Entries from September 2007 ↓

Where are the Muslim libertarians?

It seems to me that there is no political ideology on offer in the West that is more deserving of Muslim support than libertarianism. Libertarians believe that each of us ‘owns’ our own lives and property; that we have the right to do whatever we wish with either provided we also respect the rights of others to do as they wish. As such, libertarianism guarantees Muslim minorities the right to worship, dress, speak and believe as we wish and protects these rights from the interference of the State and other citizens. Pick an issue from the last few years — calls for niqab to be banned, the banning of particular books, calls for sermons in mosques to be monitored, the introduction of sedition laws, interference in the religious curriculum of Muslim schools, and so on — and the libertarian position falls clearly on the Muslim side of the argument.

It is also the only ideology that, with its emphasis on small government and minimal taxes, would put an end to the multiculturalist pork barreling that has nurtured an unproductive growing class of tax-eating Muslim ‘leaders’. In recent years, we’ve seen a conga line of Muslims emerge with their self-serving pseudo-research and demands for more and more money to be poured into their projects and causes; projects that are more often designed to meet the political objectives of the State than any genuine need in the Muslim community. For example, we’ve had people paint the Muslim youth as drug-addled, dangerous time bombs whose fuses can only be extinguished by more public money; and we’ve seen malleable Muslims handpicked by the State, placed on government committees and publicly-funded ‘reference groups’ and then used by the government to promote its agenda.

Muslims, like other religious minorities and communities, appear to me to be a natural constituency for libertarian politics. But where are the Muslim libertarians? Likewise, why haven’t the various libertarian parties in the West done more to appeal to Muslims (or indeed other religious minorities), demonstrating how their policies would benefit these communities?

Sunnis Pledge Mutual Respect and Cooperation

Sheikh Yasir Qadi has a post up at Muslim Matters about a new ‘agreement’ signed between a number of the Sunni scholars, du’at and students of knowledge in the West. In essence, the agreement seeks to address some of the bickering that has taken place between Sunni groups and makes a number of useful points.

The entire document can be viewed here [pdf].

There are a lot of familiar names amongst the signatories representing a broad cross-section of the Muslim community. For example, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Sheikh Zaid Shakir, and Australia’s own Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhury.

Sheikh Yasir summarises the document as follows:

Continue reading →

We’re the Government — and You’re Not

What if the government released an “educational video” to teach people how to be good citizens?

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Review: Forbidden Lie$

Norma Khouri in Forbidden Lie$

You might remember one of the most outrageous (and let’s be honest, totally juicy) literary hoaxes of recent times. Norma Khouri, con artist and, quite possibly, sociopath, was exposed as a “fake” in a Sydney Morning Herald series by journalists Malcolm Knox and Caroline Overington in 2004.

The scandal? Khouri claimed she was escaping danger in her homeland of Jordan after her best friend and business partner, Dalia, a Muslim (Khouri is Christian), was the victim of an honour killing. Her wildly successful “memoir”, Forbidden Love, detailed Dalia’s alleged romance with a Christian man. It was published as non-fiction — a tad inconvenient for her publisher because the book was all a lie. Khouri was in fact a US resident, a wife and mother of two, and apparently under investigation by the FBI for fraud.

Enter Australian documentary-maker Anna Broinowski (she won an AFI for her documentary, Helen’s War). She confesses that she was quickly won over by Khouri’s charm when she met her. Convinced that Khouri was the victim of a media witch hunt, she set out to make a documentary that would prove the veracity of Khouri’s claims that Forbidden Love was not fiction. Continue reading →

When al-Qaeda came for the vacuum cleaners

“When al-Qaeda came for the Swedish cartoonists, I remained silent; I was not a Swedish cartoonist. And when they came for the Ikea furniture, I remained silent; for I was not made by Ikea. And when they came for the Electrolux vacuum cleaners, I did not speak out; for I was not a vacuum cleaner. But then they came for the Volvo drivers, and there was noone left to speak out for me.”

(with apologies to Pastor Martin Niemöller)

Sheikh Salman addresses Usama Bin Laden

Sheikh Salman al-’Awdah, one of the leading ‘independent’ scholars in Saudi Arabia, has delivered a Ramadan message to Usama Bin Laden.  Arab News  has some coverage of the message, writing:

In a major blow to the ideology of Osama Bin Laden and his followers in the Kingdom, Sheikh Salman ibn Fahad Al-Oudah, a popular Saudi religious scholar, has criticized the way in which Bin Laden has ruined Islam’s global image.

Trouble threatened

The Australian reports today:

A PALESTINIAN journalist has warned of a Muslim backlash over the failure of Australian authorities to grant him a visa in time to speak at today’s Brisbane Writers Festival.

It continues:

He said his visa problems would air throughout the Muslim world. “This could, in fact, incite trouble for Australia because there are a billion-and-a-half Muslims over the world and this will be publicised among those people,” he said. “They are not serving the Australian peoples’ interests, they are not serving Australian security, they are actually doing the opposite.”

Does anyone honestly believe that the “billion-and-a-half Muslims over the world” care that much about the Brisbane Writers Festival?

Anyway, the good news is that, despite all this huffing and puffing, the government hadn’t actually refused to give him a visa. Instead, they claim they were just following the usual process (which takes time). And it seems they may have been telling the truth with a visa being issued to the journalist a few days ago.  He’ll be attending the festival after all.

