Thursday, June 25, 2009
WHETHER to ban the burka is back on the political agenda, thanks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama.
Sarkozy told his nation in a speech at Versailles this week that the burka was not welcome in France.
Stopping short of banning the most extreme form of dress for Muslim women, he described the face-covering, floor-length black garment as a symbol of subservience that turns women into prisoners behind a screen.
Sarkozy's performance made quite a statement, delivered as it was in a place renowned for extreme dress -- powdered wigs and all -- and attended by his glamorous wife Carla Bruni, who in a previous incarnation was known to shed all her kit at the drop of a chapeau.
France's attitude to the burka is understandable -- the country thrives on the appreciation of fashion and physical beauty.
No matter what your personal views about the burka -- a symbol of oppression or expression of religious identity -- it is an undeniably ugly item of clothing.
Burkas also make life hard for the women who wear them, being stiflingly hot in summer, and extremely restricting vision.
Only a masochist would opt to wear one, designed as they are by sadists.
It is no coincidence that Muslim men in Saudi Arabia, for example, drape themselves in cooling white while insisting their women bake in black.
Why would it be disrespectful to God for women to also cover up in white?
It's all such a load of male supremacist tosh.
A Muslim friend who chooses to wear a (rather foxy) headscarf told me about a hilarious incident last week where she rushed up and hugged a woman she thought was a close friend, only to find the black shape was a stranger.
How very embarrassing. And how very ludicrous.
I'm with Sarkozy on this -- the burka sends all sorts of messages that are anathema to ideals of freedom and gender equality.
Sure, there are women who say it's their right to dress as they like, but there are also women who think they should have the right to slice off their daughters' clitorises.
Such controls on women's sexuality are pointless, and that should be condemned along with other mumbo-jumbo still practised across the world.
Sarkozy's speech came hot on the heels of Mr Obama's address to the Muslim world from Cairo, in which he supported women's right to wear the burka.
His view is that decisions such as what to wear are not matters to be imposed upon people by the state.
Inspired by Obama, French Muslim women subsequently rushed to drag their black tents from out of le closet.
Australian politicians tend to tread very carefully on the issue of burkas.
And really, what's the best you could say about them in the Australian climate -- they keep the flies and sun off?
Former PM John Howard tested the waters by stating his belief that he found the full covering pretty confronting.
It caused a stir at the time and triggered allegations of religious intolerance.
The political leaders who have followed him are more cautious, apart of course from former Democrats leader Natasha Stott-Despoya, who once donned a scarf in public in solidarity with her oppressed Muslim sisters.
She didn't wear the full catastrophe of course because it would have kind of spoiled the photo opportunity.
Wind the clock forward and what do PM Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull have to say on the matter?
Well, nothing in public, but I am privy to emails from both of them, admittedly of dubious authenticity.
The Rudd email was sent (allegedly) from his office to that of Julia Gillard: "Fair Sheik of the Sauce Bottle you crazy Ranga, I'm not stating my position on the burka without a full Senate inquiry!"
Turnbull's private views, however, do appear well developed, and align more closely with those of Obama than Sarkozy.
In an email leaked by Turnbull's newest adviser, a Mr Godwin Grech, we discover that Turnbull is being advised to tone down his private rhetoric about Sarkozy.
"It is perhaps immoderate and politically premature," writes Grech to Turnbull, "for you to consider calling for the public execution by guillotine of France's President Nicholas Sarkozy, based only on the rumour that Ms Bruni is in receipt of a free burka from a second-hand burka dealer."
Sound unlikely? After this week in politics, anything is believable.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
In sharp contrast to our president, France's Nicholas Sarkozy has called for banning the Islamic full body burqa in public.
"In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity," Sarkozy said to extended applause in a speech at the Chateau of Versailles southwest of Paris.
"The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement—I want to say it solemnly," he said. "It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic."
The French parliament has responded to Sarkozy's remarks by commissioning a commission to come up with a plan to implement the ban for France's 5 million Muslims.
Sarkozy understands, (as our president apparently either does not or doesn't want to ) that the head-to-toe burqa and even the hijab are frequently not a matter of choice but are enforced. In heavily Muslim areas in Europe, many non-Muslim women are forced to don Islamic gear to avoid being harassed and raped.
In Saudi Arabia, there was the well known case recently where the mutawadeen ( religious police) kept a number of young girls from escaping a burning school to the street because they weren't wearing burqas. I doubt that they made a 'choice' to burn to death.
Burqas are also a security risk since the wearer's face is hidden. And the enforcement of burqa wearing contributes to the sense of Islamist separatism, the idea that Muslims are part of the umma first and citizens of the country second.
I fully support the idea of freedom of choice in this area. Should some Muslims find this and other aspects of sharia that don't mesh with the West essential to their spiritual well-being, there are certainly plenty of other places in the world like Saudi Arabia where the Islamist 7th Century dream is alive and well.
I would certainly urge them to honor their principles and vote with their feet.
Posted by Freedom Fighter at 9:21 AM
Monday, June 22, 2009
June 22, 2009 12:08pm
ANTI-fluoride extremists have threatened to kill a Victorian Government minister and blow up a regional water authority.
