Recycled: pictures from four years ago

Selected from Monthly Archives: April 2013.

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Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Wollongong

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Macedonian Orthodox Church Saint Dimitrija Solunski, Wollongong

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Thistle, West Wollongong

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Mount Kembla from West Wollongong

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Vanishing “birdcage”– Wollongong Mall

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West Wollongong house on the move

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At the Kiama Jazz and Blues Festival in March 2013

I can’t get too stirred up by…

That storm in a middy glass about Coopers and the Bible Society. I am simply not offended. Why should I be?

Update: Compare John Birmingham:

But having lost seven minutes of my life I’ll never get back again – thanks a lot Bible Society – I  came away thinking the outrage was misplaced. The debate was even-handed, if a little anodyne and wilfully ignorant of the real and violent passions this topic arouses, especially among Twitter eggs with 12 followers.

But WTAF were these two numpties doing shooting a promo spot for a beer company within the grounds of Parliament House? Or anywhere, for that matter?

They could have been debating which of Buffy’s boyfriends was the worst for the 20-year anniversary of the most important show on television and it would still have been bizarrely inappropriate to sit there necking the product of an industry they’re responsible for regulating.

But nobody seems to be talking about that.

Update 2: Equal Marriage advocate Rodney Croome on Facebook

I don’t understand the objections to this filmed marriage equality debate between two Liberal MPs sponsored by Cooper’s beer to commemorate the founding of the Bible Society. It promotes civility in the marriage equality debate. It shows there is a divergence of opinion in the Liberal Party (implicitly making the case for a free vote). Most of all it helps get the pro-equality message to people of faith who may not have heard that message, especially from a Liberal. Some LGBTI people may feel uncomfortable about the involvement of the Bible Society, but whether we like it or not it has stake in this debate. Some may not like the involvement of Cooper’s, but unlike the bulk of the businesses that say they support marriage equality Cooper’s is at least playing an active in the debate….

Second, much as I rejected the notorious Bill Leak cartoon as a throwback to even more racist times, I cannot find joy in putting a self-righteous boot into the now dead cartoonist. I didn’t watch #QandA last night. I rarely do these days. Apparently this happened:

“And we need to have control of those stories. I need to be able to put something out there and go, ‘That’s not all Aboriginal fathers. That’s not all Aboriginal women. That’s not all mothers.’ I am a mother first and foremost. I don’t identify as an Aboriginal mother. I’m a mother. I was mortified when I saw that particular cartoon.”

Adelaide Festival director Neil Armfield – who directed Yovich in The Secret River – said: “I knew Bill. And enjoyed his company. Respected him. I thought those cartoons in The Australian were despicable. I think that as he grew older he became more and more, for whatever reason, sort of narrowed into a corner. And I thought that he was playing into an attitude which was completely the attitude of the racist and the powerful. And that he was ignoring the inheritance of rage and pain that those social situations that he was … showing in his cartoon are the result of.”

Then the audience protests erupted, screams of: “Bill Leak is racist.”

Host Ballard moved to calm things. And then it was back to Mem Fox.

“I looked and I thought, ‘Bill, Bill, no, please, no’. And I loved Bill Leak’s cartoons. And I thought they were fabulous. But … there is another word for political correctness. And it is a simple word. It’s called politeness.”

There is politeness, and then there is politics, and then there is art. As Q&A showed once more, we are surely bound never to agree on where the boundaries of each of them are properly drawn.

Fair comments, except for the howls of the audience. I find those howls offensive and somewhat pharisaical.

Now for something that made me proud of my country. And I wouldn’t mind betting he eats halal food…

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NSW Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson (far right) with the recently sworn in Local Court Magistrates Julie Soars (left) and Imad Abdul-Karim at the Downing Centre Local Court. Photo: Kate Geraghty, Sydney Morning Herald.

He fled war-torn Lebanon aged 14 with his family and learned to speak English in an annex to Beverly Hills Girls High School.

