Connecting present and past posts…

One odd aspect of having blogged for so long is that I find my memory jogged by something I read today and then chase this down via my own past blogs. It can go in unforeseen directions. Take the latest instance.

In the run-up to Australia Day this year one of my posts celebrated Deng Thiak Adut’s NSW Australia Day Address.

In today’s Fairfax papers there is article by Mark Dapin: True grit: Deng Thiak Adut, the Blacktown lawyer inspiring a generation of new Australians. It is a brilliant, moving article, but it is just one thread in it that started my chasing through my old blog posts.

He came to Australia as a refugee aged 14, taught himself to read, write and speak English, and won a scholarship to study law in 2005.

Adut had also applied to Macquarie University but, in July 2005, Drew Fraser, a Canadian-born law professor at Macquarie, made headlines when he wrote that Australian was courting disaster by admitting Sudanese refugees, who would bring with them crime, violence and social problems. He later added that sub-Saharan Africans had an average IQ of 70-75. Apparently, they were not only incorrigibly criminal, but bordering on stupid…

“It did hurt me a lot,” he says. “People forget that if you have such attitudes, such negative ideas, it will actually affect the way people think, the way they react, and eventually people will give up and assume that person is quite right. But I know that is wrong. I speak my dialect, I write my dialect, and I speak a bit of Suri, Shilluk, Nuer. He can only speak English. If I gave him a good test in some of my dialects, he would get zero. What does he know about my language? I speak Arabic. Does he? Can he write Arabic?” …

“A lot of people thank me,” he says. “Most say, ‘You changed my life. The stupid little things I used to think about, I’ve now changed my attitude to.’ They’ve stopped drinking alcohol, or taking drugs, or they’re actually going back to school or going to university and doing a degree.”

Adut has shown others what is possible. And, although he speaks with great sadness about the deaths in his family and his lost childhood in the army, Adut’s anger is most evident when he talks about Drew Fraser, the academic who implied success for a Sudanese might be impossible.

“One day I’ll be able to get my PhD,” says Adut, “and tell him that I’m a doctor, just to prove to him that I’m now a doctor because of what he told me. I will do that, just to make sure that we’re square. I’m quite happy to take a test with him, in English, Arabic, Nuer and Dinka, and see whether he’ll be able to match me.”…

Believe it or not there are jerks (self-styled patriots) in this country who still praise the egregious Drew F. I won’t link, but will quote an example from 2011:

It is a great privilege to announce Professor Drew Fraser will be the guest speaker at the [Dickhead Club] in Sydney on Saturday, 19th November 2011 (at 4pm). Professor Fraser will launch his new book, The WASP Question. This new book is of immense importance; totaling 422 pages, The WASP Question has attracted international attention with rave reviews.

Many would remember the brave and truthful comments Drew has made over the years. Back in 2005 Drew warned politicians and the public that bringing in black African refugees threatened to turn Australia into a Third World colony with increased crime, violence and welfare abuse. Drew was vilified by the multiculturalist intelligentsia at Macquarie University and also by the media. Fortunately, Drew’s comments on black African refugees found widespread support throughout the wider Australian community….

I thought I had devoted a few lines to DF – and I had, it turns out:

Helen Pringle argues multiculturalism is deeply rooted in Australia. – On Line Opinion – 3/10/2005

19 Oct 2005

Andrew Fraser the NSW Member of Parliament (see previous item) must not be confused with the lunatic at Macquarie University referred to in the item above.

Andrew Fraser is now notorious for his denigration of the civil standing of persons of African descent, whom he labels “Bantus”. What has been less noted is that Fraser also targets the standing of those of Chinese descent in Australia. Fraser asserts in his recent article, “Rethinking the White Australia Policy”, (an edited version can be read in On Line Opinion) that what he calls “the Chinese colonies in Australia” are marked by “rampant xenophobia and ethnocentrism”. These characteristics are the alleged result of an “evolutionary path” taken thousands of years ago.

Fraser’s wild claims about the Chinese are supported by no evidence, not even by a quotation from his own letter to a suburban newspaper that is used elsewhere in the article. Fraser simply asserts that “historic cultures of servility” mark Chinese communities. Paradoxically, this servility will not, in his view, prevent white Australians from being “outgunned” by East Asians. Fraser claims, “Within two to three decades, it is not unreasonable to expect that Australia will have a heavily Asian managerial-professional, ruling class that will not hesitate to promote the interests of co-ethnics at the expense of white Australians”.

If even for a moment you think there is anything even faintly reasonable in Andrew Barking Mad Prof Fraser’s brain seizure, read the rest of Pringle’s excellent piece.

One of the most chilling lines in last week’s episode of Auschwitz was an old SS man ruminating, sixty years later, on the OK-ness of gassing children despite their innocence because the problem was “in their blood.” And to think last Sunday I sat with someone who SERIOUSLY proposed that “we” (I think he included me despite my part-Aboriginal ancestry) are the “master race” after all… Christ, let’s all vomit when we hear such evil crap.

One more leads on to other things and back to Mark Dapin.

Dumbing down religion

05 Aug 2005

One thing Vladimir said last Sunday [at South Sydney Uniting Church] struck me as very true: the conservative religious person tends to dumb down religion. The bracing effects of postmodernism appal all those who yearn for simplistic answers to complex questions, and this is true whether the simplistic answers are Southern Baptist, Marxist, Catholic, right-wing reactionary or Muslim, or whatever else. So Drew Fraser. So George Bush far too often for a man of such power in the world. And so this most recent deluded sod, “Abdul Nacer Ben Brika (phonetic), also known as Abu Bakr.”

ABU BAKR: I am not only against the Jew. I am against anyone who try to harm my religion.

NICK MCKENZIE: But isn’t it important in Australia, where we have freedom of expression, freedom of religion – the freedom that allows you to speak freely – that we accept other religions?

ABU BAKR: According to my religion, here, I don’t accept all other religions except the religion of Islam.

NICK MCKENZIE: Isn’t there a danger in you pushing that view, you will encourage people to attack Jews, to attack Christians here in Australia?

ABU BAKR: No. This is your understanding. This is your understanding.

NICK MCKENZIE: What is your understanding?

ABU BAKR: I am telling you that my religion doesn’t tolerate other religion. It doesn’t tolerate. The only one law which needs to spread, it can be here or anywhere else, has to be Islam.

John Howard is correct to say that the majority of Australian Muslims do not support such views, just as I from an Anglo/Christian perspective do not support the views of Drew Fraser, or of many another crackpot, religious or otherwise, from my own background and tradition. It is hard though to see this perspective when it involves “the other” rather than “us.” It is too easy for outsiders to attribute the most extreme versions of a world-view or religion we are not so familiar with to all who practise, however devoutly or however loosely, that world-view or religion.

It can’t be doubted though that Abu Bakr suffers from “deadly identity”, to use Aamin Maalouf’s seminal phrase. But we are not immune either, a point Maalouf also makes.

See also “The Islamic Sickness of Fundamentalism: On Abdelwahab Meddeb: The Malady of Islam“ by Nausikaa Schirilla, Polylog 5 2004. The 21st century needs such voices for complexity, people too such as Karen Armstrong and almost anyone you would like to name on Radical Faith.

God save us from the simplifiers, the bigots, the paranoid, the xenophobic, and the snake-oil merchants of every stamp!

Now that leads me to a July 2015 piece by Mark Dapin, Making sense of terrorism and IS.

“Terrorism expert” Greg Barton might well be the most interviewed person in the Australian media this year, and is almost certainly the most cited academic in the press. He says he gets at least a couple of dozen media requests a week but “some weeks, it’s many dozens”. A quiet day for Barton would be “a couple of radio or print interviews, TV maybe four times a week. But it depends,” he says. “Some weeks it’s just relentless.” …

Barton’s over-arching point is that the problem does not lie within Islam itself. He and his wife are practicing Christians and, he says, “There’s no more a problem with Islam than there is with Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism. When these religions turn toxic, they’re truly awful: most of what’s positioned as being religious conflict is actually ethno-nationalist conflict.” If Islamic State truly represented mainstream Islamic thought, “You’d have 1.6 billion angry people,” he says. “It would be a different world.”

At the moment, he is most often asked to talk about the radicalisation of local Muslim youth, and how they might possibly be tempted to join the Islamic State…

Islamic State’s recruitment propaganda is “really clever”, he says. “Dabiq, their monthly e-magazine, is fascinating. The production values are very high – the layout, the use of imagery, the prose also: the fanboy stuff is full of annoying schoolboy errors. I’ve not seen a typo or a grammatical mistake in Dabiq magazine. They’ve taken this British journalist John Cantlie and got him to write a column every month, and his column reads like something John Pilger would write.

“I’m too old – or too cynical – to believe in John Pilger anymore, but if you’re younger and idealistic, you read John Pilger and think, ‘Yeah, that’s right.’ And you read the John Cantlie stuff and think, ‘That actually makes sense.'”

Terrorist sympathisers rarely abuse Barton. “The largest number of unsolicited correspondence I get comes from right-wing nutters,” he says. “A lot of people are angry with me because they think I’m soft or stupid when it comes to Islam. They think I don’t understand. The message to me is always, ‘Haven’t you read the Koran? It’s got these angry verses. Clearly, that’s the problem.’ On the Islamist side, I’ve had very little experience of direct antagonism. They probably don’t see any point in bothering.”…

Barton believes the answer to radicalisation is to work with Muslim communities, rather than alienate them with asinine campaigns against halal sausages. He set out to become an expert on Muslim democratic thought, not Islamist terrorism but he no longer sees himself as a disinterested observer but an actor in the battle against Islamic State….

Do read it all.