Entries from November 2006 ↓

Doublespeak and the War on Terror

Associated Press are reporting on a report [PDF], produced in September, by the Cato Institute that examines the use Orwellian doublespeak in the War on Terror. AP write:

The libertarian Cato Institute recently took on the rising tide of fuzzy words in the fight against terrorism, arguing that whatever people think of what the government is doing, it would help to understand what the government is doing.

That is no easy task when the administration offers tortured definitions of torture,describes suicide by captives as “self-injurious behavior incidents” and labeled at least one suspect an “imperative security internee” when it became constitutionally questionable to hold him as an “enemy combatant.”

Interrogations are debriefings.

Propaganda is a struggle “for hearts and minds.”

The estate tax is the death tax.

Here we go again

The Australian is reporting today that, in light of the Sheikh Taj controversy, a new council of imams will be formed. This council, unlike the still-born attempts of the government, its Muslim Community Reference Group (MCRG), and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) will be completely independent of the State.

The national body is a significant development. An immigration department-backed national conference of Muslim clerics in September has yet to produce a national board, and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils – the umbrella body now in administration – also failed to deliver on its promise to set one up earlier this year.

Sheik Shady said the board was set up without government assistance to improve the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. “If the Government is willing to support, they’re more than welcome,” he said.

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The Great Australian Bikini March

OK, imagine for one moment that you are a grandmother and you wish to register your anger over recent comments made by Sydney’s Sheikh Taj al-Hilaly. You want to send a powerful message that you are not a piece of uncovered meat. What do you do?

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Brass Crescent Awards: Voting now open

Voting has begun for this year’s Brass Crescent awards and, for some reason, Austrolabe has been nominated in the Best Group Blog category. Jazak Allah khair to all those people (assuming, of course, that there was more than one of you) who nominated us.

Click here if you want to vote.

Out of Wedlock Births drive EU Demographics?

In an earlier post, we mentioned an apparent correlation between birth rates and ‘religiousness’. The European Union’s demographic statistics for 2004 suggest a slightly different correlation: that member states with high fertility rates also seem to have a high rate of births outside of wedlock.

And then they came for the political scientists

Turkey is often held up by some unimaginative politicians and commentators as a successful reconciliation of Islam and secularism that the rest of the Muslim world should imitate. Perhaps the treatment of Turkish libertarian academic Dr. Atilla Yalya — no “Islamist” by any means — for simply referring to Ataturk as “this man” will give them cause to reconsider their support of the Kemalist state?

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Towards Shariah-based Arbitration

The idea of privatised legal systems isn’t new. In Medieval Europe, for example, traders established their own rules of commerce administered by the Lex Mercatoria or Law Merchant. Economist and blogger David Friedman, for example, made the anarcho-capitalist case for such systems in his Machinery of Freedom and libertarians such as Murray Rothbard have likewise made similar arguments.

Whilst we are some way away from the acceptance and treatment of law and law enforcement as a private good, complete with private courts, police and prisons [PDF], and it remains a subject of considerable debate as to how far such things should go, there does already exist private legal systems. For example, there are already any number of private dispute resolution and arbitration systems and services currently in place throughout the world. Most of these, such as the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACIC), operate primarily in the commercial sphere: allowing parties to resolve commercial disputes without engaging with the court system and enduring the delays and costs that are associated with them.

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Property Rights and the Mosque

As has been widely reported, the Tablighi Jamaa are building a new mosque in London. The mosque, once completed, will be the largest religious building in the United Kingdom and is intended to be opened in time for the London Olympics. However, its development has been met with some resistance from some Muslims who seem to object to the mosque being run exclusively by the Tablighi Jamaat. The Times report:

Asif Shakoor, chairman of Sunni Friends of Newham, said the petition was a response to a feeling that the voices of most Muslims in the area were not being heard. The petition text states: “We propose that when and if planning permission is granted . . . that all Muslim groups be equally represented at the proposed place of worship that is to celebrate the 2012 Olympic Games in London.”

This raises an interesting question. If a particular group or individual funds and builds a mosque, does that group or person have the same rights over that property as one would have over any other building? That is, do they have the right to control how that property is used?

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Authority Crisis & Muslims in the West


Muslim Apple has linked to a thought-provoking lecture by American Muslim scholar Dr Sherman Jackson. As Muslim Apple has written a good summary of his lecture, I won’t bother to attempt my own but will simply reproduce her text:

The first half-hour is devoted to a discussion of the formation of the traditional authority and “sacred history” which informs interpretations of Islamic law and the reasons for its decline in our times. Professor Jackson cites a memorable story of his visit to an Egyptian bookstore that had priced the tafseer of the Quran by Syed Qutb above that of Ibn Katheer not because Qutb is more qualified but simply because the people find it more accessible with its modern language, references, and examples.

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The Economics of Religion

The use of economics to understand religion isn’t new. In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith observed:

The teachers of [religion]…, in the same manner as other teachers, may either depend altogether for their subsistence upon the voluntary contributions of their hearers; or they may derive it from some other fund to which the law of their country many entitle them…. Their exertion, their zeal and industry, are likely to be much greater in the former situation than the latter. In this respect the teachers of new religions have always had a considerable advantage in attacking those ancient and established systems of which the clergy, reposing themselves upon their benefices, had neglected to keep up the fervour of the faith and devotion in the great body of the people….

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