As anger over fluoridating Geelong's water supply mounted today, Labor minister Lisa Neville has been targeted along with water and health officials.
A death threat was left with a bottle of water on the verandah of Ms Neville's house on Saturday night, a Government spokeswoman said.
Anti-fluoride activists have also threatened to blow up Barwon Water's treatment plants as the authority today begins adding fluoride to the water supply in Geelong, 70km southwest of Melbourne.
The Department of Human Services received a threatening letter in the mail last week.
All three threats are being investigated by police.
A Government spokeswoman said Ms Neville, who is the member for Bellarine, returned home on Saturday night to find the bottle of water and a note on her front verandah.It read: "We're going to kill you, bitch."
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Fjordman - 6/12/2009
I have had some interesting discussions with my good friend Ohmyrus, who is an ethnic Chinese man but appreciates some aspects of Western civilization that many Westerners themselves appear to have forgotten, or rejected. He is not unique in this regard. One of the best books about European culture published in recent years is Defending the West, written by the former Muslim Ibn Warraq who was born in the Indian subcontinent, not in the Western world. Essentially, according to modern Multiculturalism, every culture has the right to exist – except the Western one. The Iranian-born ex-Muslim Ali Sina denounces Multiculturalism for precisely this reason in his book Understanding Muhammad, which I have reviewed online:
As a native European, it is strange to notice how many (non-Muslim) Asians apparently appreciate my civilization more these days than so-called intellectuals in my own country do. It is challenging to explain how the West could make so many advances in the past and yet be as stupid as it currently is. The question of what went wrong with the West is far more interesting than what went wrong with the Islamic world. The best answer I can come up with is that maybe our current flaws are related to our past virtues, at least indirectly. For instance, being stubborn can be a strength or a weakness, depending upon the situation. The West is a non-traditionalist civilization. We have unquestionably made advances that no other civilization has done before us, despite what some critics claim, but perhaps the price we pay for this is that we also make mistakes that nobody has done before us. Organized science is a Western invention. Organized national suicide, too, is a Western invention. The Western university system once represented a great comparative advantage for Europe vis-à-vis other civilizations. Today that same system is undermining the very civilization that gave birth to it.
“If any culture needs to be preserved, it is the Western, Helleno-Christian culture. It is this culture that is facing extinction. It is to this culture alone that we owe the Enlightenment, Renaissance, and democracy. These are the foundations of our modern world. It would be a terrible mistake not to preserve this culture. If we do nothing, we face a future where democracy and tolerance will fade and Islam’s more primitive instincts will subjugate humanity. All cultures are not made equal … We owe our freedom and modern civilization to Western culture. It is this culture that is now under attack and needs protection.”
Since European civilization is so far the only civilization to have had a truly global impact, this means that all other civilizations have to face the challenge of dealing with a layer of impulses and ideas which are not their own. There is no doubt that this has been a disruptive process in many cases, but it is also true that different non-Western cultures deal very differently with the Western challenge and appropriate very different parts of its heritage.
The Arabs had no significant pictorial tradition of their own even before Islam. The Islamic ban on pictorial arts was not always enforced, just like the ban on alcoholic beverages was not always strictly enforced, but pictorial arts were discouraged and consequently never occupied a prominent place in that culture. Some Muslim rulers could interpret the religious rules regarding the depiction of human figures quite liberally. A tradition for book illustration and miniature painting did develop, but it is important to remember that even the paintings that did exist were intended as illustrations of a text and were almost never designed for exhibition on a wall or in a gallery. Historian Bernard Lewis explains in his book What Went Wrong?:
“One of the attractions of Western art and particularly of Western portraiture must surely have been the use of perspective, which made possible a degree of realism and accuracy unattainable in the stylized and rather formal art of the traditional miniature … In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Western influence becomes very clear, both in the structure of buildings and in their interior decoration. By the nineteenth century it is almost universal, to such a degree that the older artistic traditions were dying and being replaced by this new art from Europe. As the perception and measurement of space affected the visual arts, so too did the perception and measurement of time affect music – though to a much lesser extent … A distinguishing characteristic of Western music is polyphony, by harmony or counterpoint … Different performers play together, from different scores, producing a result that is greater than the sum of its parts. With a little imagination one may discern the same feature in other aspects of Western culture – in democratic politics and in team games, both of which require the cooperation, in harmony if not in unison, of different performers playing different parts in a common purpose.”In contrast, here is what Lewis writes in The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years:
“Since Muslim worship, with the limited exception of some dervish orders, makes no use of music, musicians in the Islamic lands lacked the immense advantage enjoyed by Christian musicians through the patronage of the Church and of its high dignitaries. The patronage of the court and of the great houses, though no doubt useful, was intermittent and episodic, and dangerously subject to the whims of the mighty. Muslim musicians devised no standard system of notation, and their compositions are therefore known only by the fallible and variable medium of memory. There is no preserved corpus of classical Islamic music comparable with that of the European musical tradition. All that remains is a quite extensive theoretical literature on music, some descriptions and portrayals of musicians and musical occasions by writers and artists, a number of old instruments in various stages of preservation, and of course the living memory of long-past performances.”There are those who are critical of Mr. Lewis as a scholar and consequently believe that he shouldn’t be quoted as an authority. You should always maintain a healthy criticism of any scholar, but I know from other sources that the above mentioned quotes are largely correct.