More than a few pairs of eyes were suspiciously moist in the Local Court as former Sydney prosecutor Imad Abdul-Karim was sworn in as a magistrate…

A former Commonwealth prosecutor who oversaw high-profile terrorism cases, including Operation Pendennis which uncovered jihadist cells in Melbourne and Sydney, Mr Abdul-Karim joked that “I lost my hair working on some of these matters”…

Mr Abdul-Karim’s eyes shone with tears as he thanked his late mother Salwa, who came from a “poor and illiterate” background and went on to become a teacher, first in Lebanon and then in Australia.

His voice also cracked as he paid tribute to his wife and “best friend” Salma, an honours law graduate who made “many sacrifices” to allow him “selfishly” to pursue his legal career.

Arthur Moses, SC, the senior vice-president of the Bar Association, said it gave him “added pleasure as a child of Lebanese parents who fled their country to the safety and prosperity of this country as teenagers” to speak at Mr Abdul-Karim’s swearing-in ceremony.

“Upon arrival in Australia as a teenager Your Honour was fluent in Arabic and French – but did not speak a single word of English,” Mr Moses said…

Mr Abdul-Karim worked as a taxi driver and a kitchen hand to support his young family while he studied Science at the University of Wollongong and later at Western Sydney University Law School, where he was in the first class of graduates…

SBS: Is Australia Racist?

Just to remind you: here is a Friday market day in The Gong:

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And here is some of what I saw on SBS last night: I thought it was great!

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That last one:

A middle aged man has been secretly filmed as he abused a young Muslim woman in a niqab during SBS’s new show, Is Australia Racist.

“Where’s your f—ing face? What are you hiding from? F—ing Allah?” a white man in his 50s can be heard yelling at a woman whose garment only allows her eyes to be made visible to the public.

It is just one of many incidents of racism and bigotry highlighted during the hour-long documentary presented by Ray Martin.

The abuser in the above incident had no idea the veiled woman, Afghan refugee Rahila Haidary, was a volunteer for the SBS program.

The man approached Haidary in the street and almost immediately began to verbally attack her in full view of stunned onlookers.

“You’re in my face like that,” the man yells.

“You’re in our country because we helped save you from where you came from, from where you’ve been persecuted and you wear things like that.”

The woman responded by asking the man how she should dress. He retorted she should dress like other Australians.

Charming eh! See also SBS’s Is Australia Racist? exposes a shocking insight into everyday bigotryIs Australia Racist? SBS documentary makes for uncomfortable viewing and Is Australia Racist? Ray Martin thinks he has the answer, but you may not agree.

“I don’t think we’re racist,” says Ray Martin, who presents the one-hour documentary of that name that kicks off SBS’s Face Up to Racism week. “I think our attitudes are generally much better than they were. The discussion of racism, of anti-discrimination, of reconciliation and so on is far more widespread and stronger than it was when I was a kid.”…

This latest show combines the findings of an academic survey into attitudes about race and racism with some hidden camera stunts to illustrate those findings. So we see a black-skinned woman in African dress being harassed in public by two young white women. We see a woman in niqab (a veil covering the head and face, but not the eyes) confronted by an angry white man in a town square. We see how people respond to an African man who greets football fans outside the MCG with a placard reading “Stop Racism Now”….

All of which might lead to the conclusion that yes, Australia is indeed racist. But then you have the results of this survey of 6001 Australians, conducted by Professor Kevin Dunn at Western Sydney University, that point the other way. To some degree, at least.

It found that 80.4 per cent of respondents believe “it is a good thing for a society to be made up of different cultures”, 77 per cent believe “something should be done to minimise or fight racism in Australia”, and 76 per cent “would stand up for someone who was being discriminated against” on the basis of their culture, ethnicity or religion.

The hidden camera results suggest that yes, indeed, some people would stand up for someone being victimised because of their ethnicity. And for Philp, that was a positive. “It was good to know that people would stick up for me,” she says….

…there are fewer people who think they are prejudiced against other cultures (62.7 per cent) than there are thinking there is racism in Australia (79.3 per cent). It’s always someone else who is at fault, not me.

And that, says Martin, is where this show helps shine a light on the contradictions and the consequences around the question of our disputed racism.

