Sunday, September 17, 2006

Imams must counter terrorists' use of Islam Weekend Rant

Australian Imam
Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
The Howard government yesterday challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation’s Muslim community to reject terrorism.

In a firm address, Andrew Robb, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, told a conference of Australian imams in Sydney that they had a responsibility to “quarantine Australia from the extremist elements who are tormenting the world, masquerading in the name of Islam’’.

Robb referred to similar conferences in Europe, and quoted approvingly from a communique by a conference of Austrian imams in April, 2005:

“In this situation, Muslims have the responsibility, even the obligation, to bring the focus again on the overwhelming majority of Muslims who, in living up to the teachings of their religion, stand for mutual respect and understanding and reject terrorism ...’’


Weasel said...

He was unapologetic as he told the imams: “Each one of you not only provides that essential spiritual dimension to the lives of so many Australian Muslims, but you also have the opportunity to assist in efforts to protect the Australian community by denouncing, with authority, any link between terrorism and the teachings of your religion.’’

But although Robb stressed that “one of the most fundamental aspects of our democracy in Australia is the separation of church and state’’, he failed to explore the role of Islam and its imams in the political systems of Islamic nations such as Iran, Iraq and Indonesia, where religious leaders regularly cite Koranic verses to promote extremist violence.

He made it clear that although the Government was happy to provide support for the imams’ meeting, “it is not our role to prescribe, for example, the qualifications for imams, or to have a say in the creation of a board of imams, or to run seminaries for religious leaders.’’

This overlooks the reality that the mosque plays a central part in the political life of Muslims, and that imams are as much political leaders as they are religious leaders, as their frequent statements on political issues make plain.

Robb highlighted Australia’s success in integrating people and the comparative lack of prejudice against race, religion and class, citing the response to the Asian tsunami and noting that a billion dollars in aid was delivered to Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

In a post-September 11, post-Bali bombing world, by far the biggest amount went to the world’s largest Muslim community: Indonesia.

Terrorists, Robb said, wanted to generate fear, suspicion and resentment among non-Muslim members of Western communities, while stigmatising Muslim members of the same communities. The struggle, however, would be won or lost by Muslims, not non-Muslims.

Extremists wanted to take the Muslim community back to the seventh century, but hundreds of millions of Muslims were supportive of democracy and wanted to see Islam regain its long-lost prominence in science, the arts and commerce.

Robb told the imams they must learn English, noting that he needed to have his comments translated into several languages so they could be understood.

He added that the imams had a “very special responsibility to correct the terrorists’ false use of the Koran to justify their evil acts’’.

Noting various passages from the Koran that have been presented as justification for the killing of innocent people, Robb urged them as “fundamental responsibilities’’ to preach strong denunciations of “these extremist misrepresentations’’.

Terrorism was not part of orthodox Islam, he said, and it was an obscenity for terrorists to invoke Islam as a justification for their evil acts.

Imams must condemn the terrorists’ words, their actions and their blasphemy. If this was done, a pathway to community cohesion could be created for Muslims to properly share in the nation’s prosperity.

Robb also warned the imams against fostering a victim mentality by claiming discrimination every time someone discussed the fears and anxieties of the broader community, saying this worked against taking responsibility and tackling real issues, and only contributed further to division and alienation, as intended by the terrorists.

But he sugar-coated the message, reminding the imams that the Government had approved a $35 million program of initiatives aimed at improving our understanding of extremism among young Muslims, building leadership capacity in the Muslimcommunity and helping socially disadvantaged communities to integrate.

There was nothing the imams could take offence at. If anything, the tone of Robb’s address was too tentative, almost too polite.

Given the outrageously inflammatory remarks made about Jews, Christians and the West in general by a number of Australian imams, Robb would have been justified in telling them there is only one supreme law in this country: Australian law.