Many forms of music are banned in Islam. The Reliance of the Traveller by Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib and Noah Ha Mim Keller has been formally approved by al-Azhar in Egypt, the highest institution of religious learning among Sunni Muslims. It quotes a number of ahadith, authoritative sayings of Muhammad and his companions which form the core Islamic texts next to the Koran, among them one which says that “There will be peoples of my Community who will hold fornication, silk, wine, and musical instruments to be lawful …” Another quote says that: “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.” The scholarly conclusion is that “All of this is explicit and compelling textual evidence that musical instruments of all types are unlawful.” Another legal ruling says that “It is unlawful to use musical instruments – such as those which drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute – or to listen to them. It is permissible to play the tambourine at weddings, circumcisions, and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the kuba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is unlawful.”
Moreover, while I do disagree with Mr. Lewis sometimes, in my experience he occasionally errs by being too positive when writing about Islamic culture, not too negative. If you believe Lewis, “The earliest specifically anti-Semitic statements in the Middle East occurred among the Christian minorities, and can usually be traced back to European originals.” This view fits well with the anti-European, Multicultural bias of modern media and academia, yet it is completely and utterly wrong, as Dr. Andrew G. Bostom has conclusively demonstrated in his extremely well-researched book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.
Dehumanizing Jews as apes (Koran 2:65/7:166), or apes and pigs (Koran 5:60) has been common throughout Islamic history, more than 1300 years before the establishment of the state of Israel. Muhammad himself referred to the Medinan Jews of the Banu Qurayza as “apes” before orchestrating the slaughter of all of their men. As one Muslim living in Germany said, “Jews are the enemy of Allah.” Referring to Adolf Hitler he stated: “The man was a hero, almost a Muslim. I'm one of his fans.” A disproportionate amount of Europeans who convert to Islam are neo-Nazis or Communists.
In 2005, Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf was among the top bestsellers in Turkey, behind a book about a Turkish national hero detonating a nuclear bomb in Washington D.C. Adolf Hitler remains widely popular in many other Islamic countries, too. At the same time, Turkish PM Erdogan stressed that Islamophobia must be treated as “a crime against humanity.” It is banned by law to discuss the Armenian genocide in Turkey, a genocide that allegedly inspired the Nazis in their Holocaust against Jews. Would a country the size of Germany, with a history of a thousand years of continuous warfare against its neighbors and where Adolf Hitler is a bestselling author, be hailed as a moderate, Christian country?
The earliest evidence we have of musical instruments dates back to the Old Stone Age. We know that there were rich musical traditions in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China and elsewhere. Indirectly, it is possible that some aspects of Babylonian musical theory and practice influenced the Greek, and by extension European, musical tradition. The ancient Greeks had a number of musical instruments such as harps, horns, lyres, drums, cymbals etc. Greek music theory evolved continually from Pythagoras before 500 BC to Aristides Quintilianus in the late third century AD, whose treatise De musica (On Music) is an important source of knowledge of the Greek musical tradition.
Music was closely connected to astronomy in Pythagorean thought; the great astronomer Claudius Ptolemy wrote on music. Mathematical laws and proportions were considered the underpinnings of both musical intervals and the heavenly bodies. Plato and Aristotle both argued that education should stress gymnastics to discipline the body and music to discipline the mind. Plato was, as usual, the stricter of the two and would only allow certain types of music for limited purposes, lest it could distort the mind. He asserted that musical conventions must not be changed, since lawlessness in art leads to anarchy. Aristotle was less restrictive and argued that music could be used for enjoyment as well as for education. For the Romans, music was a part of most public ceremonies and was featured in entertainment and education.
The Christian Church was the dominant social institution in post-Roman Europe and deeply affected the future development of European music. The ancient Greek system of notation had apparently been forgotten by the seventh century AD, when Isidore of Seville (ca. 560-636) wrote that “Unless sounds are remembered by man, they perish, for they cannot be written down.” But with the development of complex chants, what was needed to stabilize them was notation, a way to write down the music. The earliest surviving European books of chant with music notation date from the ninth century. During the early Christian era, the Classical legacy was used, but modified. From the Jews came the practices of singing psalms and chanting Scripture. Church leaders drew on Greek musical theory but rejected pagan customs, and elevated worship over entertainment and singing over instrumental music.
It is instructive to consider the fact that Middle Eastern Muslims, too, had access to Greek musical theory, yet they decided not use it, just like they did not utilize the Greek artistic legacy. Both music and pictorial arts were integrated into religious worship in Christian Europe in a way that never happened in the Islamic world. In fact, it was Gregorian chant and the growth of polyphonic music in medieval European monasteries and cathedrals which established the musical tradition that would eventually culminate in the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven centuries later. There was no Mozart or Beethoven in the Islamic world, just like there was no Copernicus, Galileo or Newton.
The invention of musical notation enabled musicians to build upon the work of the past. It may have been a necessary condition for the expansion and development of musical expression, but it is not alone sufficient to explain later advances. The discovery of the connection between mathematical ratios and musical intervals attributed to Pythagoras – and independently the Chinese – was important, but not as important as polyphony. According to Charles Murray, “Just as linear perspective added depth to the length and breadth of painting, polyphony added, metaphorically, a vertical dimension to the horizontal line of melody.”
