Entries from May 2006 ↓

Islam and Democracy: Contention 1

Most Maggi five minute fundamentalists reject out of hand any idea that a legitimate Islamic government can have the features of a democratic polity. They automatically equate an Islamic state with their own authoritarian and proto-fascist tendencies. Thus the more “Islamic” a state is, the more it is controlled by a small “purified” cabal of elite figures who do so via a mix of disproportionate police action, government control of markets and of trade, banning everything and turning out the street lights after Isha (evening prayer), because everyone should be in bed anyway.

The profound irony is, of course, these same people are generally the first and loudest refugees fleeing from such a society to set up camp in a much more congenial open democratic one. Often this same civic society pays for their food, accommodation, telephone and medical expenses whilst they perform the worthwhile and utterly commendable public service of advocating the violent overthrow of the same said society, so that they can turn it into the authoritarian hell hole from which they escaped.

My thoughts turn to an episode in my youth where a friend of mine in Sydney picked up a prominent Islamic personality at the international airport. Fresh from Egypt, the “sheikh” said, in a thick Egyptian accent, “take me to the beach!”. Upon his arrival there, he studied closely, the debauchery and tanning oil of the infidels first hand.

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Who has the right to educate our children

Aldous Huxley’s dystopian epic Brave New World portrayed a world where child-rearing was relegated to the state. Children were sent to state-run hatcheries whilst the idea of the ‘family’ was considered a vile and obnoxious concept. Indeed, one of the more offensive terms of abuse was to label someone a ‘mother’.

Whilst we are, thankfully, still a long way from that, parental rights continue to be attacked by statists and those who believe that, contrary to thousands of years of human experience, governments are better suited and have more right to make decisions about how we raise our children.

There are few areas where the struggle between the state and the family is more aggressive than in questions of morality.

The Age reported this week that Islamic schools are, “overturning the influence of Western sexual values on their students.” Citing the policies adopted by the Australian Council for Islamic Education in Schools, the report mentions that, “non-Muslim teachers would be banned from teaching sexual health classes” and students would be taught, “that premarital sex and homosexuality were anti-Islamic and therefore prohibited.” Likewise, ’safe sex’ is off the agenda because implicit in teaching about safe sexual practices is a tacit endorsement of pre-marital relations.

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How much Islam in Australian Islamic schools? part 1

In many “Islamic” schools within Australia, the only Islam in the school is in the title.

If, by merely placing Islam in the title of any enterprise, one could confer purity of religious purpose, why not an “Islamic” pub, or an “Islamic” piggery? This axiom, however, seems to be the mantra for a new generation of “Islamic” schools.

In 2000, the City Circle in London, hosted a lecture by the principal of Islamia school. The theme of the talk was the challenge of Islamic education in a Western country, but he spoke rather of the difficulties and shortcomings of his school. For me, it was it was heartening to see such candor and thoughtfulness. It was his silent tribute to the depth and caliber of his audience. Thereafter I was not surprised to hear that as a school, it was HIGHLY sought after and produced dramatic scholastic and spiritual results. If there was a good model of an Islamic school then that is it.

The Australian situation is profoundly different and inferior. Australian government funding rules have made independent schooling a cash crop for small communities and large ethnic families. “Islamic” schools have mushroomed in this climate. They have been run with the same skill, acumen and purity of purpose as community masjids (mosques), which is to say, none at all. Many outer suburban McMansions, large European cars and diabetic lifestyles are built on the back of these golden geese. There are, however, few spiritual dividends, either for the owner or the pupil.

There are obviously important exceptions to this general trend.

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Islam & Communism: Converging Opposites

Some academics from Indiana University have recently published the results of a survey of seven Muslim-majority societies. The researchers found a strong correlation, in every country surveyed, between a stated belief in shariah as the system of state governance and a set of egalitarian principles.

They write:

In research based on survey data from seven predominantly Muslim nations, the authors found that Islamic orthodoxy — identified as the desire to implement Islamic law (shari’a) as the sole legal foundation of their nation — is associated in every country with support for such progressive economic reforms as increasing the responsibility of government for the poor, reducing income inequality, and increasing government ownership of businesses and industries.