“The value of doing a show like this is that it focuses on real people,” he says. “It focuses on the injustice of people saying these knee-jerk things without thinking about it – without realising how hurtful and dangerous it is.”

Some might be wondering how Muslims become part of the show’s brief; after all, Muslims are not a race, are they? The answer is that there is such a thing as cultural racism: see Muslims Aren’t A Race, So I Can’t Be Racist, Right? Wrong.

Need more proof that Islamophobia is a form of cultural racism? Consider the experience of Inderjit Singh Mukker. Mukker was assaulted in September 2015 for “looking Muslim”; he was dragged out of his car and beaten to a pulp by a man screaming “you’re a terrorist, bin Laden!” The twist here is that Mukker is not even Muslim; he is Sikh. The perpetrator of this crime looked at Mukker’s turban and thought “he’s a Muslim. He’s dangerous.” A cultural symbol, in this case, was used as a signifier to judge an entire group of people, however wrongly. Is this racism? Most definitely. Even Sikhs suffer from Islamophobia.

Ultimately, the issue here is “racism without race,” as sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls it. The more we assume that race is limited to skin color, the less we understand about contemporary racism faced by Muslims at home and abroad. Now is the time to teach youth that racism is much more than the white-black dichotomy. Racism is changing in its form, but the beast is still very much alive and well.

And here and now in Oz we have rancid groups like the Q Society, and worse. For a thorough demolition of the Q Society and all its works see Inside the sick, sad world of the Q Society and the Australian Liberty Alliance, a must-read if ever there was.

So, again, why the concern from the Q Society and others on the political far right?

Josh Roose, the director of the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Australian Catholic University, puts it down to “paranoia”. This paranoia has strange expressions.

In 2011, the Liberal member for Cowan, Western Australia, Luke Simpkins, presented a petition in federal parliament on behalf of constituents concerned that unlabelled halal food was so common in Australian supermarkets that “you cannot purchase the meat for your Aussie barbecue without the influence of this minority religion”.

He used the occasion to show off his knowledge of Islam, quoting Mohammed: “The nonbelievers will become Muslims when, amongst other things, they eat the meat that we have slaughtered.”

Simpkins emphasised the point. “This is one of the key aspects to converting nonbelievers to Islam,” he said. “By having Australians unwittingly eating halal food we are all one step down the path towards the conversion…”

That is plain bonkers. But then I may be a “victim”: see my post Munching halal and Japanese bikers again!

Update on Q Society and halal paranoia

See Q Society, Australian Liberty Alliance campaigner apologise to Halal director.

The anti-Islam Q Society and Australian Liberty Alliance campaigner Kirralie Smith have apologised to the director of a Halal certification company, settling defamation proceedings out of court.

Mohamed El-Mouelhy, Chairman of the Halal Certification Authority, claimed that a video now removed from YouTube implied that he was “part of a conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation from within” and “reasonably suspected of providing financial support to terrorist organisations”.

Those behind the video have apologised for the imputations.

“The Q Society, its board members and Kirralie Smith apologise to Mr El-Mouehly for the hurt caused to him as a result of the publications,” they said in a joint statement to the NSW Supreme Court.

“In light of the above apology Mr El-Mouehly withdraws the comments he made about the Q Society, its board members and Kinalie Smith.”

The apology comes after a two-year legal battle.

Inevitable outcome given the sheer idiocy of the premise of the action.

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.

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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.

TONY JONES
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?

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

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
So do you know what sharia law is?

JACQUI LAMBIE
Yes. But it does not have…

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
Do you know what it is? Me praying…

JACQUI LAMBIE
Are you for sharia law?

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
Of course! Me praying five times a day is sharia.

JACQUI LAMBIE
OK.

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
Like basic… Do you…

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

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
That is completely separate from Islam!

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

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
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…

JACQUI LAMBIE
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!…

TONY JONES
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?

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

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
Oh, girl!

JACQUI LAMBIE
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.

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
Oh, no.

JACQUI LAMBIE
Stop playing the victim. It’s enough….

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED
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?

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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.

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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…