China had a well-developed musical tradition at least as far back as the Zhou period (1122-256 BC). Chinese opera is generally familiar to outsiders is, but this art form dates from the early centuries of the current era, especially from early medieval times (the Tang Dynasty). Music played a central role in the Chinese court life during the sixth and fifth centuries BC, at the time of Confucius. It was believed by early thinkers to have great moral powers, although some forms of music were better than others for promoting harmony. The word “music” was written with the same character as “enjoyment.”
According to The Cambridge Illustrated History of China by Patricia Buckley Ebrey, “Archaeologists have unearthed quite a few sets of instruments used in court performances in Zhou times. Key instruments were stone chimes, bronze drums, stringed lute-like instruments, bamboo flutes, and sets of bells, struck from the outside. The biggest cache of instruments was discovered in the tomb (c. 433 BC) of Marquis Yi of Zeng, ruler of a petty state in modern Hubei just north of the great state of Chu. In the tomb were 124 instruments, including drums, flutes, mouth organs, pan pipes, zithers, a 32-chime lithophone, and a 64-piece bell set. The zithers have from five to twenty-five strings and vary in details of their construction; they may have come from different regions and been used for performances of regional music. The bells bear inscriptions that indicate their pitches and reveal that they were gifts from the king of Chu. The precision with which the bells were cast indicates that the art of bell-making had reached a very advanced state.”
There is no direct equivalent to Mozart or Beethoven in Asia, but perhaps the fact that they have such an ancient and deeply-rooted native tradition makes in easier for the Chinese to appreciate the fruits of other musical cultures. Many East Asians are at the turn of the twenty-first century eagerly appropriating the best traditions of European Classical music.
David P. Goldman writes under the pen name “Spengler” as a columnist for the Asia Times Online. He thinks that “The present shift in intellectual capital in favor of the East has no precedent in world history.” According to him, European Classical music “produces better minds, and promotes success in other fields.” This is because “Western classical music does something that mathematics and physics cannot: it allows us to play with time itself.”
There is some basis for these statements. Albert Einstein received a thorough philosophical education by studying the thoughts of Kant, Schopenhauer and Spinoza in addition to the physical theories of Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and James Maxwell. It taught him how to think abstractly about space and time. “The independence created by philosophical insight is - in my opinion - the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth,” Einstein once wrote. He was an accomplished amateur musician as well, and would furiously play his violin as a way of thinking through a difficult physics problem.
A strikingly high proportion of the students at top Western musical schools are now Asians, followed by Eastern Europeans. For some reason, there are comparatively few North Americans or Western Europeans among the best instrumentalists, in Spengler’s view because many of them simply don’t have the discipline to practice eight hours a day. One of China’s most famous musicians at the moment is the pianist Lang Lang (born 1982).
According to Spengler, “the Chinese nation that looks to Lang Lang as one of its heroes is learning the high culture of the West with a collective sense of wonder. Something more than the mental mechanics of classical music makes this decisive for China. In classical music, China has embraced the least Chinese, and the most explicitly Western, of all art forms. Even the best Chinese musicians still depend on Western mentors. Lang Lang may be a star, but in some respects he remains an apprentice in the pantheon of Western musicians. The Chinese, in some ways the most arrogant of peoples, can elicit a deadly kind of humility in matters of learning. Their eclecticism befits an empire that is determined to succeed, as opposed to a mere nation that needs to console itself by sticking to its supposed cultural roots. Great empires transcend national culture and naturalize the culture they require….Except in a vague way, one cannot explain the uniqueness of Western classical music to non-musicians, and America is governed not by musicians, but by sports fans.”
Other civilizations most easily appropriate that in Western culture which speaks to them and which resonates with their own heritage. Westerners have virtually nothing in common with Muslims. While different, we can find common ground with Hindus, Buddhists and Christian Asians when it comes to pictorial arts, for instance, while we share absolutely nothing in this field with Muslims since Islam is rather hostile to many forms of music and most forms of art.
I don’t think it’s bigotry to state that Beethoven and Mozart represent a peak in the world history of music, not just in the European tradition. But the great European composers lived in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Europe clearly was the leading region on the planet in science and technology. There appears to be a close correlation between the sciences and the arts. Perhaps it has something to do with cultural confidence and sense of purpose, or lack of such. In the early twenty-first century, not only do Europeans not produce composers that are anywhere near the stature of a Mozart or a Beethoven; many of us do not even listen to the works of great composers we once produced.
Very few young people in Western Europe seriously study European Classical music these days. Asians thus adopt the highest cultural achievements of European civilization at a time when many people of European descent themselves appear to be on the verge of forgetting them, which is symbolic on many levels. On the other hand, Asians are more or less immune to the self-loathing of the contemporary West. I see this as a sign that they appropriate the best aspects of the Western traditions but stay away from the worst ones, which makes sense.
