Entries from November 2008 ↓

Infochoice: Sharia loans hard to find

Infochoice on MCCA:

The withdrawal of GE Money from the Australian mortgage market will adversely effect the market for Islamic or sharia-compliant home loans. The largest provider of sharia compliant finance in Australia, the Muslim Community Co-Operative Australia provides home loans under the S2L label. These loans are ordinary home loans financed by GE Money Australia, but subject to a series of contracts between the borrower and the MCCA that deem them sharia compliant in the eyes of the MCCA’s religious advisers.

Report on Imams condoning rape and violence

Last week, the media was abuzz with reports on a study, funded by the previous government, into the conduct of Australian imams:

SOME Muslim religious leaders in Victoria are condoning rape within marriage, domestic violence, polygamy, welfare fraud and exploitation of women, according to an explosive report on the training of imams.

The Daily Telegraph covered the story under the headline “Rape within marriage OK: Muslim clerics” which more or less exemplifies the tone of much of the commentary on the report.

Needless to say, the Catch the Fire crowd can barely contain their excitement:

Yet a Howard government commissioned report, conducted by the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria and released exclusively by Barney Zwartz in The Age newspaper today, reveals that what Daniel Scott said was in fact the truth and that it is certainly happening here in Victoria.

Not having seen the report yet, it’s impossible to comment on the findings or the methodology that was used to derive them.  The sorts of issues identified almost certainly do occur although one must be cautious in drawing any conclusions as to how widespread or systemic such occurrences are.

The response to these allegations came today from “Australia’s most senior Muslim”:

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Bad News for BNP

British National Party leader Nick Griffin is attempting to gain a visa to enter Australia.  If he isn’t allowed to enter, Darrin Hodges is ‘warning‘ that it may lead to another Cronulla:

Darrin Hodges, the NSW head of the extreme Australian Protection Party, which is backing his visit, said: “Having a full and frank debate was more helpful than not … and suppressing the debate leads to events like Cronulla.”

Nick Griffin’s British National Party is rather exclusive; the party constitution constraining membership to:

The indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of ‘Indigenous Caucasian’ consist of members of: i) The Anglo-Saxon Folk Community; ii) The Celtic Scottish Folk Community; iii) The Scots-Northern Irish Folk Community; iv) The Celtic Welsh Folk Community; v) The Celtic Irish Folk Community; vi) The Celtic Cornish Folk Community; vii) The Anglo-Saxon-Celtic Folk Community; viii) The Celtic-Norse Folk Community; ix) The Anglo-Saxon-Norse Folk Community; x) The Anglo-Saxon-Indigenous European Folk Community; xi) Members of these ethnic groups who reside either within or outside Europe but ethnically derive from them.

And in other British National Party news, a leaked copy of their entire membership database has been released online today — complete with people’s names and addresses. There’s going to be some very unhappy members of the Celtic-Norse Folk Community tonight.

Where’s my bailout?

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When Monks attack!

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MCCA continues to FAIL

Every time I receive MCCA’s newsletter with my shareholder statement, I expect changes to the board of directors. Sure enough, this time, there was an announcement of a new board election. They officially have more leadership churn than post-war Iraq.

There was also an announcement of a new financial service, Tamleek. Tamleek is an allegedly shariah compliant home finance scheme based on the principle of ijara muntahiya bit-tamlik.

Tamleek has been developed in consultation with re-known [sic] international Islamic finance scholar Dr Mohd Daud Bakr and endorsed by reputable Shariah advisor in Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Muhammad.

With all respect to those scholars, many of us are just not convinced of their authority in Islamic finance. To paraphrase Marshall Bruce Mathers III, won’t the real shariah heavyweights please stand up?

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On Mothers

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(via Abu Eesa)

Pastor Danny has them rolling in the aisles

Pastor Danny Nalliah (above) has them rolling in the aisles with his traveling exorcism and cripple healing show. Alzheimer’s, blocked arteries, epileptic seizures, brain tumors, and dog bites: no problem is too serious for Pastor Danny’s magic hands.

He might need to lift his game when it comes to political predictions and prophecy (he famously predicted John Howard would win the last election!) and, of course, he’s still not in the same league as Austrolabe’s favourite faith healer but for an outer-suburban Australian effort, Pastor Danny is not too bad.