If they don’t accept that, their choices are simple. Go to jail or leave the country.
I don't think Robb was too polite. Nor do I think they should leave the country for not accepting custom. I think they need to be welcome here. I also think, should they promote terror, that they be arrested, charged appropriately and given their day in court. It is not unAustralian to be Muslim or Extremist. It is unAustralian to be a terrorist, as islamo-fascists are.

Similarly, it is, admittedly, hard to prove someone is an islamo-fascist. I don't know exactly what the behavioural indicators are, but I understand Hicks, Habib and Thomas fit the descriptions.

Weasel said...

All’s far in love, war and the battle for TV ratings. With Today Tonight and A Current Affair locked in a slanging match amid claims of dirty tricks over what’s been dubbed the “Cannibal Capers”, we thought it’s worth looking at the legal track record of tabloid television. The result is that the unseemly squabble to rescue six-year-old Wawa from what or might not be plans to turn him into a main course for his West Papuan village is just the latest in a long line of questionable antics in the chase for ratings. Here’s what Gotcha found in a trawl through court records:

• A court was told in December 2005 that Today Tonight lifted a part of an interview with singer Renee Geyer on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope program and broadcast it out of context to make it look like an attack on Channel Ten’s Australian Idol series. A Federal Court judge ruled that the Today Tonight broadcast “had the potential to be misleading or deceptive”.

• A Today Tonight reporter working on a story portraying Tony Georgeff as “Adelaide’s Dead Beat Dad” assured him he wouldn’t be filmed during an interview. The reporter then smuggled in a hidden camera to film Mr Georgeff. He was awarded $16,250 in damages after suing for libel over the story in 1999. The judge said Today Tonight broadcast the “baseless allegations” with a conscious disregard for Mr Georgeff’s rights.

• Today Tonight and Channel Nine ended up in court fighting over footage taken of disadvantaged youth walking the Kokoda Track in March 2004. The court was told Today Tonight shot the footage for a segment on the program and later gave 30 hours of raw footage to the walk’s organisers. The organisers then offered the footage to Channel Nine as the basis for a one hour documentary. Today Tonight went to court claiming ownership of the footage and stop it being screened on Nine, but a judge ruled against Seven. The decision was later overturned on appeal in favour of Seven.

• In 2001 Nine took the Ten Network to court to stop its broadcasting clips from Nine shows, including A Current Affair and the Today Show on The Panel. Nine argued Ten had breached its copyright. Ten argued The Panel had been critically reviewing the Nine shows. A Federal Court judge found in favour of Ten, although the decision was partially overturned on appeal..

• In 1996 A Current Affair used footage of a bikie club wedding filmed for the Nine series Weddings to illustrate a story about bikies being involved in criminal activity, including drug dealing and murder. Ten people in the footage sued Nine for defamation. A NSW Supreme Court judge referred to the “foolishness” of the wedding group in believing undertakings from Nine on how the footage would be used. But all 10 were awarded substantial damages ranging up to $185,000 for what the judge said was A Current Affair being “wickedly irresponsible”.

• In August 2002 a freelance reporter from A Current Affair was convicted of faking an illness to obtain a medical certificate from a doctor while using a hidden video-camera to tape the visit .The Brisbane Magistrate’s Court was told the reporter, who pleaded guilty to a charge of false representation, had told the doctor he was emotionally upset and needed time off work. The consultation was secretly filmed for a report on doctors who give out medical certificates too easily.

I feel part of the apparent exoneration of Carmen Lawrence was related to the aggravation the investigating tv journos weren't sufficiently criticised for. I'm sure that a few had careers that 'suffered' as a result, but Richard Carleton subsequently managed to continue to drop clangers (I'm not suggesting he was involved over Penny Easton). Lack of professionalism seems to be related to current affair drama.

Weasel said...

How hard will it be to reform Islam if the Pope can’t warn against Islamist violence without then having to fear for his life?