It is sad that people from other cultures sometimes copy our bad ideas such as Communism more readily than our good ones, of which we do have many. I don’t by that mean to imply that Europeans alone “invented” totalitarianism. The Incas practiced something resembling Communism in South America. While I may be critical of aspects of Confucianism, I don’t think it can properly be called totalitarian. Totalitarianism in the true sense of the word does, however, have a native Chinese precedent in the ideology of Legalism, which was supported by the state of China’s brutal First Emperor. There is a reason why the Communist dictator Mao Zedong (1893-1976) personally identified with the First Emperor, not with Confucius.
Despotism comes quite natural to Islamic culture. When confronted with the European tradition, many Muslims freely prefer Adolf Hitler to Rembrandt, Michelangelo or Beethoven. Westerners don’t force them to study Mein Kampf more passionately than Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Goethe’s Faust; they choose to do so themselves. Millions of (non-Muslim) Asians now study Mozart’s piano pieces. Muslims, on the other hand, like Mr. Hitler more, although he represents one of the most evil ideologies that have ever existed in Europe. The fact that they usually like the Austrian Mr. Hitler more than the Austrian Mr. Mozart speaks volumes about their culture. Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and Middle Eastern Muslims have been confronted with the same body of ideas, yet choose to appropriate radically different elements from it, based upon what is compatible with their own culture.
One of these cultures has a future, the other one does not.Fjordman is a noted Norwegian blogger who has written for many conservative web sites. He used to have his own Fjordman Blog in the past, but it is no longer active.
Monday, June 15, 2009
AN Australian woman claims she was drugged, raped and bashed by three men in the Middle East - but when she reported it to police, she was thrown in jail.
The 27-year-old, who spent eight months in a Dubai prison, was released in February only because of an amnesty to celebrate a royal wedding.
She claims the Australian Government did nothing to help her.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph at her Brisbane home, the woman, who asked to be identified only as Amanda, said she had been charged with illicit sexual relations and drinking alcohol without a licence.
The rape occurred in June last year while Amanda was working as a manager at the exclusive Le Meridien resort, in Fujairah.
The last thing she remembers is going to the hotel staff bar on June 9 to order a drink.
At 4.30pm the next day, Amanda awoke, naked and alone in her bedroom. The door was open and her body was covered in bruises. Her ribs were broken.
"I realised I was in pain and had bruises all over me - I was shaky and really not well, and I had no idea what happened," Amanda said yesterday.
"I had missed 30 calls on my mobile, which was right near my head, and I didn't stir.
"I was told security had been called to my room during the night because I was screaming, and they had removed three men who had been in my room.
"Later, in court, they said they hadn't seen anything."
Amanda was advised by her employer to consider her options before she went to the authorities because she could be charged with drinking alcohol, which is forbidden under Islamic law. Scared and nervous, she contacted the Australian embassy.
Amanda said she was advised by an embassy official she would be drug-tested if she had been drugged and "if they found drugs in my system, I would be charged for taking drugs, and that's a sentence of 25 years".
"She said, 'Just leave, get out of the country.' I told my employer I wanted to go home, that I needed medical treatment and felt unsafe.
"They (her employer) were quite abusive and wouldn't help me. They had my passport."
Amanda went to a hospital, where it was confirmed she had been physically and sexually assaulted, with severe bruising on her thighs, between her legs, under her arms and behind her knees. The hospital advised her to report the incident to police.
After police allegedly arrested three men at the resort, Amanda was taken to a place she later found to be a courtroom and made a statement to police.
But the statement was in Arabic, and she was forced to sign it.
"I was in jail for two months before I went to court and the whole time I didn't know what the charges were. I had a lawyer, but he didn't speak English.
"The Australian embassy came to see me after a week, but they couldn't tell me why I was there or how long I would be there for.
Amanda, who was held captive for the first two months without charge, which is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, says she received no help from the Australian Government - a claim the Government denies.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Nick Gardner and Warner Russell
June 14, 2009 12:00am
ONE of Australia's major banks is planning to introduce "Muslim-friendly" loans that do not charge interest, to comply with Sharia law.
Instead, the National Australia Bank will structure an Islam-approved line of finance to make money from alternative methods.
These include profit-sharing on the transaction, joint-ventures or leasing-type arrangements.
For example, to get round the Islamic ban on usury - or unfair lending - a Muslim mortgage often works by the bank buying the property, then selling it to the customer at a profit, with the customer then repaying the entire sum in instalments.
In this way the profit margin is built in from the start. It also has the advantage of making the loan immune from future interest rate rises.
NAB said the loans, which will start out small, will have to be cleared by a Sharia Advisory Board to ensure they meet strict criteria before they can be made available to the public.
"We are dipping our toe in the water with this scheme and thought we may be able to offer this product in high-density Muslim areas," said Richard Peters, head of community finance and development at NAB.
"We suspect there is demand out there, but we don't know how big it is, so we will trial a few products first."
For the trial's purposes NAB will pump $15 million from its not-for-profit finance division into the program, which will distribute the funds through various community finance schemes around the country. The bank will monitor the take-up and assess potential demand.
Interest-free loans of up to $1000 will be available to help finance household items, such as washing machines and fridges.
The loans would also be available to non-Muslims.
The news comes just days after federal Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen said that Australia could exploit international demand for Islamic finance to create more jobs.
