On the Revenant of Oz inoculating us against common sense…

The Revenant is back in form.

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The latest:

Senator Hanson had made the comments earlier today while defending her social media post urging Australians to pray for a Muslim ban after yesterday’s London attack.

“Let me put it this way, we have a disease, we vaccinate ourself against it,” she said.

“Islam is a disease we need to vaccinate ourself against that.”

The response from government and others has been swift, as it should be:

The Deputy Prime Minister slammed Senator Hanson’s comments as “bat-poo crazy stuff” and “plain dumb”.

“You can’t say stuff like that, you just can’t. It’s mad,” Mr Joyce said.

I didn’t watch #QandA last night, opting to read and listen to music instead. But apparently some relevant things were said there.

It was not the only time Chikarovski was on clean-up duty. She also deftly dispatched a questioner wondering what could be done about the effort by Muslims “to establish a worldwide caliphate”.

Chikarovski, in summary: “It’s not going to happen.”

In all, it was a night that required panellists to have their wits about them. This much was clear from the git-go, when the opening question began: “In the wake of the London terror attacks in Westminster, the Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan, stated terror attacks are now part and parcel of living in a big city…”

Mr Khan said no such thing last week. He made a similar remark last September – only to find it resurrected out of context by Donald Trump Jr in recent days, and bafflingly resurrected again last night on Q&A.

“He didn’t say that, right?” A hat-tip to panellist Peter Holmes a Court for heading this particular bit of fake news off at the pass, albeit several minutes beyond the point at which it should ever have been let loose.

Here is a heartening story, definitely not fake. Women formed a human chain along Westminster Bridge tonight to remember the victims of the attack on March 22. We need to “inoculate” ourselves against the likes of The Revenant with what these women have!

Participants in the Women's March, gather on Westminster Bridge to hold hands in silence, to remember victims of the attack in Westminster earlier in the week, in London

Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone has a good piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

We hope for and, I think, are entitled to expect a higher standard from our elected representatives. Why on earth did Pauline Hanson rush out with her “pray4muslim immigration ban#”?…

The radical Islamists are engaging in a war for the hearts and minds of the next generation. We, the West, will not win that war with guns and bombs alone.They will have their place. If you fail to stand up to your enemy you will be crushed. The battle for hearts and minds will certainly not be won by taunting and insulting those the radicals want to win over.

Throwing gravel in the face of normal decent Muslims just makes some of them, and particularly their children much more vulnerable to the messages from the radicals.

Hanson’s constant knocking of all Muslims just plays right into the hands of the very people we should be afraid of. They don’t have to convince Muslim children that they’re not liked by the West when there are Members of Parliament happy to go out there and do it for them. Hanson doesn’t mean to help the radical islamists. Nobody could suggest that. But that doesn’t change the fact that what she does or says does in fact help them.

My reading last night continued with the excellent Graeme Wood, The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. I have found his What ISIS Really Wants on The Atlantic. I commend it to you as a condensed version of the book. I find him learned, convincing and enlightening.

Virtually every  major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal…

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims….

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one….

Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether. Barack Obama himself drifted into takfiri waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims. Non-Muslims’ practicing takfir elicits chuckles from jihadists (“Like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice to others,” one tweeted).

I suspect that most Muslims appreciated Obama’s sentiment: the president was standing with them against both Baghdadi and non-Muslim chauvinists trying to implicate them in crimes. But most Muslims aren’t susceptible to joining jihad. The ones who are susceptible will only have had their suspicions confirmed: the United States lies about religion to serve its purposes….

In the light of all that The Revenant’s nostrums make no sense at all!

London

Cannot be avoided this morning: London terrorist attack turned tourist landmark into scene of horror and from a fellow-blogger, Stephen Liddell in London.

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Happening to the day on the first anniversary of Brussels. Terrible, but London has survived much worse, and I think it is fair to say the authorities there have been very capable and measured in their response thus far.

Attacks like this are highly unpredictable but also highly likely. While the imminent elimination of ISIS also seems likely, the ideology it represents continues and will continue. And here we must be very specific and take the trouble to transcend blanket judgments about an entire religion and a quarter of the world’s population.

My reading lately has assisted me in getting better at that. First came Gabriele Marranci’s cool anthropological take in Wars of Terror (2016). Marranci is Australian — Macquarie University in fact. You can get a feel for his work in posts like Indefinite detention for advocating jihadi violence (2015).

