On keeping one’s head

One sees images like this, and much much worse, far too often. I so wish that in the 21st century something so demented would vanish from the face of the planet, which really has bigger problems to confront.


Last night on Facebook I found myself addressing related matters in an exchange with a friend who is far too attracted to the “patriots” in our midst, in my opinion. The exchange was civil at least. Partly it arose from last Monday’s #QandA on ABC. I didn’t watch it, preferring to listen to music instead. However, this is the now famous bit.

Jacqui, can I just interrupt? Did you say to the advocate in Tasmania that we should follow Donald Trump’s example by deporting all Muslims who support sharia law?

Yep, that’s correct. Anybody that supports sharia law in this country should be deported.

So do you know what sharia law is?

Yes. But it does not have…

Do you know what it is? Me praying…

Are you for sharia law?

Of course! Me praying five times a day is sharia.


Like basic… Do you…

What about equal rights for women?! What about…?!

That is completely separate from Islam!

So you can be a sharia law supporter and be half pregnant at the same time?! Come on!

What are you talking about? You are talking about stuff you don’t know anything… OK, I’m not…I’m not going to attack you personally. My frustration is that people talk about Islam without knowing anything about it and they’re willing to completely negate any of my rights as a human being, as a woman, as a person with agency simply because they have an idea about what my faith is about. Excuse me, Islam, to me, is one of the most…is THE most feminist religion, right? We got equal rights well before the Europeans. We don’t take our husband’s last names because we ain’t their property, right? We were given the right to own land. We are… Like, the fact is what is culture is separate from what is faith and the fact people go around dissing my faith without knowing anything about it and want to chuck me out of a country… I have done…and Muslims… The fact is, Jacqui, I agree…

The fact is we have one law in this country and it is the Australian law. It is not sharia law. Not in this country!…

Let me just put this to you. Do you accept that some of the things you say can come across as being quite hateful to others?

To a minority. If that’s a minority but this is for the majority. This is what the majority want…

Oh, girl!

The majority want to feel safe, be safe. And Donald Trump, if he wants to put that and put those on hold for three months, he has every right to do so until he can work out exactly what is going on. If that’s gonna keep America safer, just like it’s going to keep Australia… Stop playing the victim. Stop playing the victim. We’ve had enough.

Oh, no.

Stop playing the victim. It’s enough….

The thing is, Jacqui, is that national security experts around the world have said that these sort of bans are the things that make countries less safe. It’s not me saying it, it’s actual experts, right?


Strangely, I rather like Jacqui Lambie.  She is expressing views that appear to be widely held, but Yassmin Abdel-Magied has in my view the better arguments.  You might care to listen to a Radio National podcast  Understanding Islam.

Are fundamentalist laws written into the Koran? Do caliphates even exist as a political system? What was the prophet’s view on women speaking up? How much is Western culture is derived from the Abrahamic religions and traditions? And are some core Islamic values at odds with the contemporary materialistic world? A panel of experts tries to explain Islam.

The link at the end there is also well worth following up.  And to my Facebook friend I commended this old post of mine.

. But then Christianity too has its “sword verses”: Matthew 10:34 for example.

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

But that does continue thus:

40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

On the Redemptorists’ site Bruce Duncan wrote a while ago:

Threats from the self-styled Islamic State to kill Australians randomly on the street or wherever by any means possible have shocked us all. The threats were not just  against Australians, nor only against westerners, but against other Muslims, even Sunnis who refused to bow to the IS, and especially against the modernising Muslims and the political elites in Muslim countries.

It appears that Islamic State is trying to unleash a global war between Muslims and non-Muslims, believing that the final apocalyptic battle against the ‘crusaders’ or ‘Romans’ to be fought at Dabiq in northern Iraq will usher in a new golden age. Many Muslims in the Middle East believe that this battle will occur within decades…

Our political leaders need to be very careful not to talk of the conflict in terms reminiscent of a crusade, or as a struggle between the forces of outright good and evil. Yes, IS fighters have committed barbarous atrocities against thousands of innocent people, including many women and children. Perpetrators of these crimes need to be brought to justice and tried according to the laws of war as massive human rights abuses. But the perpetrators still remain human beings. Though they have done atrocious acts, they are not the embodiment of Evil.

This is not a trivial point. A danger is that we in the West would fall into a mentality that depicts IS and similar Islamists groups as ‘pure evil’ or a demonic force that has to be totally eradicated. In the Muslim world, this draws on memories of the crusades with both sides fighting in the name of God against opponents seen as being the forces of anti-God….

In addition, foreign intervention exacerbates older notions in Islamic belief that if non–Muslims attack a Muslim country, Muslims elsewhere are required to come to the defence of the realm of Faith and repel invaders. This helps explain why the Islamists are able to attract tens of thousands of overseas Muslims to fight and perhaps die. You can see how counter-productive Australian military intervention in Iraq might be in such a context.