ONE of Australia's major banks is planning to introduce "Muslim-friendly" loans that do not charge interest to comply with sharia law.
Instead, the National Australia Bank will structure an Islam-approved line of finance to make money from alternative methods.
These include profit-sharing on the transaction, joint-ventures or leasing-type arrangements.
For example, to get round the Islamic ban on usury - or unfair lending - a Muslim mortgage often works by the bank buying the property, then selling it to the customer at a profit. The customer then repays the sum in instalments.
In this way the profit margin is built in from the start. It also makes the loan immune from future interest rate rises.
NAB said the loans would have to be cleared by a Sharia Advisory Board to ensure they met strict criteria.
"We are dipping our toe in the water and thought we may be able to offer this product in high-density Muslim areas," said Richard Peters, head of community finance & development at NAB.
"We suspect there is demand out there but we don't know how big it is, so we will trial a few products first."
NAB will pump $15m from its not-for-profit finance division into the program, which will distribute funds through various community finance schemes around the country.
Interest-free loans of up to $1000 will be available, which are intended to help finance household items such as washing machines and fridges.
"It's a small step but we are trying to raise awareness about the need for Islamic finance," Mr Peters said.
The loans would be available to non-Muslims as well.
COMPULSORY student unionism is set to return to campuses, almost half a decade after it was abolished by the Howard Government.
The Senate is expected to pass legislation this week allowing universities to charge students a compulsory services fee of up to $250 a year.
Several Nationals senators are expected to cross the floor and vote in support of the bill because of the deterioration of student services at regional campuses.
For the bill to pass, it needs the support of the Coalition or the votes of all five Greens senators, independent Nick Xenophon and Family First's Steve Fielding.
Senator Xenophon told The Sunday Telegraph he would vote in favour of the bill because an enriched campus life was about more than just attending classes.
"The Howard government's voluntary student unionism bill went way too far and had a terrible impact on campus life," he said. "I think the Government's bill will ensure tertiary students come out with a rounded education with varied experiences."
The $250 fee will help bankroll sport, child care, recreation, food, health care and other student services and campus amenities.
Senator Fielding said he remained undecided, but was mindful that students were already under immense financial strain.
"I am worried this additional fee will place even greater pressure on them," he said.
Student bodies have had their funding cut by $170 million since compulsory fees were scrapped.
If passed, the fee will apply to all students from next year.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
THERE'S no real point to worrying about being politically correct when that will aggravate a situation already dangerous and misunderstood.
It is fact that Australia's reputation for decency is now threatened by racial tension and the fear is that this could be a glimpse of the future.
The predicament is built around Indian students, the attacks on them, their response to those attacks and the ugliness the subsequent tension has provoked.
If there was any doubt about how seriously the problem is viewed, it was dispelled yesterday when the state's three most powerful people tried to quell the fears and end the stupidity.
The Prime Minister called for calm, but with a degree of passion not normally considered Rudd-like. He deplored racial attacks on any person - "Chinese, Indian, Callithumpian, Queenslanders".
He reminded the world that Australians are also bashed and die in India, which does not provoke parades of chanting ocker backpackers in the streets of Mumbai.
The remaining members of the power trio, the Premier and the Chief Commissioner of Police, met at a railway station and pledged a police campaign supposedly directed at street robberies, but really designed to reassure angry Indian students.
It was a stunt, albeit a worthy one, but let's put the spin aside and look to some basic truths.
It is true that there are gangs operating in this country. Some are racially based and racially motivated.
Some do attack particular ethnic groups.
It is also true that there have been attacks on Indian students described as "curry bashing", an awful term Indians themselves say is a motivation for the attacks.
But there have been far more attacks on Indian students motivated by brutality and theft.
In Sydney, there are dangerous racial undertones to the tension. On the streets at night it has been Middle Eastern versus Indian. That's ugly - and frightening.
The media in India has been hysterical about all this with little concern for the facts and less understanding of this country.
Australian political leaders have been quick to react and overreact, partly because they are concerned about Australia developing a reputation for racism and partly because the education of international students is big business.
And the final truth is that the Indian students have harmed their cause and there is no point pretending otherwise.
Student leaders have portrayed their members as docile, which in itself is a racist generalisation.
Some are gentle, some are not, and the aggressive protests have shown that.
Burning effigies of the Prime Minister makes for good TV, but it incites tensions and alienates decent people.
Worse, the protests seem based on the assumption that Australia's leaders and police somehow endorse this violence and could end it if they had the will.
That's rubbish, on both counts. It's unfair to blame the people and the leaders for the brutality of a few street thugs who are at times just as likely to attack fourth-generation Australians as they are visitors from the other side of the world.
Some of the students have had a rough time, and that is deplorable. But it is the fault of a few criminals, not the society, and not the culture.
Neil Mitchell broadcasts from 8.30am weekdays on 3AW
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Police say a crowd of about 150 people of Indian background had gathered at Wigram and Marion Streets in Harris Park last night, in protest at an assault on an Indian man aged in his 20s which occurred earlier in the evening by a group of men of Middle Eastern background.
A police spokeswoman said the man received minor injuries in the attack, but did not want to pursue the matter.