Is Osama bin Laden an environmentalist?

What has Bin Laden been reading? His latest message to the West is a screed against capitalism, corporatisation and globalisation, denouncing the White House for not observing the Kyoto accord, and attacking corporations for the emissions from their factories. He’s against real estate mortgages. He even praises Noam Chomsky.

On this subject, Spiked Online’s Brendan O’Neill writes:

Osama bin Laden has come full circle. He started life as a super-rich Saudi boy who later went to fight against the Soviet communist infidels on behalf of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Now, according to his latest message, released over the weekend, he is a born-again anti-capitalist, more worried about corporations than communism, and more frightened by global warming than by irreligious regimes.

Sounding like a weird-beard version of Naomi Klein, bin Laden bashes corporations for controlling the political system in the West. He explains the American Democrats’ failure to stand up against the war in Iraq on the basis that ‘the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional’, and the Democrats have been ‘bought off’ by the corporations just like everyone else. He also entertains popular Western conspiracy theories about the assassination of President John F Kennedy. He claims Kennedy was killed because he ‘deviated from the general line of policy [on Vietnam] and wanted to stop this unjust war’. Apparently this ‘angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefiting from [the war’s] continuation’. ‘And so Kennedy was killed, and al-Qaeda wasn’t present at that time, but rather those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing. And the war continued after that for approximately one decade’, says bin Laden. Here, bin Laden parrots what has become a familiar line in Western, especially American, discourse: that Kennedy was a Good president, and was likely done in by an evil American cabal.

He wouldn’t be the first to migrate to environmentalism.  Former Camp X-Ray detainee David Hicks is also reported to have turned green whilst serving time in an Adelaide prison.  The Bulletin reported:

The man who once embraced radical Islam and Osama bin Laden now says he wants to help save the environment, and identifies his new guru as Australian of the Year Tim Flannery.

Sweatshops for the Muslim world

Chip Goodyear, the head of Australia’s BHP Billton, the world’s largest mining company, has said that that Muslim world will be the next big emerging market after India and China.

The head of the world’s largest mining company says the Muslim population stretching from North Africa to Pakistan and Kazakhstan is large, young and underemployed – characteristics that it shares with China and other rapidly developing economies.

There’s no argument about the demographics: much of the Muslim world is young, unemployed and poor. Not every Muslim land has oil and natural resources to exploit: for some of them, their only comparative advantage seems to be cheap labour. So as wages rise in India and as they will surely rise in China, why wouldn’t multinationals look then to the relatively poor corners of the Muslim world for cheap labour to run their factories and call centers?

Of course, this means they will establish what some in the West call “sweatshops”: places where people don’t get paid Western standards of pay; don’t work in environments that would meet Western occupational health and safety expectations; and don’t work forty hour weeks with leave loading and one month of paternity leave. They are, of course, pretty horrible places and we should all thank God that we were not born into such conditions.

However, the sad reality is that if people — without physical coercion — enter into a contract to work in a sweatshop then that means that they are deriving some benefit from that transaction; ergo, working in a sweatshop is preferable to not working in a sweatshop (being unemployed, starving, or turning to crime to earn a living).

And it is obvious why a poor person in the third world would see a Western-owned sweatshop as a pretty good deal: conditions in Western-owned sweatshops are generally better than in the local alternatives; and foreign companies tend to pay more than their local counterparts. And although the unskilled unemployed may provide cheap labour initially, the influx of foreign capital brings with it an influx of foreign ‘know how’, and the foreign-owned factories soon find themselves competing with local factories for labour. Eventually, conditions will improve, wages will rise, and skills will increase.

So, if we want to improve the economic conditions of the Third World — including, of course, much of the Muslim world — then should we tolerate the initial proliferation of sweatshops as a distasteful but necessary step towards economic development?

Making a mountain out of a mosque

In the first season of ABC’s The Chaser, Julian Morrow tested the tolerance levels of Mosman residents (for non-Sydneysiders, Mosman is a rather fashionable, upper-class area of Sydney) by setting up a table on a shopping strip and pretending there were plans to build a mosque in the area. He even had a model of a mosque to assist when testing the reactions of local residents. Granted that Morrow would have interviewed a large number of people, I suspect they kept the ratio of dissenters to those in favour intact when editing the responses.

Mosman is not known for a substantial Muslim population, so I could understand the surprise some interviewees registered; the disgust was a little harder to stomach. But it was there, and it certainly demonstrated that many were, in no uncertain terms, passionately opposed to a mosque in the area, particularly because, well, it would attract Muslims.

It’s this skit that came to mind when I read an excellent piece in The Economist (‘Constructing Conflict’, 30 August 2007) about the politics of mosque-building in non-Muslim majority countries. You can read the whole article here. It’s worthwhile reading the entire piece, but this short paragraph really caught my attention:

Reza Aslan, a Californian writer on Islam, says that to his American eyes the intensity of openly “Islamophobic” opposition to mosques in parts of Europe, especially the south, is a shock. “It’s as though some Europeans are confused about their identity and are now trying to construct one in opposition to Islam.”

Is that the case for Europe? Let’s hope not.