Next is my current Wollongong Library borrowing, Graeme Wood, The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State (2017). It is a good read too, which helps, and I am finding it rings true with my own past encounters with the theology of advocates of what some would label extremism, in my case posted in 2004-2006 for example: Wolves in sheep’s clothing on an extremist Islamic mission.

See this Council on Foreign Relations launch of ‘The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State’.

ROSE: Explain for a second what a caliphate is.

WOOD: And a caliphate—a caliphate is a—it is a resurrection of an institution that most people think was—has been extinct since 1924 when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished by the republican Turks. But it is a Muslim state that is led by one person, who is a caliph, which—a word which literally means a successor, successor usually considered to the prophet Muhammad as the political leader of Muslims all coming together.

So what ISIS—what they did by declaring a caliphate, for many of the people I spoke to, was—it’s as if they switched a light on. There was suddenly an entity that required the allegiance of all Muslims, caused them to be required, obliged individually to come to fight under the direction of the caliph.

ROSE: So, like, they send out a big bat signal, and now everybody has to come?

WOOD: It’s the ultimate jihadist bat sign, that’s right. And sure enough, you know, that’s what we observed from 2013 and then really in force once the declaration happened in 2014 up until the point where the bat sign turned out to be too dangerous to heed. Like, the Islamic State actually said, if you follow the bat sign, apparently you’re going to get killed, stopped, arrested; we’d rather you ignore it and then just attack where you are.

ROSE: You said that this is Islamic, but it’s a kind of oddball or extreme or not universally accepted operationalization of some strands of Islam. Is that basically correct?

WOOD: Yeah, it—

ROSE: And how would you gloss that?

WOOD: It’s not just that I say it. That’s what ISIS itself says, that they recognize that their interpretation is an extreme minority among Muslims. And they say that that interpretation, that means that most Muslims who have actively rejected them—which is most Muslims—are no longer Muslims. So they—

ROSE: So by definition, if you’re a Muslim but don’t agree that this is the new caliphate, you are an apostate?

WOOD: They’ve got a long list of things that they say would nullify your Islam. And these include voting in an election, any kind of worship of a grave or a saint. These—it—the list just goes on and on and on. But yeah, being persnickety about these questions is really their favorite sport, and they practice it pretty avidly.

See also the NPR interview In ‘Way Of The Strangers,’ Wood Explores Why Young People Embrace ISIS.

WOOD: Yeah. John Georgelas came from a military family. And I think there was still a sense that the way to succeed was by succeeding in a kind of American military sort of way. And so when the parents saw their kid go off in a jihadist direction, they thought of him as a follower. And yet all the Islamic State supporters I had been in touch with thought of him as their leader. So to have this impressionable kid really find his footing and become the leader of a sect within a terrorist group I think is truly inconceivable for the parents to see.

MARTIN: Yeah, a horrible kind of position for a parent to be in. You write in the book that part of the West’s misunderstanding of ISIS is a kind of refusal to acknowledge its religious roots, that there is a theology behind all of the violence.

WOOD: Yes. I think that there is a strong urge to say that Islam has nothing to do with religion, that ISIS is a bunch of psychopaths, people with blades cutting off heads wantonly. Unfortunately that’s just not true. ISIS has looked into Islamic history with historical accuracy, with intellectual rigor. And that’s part of what has produced that group as well as its Muslim opponents.

MARTIN: How do they justify the violence?

WOOD: You’ll find some who will say the violence is temporary. We are Muslims who are reviving the faith and we have to do this in a fallen world, so we’ll cut off the hands of thieves right now. But once the Islamic State is stronger and people realize this is the punishment, we won’t have to cut off hands.

MARTIN: The violence is a way to peace?

WOOD: Yes. That’s what you find with the nicer ones. The less nice ones just say this is a wonderful thing. The violence is not something that needs to be explained except to say that our scripture says it must be so. And so when it happens, we should celebrate it.

I think Wood’s book is excellent. A site he commends has connections with scholars from Princeton, among others: it is Jihadica. Well worth a look.

Jihadica is a clearinghouse for materials related to militant, transnational Sunni Islamism, commonly known as Jihadism. At the moment, much of this material is diffuse, known only to a few specialists, and inaccessible to the public and policymakers unless they pay a fee. Jihadica provides this material for free and keeps a daily record of its dissemination that can be easily searched and studied. These records are accompanied by the expert commentary of people who have the requisite language training to understand the primary source material and advanced degrees in relevant fields.

