How I wish we had wise leadership!

Last night I posted on Facebook while watching 7.30 on ABC:

How I wish we had wise leadership, but we don’t. Instead we have a PM who thinks like a shock jock. That’s why they are always his first port of call. Sadly too we have a dead fish opposition….

I referred then to Tim Jarvis, Critical Thinking And Contemporary Politics: The Tony And Co Conundrum.

…Critical Thinking courses turn out to be about two things, neither of which seem very exciting: teaching students to ferret out arguments and see them as questionable, and to provide them with the tools of argument analysis and assessment.

It doesn’t sound all that sexy, but it is valuable and necessary, and much less obvious than it sounds. Demanding that others and ourselves believe what we believe and do what we do for at least passably good reasons is the threshold of living up to that definition of humans as ‘rational animals’.

And yet the demand to provide good reasons and arguments seems to be a stumbling block to the powers that be. Cue the Abbott Government.

As we head off to war (again) for the sake of our security (again), reasonable questions have been asked about whether returning to the conflict in Iraq will actually make us less secure. A few weeks ago, rather than directly address these concerns, Abbott deployed the following howler:

“I should remind everyone that Australians were the subject of a terror attack in Bali long before we got involved in the 2003 Iraq war. The United States was subject to the September 11 atrocity long before any American involvement in Iraq. So, we are a target, not because of anything that we’ve done but because of who we are and how we live.

Let’s ignore the bizarre suggestion that, prior to 9/11, America had never done anything in the Middle East that could possibly have upset anybody, and just look at the argument.

This is a perhaps previously unknown species of the family of bad arguments known as ‘Fallacies of False Cause’. The most famous of these is post hoc ergo propter hoc: after it, therefore because of it: A occurred before B, therefore A caused B: Abbott was elected before the rise of ISIS, therefore Abbott caused the rise of ISIS…

I commend that article.

I commented then on my own Facebook post: “See tonight’s 7.30 and Tony Abbott/Alan Jones referred to therein. A starting point for my direct personal experience of Hizb ut-Tahrir…” I’ll come to that shortly.

Look, one thing clear: I have no truck with that awful bunch of total homicidal/genocidal fanatics called ISIS or whatever. I broadly support the military intervention, even if I can see problems with how it is supposed to work (or not). One major difference between 2003 and now is that ISIS or whatever manifestly does exist, whereas WMD and Iraqi-based terror in 2003 manifestly didn’t: cue Hans Blix and Scott Ritter just for starters. On the latter I wrote in 2008:

If Iraq were producing [chemical] weapons today, we’d have proof, pure and simple. (page 37)

[A]s of December 1998 we had no evidence Iraq had retained biological weapons, nor that they were working on any. In fact, we had a lot of evidence to suggest Iraq was in compliance. (page 46)

I read that 2002 publication and found it quite convincing, and it did after all turn out to be pretty much on the mark, didn’t it? No, Bush just wanted to invade Iraq. Trouble is none of them really had any idea once they actually got there. Now, many gigabucks and heaps of bodies later, it may be that things are a touch better, but what actually has been achieved in relation to terrorism?…

Sadly, when I look at and hear Tony Abbott what I too often see and hear is the wickedly accurate caricature that graced the front cover of the August Monthly:

abbottcover So here he went again, the master of the bogan slogan and spruiker on shock jock radio and TV, projecting his Great War Leader and Macho Guy persona to a sometimes adoring populace – though apparently not so adored by many of the populace at last weekend’s Rugby League Grand Final. (“It’s customary for the Prime Minister of Australia to appear at a Grand Final game to congratulate players. But things took an unexpected turn for PM Tony Abbott after last night’s NRL match between champions South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury Bulldogs.  As the Prime Minister was introduced in the post-game ceremony, the crowd quickly reacted with a tremendous chorus of boos, obviously unimpressed with his presence…”)

…SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: With Australia joining the US air strikes on Iraq, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s next event is a public lecture this Friday in Sydney titled The War to End A Blessed Revolution and advertised on Facebook.
FACEBOOK PAGE (male voiceover): America has initiated yet another war, rounding up its puppets and allies to attack the Syrian revolution, while using intervention in Iraq as a convenient excuse. … How should Muslims respond as America attacks the most potent uprising in the Muslim world in the last century: the revolution of Syria?”
ALAN JONES, 2GB RADIO HOST: This mob are banned in virtually all Arab nations in the Middle East.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: By this morning, the looming event had raised the ire of Sydney’s most influential shock jock, Alan Jones
ALAN JONES: Are you, before Friday, as Prime Minister of Australia, going to proscribe this movement? That is, put them outside the protection of the law, reject them as dangerous and exile them.
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: Alan, I understand your frustration and anger and I’m frustrated and angry myself. Under existing law, we can’t ban them. we’ve looked at banning them, but we’re advised under existing law we can’t do it.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The Prime Minister is planning new laws by the end of the year making it a crime to promote terrorism. On 2GB this morning, he said he wanted to use those on Hizb ut-Tahrir.
TONY ABBOTT: There is no doubt they are an organisation that campaigns against Australian values, that campaigns against Australian interests. They are a thoroughly objectionable organisation.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Despite being banned elsewhere, Hizb ut-Tahrir has taken a high profile, with promotional videos, public events and TV interviews.
WASSIM DOUREIHI (Lateline, 2007): Has no association whatsoever with terrorism or acts of terrorism and it entirely refutes any notion of being a conveyor belt to terrorism…

That contentious conference, by the way, in fact includes no overseas star turns, so the talk of “red carding” blow-ins who preach hate was strictly irrelevant. The episode may indeed be seen as yet another attempt to suppress dissent, as a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir has said. See also Media Watch on recent background developments: Security and secrecy: how the new anti-terror law has many Australian journalists worried about their freedom to report in the public interest.

Today Tom Allard is spot-on – and wiser than Jones or Abbott — in the Sydney Morning Herald:

…The planned conference on Friday in Lakemba that drew the ire of Mr Abbott will discuss how the US-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State is actually an attempt to end the “blessed revolution” to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The contention underpinning the conference is conspiratorial and not readily supported by facts.

But wild conspiracies do not amount to promoting terrorism and Hizb ut Tahrir has loudly denounced the caliphate claimed by Islamic State as an aberration and condemned its killings of innocents and non-believers….

…For the past decade, security agencies in the West have repeatedly considered whether the group should be banned. Invariably, they have declined.

The main concern has been that the group is a “conveyer belt” for jihadists, a weigh station where they are inculcated with radical ideology before they leave for a group with more violent tendencies.

Nawab Osman, an academic at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who did his doctorate in Australia on the group, says the “conveyer belt” theory doesn’t stack up. Hizb, overall, acted as a bulwark against Islamic radicals taking the next step and turning to terrorism, he said.

A ban, he added, would be counter-productive.

“All you will do is create martyrs out of Hizb ut Tahrir. It will grow and it will grow underground. That makes it much more difficult for security agencies to monitor.”

It so happens I have actually met Wassim Doureihi a couple of times. I do not share his vision, clearly, but he is/was: a) thoroughly Australian in very many ways; b) very intelligent; c) capable of debate and discussion, given the right circumstances.  I attach a series of 2009 posts, the first in full. Note: “The Mine” or “The Salt MIne” refers to my principal place of work in the 90s and early 2000s.

Recycle: Some non-fiction read recently 2b – the personal component

20 APR 2009

==> See also Some non-fiction read recently: 2a. [On Madeleine Albright, The Mighty & the Almighty: Reflections on Power, God, and World Affairs, Macmillan 2006 and Michael Burleigh, Blood & Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, Harper 2008.]

This goes back to 2005 and a particularly interesting if controversial event. On the day I was not there, as I had to attend a meeting of ESL teachers at Erskineville – or was it Arncliffe, one of the last such meetings for me as I retired the following year. But I did know all the participants at The Mine end, and I posted on it at the time and the following year. See Salt Mine and Islamic Students; 7.30 Report: The Mine and the Islamists; The Mine and the Islamists: cause for concern?. On Floating Life Apr 06 ~ Nov 07 there is also a major entry from April 2006.