But Danny doesn’t seem to like Muslims too much. In fact, he even thinks we’re part of the “The Secular Humanistic, Islamic, And Interfaith Attempt To Remove Lord’s Prayer From Australian Parliament”:

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The RMIT Muslim prayer room issue

For 14 years, Muslim students at Melbourne’s RMIT have had a Muslim prayer room in which to offer their obligatory prayers.

In 2007, the University promised Muslim students that it would replace the dilapidated prayer facility at their main City Campus and would commission a Muslim architect to build a new Muslim prayer facility that would accommodate the growing numbers of Muslim students and staff.

Minutes [doc] from the Student Advisory Committee meeting (dated 10/5/2007) confirm the university’s commitment to provide Muslim students and staff with the new facility:

Other activities on the City Campus include discussions on the proposal to develop a University Function Centre on Level 5, Building 28 and the planned relocation of the Muslim Prayer Room from Building 9 to Building 11.

Plans for the new Muslim Prayer Room in Building 11 have been finalised after broad consultation and involvement from the Muslim community, including the employment of a Muslim architect. Janet Burton confirmed that a Muslim Prayer Room will remain available throughout construction.

However, in March 2008, the University reneged on this promise to Muslim students and staff, and, without warning, transformed the Muslim prayer facility into a “Multi Faith Centre” prior to opening.  The verses from the Qu’ran that were on the walls of the prayer room (photos below) were even stripped following complaints from other users of the “Multi-Faith Centre”.

As The Australian reports:

Shortly before opening the rooms, RMIT toned down the original Islamic decor, first covering and then removing the sayings of the prophet that were originally on the walls in Arabic script.

In the 2007 edition of the university’s “guide” (called Salam) for Muslim students, a “Muslim prayer room” is advertised; and in the 2008 edition, the same map is retained but the wording was changed to “Spiritual Centre — Prayer Room”.  However, the Australian reports that, ‘at the nearby Bourke Street campus, signs still proclaim the prayer rooms there to be Muslim prayer rooms.”

Since then, the university’s Muslim community have been praying outside in protest.  Video footage can be found beneath the fold.

After the Muslim students complained, the University sought legal advice on its decision.  A copy of the advice has been obtained and can be viewed here [pdf].  Curiously, the University’s legal representative claims as a justification for RMIT’s decision that a number of other Australian universities with sizeable Muslim populations, such as the University of Western Sydney (UWS), do not have Muslim prayer facilities.  For example, the author writes of UWS:

UWS is a secular university and decided that separate prayer/worship areas would be divisive, so they basically drew some clear lands in the sand, which also dealt with issues such as medical students treating opposite genders.

Members of RMIT Islamic Society contacted the University of Western Sydney to confirm these claims.  The response reads:

The University of Western Sydney does provide Muslim Prayer rooms as listed on the website. I am not sure where information to the contrary may be coming from but I do hope that you are able to correct these misconceptions amongst students who may be interested in studying at UWS

This can also be further confirmed by the University’s own website, campus map, and statement in their annual report [pdf] that the establishment of dedicated Muslim prayer rooms was a key achievement of 2004.

As the RMIT Islamic Society have pointed out, the issue is ultimately just about the university keeping its promise to Muslim students and staff.  Their attempt to get their prayer facility reinstated is also supported by the other religious organisations on campus, the RMIT student union and National Tertiary Education Union.

RMIT’s decision is, of course, all the more surprising given its growing reliance on international students from Muslim majority societies such as UAE and Saudi Arabia.

As RMIT’s 2007 report [pdf] states:

International students on scholarships totalled 209, a 20 per cent increase on 2006, coming primarily from the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. … Other key sponsorship groups were from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education, and the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority scholarship programs…

Given this, one would have thought that rather than dramatically reduce the facilities available to Muslim students on campus,  RMIT would have sought to accommodate their religious needs — if only for purely commercial reasons.  Instead, it is behaving in a manner that, if reported more broadly in the Middle East, might harm the university’s ability to compete with other Australian universities; institutions that, contrary to what RMIT’s legal advisors may claim, have gone to some lengths to ensure that Muslim students can practice their faith with ease on campus.

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