Oh and please ignore groups such as our self-appointed “patriots” and One Nation. I recently unfriended someone on Facebook after he serially commended “patriot” gatherings and the latest anti-Muslim hysteria. I really don’t need to see that stuff when there is so much better out there. Serious knowledge we need, blanket Islamophobia we surely can do without.

Update:

I do not resile from this for one moment and never will, having seen the utterly useless response of the Revenant of Oz. On Facebook I have just posted “Pauline Hanson is a useless, ignorant, egomaniacal and counterproductive heap of shit. To put it mildly!” As I said, ignore One Nation!

Next day:  If anything I was too kind to this malignant carbuncle on the Australian body politic!

One year ago

Selections from March 2016.

More “Neil’s Decades” –9: 1946

GEM (Channel 82) shows quite a few antique movies. Yesterday I saw an amiable English comedy of which I had never heard, Quiet Weekend (1946).

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I became fascinated by the objects, the clothing, the cars – all of which transported me to earliest childhood, as I turned 3 in 1946.

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Me in 1945-6. Note the wings: my father had been in the RAAF to 1945.

This Canadian says of Quiet Weekend:

For anyone born in the UK before about 1935 (as I was) this movie will bring back memories of austerity, such as very few cars and very little food and primitive plumbing. We all had to make do with what we had; the top rate of income tax was around 95%. Nevertheless the middle classes had those delicious cut-glass English accents; “thanks” was pronounced “thenks”. The lower classes such as the old poacher, spoke their lines in broad accents and were usually considered to be comic characters.

That has all changed now. This movie is good entertainment but also of value to the social historians. It is the way the British coped with the rigors of victory after WW II, i.e. paying off the huge loans owed to the USA while trying to become a socialist society.

In 1946 I lived in Auburn Street Sutherland, which I memorably visited again in 2002: see a post from that time. See also from the early 2000s my reminiscence of life there. I have subsequently revisited and posted over the years. Here are some 2012 examples:

And on this blog Random Friday memory 21 – wind-up gramophone.

From my earliest Auburn Street post:

The table was in the back room, I suspect a closed-in verandah. On the right was the kitchen, with its fuel range and enormous electric Early Kooka stove with a Kookaburra logo on the oven door. On the left was a partitioned off area, partitioned with mahogany, behind which I and my brother slept in the last years we were in Auburn Street. At an earlier stage, my Uncle Roy must have had that room, as I was still in a cot in my parents’ room at the front of the house, and my brother was in a sleepout on the side verandah, an area somewhat prone to spiders.

Early Kooka!

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Sigh!

The Mad World of You Know Who on WIN/9 last night

Very glad to have watched WIN last night to see this, originally shown on the UK’s Channel 4:

The comment thread on YouTube is rather amazing. [Refers to the YouTube I originally linked to.] For example:

Apparently the American GOV think running a country is a game and enjoys screwing the people over everyday! Obama has screwed us the most..he has taxed the shit out of the middle class.we’ve disappeared …obama is a pot head..he and the rest of the mafia gov should be drug tested immediately…they have destroyed America.Trump will bring it back to a great nation..and we won’t be going to war for 15 god damn years!!!

This is typical anti-American propaganda video attacking the American people, Christians and poor people. The commentator tries to insult Christians by calling them evangelicals which Christ would regard as a compliment. He tries to portray Americans as racist when America has done more to eliminate slavery and racism than most any other nation. American is one of the most pluralistic and diverse nations in the world. The commentator tries to tries to stoke class hatred, even though America has done more to eliminate class distinctions than most any other nation. The commentator ignores the issues that Americans actually care about and just engages in ad hominem attack and slander against Donald Trump. He tries to subvert our election process.

Yes, another post on The Donald. I should know better. You can also watch the doco on the Channel Nine site at the moment, by the way. I urge you to watch it if you haven’t already.

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I was obviously impressed with German-born British doco maker Matt Frei’s expose of Trump, though the name was too tendentious. Rather less impressed was Irish reviewer Ian O’Doherty:

Of course, it’s not that difficult to make anything emerging from America look ridiculous and buffoonish but Frei took to his task with relish – Trump was portrayed variously as a dangerous nutter; a man who may have raped his first wife (until they read a statement from said woman denying the claims); a rich boy done bad; and did I mention dangerous nutter?

The problem with this approach was that it was guilty of the very accusation it was levelling at its subject – being utterly devoid of any nuance or complexity whatsoever.

There was nothing new to be learned here. Everybody knows that he came from wealthy stock. We were already well aware that his behaviour in Scotland was increasingly nasty, and, of course, we all know about his various verbal assaults on the aforementioned Kelly, prisoners of war and, most unpleasantly, his mocking mimicry of a disabled reporter. So, this was basically a potted history of Trump’s various outrages against common decency. But this was Comfort TV and much like comfort food, was designed to provide reassurance to the consumer.

In this case, it was made to reassure the viewers that they were right, all along, to think Trump is an idiot and his supporters are thick.

On the other hand:

Essentially a spoilt, buck-toothed and tubby little rich kid of a bully, as opposed to the deb’s delight into which he’s matured, he must have grown used early to John Q Normal crossing snake-strewn streets to avoid him. Over the decades, his personality matured as do the perfumes of prawns in a jockstrap. Frei was doing the telling, admittedly, but it could have been done by David Irving, David Starkey or the late Alan Clarke. The evidence made the nose wrinkle, whether it was his squandering of Daddy’s millions, his undeserved parachutes from bankruptcy, the crippling immaturity of his misogyny or his treatment of Scotland, though there was much tawdriness to that little tale.

The Trump in Scotland saga was news to me, I have to say.

The Republican Presidential candidate’s much-hyped Aberdeenshire golf course has been a loss-maker since it opened in 2012. He has also made similar threats of pulling investment after losing fights against local residents and failing to block plans for a local wind farm.

A final review of the documentary:

9. Critics made strongest case

Frei hit the campaign trail to conduct (mercifully brief) interviews with Trump’s growing army of exuberant supporters, but it was his detractors whose comments really resonated.

Muslim activist Jibril Hough, who was shown being forcibly ejected from two Trump rallies, said he was a “buffoon that has to be taken seriously”. Ex-Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens called Trump “a huckster, a fraud, a stark raving disaster for the Republican party. This isn’t a reality show, it’s running for President. These displays of stupidity and hate are dangerous.”

10. …But he could yet become President

Trump has already made a meteoric political rise and as we saw here, he’s tapping into the distrust and disenchantment of middle America. Frei, formerly the BBC’s Washington correspondent, said: “I have to say the last time I saw crowds as enthusiastic as this was for Barack Obama in 2008.” Gulp…

Frei’s film reminded us of the dark side beneath the Trump caricature and it was soberingly scary stuff.

It really isn’t too hard to see why so many in the USA are investing in Trump as a secular saviour. Not all is well in the USA, clearly. He offers hope, albeit very randomly articulated by the man himself, while endorsing all kinds of resentments.

Should, God forbid, he ever claim “the crown”, “make America great again” will go down in history as just another vacuous political slogan, one of the most egregious ever — because this is precisely what Donald J Trump will almost inevitably NOT do.

Must watch Citizen Kane again…

Postscript

Just saw Tom Switzer’s The rise of Donald Trump in the US has similarities to the rise of Pauline Hanson in Australia two decades ago.  Well worth reading.

…Both led nationalist movements railing against Washington and Canberra and appealing to voters abandoned by globalisation and betrayed by politicians. Trump reflects a deep-seated belief that Americans have lost the country they know and they want America to stand alone on top again. Hansonism was as much a reaction against Paul Keating’s cultural agenda as an isolationist backlash against Australia’s engagement with Asia.

Both have been purveyors of conservative red meat: thick, juicy cuts of the stuff. But both also blurred the ideological left-right divide. Hanson was an agrarian socialist, who opposed Telstra privatisation and foreign investment. Trump distinguishes himself from fellow Republicans by defending entitlement programs and attacking free-trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership…

Like Trump, Hanson was a political novice who rocked the nation’s establishment with repugnant views. Who can forget her claim that Asians were swamping Australia? Or Trump’s claim that Mexico is exporting its rapists and criminals to the US, not to mention his call for a ban on all Muslim immigrants? …

No words today

Except these.

Brussels: At least 31 people have been killed and hundreds injured in coordinated attacks on Brussels Airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital early on Tuesday, triggering security alerts across Europe and a manhunt for at least one suspect.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which occurred four days after Brussels police captured the prime surviving suspect in the Islamic State attacks on Paris, which killed 130 people in November…

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The good refugees

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“The Good Samaritan,” artwork by Dinah Roe Kendall, age 82, Sheffield, England.

This story seemed most appropriate to share today, especially given the overwhelming nature of recent stories from Europe. I found it lurking on page 13 of today’s print Sydney Morning Herald, but apparently it has been around for a few days. This version is from the UK Daily Telegraph.

A leading member of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party has thanked two Syrian refugees who came to the aid of another party member after he was seriously injured in a car crash.

Stefan Jagsch, 29, a candidate for the NPD in upcoming local elections, was seriously injured last week after he lost control of his car and crashed into a tree in the town of Büdingen.

Two vans carrying about 16 refugees stopped at the scene – and two Syrian men came to Jagsch’s aid, pulling him from the wreckage and providing first aid treatent while they waited for an ambulance.

They had reportedly left the scene by the time police arrived.

Regional NPD official Jean Christoph Fiedler praised the refugees for performing “a very good, humane act”, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reports…

Jagsch, writing on his Facebook page on Tuesday this week, stressed that he was unconscious at the time of the rescue, so couldn’t confirm or deny that the people who came to his assistance were Syrians.

However, he did give thanks to “all the people who were on the spot to help me.” …

Inspiring — teachers and schools, and terror

Great opinion piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald by Dr Michael Anderson, Professor of Education at The University of Sydney.

This is what we call 4C schools, and these schools exist. The 4Cs are creativity, critical reflection, collaboration and communication. In their classrooms and staffrooms, 4C schools are transforming learning and teaching through this quartet. But in these schools it takes will, energy, inquiry, courage and determination.

The 4C evolution is only just beginning in certain schools but it is always characterised by a climate of re-invigoration, excitement, challenge, difficulty, uncertainty and possibility.

However, this is not always the climate across all schools.

The onward march of NAPLAN, testing a limited set of ‘basics’ with its teach-to-the-test oppressions, and league tables, have transformed education into a much-reduced experience for teachers and students alike. This is professionally disappointing for teachers and it is a profound threat to the students in schools.

While we chase ever-increasing ‘accountability measures’ we are relegating the aspects of schooling that will prepare students for the realities of work and life in the 21st Century….

Compare my thoughts at This is the Naplan post that wasn’t… (2015).

It is Naplan season again and all those boring things that always get said are being said again. I was so pissed off by The Drum last night that I turned the TV off to prevent the wittering of some hack regurgitating the right wing propaganda about charter schools in the USA. Compare The truth about charter schools: Padded cells, corruption, lousy instruction and worse results.

So on Facebook I vented thus:

Naplan = craplan? I thought of doing a blog post about the annual stupidity that breaks out as so many who should know better think the Naplan ritual actually “measures” something. It does not. Even if it did, the fact there hasn’t been enough “improvement” means very little. Why not just say the the truth: things turn out pretty much as you can expect, and all the agonising is just pissing in the wind. I pretty much said this in 2008.

Better just to concentrate on substantive teaching and let all this politically motivated bureaucratic “measuring” crap die the death it should.

Oh and that blog post I proposed? I am sick of the idiocy and really can’t be bothered any more. Time to let go, and let others wake up and shout out.

Now if I were writing up the issue in a sober manner I would doubtless be a tad less nihilistic about it all. Those of you who can read my Facebook will see that Thomas has commented thoughtfully and extensively, greatly improving my post. A small part of what he added:

Naplan contributes very little, I feel, to the overall education process. I won’t say it contributes nothing because, being concerned with my students’ progress, I appreciate getting feedback and “indications” as to what my students need. Obviously literacy and numeracy are key skills that students need not just to succeed in school (whatever that looks like?), but to be life-longer learners. Is this the best way to get the feedback? No, not at all. But I do enjoy getting feedback.

Finally, to recycle that 2008 post: Memo to Julie Gillard and Kevin Rudd

Last night SBS’s venerable Insight looked at some of our most inspirational teachers.

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While the declining academic performance of Australian school students in international rankings may have captured the headlines, for some students the influence of their teachers goes far beyond test results; teachers have changed their lives.

Denzyl Moncrieff grew up in a tough environment. By the end of year 9 he wasn’t interested in going to school or making friends. The moment when Suzy Urbaniak singled out his performance in a year 10 science test changed everything.

Donna Loughran was an absent high school student. She was bored and didn’t see the relevance of what she was learning at school. By Year 11, Donna had a decision to make about the kind of future she wanted. Luckily, she had Steve Duclos for legal studies and he showed her the possibilities.

Omar Sawan was an angry student. He says he lost count of the number of times he was suspended from school. At one point he challenged the principal to expel him. That principal, Jihad Dib, refused and managed to see potential in an angry school kid.

See also Some thoughts on Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl (2014).

Listen to the guy! [Jihad Dib.] Carefully!

This has been one of Sydney’s least promising schools, on the face of it. Just a few years back it was getting the media treatment for other reasons:

Adam Shand: Today on Sunday, second generation Lebanese Australians, speak of life as foreigners in the land of their birth. They tell of the growing racism they perceive, their feelings of alienation and the price we all pay for this. They explain why they are angry.

Adam Houda: I see the situation escalating. I can tell you there is simmering tension within our community and they are just sick and tired of the relentless attacks upon our people and our community.

Dr Jamal Rifi: When you have people marginalised, pushed into a corner, they are going to bite back and they are going to do it in very unpredictable ways and very unpredictable fashion.

Adam Shand: The Mufti of Australia Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali has unwittingly revived a damaging debate about the sexuality of young Muslim men. His comments likening women to uncovered meat were widely interpreted as encouraging, even inciting sexual assault.

Prue Goward: This is incitement. He should be deported.

Adam Shand: Such views reinforced the notion that Australian Lebanese men can be mobilised to criminal action by their religious leaders — that the Koran comes before the law of the land.

Mohamad el-Assaad: I don’t think anything he said incited, I can listen to Tupac if I want to, I can listen to Nickelback if I want to, if I want to follow what this guy says, that’s up to me.

Adam Shand: And you also go to the mosque and listen there as well?

Mohamad el-Assaad: I go to the mosque, here and there.

Adam Shand: Many of these young men attended Punchbowl High School in Sydney’s south-west. The school is notorious for producing a notorious group of rapists who terrorised young women in 2000. The leader of the gang Bilal Skaf, now serving a 32-year prison sentence for his crimes, is always identified as Lebanese Muslim.

Back in 2003 The Sydney Morning Herald offered: Guns, gangs, poison: a principal’s battlezone.

This was life at Punchbowl Boys’ High School for its former principal Clifford Preece: a gang member came into the school, put a gun to his head and threatened to kill him. Students armed with knives threatened their classmates. Teachers had a toxic chemical put in their kettle, were assaulted in class and faced gang invasions of classrooms.

The school’s students were to become notorious: one was convicted of murdering schoolboy Edward Lee. Three other students were jailed for gang rapes – along with their gang leader, Bilal Skaf – who was a “regular intruder” at Punchbowl Boys’.

After five years as principal of the “Punchbowl school battlefront” between 1995 and 1999, Mr Preece says his 30-year career as a teacher ended with a breakdown.

In the District Court, Mr Preece is suing the Department of Education, alleging that it failed to protect his safety, and that as a result he has developed chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot work as a teacher.

Mr Preece, 53, told Judge Christopher Robison he had nightmares when he read about former students M, who killed Edward Lee, and gang rapists Tayyab Sheikh (who was sentenced to 15 years in jail) and brothers Mahmoud and Mohammed Sanoussi (11 and 21 years’ jail)…

Edward Lee, incidentally, was once a student where I worked, and many of his associates I knew well…

My point: work out for yourself how this turnaround has happened. Note what the intriguingly named current Principal had to say. People like him have the knowledge that is needed, and I am pleased Julia Gillard seems to have noted it….

Jihad Dib is now a member of the NSW Parliament and Shadow Minister for Education.  He, and what we witnessed last night on Insight, remind us that in this respect Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is right and The Revenant and the self-appointed “patriots” are utterly wrong.

He rejected “entirely” a comment by Senator Hanson, leader of One Nation, that all Australian Muslim should be treated with suspicion, and criticised as dangerous attempts to “demonise” Muslims.

“Which is the good one?’ You can’t tell a good Muslim from a bad one,” she had told the Nine network.

Mr Turnbull said “the vast majority of Australian Muslims are patriotic hardworking, seeking to get ahead, committed to peacefully living in Australia and abiding by our laws”.

He said: “One of the arguments that those who seek to do us harm make — this is the terrorists — is they say that there is no place for Muslims in Australia.

“And that’s how they seek to radicalise and mislead young Muslims, Australians.”

And in a comment which indirectly included the One Nation leader he said: “What I must do as a leader, and what all leaders must do in Australia is emphasise our inclusivity, the fact that we are a multicultural society where all cultures, all faiths are respected and that is mutual.

“So, trying to demonise all Muslims is only confirming the lying, dangerous message of the terrorists.”

He repeated a quote from his host, President Joko Widodo: “Indonesia is proof that Islam, democracy and moderation are compatible.”

Mr Turnbull said: “The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Muslims in Australia are utterly appalled by extremists, by violent extremism, by terrorism.

“We have to remember that the vast majority of the victims of ISIL, or Daesh, are Muslims.

“Islam is practised by about a quarter of the world’s population and in this country we see — a country with which we are building closer ties — we see that democracy, Islam, moderation, tolerance are compatible.”

Related is my current reading, Gabriele Marranci, Wars of Terror (2016). More about that later, but do look at his blog, Anthropology Beyond Good and Evil. Thought-provoking in the best way:

Australia is under attack. There is no doubt about it. Yet what exactly is attacking it remains unclear: it is not a country with an army, it is not even an organised movement such as al-Qaeda, but instead it seems a dark magma of different forms of frustrations that are sometimes channeled into fascist religious ideas. We have a chaotic reality that harms community relations and polarises opinions.

Among Muslim communities there are a majority who are silent and may fear both to become a victim of terrorism and victim of right-wing anti-Muslim propaganda and who condemn terrorism and the killing of innocent people. There are also Muslims whom point to the double standards of the West, yet they use very similar rhetoric to that of extremists except they do not advocate violence.  Finally there are those who, openly or latently, support Daesh and wish to see the black flag, hijacked by the group as symbol of death and destruction, flown in Australia. Unfortunately, many who hold such views are very active in the social media sphere.  Since these extreme messages attract attention, the people on the fringes of Muslim communities who create them and spread anti-Australian and anti-Western hatred will shape perceptions of Muslim Australians despite that a majority want nothing to do with such discourse.  This sad fact may increase the anxiety among non-Muslim Australians who are unaware of that and believe instead that there exists an ‘enemy within’.   

This dynamic reminds me of what people told me in Northern Ireland about how the paramilitary organisations, in particular within the Protestant communities, started to form. It was fear, and a fear which spread from one side to the other, that brought such disaster to NI. People want security and security is paramount to normal ordinary life. Security, however, does not exist per-se, as it is a cognitive category, an idea. Hence security, or the illusion of it, can be achieved through action, since inaction can make people feel even more insecure.

When a community feels threatened, and especially if the community is in the majority, it is not unusual that vigilante groups develop. As NI teaches us, the jump from vigilantes to paramilitary groups is easy.  Daesh calls for random attacks on soft targets. This, when there are evidences that some are listening, creates a deep and diffuse suspicion and fear towards anything that happens to be Muslim or Islamic. Organisations such as Q-Society provides the “intellectual” background to the less intellectual and more hooligan style organisations such as the Australian Defence League, and more recent anti-halal movements have shown to attract fascists. Of course, these movements claim to be peaceful and simply exercising their freedom to oppose what they dislike — but so does HT in Australia, which the Australian government wants to ban

However, if the above mentioned groups never transform into paramilitary organisations, they are the kind of group which may facilitate the creation of vigilantes and paramilitary groups through their line of thought and become the pool from which members may be sought. 

The risk that Australia and, in particular, the state of New South Wales are facing in the medium term is to see the formation of anti-terrorist paramilitary groups that inevitably will target innocent Muslims, and this will produce the counter-effect of Muslim paramilitary groups, which however will not be directly linked with international terrorist organisations.

Are we today doing enough to prevent such a trajectory and is such trajectory even preventable?  I have the impression that not enough is done. It is clear that the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims is widening in this period. The responsibility for this does not lay with one single side. I think also that a different approach to the issue of terrorism is needed in Australia. Yet we must also re-discuss how the ideology of multiculturalism has been implemented (or not implemented) and the confusion that it has created among the generations who grew up with it. Yet this topic is for another post to discuss.

Update: I note the recent vicissitudes of Punchbowl High, but do not trust the Telegraph spin/reporting on the matter. See New principal takes reins after predecessor’s sacking. That Andrew Bolt is on the case makes me hesitate to assert where the truth really lies. Too many axe-grinders on all sides!

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.

blasphemy

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?

lambie

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.

islam-against-isis

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…