempts to project state religious policy on Turkish communities in Australia and other Western countries. 

"… the transnational activities of the Diyanet, established in 1924 to reorganise Islam for service to the new nation-state … The Foreign Affairs Department of the Diyanet was opened up in Cologne in 1984, yet the institution ‘initiated a foreign program as early as 1971 to offer religious services and education for Turks abroad’ … it has become the key objective of the Diyanet to suffocate unauthorised religious groups both at home and abroad who do not subscribe to the regime’s ideology" (p385).

(Senay, B; Seeing for the state: Kemalist long-distance nationalism in Australia (2013) 19 Nations and Nationalism 376-394)

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PhD: Notes on the 2013 Parliamentary Committee report on Migration & Multiculturalism

The House of Representatives Joint Standing Committee on Migration held an Inquiry into Multiculturalism in Australia. Its report, entitled Inquiry into Migration and Multiculturalism in Australia was tabled on 18 March 2013.Chapter 4 of the report was entitled “Religious diversity: questions about Islam”.

That an entire chapter (out of a total of 12) had to be devoted to Islam in such a report is quite extraordinary and an indication of just how hot a potato Islam and Muslim communities in Australia had become embroiled in debates about the desirability or otherwise of multiculturalism. The report noted that Muslims were the 4th largest religious group in Australia (behind Christians, no religion and Buddhists) (para 4.7) and that Islam was the 4th fastest growing religion in Australia behind Hinduism and Sikhism (para 4.8).

Australian multiculturalism focuses on provision of services for newcomers (para 4.13). Hence arguably it is not relevant to the study of Muslims born and/or brought up in Australia who generally do not consume such services.

Threats to Muslim identity from ideological shifts from conservative overseas trends. This view was expressed by Ms Asha Bidal from the Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria (para 4.48). Hence Muslim recognition that overseas trends and groups may pose a threat to local Muslim identities.

Many submissions to the inquiry (including from Muslim representatives) stated that "the terrorist attacks of September 2001, and the perceived rise of political Islam following, have had a transforming effect on attitudes to, and within, Islamic communities in Australia" (para 4.53). The term "political Islam" has not been defined though no doubt it would encompass jihadist movements such as AlQaida and ISIL.

Unlike many European countries, Australia's migration policy has been predicated on nation building and integration via permanent migration and pathways to citizenship (para 4.59). Full citizenship was offered to migrants in 1973 and dual citizenship in 2002 (para 4.60).

Attorney-General's CVE Unit established in 2010 (para 4.89). Doesn't focus on any particular ethnic, religious or cultural group. Believes "the poor and marginalised are the most susceptible to radicalisation" (para 4.90).

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

OBITUARY: On the Passing of Shaykh Esad

On Sunday afternoon, 4 February 2001, just outside the town of Dubbo in country New South Wales (Australia), four persons were travelling in a car along the highway. The car was involved in a collision with a semi-trailer. 2 persons aboard were immediately killed.

One of those persons was Professor Mahmud Esad Cosan (pronounced ‘Joshan’).

Shaykh Esad (or ‘Murshid Effendi' as he is known to his students) was one of the most prominent leaders of the Islamic movement in Turkey. He was the khalifa (spiritual successor) of another respected Turkish Islamic scholar, the late Shaykh Muhammad Zahid Bursawi (rahimahullah). 

Shaykh Esad was not only one of Shaykh Bursawi’s favourite students but also his son-in-law. Amongst Shaykh Bursawi’s other students was Turkey’s former Islamist Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan.

Shaykh Esad travelled frequently to visit Muslim communities living in Western countries. He spoke fluent German, and was a frequent visitor to Germany and Sweden. He had a special affection for the people of Australia. One of his goals was to establish Muslim communities in various regional and country towns.

During his lifetime, Shaykh Esad established cultural and social service foundations in Turkey and abroad. He was particularly fond of publishing, and encouraged his students to spread Islam through the written word.

Shaykh Esad was also a man of his time. He encouraged Muslims to keep up with modern methods of communicating the message. He was not averse to using radio, television and cyberspace. He also encouraged Muslims to be economically independent.

Shaykh Esad understood that much jihad (struggle) to be fought in this time was in the marketplace. He encouraged his followers to actively pursue business opportunities.

Shaykh Esad was a follower of the path of sulook, the spiritual tradition of Islam referred to by some as sufism. The main school of sulook which he focussed upon was the ‘naqshbandi’ tradition, known for its emphasis on strict adherence to the Sunna and active involvement in the affairs of the community. Previous masters of this path have included Ottoman political leaders and generals, scholars from the Indian sub-Continent imprisoned by British colonial authorities and even the great independence fighter of Chechnya Imam Shamil.

May God have mercy on Shaykh Esad and fill his grave with Divine Light.

(first published Monday 5 February 2001)

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