Shortly afterwards, a large crowd of Indian men congregated on Wigram St, where it is alleged they assaulted three men of Middle Eastern appearance who received minor cuts and bruises.
The trio were treated by ambulance officers.
Police remained in the area to monitor the remaining protesters, but a spokeswoman said they had now dispersed.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Dutch voters, after rejecting a draft constitution for Europe four years ago, delivered a solid bloc for anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders to take to Europe's parliament, exit polls showed Thursday.
Underscoring skepticism over further European integration, Wilders' right-wing Freedom Party appeared set to win four out of 25 contested seats in elections for the European Parliament being held over the next four days.
Wilders, who says the Koran incites violence, said he would stop Turkey's bid to join the bloc, an issue that causes deep fissures among the 27 European Union member states.
"Should Turkey as an Islamic country be able to join the European Union? We are the only party in Holland that says, it is an Islamic country, so no, not in 10 years, not in a million years," Wilders said Thursday as polls opened.
According to exit polls by Dutch news agency ANP and broadcaster NOS, the Freedom Party gained four seats from none in 2005, while the three major Dutch parties all lost seats.
Despite its long history of tolerance, the Dutch have turned inward in recent years on concerns over Muslim immigration, the growing level of influence in liberal Dutch laws from Brussels and taxpayer money being contributed to the EU budget.
(Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block and Reed Stevenson)
Friday, June 5, 2009
June 03, 2009 12:00am
IF we weren't so scared of seeming racist, we wouldn't now seem so, er, racist that even India is giving us lectures.
Amazing, that. India, which perfected the caste system and is plagued by Hindu-Muslim bloodfests, is telling us we're too prejudiced?
But we have only our own stupidity and grovelling self-hatred to blame.
After all, which nation has spent so much apologetic cash and sweat to persuade the world we are vomiting with racism, and which has been, on the other hand, too militantly anti-racist to point out who is actually bashing many of these Indian students?
That so many Indian students are bashed and robbed can be largely explained by the kind of part-time jobs they tend to take, being hard workers - the late shifts in 7-Eleven stores, taxis and petrol stations, for instance.
Imagine how safe these students are when they then go home alone late at night, often walking or taking near-deserted trains back to the tough suburbs where the cheap rents are. How safe would your own children be?...................
...............True, video footage of the infamous pack-attack on Sourabh Sharma on the Werribee train shows thugs of various ethnicities, including, it seems, the Anglo kind.
But what police and many journalists refuse to confirm or even discuss is what victims and their spokesmen repeatedly say - that many of their attackers are Africans, Islanders and, less often, Asians who are newcomers themselves, beneficiaries of our eagerness to seem kind and tolerant.
Hear it from Macquarie University student Mukul Khanna, called back home by his worried parents: "A lot of my Pakistani friends have left the place after being brutally attacked and robbed . . . Interestingly, the attackers are mostly not locals and are themselves people of foreign origin."
O R read it in an edited statement that Tanveer X, bashed in January, gave to Beyond India Monthly: "When I turned on Anderson Rd I saw four black men . . . One of them came running behind us and hit me with the stick. Then they started hitting my wife . . . I want action against those African guys."
And have it confirmed in this Herald Sun report from last year, when Indian taxi drivers protested at having been the victims of most armed robberies on cabbies: "This year between May 8
and August 2 there were 12 reported robberies on taxi drivers in Flemington, Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale.
"Police will not officially acknowledge any particular ethnic group is a target, or that any other group is carrying out the crimes. But in every case the victims told police their attackers were African . . ." And in all but two their victims were Indians.
Note yet again the reluctance of police to admit they have trouble with African gangs -- or gangs of any particular ethnicity.
Recall also how former chief commissioner Christine Nixon banned police from even using the word "gangs" and falsely claimed the crime rates for Sudanese were at the community average, rather than way, way above.
Note, also, how few media outlets will even discuss the ethnicity of some of the people now bashing Indian students, for fear of seeming racist.
That's how the false perception is allowed to grow that these attacks on Indians are just another example of our institutional racism, when the reverse may well be true -- that we're so over-eager to seem not racist that we take in immigrants we perhaps should not, and refuse to admit when they go wrong.
AND so we are hanged for our virtues. Again, I must point out Australia has home-grown racists, too, and too many children growing up underparented and uncivilised.
They, too, bash Indians - and each other. But to call us a racist nation on the scanty evidence so far is grossly unfair.
That we should take such offence is evidence we're actually not, no matter how loudly and how foolishly we once insisted we were.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I am not opposed to Indian immigration or international students but am opposed to the sheer magnitude of numbers that our government is inviting in to our relative small community and the way they are interracting with us. There has to come a time when enough is enough and that time has already come and gone.
I don't condone violence as a viable course of action, as it nearly always makes the situation worse.
The fact though is that Melbourne has become a multi-racial and increasingly violent city. Visitors need to understand this, especially when they travel alone at night on public transport or whilst driving a taxi.
It is a huge assumption to assume these attacks occurred simply because the victims were Indians.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Throat slashed in 'race' attack
June 1st, 2009
WITH dried blood in his hair and 11 stitches across his throat Gold Coaster Jack Donnelly considers himself lucky.
