Entries from March 2007 ↓

Pauline Hanson on Malaysia, David Hicks and Muslim immigration

Pauline Hanson has, once again, benefited the community with her puerile insights. The former fish and chip shop owner turned politican from Queensland was in the news earlier after she claimed that David Oldfield had seduced her in a motel; a claim which Oldfied naturally raced to fervently deny. Oldfield would later take his denials to another level, agreeing to participate in a lie detector test on national television. Sadly, he failed the test and was left apologising to Mrs Oldfield for what was, by any measure, a rather embarassing result.
Although the Pauline Hanson soap opera is fascinating in much the same way as a passing car wreck provides momentary fascination, it is her views on Islam and Muslims that interest us most.

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Meet the New Mufti, same as the Old Mufti?

The Australian National Imams Council met today to discuss the issue of whether there should remain a position of mufti and, if so, whether the incumbent, Sheikh Taj, should continue to hold it.

The Age is reporting that the position will remain, Sheikh Taj al-Hilali will continue to fill it, but at some point the imams will meet to “decide on how to take this thing forward.”

Controversial cleric Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali will remain spiritual leader of Australia’s Muslims for now following a meeting of the nation’s Islamic clerics in Sydney.

About 60 imams decided after meetings that went on in the south-western Sydney suburb of Lakemba for most of the day to reinstate Sheik Alhilali as Australia’s mufti for the next three months.

The United States doesn’t have a mufti and the United Kingdom doesn’t have a mufti. Why do we?

UPDATE: A person with intimate knowledge of what took place at the conference has provided an update. Needless to say, it differs significantly from what the media is reporting.

In summary: a national fiqh council will be formed at some point in the future and will consist of a relatively small number of imams who are appropriately qualified in the field. At the meeting on Sunday, the national board of imams also elected an executive panel to oversee it. Despite two attempts, Sh Taj didn’t receive one vote to join this panel (even from the other sheikhs from NSW). He has been completely sidelined by the imams.

The new body will have Sh Abdul Mo’ez (Sydney) as the President, Muhammad Abdullah (Queensland) as the Secretary and Sheikh Abdul Azeem (Victoria) as Treasurer. The national fiqh council, once elected, will eventually replace the position of mufti. Until then, Sheikh Taj remains as mufti for a few months until he is transitioned out. We will update as more news comes to hand.

UPDATE 2: The Prime Minister is not impressed.

UPDATE 3: Not to be outdone by the PM, the Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd offers his own ill-informed comment.

Lebanese Muslim Association Leader’s Recommendations for Australian Imams

On Sunday, a number of Australian imams will soon meet to discuss, among other issues, the question of whether there is to be a Mufti of Australia and New Zealand and, if so, whether it should continue to be Sheikh Taj ad-Din al-Hilaly.Tom Zreika, of the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA), has put together a series of proposals and has submitted these to the conference for discussion. Some of these comments, related to the need for imams to become surf lifesavers and fire fighters, were mentioned here.

The full document that will be delivered to the imams on the weekend can be viewed here.

One thing that seems to stand out in this document is the extent to which the imams of this country are blamed for the various ills of the Muslim community. The author’s criticisms may apply to the imams of one particular demographic but one can’t help but think that the vast majority of religious leaders are innocent of many of the things mentioned in this document. Is it fair or accurate?

Leave your comments and thoughts below.

I love myself unconditionally

It seems shameful now, but I have been through a self-help phase. Experiencing a downward spiral some time ago, I did what any intelligent person with an Internet connection would do: I ordered a bunch of self-help books from Amazon, relying on reader reviews to gauge their credibility and effectiveness.

Recently, I read the last of the books I had purchased: Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self. Littered with fluff and inane affirmations such as “I love myself unconditionally” and “Today is the best day of my life”, it was one of the most painful experiences I have endured. The entire book can be distilled to one sentence: “Positive thinking bad, optimal/constructive thinking good”. Yet the Amazon reviews raved and raved.

To the cynics among us, self-help conjures images of charismatic charlatans getting rich off the woes of the gullible. I have read my fair share of testimonials such as “Your 78-week program transformed me from a smelly hoboe to a successful male ballerina!”, and “When I put on my Enhancinator Cape ™ and recite my Enhancinator Power Statement ™, I just know I can do anything!”

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IEA Report: The War between the State and the Family

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in the United Kingdom has just published an interesting study entitled The War between the State and the Family: How Government Divides and Impoverishes that looks at how 25 years of policy, by both Conservative and Labour governments, has reportedly had a deleterious effect on the family unit in Great Britain.
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LMA calls for imams to become surf lifesavers

The Australian is reporting today a series of odd proposals for Australian imams from the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA).

It seems, the LMA have proposed that imams and religious leaders should become surf lifesavers and firemen.

MUSLIM clerics will be encouraged to become surf lifesavers and volunteer firefighters as part of a push by one of the nation’s most influential Islamic leaders for greater integration of his community into the mainstream.

“It would be great to see a turbaned imam fighting fires alongside other bushfire service volunteers,” Mr Zreika says in the submission to the Australian National Imams Council, which will meet for its first official conference in Sydney on Sunday.

“Organisations like the Surf Life Saving Association … should be joined as a matter of course by the imam and his followers.”