From the BBC:

The Vatican is seriously concerned at the possibility of acts of violence being staged against the tiny city state situated in the heart of Rome, after a barrage of criticism from Muslims in many countries against Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict’s critical remarks earlier in the week about jihad, or Islamic holy war, have been the subject of hostile comment in many Islamic countries…
The outrage expressed by Muslim clerics and commentators at the Pope’s quotation from a 600-year-old book containing the sayings of a Christian emperor of ancient Byzantium appears to have taken Vatican officials by surprise.

The emperor spoke of “the Prophet Muhammad’s command ‘to spread by the sword the faith he preached’”.

The context of the Pope’s quotation about the unreasonableness of spreading faith by violent means was an academic lecture on the relationship of faith and reason for professors and graduate students of the University of Regensburg in southern Germany, where the Pope once taught.

And look at who dares to condemn him:

In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Mahdi Akef said the Pope’s words “do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West”.
The Muslim Brotherhood clearly doesn’t do irony. Nor do the clerics of bloody Iraq - including the extremists allied to Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr:

Often divided by religious differences, Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni Arabs united Friday in anger over remarks by Pope Benedict XVI referring to Islam and holy war.

Clerics from both communities, which are locked in a vicious cycle of reprisal attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqis, called the pontiff’s comments an insult to the Muslim faith and its founder, Prophet Muhammad.

“We denounce this slander made by the pope on Islam and the figure of the Prophet Muhammad,” Sheik Salah al-Ubaidi said in a sermon to about 5,000 people in the Shiite Muslim-stronghold of Kufa, about 100 miles south of Baghdad…

At the Abdul-Qadir al-Gilani mosque in central Baghdad, Sunni cleric Mahmoud al-Isawi’s sermon described the pope’s comment as a “Western aggressive attack” that was “clearly showing its hatred toward our Islamic religion.”

Shiite cleric Sheik Abdul-Kareem al-Ghazi, in Iraq’s second-largest city, Basra, said the pope’s comments ran counter to the Christian faith.

“The pope and Vatican proved to be Zionists and that they are far from Christianity, which does not differ from Islam. Both religions call for forgiveness, love and brotherhood,” he said in a sermon delivered at the offices of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, where many people gather for religious services.

You’d think such men knew damn well the weakness too many Islamists have right now for spreading their faith with terror. Muslim preachers should be standing firm with the Pope, not using his comments to spread even more religious hatred of the kind that forces him to increase his security. And to so prove the urgent truth of his warning.

Anonymous said...

Mick Keelty, head of the Australian Federal Police, makes typically good sense by warning Australians not to treat Muslim Australians as the enemy, or The Suspected, although I’m not sure he is as against the philosophy of racial profiling in practice as he sounds from this interview.

But he is certainly right here:

Social misfits were gravitating towards Islam as a justification for lashing out.

“Some of these people harbour resentment of Western liberalised democracies in any event, or feel alienated or isolated within their own environment for whatever reason.

This is obvious given that two of the AFP’s biggest targets in its anti-terrorism work at home have been converts Jack Roche and Jihad Jack Thomas.

But it also fits with a little-acknowledged reality that a lot of the anxiety over the challenge of Islam in Australia comes, I suspect, from the fear many have that our culture and institutions are no longer respected and defended by our cultural elite. We feel too weak to defend ourselves, adding to the worry.

That’s really what this silly and purely symbolic thrashing about by our political leaders over values right now is about - an attempt to reassure voters that their culture truly is valued.

Tip: wait for the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to be renamed the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Developing a common citizenship rather than funding a collection of tribes is by far the bigger challenge and the most pressing duty of government today. If Labor had sense it would propose this change first and try to outflank Howard. Let’s see it Beazley dares it.

UPDATE. For the latest example of what I mean by a cultural elite seemingly no longer prepared to defend us and ours:

THE Australian Research Council has strongly rejected claims that $24 million of academic research into terrorism is skewed towards the concept that Western policies create terrorists.

Weasel said...

