Monday, 4 April 2011

Muslims and the latest round of their intolerance

There was a headline in my email from the Punch this morning, labelled 'Victorian Muslims call for tolerance'.  But when I followed it back to the Herald Sun, the story, had disappeared.

Perhaps it was decided that the timing of such a call was not exactly optimal:
  • after the massacre in Afghanistan of seven US staff, and deaths of several more people over a US pastor's burning of the Koran, incited, it seems by none other than President Karzai himself;
  • the weekend story about a Sikh priest and his family being terrorized by gunfire from Muslims trying to drive them out of the Sydney Temple; and
  • Taliban suicide bombings at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan that killed at least 41 people.
Of course, the timing for such a call is probably never going to be optimal if the last few months are anything to go by.

Over the weekend Greg Sheridan had a long piece in the Australian on why he no longer supports multiculturalism, and he makes some important points.

Islam as it is practised around the world

Firstly he points out that the reason Islam has a poor reputation is because of the problematic nature of Islamic practice around the world:

"The reputation of Islam in the West is not poor because of prejudiced Western Islamophobia, still less because Western governments conduct some kind of anti-Islamic propaganda.

Instead, it is the behaviour of people claiming the justification of Islam for their actions that affects the reputation of Islam.

In January, the governor of the Punjab province in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, was murdered [Pakistan's bishops are seeking a formal declaration from the Vatican that he was martyred] because he opposed the severity of the nation's blasphemy laws.

One of his last acts was to visit a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the prophet. The governor's murderer won wide public support.

ABC television recently showed a documentary on the killing of Ahmediya sect members in Indonesia, among the most liberal Muslim nations, because their Muslim murderers regarded them as a deviant sect. On YouTube you can watch scenes of a young Afghan woman being publicly flogged because she was seen in the company of a man who wasn't her husband or brother.

In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive cars.

In Iran, government thugs beat protesters to death to safeguard the rule of the mullahs.

This list could go on and on. It may very well be that the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims reject such actions. But it is fatuous to try to find a similar pattern of Christian, Buddhist or Jewish behaviour. You can find extremists in every religion and from every background, but there is no equivalence in the size and strength of the extremist tendency in other religions."

Are Australian Muslims different?

Sheridan argues not from his experience of living in Lakemba:

"One day, waiting for a pizza order, I wandered into the Muslim bookshop. I was astounded to see titles such as The International Jew or The Truth about the Pope, amid a welter of anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and pro-extremist literature.

The revenge attacks on white Australians after the Cronulla riots originated out of Punchbowl. A number of media crews were attacked when they went to local mosques. A large number of those charged with terrorism offences in Australia stayed in or had associations with the area.

Due to the brilliant and fearless reporting of this paper's Richard Kerbaj, who spoke perfect Arabic, we found that at a number of the mosques in the area outright hatred was being preached: anti-Semitic, misogynist, conspiratorial. Most of the time, these sermons didn't advocate violence. The speakers were what Britain's David Cameron has called "non-violent extremists".

The advent of satellite television made it easier for these folks to live a life apart. Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station was available on satellite packages. Most Arab homes you went into had Arabic TV playing in the background.

The anti-social behaviour became more acute.

One son was playing cricket with friends when they were challenged by a group of teenagers, whom they presumed to be Lebanese but may have been of other Middle Eastern origin, who objected to white boys playing cricket. A full-scale, if brief, fist fight ensued.

One son was challenged by a boy with a gun. Lakemba police station was shot up. Crime increased on the railway line."

And he goes on to describe more such incidents.

The roots of the problem

Sheridan argues that the problem is footed in the lack of a concept of separation of church and state, which means that Islamic preachers inevitably preach politics.  Unemployment, alienation and a culture of welfare exploitation contribute.  And all combined with the effects of funding from hardline regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

No doubt there are other contributing factors as well, but one way or another there is a rational basis for concern.  But the problem it presents to Australia is only going to get more acute with the projected growth of our Muslim population:

"The Australian Muslim population is still relatively small, perhaps 400,000 or just under 2 per cent of the population.

The US-based Pew Research Centre has recently completed a big study on Muslim demographics and migration trends. It predicts that for Australia the Muslim population will grow by 80 per cent between now and 2030, to about 715,000, growing about four times as fast as the rest of the population, and reaching about 3 per cent of all Australians.

Such forecasts are always rough estimates, but this is based on fertility, migration and mortality trends, and it's highly plausible.

It may be that by 2030 we will start to have a much more European-style, polarised society as a result."

Towards solutions

Sheridan's solutions include putting more rigor into assessing skills and English language ability in of formal potential immigrants, and put less emphasis on facilitating migration from radicalised countries.   Seems sensible enough.  Rather more problematic is his 'stop the boats' call (in a word, how?).

But it is not enough.

The reality is that even if we could completely shut out migration, Australia already has a home-based (and to some extent home-grown) Islamic terrorist problem that can only continue to grow as the process of radicalization that is happening in Islamic communities around the world continues.

The government's renewed embrace of multiculturalism includes a commitment to confront extremism, and those who reject Australian values.  It would be nice to see this agenda being given some substance instead of the Human Rights Commission's naive push for laws to compel greater religious 'tolerance'.


Anonymous said...