The Surfers Paradise local was the victim of a 'racially motivated' attack on Saturday night while walking home from the Blues on Broadbeach festivities.
Mr Donnelly contacted the Gold Coast Bulletin yesterday hours after being rushed to Gold Coast Hospital for treatment.
Mr Donnelly, who has a prosthetic leg, noticed he was being said he was followed by a group of men who he described as of 'Asian appearance'.
"They came up and knocked me to the ground and started kicking me," he said.
"They were yelling 'piss off Aussie' and 'good on ya Skippy'.
"I managed to get back up and I thought I got away from them."
Mr Donnelly said the next thing he knew the group of about four or five, aged in their mid-20s, had approached him in a dark section of his street brandishing a broken bottle.
"They slashed my throat with the bottle and ran away once they saw how much blood was coming out," he said.
The 40-year-old managed to get home where he attempted to raise the alarm before passing out on a mattress in the lounge room, possibly as a result of the considerable blood loss.
When his sister Peta, who is also his housemate, woke at 6am to find her brother in a pool of his own blood, she immediately called an ambulance.
"I thought he was dead," she said.
"I started shaking and I didn't know who to call because there was so much blood.
"I kept pressure on the wound until the ambulance and police arrived with an intensive care paramedic because it was so serious.
"He was in and out of consciousness and saying 'they cut my throat'."
Mr Donnelly was treated for shock in the emergency ward of Gold Coast Hospital where he also received 11 stitches to the wound to his throat.
After giving him a thorough examination, doctors said the laceration across his throat was just millimetres from his jugular vein -- any closer and he wouldn't have survived.
While recovering in his apartment last night, Mr Donnelly told The Bulletin said he was enraged at the 'cowardly attack'.
"If they read this in the paper, tell them I'm going to get them," he said. "It's lucky it happened to me.
"Next time they'll probably do it to a younger bloke and they might kick them until they're dead.
"Where there's paradise there's also people like this."
Police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity in the area or seen the assault to contact their local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
SEAN FEWSTER, COURT REPORTER
June 01, 2009 12:29pm
Woman 'raped in nursing home'
A KILKENNY man repeatedly raped and indecently assaulted a woman in a western suburbs nursing home, a court has heard.
Amara Kenneh, 36, appeared in the District Court today.
He pleaded not guilty to three counts of rape, two counts of indecent assault and one count of indecently assaulting a person.
Prosecutors will allege Kenneh sexually assaulted the same woman on multiple occasions between December 2006 and September 2007.
The offences allegedly occurred at a nursing home in the western suburbs.
Today, Chief Judge Terry Worthington remanded Kenneh on continuing bail to appear in court again in August.
AdelaideNow cannot publish comment for legal reasons.
AAP June 1, 2009, 6:05 am
Indian police are investigating the death of an Australian man whose body was found in a guesthouse in the lawless eastern state of Bihar.
The body of 52-year-old
"Authorities of the guest house alerted the police as Michael did not open the door. We broke the door and found him dead," police inspector Chandra Prakash told AFP.
The body has been sent for post-mortem examination and the Australian embassy has been informed, he said.
Police said the man had been staying in the guest house since May 29 and had arrived in India on May 16 on a tourist visa.
Caste and religion-based strongmen, along with Maoist rebels, have almost free reign in Bihar, where at least 5,000 murders and 12,000 abductions take place every year according to police figures.
Egyptian Cleric Muhammad Hussein Ya’qoub: The Jews Are the Enemies of Muslims Regardless of the Occupation of Palestine
Following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Ya’qoub, which aired on Al-Rahma TV on January 17, 2009.
Muhammad Hussein Ya’qoub: If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them. Absolutely not. The Jews are infidels – not because I say so, and not because they are killing Muslims, but because Allah said: “The Jews say that Uzair is the son of Allah, and the Christians say that Christ is the son of Allah. These are the words from their mouths. They imitate the sayings of the disbelievers before. May Allah fight them. How deluded they are.” It is Allah who said that they are infidels.
Your belief regarding the Jews should be, first, that they are infidels, and second, that they are enemies. They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing. Allah said: “You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the disbelievers [sic] to be the Jews and the polytheists.” Third, you must believe that the Jews will never stop fighting and killing us. They [fight] not for the sake of land and security, as they claim, but for the sake of their religion: “And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back you’re your religion, if they can.” This is it. We must believe that our fighting with the Jews is eternal, and it will not end until the final battle – and this is the fourth point. You must believe that we will fight, defeat, and annihilate them, until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth.
It is not me who says so. The Prophet said: “Judgment Day will not come until you fight the Jews and kill them. The Jews will hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and tree will call: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him – except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews.” I have heard that they are planting many of these trees now.
As for you Jews – the curse of Allah upon you. The curse of Allah upon you, whose ancestors were apes and pigs. You Jews have sown hatred in our hearts, and we have bequeathed it to our children and grandchildren. You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.
Oh Jews, may the curse of Allah be upon you. Oh Jews... Oh Allah, bring Your wrath, punishment, and torment down upon them. Allah, we pray that you transform them again, and make the Muslims rejoice again in seeing them as apes and pigs. You pigs of the earth! You pigs of the earth! You kill the Muslims with that cold pig [blood] of yours.