What I found yesterday was a video on YouTube of the complete 2005 Seminar [still there at 9 Oct 2014] referred to in those entries. The controversy centred on the guest speakers, Sheik Khalid Yassin and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Wassim Doureihi. These people would fall in one of Michael Burleigh’s inner circles (see previous entry) but not necessarily, of course, into the innermost circle. While I had concerns about the Mine students involved, I very much doubt they would have even considered the innermost circle – quite the opposite in fact. (I also refer to these students in my Cronulla 2005 posts.)


Stills from the video.

Mine students often show initiative, of course, and these particular students were very bright indeed and participated in all aspects of school life to the full. An earlier generation some ten years before promised they would have Barry Crocker and Kamahl at their farewell assembly. We thought they were joking, but on the day, there they were! The Tamils were especially happy. So were the office ladies.

Now you have to wait for Part C of this post.

Recycle: Some non-fiction read recently 2c – tentative conclusions

23 APR

And I really mean tentative. Further, there is no way a shortish post like this can do more than indicate rather than expound. After all, the books with which this series of posts began comprise around a thousand pages, while this post will most likely be just one to three! And I am about to add to that by recommending another thousand pages or more, which I have either skimmed or, in the case of Jason Burke, read attentively since commencing these posts….

Do read on!

Oh that we had really wise leadership!

Update 11.37 am 9 October 2014

It appears Wassim Doureihi was on Wednesday night’s episode of Lateline. I didn’t see it.

After a relatively subdued start to the ABC interview, Mr Doureihi repeatedly dodged questions about whether Hizb ut-Tahrir supported the “murderous campaign’ waged by Islamic State extremists. Hizb ut-Tahrir has previously dubbed Islamic State as an “armed group which only represents itself”.

Here is what he was trying to argue:

EMMA ALBERICI: We’ve invited you here tonight to help Australians better understand what it is that you stand for. So tell me first of all, do you support the murderous campaign being waged by Islamic State fighters in Iraq?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity. There is an urgent need in this country to have quite open and honest conversation. I want to take a moment just to take a step back. (Inaudible). I will come specifically – I will come …
EMMA ALBERICI: But I would like you to take this moment to my question only because we will have some time to go through a number of issues and I don’t want to run out of time.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I will come specifically to that question. We won’t run out of time. We’ll definitely address the most important and pertinent points. The first point is this: that when we discuss the events in the Middle East, in the Muslim world, our entry point shouldn’t be what ISIS is doing or not doing. ISIS exists in a particular context. What’s that context? That context is a century or more of colonial occupation at the hands of the very governments …

EMMA ALBERICI: … you have made. And now I would just draw you back to my question.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Yeah, and I’ll keep repeating the same point. This cannot possibly be our entry point in this discussion …
EMMA ALBERICI: Do you support ….
WASSIM DOUREIHI: … because why is the attention on ISIS – what ISIS is doing or not doing? Our position on ISIS is very clear. Our position on ISIS was released years before Tony Abbott wanted to make it a political issue….

EMMA ALBERICI: OK, let me ask you another one. OK, you’re not going to engage with that one.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: No, no, let me be very clear. No, no, no, no, let me be very clear: just because you don’t get the answer you want, just because I’m not reinforcing an Islamic-phobic narrative that justifies the wholesale slaughter of entire populations …
EMMA ALBERICI: You can dispel any supposed phobia out there …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: No, I’m explaining the context in which this entire discussion is happening….

Tony Abbott’s gloss on all that, according to the Herald:

Speaking on Melbourne radio station 3AW on Thursday morning, Mr Abbott said he was impressed with the ABC host’s tenacity.

“She’s a feisty interview … good on her for having a go and I think she spoke for our country last night,” Mr Abbott said. 

Mr Abbott’s praise was in stark contrast to his previous criticisms of the ABC.

I do wish Wassim Doreihi had resisted the urge to be an intellectual and had simply given the yes/no answer — and then set forth on the contextual issue, where what he is saying is in fact far from crazy – agree or not. Many on the left, including total nonbelievers in Doureihi’s ideology/religion, would share that line of thought. So while I can see what he was trying to say, there is little doubt he blew the opportunity. Perhaps talking inside the tent too much has wrecked his sense of audience.

Tony Abbott will seem less of a hypocrite when he himself submits to Emma Alberici’s “tenacity” rather than visiting all his usual urgers and groupies.

Update 10 October 2014

See Lateline host Emma Alberici’s only regret over Hizb ut-Tahrir interview.

The Lateline host was commended on Thursday by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who felt she “spoke for our country.”

Alberici said, while the opinion of the PM was important, her approach in the interview was merely the Lateline-way.

“We have a long history at Lateline of conducting interviews without fear or favour. So it’s terrific we have that kind of endorsement from the PM, but it’s just as terrific that in our plural liberal democracy people can disagree,” she said.

“But I don’t think it’s the best interview I’ve ever done, because I didn’t get any answers!”

Today’s Herald editorial is pretty good in my opinion.

…The exchanges between Mr Doureihi and host Emma Alberici escalated unhelpfully into a slanging match that left audiences none the wiser about Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott – having promised to try to stop the “thoroughly objectionable” group on Wednesday – generated more heat on Thursday by labelling it “un-Australian”.

As Australian personnel embark on dangerous missions to help minorities ward off IS in Iraq, such loaded rhetoric from both sides frays national unity.

The Herald urges the government, Muslim groups and every Australian to step back and regain perspective in an environment ripe for hatred and rushes to judgement.

That will require some unpalatable decisions.

Among them is recognising Australia values the freedom to disagree, even vehemently, and the right to air offensive views within certain limits…

…on August 13 this year Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia issued a statement that included key information missing from Lateline.

“Children holding severed heads, oppression of Christians, random killings and the like are wrong,” the August 13 statement said.

On July 2 this year, the director of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s central media office in Lebanon, Osman Bakhach, said: “Resurrecting the caliphate [an Islamic state operating under Sharia law] should not be accomplished through blood, charges of apostasy and explosions … We (call) for a state that opens its arms to all people, Muslims and others, including Christians and Jews … Establishing the Islamic state is not accomplished by considering every dissenter an apostate whose killing is deemed lawful. In this way, (Islamic State) proclaims itself both adversary and arbiter.”…

While the Herald agrees with Mr Abbott that Hizb ut-Tahrir “is very careful to avoid advocating terrorism”, it is less clear the group is “always making excuses for terrorist organisations”.

And there is no credible proof in the public arena that Hizb ut-Tahrir supports or advocates violence or terrorism, beyond the words “in whatever capacity” in its August 13 statement: “People travelling abroad to help the oppressed, in whatever capacity, is a noble deed.”

Such lack of clarity raises concerns about how some of Mr Abbott’s proposed counter-terrorism laws will operate. At what point will preaching peaceful pursuit of offensive ideas become “advocating terrorism”? And will eradicating those views spread a martyrdom complex intent on revenge?

The battle against terrorism traverses dangerous ground. Australia must tread carefully


One thought on “How I wish we had wise leadership!

  1. I strongly recommend Irfan Yousef, CRIKEY: Emma Alberici (and the West) doesn’t understand anything about Muslims.

    …It also explains why the simplistic vision of “the Muslim world”, a singular rump of 25% of humanity yearning for a caliphate, also makes little sense to all but a tiny minority of nominally Muslim migrants and their offspring. This is the fringe simplistic ideology promoted by groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the organisation of “hate preachers” Tony Abbott has promised another hate preacher he will ban.

    Emma Alberici’s Lateline interview with former HT Australian spokesman Wassim Doureihi started well enough. “We’ve invited you here tonight to help Australians better understand what it is that you stand for.” It went downhill from there, with decontextualised questions like, “Do you support the murderous campaign being waged by Islamic State fighters in Iraq?”

    Then again, Doureihi could have just used some strategic sense. He’s in luck that HT leaders overseas were having serious issues with ISIS/ISIL/IS before the first Western aid worker or journalist was decapitated. Or rather, when other Western journalists were ignoring the large number of Lebanese, Kurds and other non-Westerners being slaughtered by Daesh, which is the correct Arabic name for Islamic State….

    Read it all.

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