This is a very complex area of discussion both from a sociological and theological point of view. Indeed we all have opinions and some are stronger than others. But many opinions are not based on the facts, truth or reality. Indeed the vasy majority of non-muslims have not idea of what the Koran teaches and how Islamic worshippers live out their lives following their faith. Ask an 'average' Aussie or even an American or European what is the core teaching of the Koran and they would not have a clue. And ask them if they regularly read the Bible if they are a Christian and they would probably deny doing so.
Right on Australia's doorstep is the largest Musilim populated country - Indonesia. But how many tourists to that great state would know anything of how villages live out their islamic faith. Indeed, the practice of Islam there is very different to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt or the UAE. Some like the UAE and Qatar are far more secular. Women can drive cars there.
But back to your piece David, I think many things you raise are right BUT you left out two key events which have sparked major trouble and backlash. One, the Danish cartoons which featured the Prophet Muhammed and which were widley condemned resulting in violence. Only last night I was speaking with a Muslim friend who questioned why sanctions were not placed on Denmark for the 'outrageous' acts of the cartoonist. Then two, the crazy US 'pastor' who last week burnt an edition of the Koran which resulted in a slaughter of UN staff and others in Afghanistan. The man in Florida is not repentent and blames it all on the Afghanis and Pres karzai. BUT, the pastor provoked Muslims, just as did the Danish cartoonist and deadly consequences followed.
If someone (as this has occured) descecrated the Blessed Sacrament in a church or outside catholics would be deeply upset and angry. But I doubt if murders would follow. Then again, why are we not more angry at such acts? Do we not care that these desecrations occur? Are we too timid and not strong enough in our faith to be angry (Jesus was in the temple, just over people selling things).
In the end, we need to be aware that millions of muslims believe so strongly in their prophet and that anything that descecrates him or the Holy Koran is worthy of attack. They believe that - we may not. And therefore our so-called christian societies need to be far more sensitive and aware that such acts will result in dire consequences.
Jesus preached love and forgiveness. That is the heart of the Gospel, and here we have differences with Islam.
But we know Islam is growing across the world. They worship in big numbers and men are not afraid to pray in public and honour God. Their children are brought up in a a very definite and proud manner that would put many of us to shame. They are taught to pray five times a day and during ramadhan to fast from all food and drink in daylight hours. Try doing that in a climate of 35 deg and above for 40 days. We think giving up chocolate or beer or wine for 40 days is good enough. Not so - try fasting 12 hours a day and see how your body and faith are tested.
We are supposed to have the answer in Jesus as the 'way the truth and the life'. Perhaps we need to have the conviction of that faith and see that others also have that conviction that will make them deeply offended when their Holy Book is desecrated and defiled.

Matthias said...

why the story on the front of the HERALD SUN made no impact on me. Muslims whinge when in the minority but looking at Egypt we see what happens when they are the majority and the Copts are in the minority.

Kate said...

Adam - Were you writing to me? Because my name is not David!

I have to say I think it is absolutely outrageous to suggest that some private individual burning a koran or a newspaper publishing a cartoon in any way justifies a violent response.

And to suggest that in a free society we should try and prevent all such acts is both ridiculous and undesirable in the extreme!

The reality is that Christians always have and continue to swallow all kinds of blasphemy and outrages - Muslims need to do likewise if they want to be respected as a religion.

As for the practice of Islam in Indonesia - there too there have been numerous cases of persecution of Christians, harrassment of Muslims who don't want to follow extremist practices such as wearing the hajib, and more.

Yes their fervour in some practices such as prayer and fasting is admirable, something cahtolics need to recover. But that doeesn't mean it is a desirable religion.

Anonymous said...

Kate, I found the Herald Sun Article elsewhere on this website: It is typical Islamic taqiyya (sanctioned religious deception), which capitalises on Western intellectual laziness and politically correct gullibility.

The real problem with Islam is that it is not open to a critical appraisal of its tenets. There is no tradition of an objective faith-reason debate. Whereas Judeo-Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) has a constant tradition of dialogue with the world of science and philosophy, Islam is unwilling, and I believe, incapable of such academic criticism precisely because that would be "unislamic."

There would seem to be an amazing level of ignorance of both the doctrine and practice of Islam by the majority of English-speaking countries. When people do acquire a little bit of knowledge it is often out of the mouths of Muslims themselves.

Two examples.

Muslims often tell us that Christians (and Jews) have a special place in Islam because they are "people of the book." In other words, because Christians have the Bible and Jews the Torah etc. these somehow bind us together.

This is a fallacy. If we bothered to examine the theology of Islam we would see that the equivalent to the Koran for Christians is not the Bible, but, in fact, Jesus Christ himself. Islam teaches that the Koran is the incarnation of God; that's why Muslims go troppo when people desecrate it and more importantly, that's why it must be read in Arabic, the language that (supposedly) the angel Gabriel dictated the words of God to Muhammed. This is even the case in non-Arabic speaking countries like (the largest Muslim country) Indonesia, where millions of Muslims recite the prayers of the Koran five times a day in a language they don't understand.

Orthodox Christians (i.e. Catholics) don't believe that the Bible was dictated by God (or Jesus) to the various authors. The Catholic Church for instance teaches that the Bible is inspired and contains no error, but recognises different literary styles and acknowledges that it was written and redacted over a period of time until the Church "canonised" the books that make up the Bible we have today. Christians believe it is true and is the very Word of God, but however important it is, the Person of Jesus Christ calls people into a relationship with him. His Word helps Christians to do that.

The Koran has never undergone a historical criticism, at least not internally. I think that if it did, it would be the end of Islam.

The second example among countless possibilities, is the Islamic doctrine of Taqiyya. This extraordinary belief holds that a Muslim is permitted to lie (even on oath) in order to advance the cause of Islam. See Koran, Sura (chapter)3:28.

Closely related to taqiyya is the doctrine of Kitman, a type of mental reservation, whereby someone tells a half truth in order to deceive. This practice will have been observed by us all every time we hear of Imams who preach hatred (even if not violence) at the Friday prayers and then when called to task by the media, will look you in the eye and swear black and blue that they are peace-loving and that they are the real victims.

Australians and intelligent people need to get off their backsides and do some research. Go and look at the Islamic websites and see what they are saying in their own words. You will be shocked