Instead of rushing into military engagement in Iraq, Australia should be pushing diplomatic initiatives through the United Nations and perhaps supporting an arms embargo. Instead of recently ending our development assistance to Iraq and committing hundreds of millions of dollars to military action, Australia could play a directly humanitarian role funding urgent relief for millions of refugees, and expanding our refugee intake back up to 20,000 instead of the recent reduction down to 13,750.

It will be up to the wider Muslim community to resolve the jihadist movements, interpreting the Koran and Muslim traditions for contemporary circumstances in ways that can sustain in peace and justice not just the worldwide Muslim community, but all others as well. These jihadist groups bring disgrace on themselves and dishonour their faith in the eyes of the world.

Such views are manifestly wise, but sometimes it seems no-one is listening.


When Jacqui Lambie says (with many others) “The fact is we have one law in this country and it is the Australian law” she  is half right, but the fact is we also have Canon Law for Catholics, Halacha for Jews, not to mention the sometimes vexed relation between the law observed in many Indigenous communities and wider Australian law. Sharia (which simply means “law”) is indeed part of Islam, but exactly what that means to actual practitioners of the faith varies enormously.

Finally, and there will be Muslims offended by this, I commend an article from 1999 in The Atlantic Monthly. I actually first read it way back then!  Very interesting.

The mainly secular effort to reinterpret the Koran—in part based on textual evidence such as that provided by the Yemeni fragments—is disturbing and offensive to many Muslims, just as attempts to reinterpret the Bible and the life of Jesus are disturbing and offensive to many conservative Christians. Nevertheless, there are scholars, Muslims among them, who feel that such an effort, which amounts essentially to placing the Koran in history, will provide fuel for an Islamic revival of sorts—a reappropriation of tradition, a going forward by looking back. Thus far confined to scholarly argument, this sort of thinking can be nonetheless very powerful and—as the histories of the Renaissance and the Reformation demonstrate—can lead to major social change. The Koran, after all, is currently the world’s most ideologically influential text…

Gerd-R. Puin’s current thinking about the Koran’s history partakes of this contemporary revisionism. “My idea is that the Koran is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammad,” he says. “Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Even within the Islamic traditions there is a huge body of contradictory information, including a significant Christian substrate; one can derive a whole Islamic anti-history from them if one wants.”

Patricia Crone defends the goals of this sort of thinking. “The Koran is a scripture with a history like any other—except that we don’t know this history and tend to provoke howls of protest when we study it. Nobody would mind the howls if they came from Westerners, but Westerners feel deferential when the howls come from other people: who are you to tamper with their legacy? But we Islamicists are not trying to destroy anyone’s faith.”…

Trouble is, you see, I really don’t think God has ever written or uttered a book, any book! And yes there are those who would separate me from my head for that. I prefer however not to diss all practitioners of Islam by careless talk. I think I would rather say that I, and many of them, utterly oppose all homicidal fanatics.

Update 1

More on Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

. So will Ms Abdel-Magied appear on Q&A again? She takes a moment to answer.

“I think if invited again I’d be willing to participate because I think it’s an incredible platform to have very interesting conversations, but I also … would want to acknowledge the concerns raised by members of the Muslim community and encourage other people who may have taken issue with the way that it was managed to write to the ABC or to raise concerns and be like hey, this kind of personal attack and that kind of thing makes for good theatre, and maybe that’s also part of the show, [but] it’s something that we need to think about,” she said.

“I bet there are people in your family who think the things Jacqui Lambie thinks. I bet there are people in your circle. Maybe they don’t talk about it, but there probably are. They’re going to listen to you more than they’re going to listen to me, so have conversations with them. Have an impact on the world around you.”

Update 2

See Explainer: what is ‘sharia law’? And does it fit with Western law?  by  Christopher van der Krogt, Lecturer in Religious Studies, Massey University.

Update 3 — 17 Feb

Ruby Hamid in The Sydney Morning Herald.

It is clear to me that when Lambie talks of “Sharia law” she is referring to the regressive dogma enforced in the criminal codes of some Muslim-majority countries, while to liberal Muslims like Abdel-Magied, Sharia is about private, personal ethics.

It shouldn’t be that difficult to make a distinction between the two and it could be as simple as qualifying the difference between criminal Sharia law, or hudud, and the private moral code…

As long as we fail to make this simple but vital distinction, Muslims will continue to be demonised and the real issue will continue to be missed.

That issue is the very real discrepancy between how Islam is practiced in places that (for now anyway) enshrine freedom of the religion within the context of civil law, and the way it is enforced in many Muslim-majority countries, where criminal Sharia law is used as a pretext for control over the masses…

That Islam is feminist may be true in theory, and in the context of when Islam was formed. Unfortunately though, the interpretation of Islam increasingly followed in many parts of the world means this is simply not the case anymore.

This has to be acknowledged because, although we can argue theology all day, concerned and fearful non-Muslims are not looking at the theory or history of Islam – they are looking at the law in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran and Pakistan, all of which claim to be Islamic, and they use this as a basis to attack Islam as a faith…