Entries from February 2008 ↓

Arab gangsters hitting hard

Last week, Melbourne newspaper readers were greeted by the news that a group of Arab youths had formed a gang called, of all things, Arabian Soldiers Arab Defenders and were squabbling with their rivals on the other side of the city. The story was accompanied by three gangsters of supposedly Middle Eastern appearance with their faces concealed:

“Give it tomorrow, give it a year. We will hit back 10 times harder,” said Ronni, leader of northern gang ASAD or Arabian Soldiers Arab Defenders.

Let’s face it, nothing says “tough guy” quite like a paisley handkerchief wrapped cowboy-style around one’s face. And Ronni is one of the most menacing monickers for a gang leader since Tookie burst on to the scene.

But, in an Austrolabe exclusive, we can reveal for the first time the other members of the feared Arab Soldiers Arab Defenders:

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Turkish Government’s Revision of Hadith Project

Now that the Turkish government seems to have come to terms with the idea of a woman wearing a scarf on her head, they can move on the bigger and more ambitious projects:

The country’s powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.

An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings – also known individually as “hadiths” – can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.

“Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim – or pseudo-Muslim – practice of female genital mutilation,” he says.

“You can find messages which say ‘that is what the Prophet ordered us to do’. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition.”

And for those of you who may be wondering, the project’s Felix Koerner is actually a Jesuit priest.

Government advisor: Faith-based schools threaten society

The Age reports today:

THE rapid growth of faith-based schools under the previous federal government has threatened the social cohesion of the nation, according to Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s most senior education adviser.

The frank comments of Professor Barry McGaw, appointed this month to be the new head of the National Curriculum Board, contrast with the Howard government’s celebration of the proliferation of small independent schools, encouraged by generous public funding.

“These people often form a narrowly focused school that is aimed at cementing the faith it’s based on … If we continue as we are, I think we’ll just become more and more isolated sub-groups in our community,” Professor McGaw told The Age.

Professor McGaw’s comments are, of course, absurd. Our community is diverse and that diversity extends quite naturally to how people believe their children should be educated. The very fact that so many parents are opting out of the government-controlled education system in favour of private schools — secular or religious — demonstrates this diversity.

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The “100 years of war” candidate

Pat Buchanan sums up the McCain presidential bid.

Qatar introduces rent controls

Like Dubai before it, the Qatari government has decided to introduce rent controls:

Reports from Qatar suggest the government is to ban landlords from raising rents for the next two years. The drastic action is to help combat record inflation rates. A 27.7 per cent surge in rents spurred inflation in the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas to 13.74 per cent in December, the second-fastest pace on record.

Good idea?

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Review: Unimagined

When you first pick up Unimagined, the most striking thing about it is the cover. It features the author, very young and somewhat debonair-looking in a suit. It is an unusual photo. But, somehow, it perfectly suits the book.

Unimagined is a series of memories penned by Imran Ahmad. He chronicles his life thus far, from his poor childhood (he’s the son of Pakistani immigrants) to the awkwardness of adolescence. It is, at times, humorous and heartwarming. There are moments of pathos. More remarkable is its authenticity: the ordinary things we pay little attention to are illuminated.

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Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy

PBS’ documentary Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy is one of the most fascinating and worthwhile documentaries I’ve seen in quite some time. Based on the book of the same name by Yergin and Stanislaw, the series describes the evolution of the world economy from the early 20th century until now.

The first episode — entitled “The Battle of Ideas” — discusses the post-war “battle” between the ideas of Keynes [pdf] and the socialists; and the ideas of Hayek and a small band of intellectual dissidents who maintained a belief in the free market when it wasn’t particularly fashionable to do so. As the PBS website explains:

For more than half a century the battle of ideas will rage. From the totalitarian socialist systems to the fascist states, from the independent nations of the developing world to the mixed economies of Europe, and the regulated capitalism of the United States, government planning will gradually take over the commanding heights.

But in the 1970s, with Keynesian theory at its height and communism fully entrenched, economic stagnation sets in on all sides. When a British grocer’s daughter and a former Hollywood actor become heads of state, they join forces around the ideas of Hayek, and new political and economic policies begin to transform the world.

The complete first episode can be viewed here.

Alleged “Terror group” discussed shooting Muslim leader

According to news reports, the alleged Melbourne-based terror group (and car stealing racket) didn’t just discuss the murder of the former Prime Minister John Howard but also, it was alleged, discussed the shooting of a prominent Melbourne Muslim community leader, Samir Mohtadi (Abu Hamza) of IISNA.

The court also heard that a senior member of the Melbourne Muslim community vowed to go to the police if he discovered the group had committed any terrorist act.

Prosecutor Richard Maidment, SC, said religious leader Samir Mohtadi had said in a witness statement that he had warned Benbrika’s group.

“He says he told the them if he got wind of the fact that they were going to commit a terrorist act, he would go to the authorities,” Mr Maidment told the jury.

As a result, group member Bassam Raad said he would like to shoot Mr Mohtadi.

If true, this is made even more disturbing by the fact that after these men were imprisoned, it was IISNA — led by the man they apparently discussed shooting — who their families turned to for financial help.

The King who wanted Shariah?

The Times have an interesting and, given the debate over the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments, somewhat topical piece on an earlier attempt to bring Islamic law to the Britain:

Was England ever on the verge of becoming an Islamic state? In 1215 King John was forced to accept the Magna Carta, that touchstone of English liberties. But according to one medieval chronicler, only two years previously he was toying with passing the country over to Sharia.

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“I have a dream…”

The British press is reporting:

The false alarm bomb scare that led to the biggest airlift in British history was sparked by a bad dream by an oil rig worker.

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