The importance of this study should not be understated because it highlights what is one of the more fundamental problems with the contemporary Islamic revival: that it is has drunk so deeply from the well of socialism that it can no longer distinguish Islamic principles from the faddish proscriptions of ‘progressive’ politics.

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Oh what tangled webs we weave…

The recent and remarkable implosion of Ayaan Hirsi Ali should serve as a reminder for us all.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (whose real name is Ayaan Hirsi Magan) was the perennial anti-Islamic gadfly in the Dutch parliament. Her notoriety and public adulation were based on the now familiar narrative of the courageous but oppressed Muslim woman who reaches the west only to emerge from the chrysalis of Islamic “backwardism” into the light of secular liberalism.

Except that she wasn’t and she didn’t.

Ayaan claimed that she sought asylum, fleeing from a forced marriage in Somalia. The truth however was more prosaic; Ayaan was a Somali leaving a failed marriage (which she had happily and voluntarily entered into) and was living safely in Kenya for 11 years before moving to Germany prior to seeking political asylum in the Netherlands. Like many unscrupulous and desperate economic or class migrants she lied extensively on her application, refashioning her story in a more heroic light.

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Happy Birthday, Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology, would have been 150 years old this month.

Whilst many pieces have been written examining different aspects of Freud’s legacy, two stand out for capturing succintly and elegantly what is, without doubt, Freud’s greatest contribution to our contemporary understanding of the human condition.

In his inimical style, Anthony Daniels, writing in The Times, offers this summary of Freud’s contribution to our modern culture:

The influence of his ideas, albeit in vulgarised and simplified versions, has been culturally baleful and even catastrophic. For example, the notion that dysfunctional behaviour in adulthood has its origin in infantile or childhood traumas has led to a general belief in the existence of buried psychological treasure which, once unearthed and expressed in clear terms, automatically, in and of itself, causes the dysfunctional behaviour to cease, without any further conscious effort to control it on the patient’s part.

Freud thus strengthened a tendency for people to place the blame for their vices first on their parents and secondly on the doctors who failed to “cure” them of those vices. He was one of the most powerful modern destroyers of the concept of personal responsibility.

Writing in The Spectator, the British philosopher, Roger Scruton offers a similar assessment to that of Daniels.

The tendency, that Daniels mentions, for humans to seek to blame their vices on others may not have originated with Freud but certainly Freud’s theories bestowed upon this pathosis a level of credibility that had otherwise been denied to it. He legitimised the abdication of personal responsibility which has poisoned so many aspects and sections of our society: from the medicalisation of all sorts of deviant behaviours to the acceptance of social determinism (“He had a bad childhood, your honour”) as a mitigating factor in the sentencing of serious crimes.

Offending ethnic (hyper)sensitivities

Jenny Mikakos is a state Labor politician of Greek extraction in Victoria. On the 4th of May, she stood up in parliament and said a few words about the “Pontian genocide”.

On 19 May the Pontian community in Victoria and around the world will commemorate the 87th anniversary of the Pontian genocide that occurred in present day Turkey. Between 1916 and 1923 over 353 000 Pontic Greeks living in Asia Minor and in Pontos, which is near the Black Sea, died as a result of the 20th century’s first but less known genocide. Over a million Pontic Greeks were forced into exile. In the preceding years 1.5 million Armenians and 750 000 Assyrians in various parts of Turkey also perished.

She then called on the Turkish government to take responsibility for what took place and apologise to its victims:

Unlike Germany, which has taken responsibility for the Jewish holocaust, Turkey has never apologised to its victims. The Turkish government must begin the reconciliation process by acknowledging these crimes against humanity. The suffering of the victims of the Pontian genocide cannot and will not be forgotten.

Naturally, this is a contentious issue with Turkey maintaining that no such massacre ever took place. On the other hand, the Greeks and Armenians, along with a number of international human rights organisations, maintain that huge numbers of their people did indeed die and the Turkish government was responsible.

Regardless of whether one believes Ms. Mikakos’ interpretation of historical events, the hysterical reaction from some members of the local Turkish community is surprising.

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