Sydney Morning Herald film reviewer Sandra Hall watches An Inconvenient Truth yet somehow manages to get we’ll-fry-in-hell spruiker Al Gore exactly wrong:

He’s like an old-fashioned fundamentalist preacher - the kind that issues regular warnings against the imminence of hellfire and damnation for those who fail to heed God’s call. There is a crucial difference, however. He’s not inspired by religion.

Anonymous said...

Michael Duffy sees two Australian films - Jindabyne, funded by taxpayers, and Kenny, funded by a portaloo guy. He knows which one says the best and brightest about us.

Anonymous said...

The Pope is right to say he deeply regrets that his (perfectly reasonable) warning against religious violence has so enraged so many Muslims.

He is right because if even that little that he said causes this kind of ferocious and threatening reaction, then we all have something to regret. Or, in fact, fear.

And by exposing this the Pope has shown a lot of Catholics there is indeed something to fear. This will be as radicalising - of Christians - as the Danish cartoon controversy was, and then some because the absurd reaction to what the Pope said actually proves better than his words how right he was.

Consider, the Pope warns against spreading religion by the sword, quoting a Muslim scholar from centuries ago.

And in return we read that gunmen in the Palestinian territories firebomb five churches, Morocco recalls its ambassador, dicatatorial Egypt hectors the Vatican envoy, Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood rejects the Pope’s apology, a prominent Turkish politician likens him to Hitler, an effigies of the Pope are burned, a London-based Arabic paper warns of war, an Iraqi armed group threatens attacks on the Vatican, Iraq’s government had to warn Iraqis not to attack Christians, and more.

All this forces the Pope to increase his security, in case radical Muslims try to do to him what they tried to do the Pope before him.

Of course, there are always Western journalists keen to vilify those who protect their culture and to win don’t-hit-me brownie points with those who threaten it. How does Britain’s Channel 4 justify this bit of agit-prop reporting: “Pope Benedict XVI has apologised for saying Muslims had brought only evil things to the world.”

If only we heard more from truly moderate Muslims like blogger IraqPundit, who mourns:

I can think of a lot more pressing matters for Muslims to be angry about. How about taking to the street over the murderers who have been disgracing our religion by shedding oceans of innocent blood in its name? On Thursday, a car bomb blew up outside a Baghdad orphanage. In all the wide sweep of the Muslim Street, is there no one sufficiently disgusted to raise his voice over such a thing? It should be easy enough, especially since a common excuse has been that the perpetrators of such evil cannot be Muslims. Surely, if such “non-Muslims” are killing Iraqi Muslims in great numbers, it’s worth the attention of the pious.
Instead, here in Australia our largely useless Islamic leaders need to get a warning and a plea from the Howard Government to do more to condemn violence and hate-preaching.

I think the West, so keen for so long to blame itself rather than defend itself, is fast running out of patience with Islamist apologists. This will be a tipping point and the confrontation will get uglier - or more open - before it gets better. If it ever does get better, that is.

Weasel said...

I was at a conference with green guru David Suzuki last week and heard him praise, praise, praise the banning of DDT.

I ws shocked (and said so) that Suzuki could be either:

a) so ignorant about the truth of DDT - that it wasn’t the great environmental hazard it had been dressed up to be and that restricting its use as an insecticide for malaria-carrying mosquitoes had killed millions of people, especially children, or

b) that he didn’t care that so many people had been killed for such a discredited green cause.

His audience wildly cheered Suzuki, but thank God saner heads are belatedly getting wise to this green holocaust.

And so this latest good news:

The World Health Organization on Friday called on more developing countries, particularly in Africa, to begin spraying the controversial pesticide DDT to fight malaria.

The difference: DDT, longed banned in the United States because of environmental damage, is no longer sprayed outdoors. Instead it’s used to coat the inside walls of mud huts or other dwellings and kill mosquitoes waiting to bite families as they sleep. . . .

“We must take a position based on the science and the data,” said Dr. Arata Kochi, the WHO’s malaria chief. “One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual house spraying. Of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT."