What was I up to in October 2006?

These entries from my WordPress blog of ten years ago.

Screenshot - 11_10_2016 , 7_49_58 AM

Gay Erasmus is reading Jonestown

31 OCT 2006

I will wait for it to appear in the Library. Meanwhile, check Erasmus’s first impressions [no longer online]. It certainly doesn’t sound boring.

I had lunch with Lord Malcolm at The Shakespeare; he is still struggling on, by the way, with all his usual courage. He told me that Piers Akerman had written a non-homophobic piece in the Telegraph. Amazed at that possibility, I said: “Oh, was it a defence of Alan Jones?” Indeed it was, so not having read it I have searched it out. I should add that Lord Malcolm is himself more than somewhat right wing on a whole range of things, but that’s OK. Except when I read the article I wondered if it was the one Malcolm referred to, but indeed it is.

I guess you would have to say it is not exactly homophobic, despite phrases like “purported homosexual” applied to the Herald’s David Marr*; I wonder if Lord Malcolm picked up the allusion to “Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite [sic]”? Marr also committed the crime, in Akerman’s eyes, of having “promoted the Sydney Mardi Gras but who was actually married for a brief period before coming to terms with his own sexuality”. Could that qualify as “a cheap and smarmy shot in a nasty political vendetta” or is Akerman merely informing us? Given Marr’s adolescence as described in The High Price of Heaven, this is hardly a revelation; furthermore, many, many gays and lesbians have been married to persons of the opposite sex, often for very long periods, and sometimes even happily. In fact many of my older gay and lesbian friends were, Dorothy McRae-McMahon for starters; I wasn’t, but was able to convince myself it was because I was virtuous, for a while anyway.

No, Marr’s real crime, according to Akerman (and Bolt) is that he has expressed support for the distinctly non-gay Chris Masters, author of Jonestown, because Alan Jones is a well-known high profile right-winger. Not that Akerman’s defence of Jones is based on Jones being a prominent member of his own political club, of course. Akerman would go into bat just as vigorously on behalf of some closeted leftie, wouldn’t he? “Fairfax has displayed an unhealthy prurience in pandering to those titivated by salacious innuendo, but Marr’s defence of Masters’ notion that sexuality determines an individual’s persona is intellectually risible.” Unless, apparently, that person is called Michael Kirby (who is not a leftie, by the way, but rather an old-fashioned liberal conservative) or Patrick White. Or David Marr.


* Marcel has pointed to my misreading this sentence in his comment below, as the “purported homosexual” is in fact Alan Jones; Marr is an acknowledged homosexual. Nonetheless, my points from then on still apply, though the echo of Oscar Wilde I thought I saw may be part of my misreading, even if that would now make Akerman’s wording somewhat deliciously (if unintentionally) ironic.

COMMENT: marcelproust

November 1, 2006 at 3:19 am

A misreading. The reference is: “But when the purported homosexual Marr has determined should be publicly dragged from the closet is prominent broadcaster Alan Jones…” ie, “when the purported homosexual [who] Marr has determined should be publicly dragged from the closet is prominent broadcaster Alan Jones” — so it is Jones who is identified as a “purported homosexual.”

Keating: the musical

31 OCT 2006

Keating! opens at the Belvoir Theatre (I live next to it, almost) on November 11, a nice irony that. I am very tempted to avail myself of my Seniors Card discount and go.

Casey Bennetto’s scathingly hilarious lyrics tear through the reign and tragic fall of the Placido Domingo of Australian politics in a production with Neil Armfield and comic satirist John Clarke blowing wind into Casey’s spinnaker.

Part French farce, part Greek tragedy, and all Australian history, “the country soul opera we had to have” transports you back to a time less politically grey as it charts the rise, fall and rise again of an antique clock collector from Bankstown.

SIGH over duets between a love-struck Cheryl and Gareth!
HISS the mean spirited ghost of Lazarus with a triple bypass!
THRILL to the spectacular settings from the plush sitting rooms of Kirribilli House to the Bankstown RSL!

How could I miss it?

PJK, meanwhile, has been the perfect grumpy old man with his attack on the post-modernisation of Sydney.

In a scattergun speech to rank alongside his most famous fusillades, the former prime minister yesterday unloaded on the NSW Minister for Planning.

Mr Keating said Frank Sartor had become “the mayor for [Harry] Triguboff”, called for a ban on political donations by developers and expressed disgust at the “mediocrity” of modernist design…

The greatest reaction, though, came as the self-styled aesthete was still at the podium, telling his audience that “knocking back outdoor advertising companies, kicking them in the bum, should be a national sport”.

Mr Keating was clearly enjoying the guffaws as he worked through a list of his favourite targets, principally architects and developers. He said if councils did not stop “rapacious” property magnates such as Mr Triguboff, chairman of Meriton, spreading the “disfiguring eczema” of modernist design, Australian cities could look as barren as Tokyo…

Worse, however, was “the NSW planning minister – whoever that may be from time to time; they do have a history of not lasting – [who] is the mayor for Triguboff, and the mayor for the other developers who’ve got projects over a certain value”.

“The wall of money coming at a minister in these jobs is phenomenal because as you know, the industry is into political donations, which in my opinion should be outlawed.”

Property developers have donated more than $5 million to NSW Labor since it was re-elected in 2003.

Later, Mr Sartor said he did not “believe [Mr Keating] was referring to me, as he made a point of telling me afterwards. In any case, my record as lord mayor of Sydney clearly shows otherwise.”

I live in an earlier Meriton development, as does M in another. I have seen how they were built. My father was a builder/carpenter, as it happens, who had certain standards about quality of workmanship. He used to say back in the 1970s that such standards had gone the way of all greed. He must be turning in his grave today.

Still on Keating, Peter Costello, the PM in waiting and waiting and waiting, has given PJK a serve over the granting of permanent residence to Sheik Hilaly after the infamous 1988 sermon on the International Zionist Conspiracy.

The Australian Federal Police said they were monitoring the sheik but it was understood his comments about jihadists did not amount to incitement under the new sedition laws.

Mr Costello said the former prime minister Paul Keating should not have intervened to keep Sheik Hilaly in Australia when he was due to have been deported. “Keating wanted his votes, not just for the election but probably for branch-stacking purposes.”

Mr Keating refused to answer questions about the sheik yesterday, saying he would not be harassed by journalists.

Mr Costello added: “This sermon, it was preached to 5000 people, wasn’t it? No-one seemed to complain when it was preached. It took a long time for it to come out. No people stood up in the middle of the sermon and said, ‘This is unacceptable.”‘

John Howard certainly didn’t at the time, not that I recall anyway. His focus was elsewhere at that time:

Meanwhile the McPhee-Howard wet-dry conflict continued. Howard had sacked McPhee from his frontbench in April 1987. In August 1988 McPhee crossed the floor to vote against Howard when Howard wanted an immigration policy to discriminate against Asians. The Victorian Party machine set to work and in April 1989 McPhee lost pre-selection to David Kemp, with Howard watching ‘passively’ on the sidelines while his greasy staffer Graeme Morris was working the media.

I was teaching at Masada College, an excellent Orthodox Jewish school, in 1988 when Hilaly preached that sermon. I was surrounded by South Africans and Israelis. No-one, as I recall, suggested Hilaly should be deported back then, though they were none too pleased by what he said, but they had heard it all before and were not surprised. There has always been, at least since the foundation of the State of Israel, a strand of political Islam that bears quite an amazing resemblance at an ideological level to some of the ideas that had currency in Nazi Germany or Tsarist Russia, where that obscene forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion had its origins. It is still in circulation in parts of the Islamic world, and among the KKK and White Supremacist nutters in the USA and elsewhere. So nothing Hilaly said surprised them.

Rather, I remember asking a colleague at Masada what she liked about Australia compared with South Africa. “Not being woken at 3am by secret police searching for subversive literature,” she replied. When they felt nostalgic, my Israeli colleagues used to go down to the Lebanese restaurants in Surry Hills for a bit of home-style cooking…

We were all a bit less paranoid in 1988.

The importance of context revisited

30 OCT 2006

NOTE: Very relevant to much that follows: Truth and Truthfulness, yesterday’s Encounter on Radio National. See also Truth and Truthfulness in Uncertain Times. The lecture on Gandhi was outstanding.


Well, context is in part what this entry is about. In his latest entry Deus Lo Vult performs a valuable service for all of us who have been unduly influenced by media representations of the Pope’s alleged bagging of Islam earlier this year. I stand corrected, and would encourage everyone, including the Kashmiri Nomad, to reconsider the facts as well. I say this as one who simply does not accept, and never has accepted, the primacy of Rome in the Christian church, let alone the absurd (to me) doctrine of papal infallibility. (As a Catholic priest said to me in the 1970s, Pius IX was “round the twist” when he came up with that one.) I have on the other hand a proper appreciation of the importance of the Catholic Church in the story of Western civilisation in terms of art, music, philosophy, and so much else, and respect the Church’s many good works and acknowledge its great diversity, the last being a fact many overlook.

Deus Lo Vult simply quotes the Pope’s remark in its full context. The result is a no-brainer, by which I mean (lest that expression is misinterpreted) DLV is right: the Pope was quoted out of context, the whole thing was a beatup, and the extreme reactions in the Muslim world were very silly. Go to Deus Lo Vult’s site and read it for yourselves. Unfortunately, here in Sydney Cardinal Pell actually muddied the waters by saying a few gratuitous things of his own at that time.

I fear though that Deus Lo Vult is on shakier ground when it comes to freedom of speech, thorny as that issue is. Both he and I would agree this is a concept not honoured in North Korea or Iran or Saudi Arabia (which funds many an Islamic school in Australia), and in fact hard to find in much of the world, but it is also one of the things the so-called war on terror is actually about.

We need to be aware of the diversity of the Catholic Church, and have a nuanced view of Christianity in general, even of American evangelical Christianity which ranges from Sojourners on the one hand, which I regard as particularly healthy and enlightened, to real-life versions of Landover Baptist Church on the other, which deliver bigotry, parochialism and hate by the bucketful. (The current issue of Sojourners magazine features Senator Barack Obama on the cover.) We need to develop a similarly nuanced view of Islam, which ranges from things like the Wahid Institute on the one hand (and I notice Ahmad Shuja links to that) through a whole array of often conflicting positions and traditions to, well, you-know-who on the other. Or, putting it another way, there is a world of difference between even the conservative Islam of Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the one hand and the kind of Islam represented by the Lakemba Mufti on the other. See also a very thoughtful American, Charles Notess with whose approach I have much in common; he also does his homework.

I have to hand, in fact, a tract called Understanding Islam, Basic Principles — that’s it there, but my copy is stamped “not for sale” and ultimately came from Lakemba Mosque — which sets out to “provide accessible and direct information about the basic principles of Islam as seen by Muslims themselves in order to facilitate the understanding of Islam by non-Muslims”. It is, compared to Nasr, a sad book. For a start, it recycles a great piece of nonsense about the so-called Gospel of Barnabas, assuming in best Da Vinci Code style it was meant to be in the New Testament, which conveniently has Jesus proclaim we should all keep our eyes out for the advent of Muhammad, who it names in some post-Muslim versions. The Qu’ran seems to have been aware of such a tradition (Sura 61:6), but the truth is the Gospel of Barnabas exists only in highly corrupted and suspect very late translations, and whatever its ultimate origins, it is far less attested than the recently publicised Gospel of Judas or the much more authentic Gospel of Thomas or the heaps of other gospels that The Da Vinci Code gets so excited about, and all of them are far less well attested than the four that made it into the New Testament, dubious as even they are as history in our sense of the word. The Gospel of Barnabas as we know it has almost certainly been doctored by someone under the Spanish Caliphate. Wikipedia notes:

Some Islamic organizations cite this work in support of the Islamic view of Jesus; in particular, the noted Muslim thinkers Rashid Rida in Egypt and Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in Pakistan have given it qualified acceptance (though the latter rejects its naming of Muhammad as an interpolation). While some Muslim scholars also agree that this Gospel of Barnabas is fabricated or has been changed over time, others believe that Barnabas himself wrote the Gospel, whereas the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by followers of Paul long after the events they describe, and that therefore the Gospel of Barnabas is more authentic than the other Gospels. Some Muslims take a position between these poles, suggesting that, while the work contains “Muslim interpolations”, it nonetheless consists mainly of early material that contradicts Christian traditions and confirms Muslim beliefs.

Although the Gospel of Barnabas is, in several respects, inconsistent with Islamic teaching, some Muslim scholars cite this as evidence of the genuineness of the gospel by arguing that no Muslim would fake a document and have it contradict the Qur’an. They believe the contradictions of the Qur’an in the Gospel of Barnabas are signs of textual corruption (which Muslims already ascribe for a majority of the Bible), but that the Gospel of Barnabas would not be as corrupt as other religious works, and would still maintain the truth about Jesus not being crucified and not being God or son of God.

Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi is another name to conjure with, along with Sayyid Qutb, whom I mentioned a few days back. They are both in their way very much twentieth century and very much part of postcolonialism. They are also arguably among the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, and we have only heard of them lately because some of what they have inspired has got up and bitten us very badly, and continues to do so. People like Karen Armstrong and Malise Ruthven have been able to tell us quite a lot about them for some time now, if we care to look.

One very significant aspect of the situation we are now in is an ongoing struggle within Islam, which is after all the cradle of some 1.3 billion people. In our own interests, if for no other reason, we need to avoid sweeping generalisations about Muslims, and politicians need to be very measured in their response to provocateurs like al-Hilaly. Heavy-handed tactics, or tactics that could be described as following double standards, or that unfairly generalise, or derive from fear or suspicion or discomfort with difference, may serve simply to drive people further towards an extreme position, and I am not talking here only of Muslims. The advice Isis offers (see yesterday’s entry) is very, very apt.

As Abdelwahab Meddeb says in this interview:

Could you outline the development of fundamentalist Muslim ideology?

This ideology originates from a combination of three things. For the first, you have to look at the text of the Koran itself. There is, for example, the infamous “verse of the sword” which gives the order to pursue and kill all polytheists. The fundamentalists argue that this verse cancels out all the nuances of tolerance found in the Koran. The second element refers to the literalist thinking that developed over the centuries, and which found a spectacular incarnation in Ibn Hanbal (780-855), the founder of one of the four schools of orthodox Islam.

This theologian fought against the mu’tazilites, the rationalist current supported by the Baghdad authorities in the 9th century. He was imprisoned and persecuted for his hard-line beliefs. After his death, his disciples radicalized his thinking. For example, fundamentalists today, who claim to have their roots in Hanbalism, often evoke takfir, even though Ibn Hanbal challenged thisnotion.The second key figure in this traditionalist trend is the Hanbalist thinker Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328). Within his monumental body of work is a little book entitled As-siyassa ash-Shar’ia (“Politics in the name of divine law”), which is like a bible for the fundamentalist. In his time, Ibn Taymiyya was criticized, even from within the Hanbalist school, and spent part of his life in prison. But today, he is a central reference point for fundamentalists.

The third pillar of fundamentalist ideology is a figure called Ibn Abd Al Wahhab, who called for a radical return to the most literal interpretation. Taking up the theory of Ibn Taymiyya, he refused any form of intercession between God and man. He was responsible for the disappearance of all the tombs of saints on the Arabian Peninsula and the destruction of the rites of popular Sufism, which were very rich from an anthropological point of view. The ideas of Abd Al Wahhab (1703-1792) were decried while he was alive, but later became the official doctrine of Saudi Arabia.

And what are the external causes?

They go back to Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt, and the momentous encounter with the West. The people of the Middle East discovered that Europe was powerful and that henceforth they themselves would occupy a position of weakness. The first reaction, around 1830, was Muhammad Ali’s plan to modernize Egypt. The intellectual Rifaa Al-Tahtawi (1801-1874) represented this school of thought. He undertook the huge job of translating scientific manuals. In the politico-theological sphere, sheikhs Al-Afghani (1838-1897) and Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) then created what we call the salafiyya, a form of fundamentalism, not to be confused with Muslim fundamentalism.

What is the difference?

Afghani and Abduh were defeated historically but their approach was wider. What were they searching for? They wanted to return to the foundations of Islam and adapt them so that Muslim societies could rebuild themselves, taking Western contributions into account, particularly democracy and parliamentary government. Their plan was to use these concepts to fight against the hold of colonialism and local despotism. In fact, they used to meet in a cafe in Cairo called Al-Barlaman (the Parliament).

How did we get from this modernist fundamentalism to Muslim fundamentalism?

It was a gradual process. Rashid Ridha (1865-1935) served as an intermediary link in the ancestry of this form of fundamentalism. He began by taking up the ideas of Abduh and criticising Wahhabism, making a name for himself in the early 20th century, and eventually taking power on the Arabian Peninsula in 1932. But towards the end of his life, Ridha changed his opinions and wrote a text supporting Wahhabism, which was not as opportunist as it sounds. He pointed to the evolution of man at a time of colonial conquest which sparked the rise of anti-Western feeling.

So fundamentalism was born in the 1920s…

Yes, with Rashid Ridha’s pupil, Hassan Al-Banna (1906-1949), who remains famous for creating the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimun) in Egypt in 1928. Next came a virulent wave of anti-Western sentiment, with democracy portrayed as trickery and an ideology of domination. If democracy existed, Hassan Al-Banna asked, how could there be colonialism? He concluded that Muslim countries do not need the West but instead need to renew their political systems in their own way. You could say that there was a move from a watchword of modernizing Islam to another, which preaches an Islamization of modernity. For example, instead of defending the parliamentary system, we turn to the Koran and substitute the word choura for the word barlaman. But choura has nothing to do with parliamentarianism. It is not founded on elections or equality, but is simply a matter of consultation, to guide the prince in making decisions.

How were these ideas received?

At first, the Muslim Brotherhood experienced repression, nationalist tyranny and the emergence of the post-colonial totalitarian State. Despotism has traditionally taken place where there is little State intervention. But in an age of technical progress, all Arab countries have moved towards maximum state intervention. The model of the party-State has triumphed. And the fundamentalists have gained ground as this model has reached its limits. They benefited from the failure of Arab nationalism, the defeat by Israel in 1967, the failure to develop and from the elimination of any form of political expression. The rise in power of the Saudi rulers after the 1973 oil crisis added a new element. Petrodollars helped the spectacular spread of a hard-line form of Islam, founded on a single orthopraxy: the strict observance of prayer became the basis of social censure and wiped out local practices in favour of a uniform Islam.

But how did we veer towards terrorism?

The end of Nasserism and the arrival in power of Sadat in Egypt saw a migration of semi-literate Egyptians to Saudi Arabia, where the Muslim Brotherhood had married their ideas with those of Wahhabism. Then there was a second, explosive, encounter in Afghanistan. Egyptians, Saudis and Pakistanis joined together in the jihad, orchestrated and supervised by the United States to fight against the Soviet invasion. You know what happened next.

How do you see the future?

Today, the Muslim world is in a state of civil war. But internal criticism is growing. The French revolution of 1789 was preceded by two centuries of intellectual effort. Faced with violence, critical thought is spreading, particularly in the Shi’ite world. In Iran, the concept of vilayat e-faqih introduced by Khomenei has been criticised by theologians. In Iraq, the idea of spiritual caliphate, which presupposes a separation of religion from politics, seems to be gaining ground among the Shi’ite majority. As for Saudi Arabia, if it does not want to implode it must resolve the contradiction between its religious discourse, which leads to anti-Western sentiment, and its geo-political alliance with the United States.

And which way is public opinion likely to lean?

Since the 1970s, a diffuse fundamentalism has developed in Arab-Muslim societies. But that may be beginning to ebb away. The terrorist attacks in several Muslim countries have shocked the public. The challenge now is to separate Islam from Islamism. We must make sure that Islam plays a role in the war against fundamentalism.

We need to know much more than we have cared to so far.

COMMENT:  Clayton Northcutt (aka Deus Lo Vult/Thomas)

October 30, 2006 at 7:29 pm

Great to see a little disagreement still can be the catalyst for healthy discussion in this day and age.

I would agree with you, 100%, that North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia do not honour freedom of speech, and I ask this question: how many Sheikhs do they have preaching the ‘justification’ of rape? [Probably quite a few in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Clayton, and none in North Korea!] And another question: how many Cardinals do they have saying just as offensive things? Then again, how many people are actually speaking in those countries with as much freedom as us?

But if it meant me giving up the ability to offend another person at the benefit of another offending me, I’ll be honest, I’d be happy with that. I don’t agree that everyone should be gagged, but there should exist some form of censorship. It’s almost as if that word’s double meaning is socially offensive. But looking at it objectively, there could be rules and regulations that apply and prevent someone from saying bullshit like the two cases brought up here, while still being able to exercise (not as) free speech. Critiquing government, discussing politics, debates and the like do not offend people if done correctly. It is only when someone actively seeks out to offend another that it goes wrong.

And, as a side note, if anyone, the Sheikh, an adviser, a contemporary, thought that saying the shit he said wouldn’t offend anyone, or wasn’t sure, he shouldn’t have said it, or cleared it with someone. Anyone. And the same goes for the Cardinal. It is a simple fact of society that you cannot say those sorts of things. The sad fact is, however, that some people do and some people continue to get away with it, which is testament to how much of a disgrace mass media, politics, and societal views have become.

Anyway, all this is a tad long for a comment, and not long enough for a post, so perhaps I’ll extrapolate on my views of freedom of speech so that the (thought) context I am writing in is much more clearer, and anything I might say here (that possibly offends anyone, which is sincerely not my intentions, otherwise that would make me a hypocrite (a title, though, I am much accustomed to)) is understood to its fullest extent.

And a side not to balance out both sides, you did something pretty close to a miracle Ninglun. Welcome back (for what such an illustrious link on my blog is worth). [Thanks, Clayton.]

Clayton Northcutt.

Footnote from Ninglun.

Go to Planet Irf (Irfan Yusuf) who finishes his latest post with this quote:

Perhaps the most colourful comment comes from one Canberra Muslim who e-mailed this to me: “Hilaly with two similar sphincter muscles at either end and nothing but **** comes out at either end I don’t whether to laugh or cry at his outburst; who needs enemies when we have this loose cannon on board. He should be reprimanded by Muslims first then others.”

Now playing: Lang Lang

21 OCT 2006

Lang_LangThere’s such a lot of dross on TV we forget what a boon the medium can be at times. It is just delightful to find a real treasure. Such was my experience just now when I happened to turn on SBS at 4pm and caught a German documentary, Lang Lang: Pianist of the Middle Kingdom.

A portrait of China’s exceptional concert pianist, Lang Lang. When he was two years old, his father spent half his annual income to buy him a piano. He started playing by ear and when he was three years old started having proper lessons. Now he is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and is recognised for his explosive showmanship and extraordinary skill. Throughout the program, interviews with the artist are interspersed with performances from childhood to the present and ending with one where he performs a Chinese composition, accompanied by his father on a traditional monochord.

“Monochord” actually refers to that most beautiful of instruments, the erhu (pronounced arr-hoo). God, what a pianist, and what a personality!

You will find a profile on Chinadaily.com.cn and can even listen to him play! There is an interview on CNN transcribed here; in the intro it is said: “His name is Lang Lang. And Lang Lang is about to catch fire. Some major critics and conductors believe Lang Lang may very well be the most talented pianist of his generation.” He was born in 1982.

Visit Lang Lang’s official website. Hear him there too, playing some Chinese music. In the documentary, Daniel Barenboim seemed in awe at his talent. I can see why.

COMMENT: marcelproust

October 22, 2006 at 12:42 am

You missed him! He played in Sydney (to enthusiastic and Chinese-packed crowds) in August 2004. I missed him too, as I was in Perth.

Little things that make blogging worthwhile

17 OCT 2006

I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to this blog. I really don’t think my rants, which are far from infallible anyway, will change the world, though I do believe that the blogosphere as a whole can have a great effect through the channels of communications it may open up. One instance of that is recounted on Jim Belshaw’s blog, and strangely it concerns me and a friend of mine. Through our blogs, Jim and I managed to bring together my friend the Aboriginal actor Kristina Nehm here in Surry Hills and the artist Stozo Da Klown in the USA.

Hi Jim!

I want to thank you for putting me in contact with Kristina, she wrote me and I am completely blown away how the internet works and world community is and just the mysteries of life timing etc. I have been surfing the net for years 20 to be exact well that was even before this internet thing etc. She was a dear lost friend and our connection was priceless for me…

mega thanks!!

I would love to refer you to Jim’s account of this, but at the moment Blogspot is producing, not for the first time:


But it is the comment Ahmad has just added here that prompted my thought this morning: see Meanwhile in a country far away… Thanks, Ahmad.

Meanwhile in a country far away…

11 OCT 2006

Ahmad of MyScribbles is a young Afghan refugee in Pakistan. In his latest post he writes:

Just a notice to tell you that in the last few weeks I have been busy preparing for the SAT–the entrance examination for American universities. It’s now time to take it. The test is very, very important for my future as its result will determine whether or not I will be able to get into a U.S. college, and, subsequently, study journalism.

The test center is in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. It is going to take me a gruelling, 26-hour bus ride to get there. Things are not easy, but I will do my best.

I know he likes Cricket and is not too fond of the Taliban. He also writes well, so I find it hard to think he won’t get his SAT, even though it is, alas, a rather silly test.

So good luck, Ahmad.

COMMENT: MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan

October 17, 2006 at 5:18 am

Thank you, Ninglun, for the post. Your words give me courage and stimulate me to work harder. Sometimes our vision gets blurred and we lose sight of our pesonal characteristics that set us apart; everytime we need an adjustment to put everything back into perspective.

The test passed well and I hope I will get a good result.

SEQUEL 2016 on Ahmad Shuja

Ahmad Shuja

See this from ABC Radio’s Sunday Night program in June 2016.

Ahmad Shuja is the Afghanistan research assistant in the Asia division of the international non-government organisation Human Rights Watch.

His own family were refugees in the 1990’s, and he did some of his growing up in exile in Pakistan. Accentless English reveals he’s been studying English since 9 years of age, and completed his University education in the USA.

Ahmad now monitors the human rights situation in Afghanistan, researching the broader issues facing the country and its religious communities, as well as issues involving Afghans in the diaspora. He spoke to Sunday Nights’ Noel Debien about what it will mean if Australia tries to send back up to 10,000 Afghan refugees who’ve arrived in Australia by boat, and how unsafe and unstable Afghanistan remains

I note a September 2016 article in the Lowy Interpreter: Afghanistan Conflict Fuels Desperate Journeys.

…Some Afghans, desperate like Ibrahim, have set out for Australia and Europe. When they reach their destination, they are often classified as economic migrants and get a hostile reception. But if they are forced to return to Afghanistan, they can face both danger and destitution.

More than 300 of Afghanistan’s 384 districts are no longer secure, according to the Afghan government. Increased fighting has led to massive displacement. From January to March, about 90,000 people were displaced from 23 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces due to conflict. By July, the year’s tally had grown to 182,000 people from 29 provinces across the country. There are now 1.2 million internally displaced people across Afghanistan and this will increase…

The Australian government warns would-be travellers that no part of Afghanistan he country can be considered free from conflict-related violence,’ but it has been returning Hazara minority asylum seekers and producing multimillion dollar films to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia.

Afghans who are forced to return may face significant and growing risk of serious harm, including indiscriminate violence and destitution. Australia has tried to address this by offering generous return packages, but money can’t buy safety, jobs or social support.

The Afghan government’s already limited capacity to assist returnees has been stretched even thinner by the increasing crisis of internal displacement, lack of funds, and corruption…