Yes, this is exactly what the Muslim community needs: our religious leaders swanning around the nation’s beaches in swimsuits (perhaps a male version of the burqini?) looking for drowning kids to save. And, when bushfire season returns each year, our imams can put on their firefighter costumes and go and fight fires — although, of course, they must keep their turbans otherwise how will anyone know it’s imams doing the firefighting? There’s no point to a transparent PR exercise if nobody knows about it.

UPDATE: It seems not everyone likes Zreika’s suggestions.  The Age is reporting today that he has requested police protection.

IPA Review: Islam’s free market heritage

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a Melbourne-based conservative/libertarian think tank, have published an interesting article [pdf] on Islam and free markets in their latest issue of Review. There are some questionable parts, but it’s worth a read, particularly the section on Ibn Khaldun’s contribution to economics: giving the world an early version of David Hume’s partition of employment or Adam Smith’s division of labour; and, it seems, an early version of the Laffer Curve, which formed the basis for the supply-side economics and associated tax cuts carried out during the Reagan administration.

We often hear about the contribution of early Muslim scientists, such as al-Biruni or al-Zahrawi, but it’s not often we hear about the contribution of early Muslim economists.

Guest Post: ‘Sufism’ and US Foreign Policy (Part I)

This is the first in a special series of guest posts by Sindbad of Islamophobia Watcher. Sindbad will be analysing the 2004 Nixon Center’s report, Understanding Sufism and its Potential Role in US Policy [pdf].

Note: This piece has NOTHING to do with the experience of Sufis or Sufism, and so I’ve put the word ‘Sufism’ in single inverted commas. I understand the Sufi Muslim Council as a lobbying group more than money-grubbing, money of course is guaranteed though I feel there‘s a real ideological filament burning somewhere.

I shall break this piece into several structures, because it’ll be easier for you to understand and for me to write. I’ll first begin on a corrective note to humanize the dehumanized in this report i.e. the Salafis. I want to firmly state that ‘Wahhabism’ is a corruption of the term ‘Salafism’. There are many who argue (like Shaykh Kabbani) that ‘Wahabbism’ is an appropriate term, but it must be really a joke like the one about ‘Mohammedanism’ a more appropriate term for Islam from an antagonistic non-Muslim perspective?

Another issue that I must raise is the distinction between Wahhabis and Salafis. There is no such term as Salafi in Islam. This term can only be applied for the first three centuries of Islam, called a-Salafu-saleh.

Let’s all call our opponents names to ridicule them and we’ll all get together swell. But nobody call us names. We are sacred. We are right. You and yours are wrong. We decide for you but you aren’t allowed to decide for us. The truth is that everybody has the right to decide for themselves what they ought to be called. If the Salafis say they are Salafis and ’Wahabbism’ is a denigrating term, I support them because they have a right like everybody else. If we should indeed abide by demands of condition, I doubt Shaykh Kabbani would be a Sufi in one sense of the word as he doesn’t wear wool.

I’ll take up half the speakers in this part and half in the second part. In the third part insha’Allah I’ll discuss this report in its advancement of foreign policy.

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Adelaide Bank launches new housing finance product.

There was a lot of news yesterday about a new house finance product being offered by Adelaide Bank, touted in some media outlets as the ‘interest free mortgage’ and the like. The Herald Sun summarises it as follows:

The loan product allows home owners to borrow as little as 75 per cent of the value of their home, after putting up a 5 per cent deposit.

The other 20 per cent will be covered by what is called an equity finance mortgage or EFM.

The borrower pays no interest or principal repayments on this 25-year mortgage, but when they sell the house, the bank gets 40 per cent of the total capital gains. On the upside, if the house declines in value, the bank absorbs up to a maximum of 20 per cent of the losses.

The loan effectively allows people to buy a house up to 25 per cent more expensive than is possible under a traditional home loan.

Let’s leave aside the open issue of where the borrower decides to source the initial 75 per cent. With the unequal contribution of capital and responsibilities, this seems to resemble a sharikat al-’inan contract. However, whereas the distribution of profits according to an agreed ratio (60%/40%) may be allowed, the allocation of losses based on a ratio (80%/20%) other than the contribution of capital may be problematic.

This does, of course, require further investigation by those suitably qualified in the field.  The news reports are fairly light on the details of the scheme.
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Stopping Muslim immigration: be careful what we whinge for

Is it that time of year already? Fred Nile, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, has called for an immediate halt to Muslim immigration. Last year (or was it the year before?), he was calling for the niqab to be banned on the apparent grounds that bombs might be hidden inside it. Why terrorists might choose a woman conspicuosly dressed as a Muslim to hide their bombs was, of course, never discussed.

Reverend Fred Nile, the longest-serving member of the NSW Legislative Council, made the comments at a gathering in the Sydney suburb of North Ryde yesterday.

He said there has been no serious study of the potential effects on Australia of more than 300,000 Muslims who are already here, and Australians deserved some breathing space.

Well, here’s one study, conducted by a Muslim organisation, that might reassure Mr Nile and the rest of the community that Muslims, particularly Muslim youth, are settling in just fine:

AUSTRALIA’S disadvantaged young Muslims are so directionless and fearful of being excluded by the broader community many are turning to drugs and contemplating suicide.

Ninety-eight per cent of 150 Sydney-based young Muslims surveyed had considered suicide as a “way out” of the conflicts in their life as a Muslim in a non-Muslim society.

The All Eyes On Youth study found eight out of 10 young Muslims aged between 12 and 25 considered the education system of no assistance “in making lifetime choices”, and 94 per cent lacked a clear goal in life.

Or maybe not.

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