Entries Tagged 'News' ↓

Wikileaks release classified memo on Iraqi prisons

Wikileaks have released a classified military memo today exposing the conditions in Iraq’s Fallujah jail. A press release issued today reads, in part:

The document, written last month by the commander of U.S forces in western Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Kelly, describes “unbelievable overcrowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation… There is zero support from the (Iraqi) government for any of the jails in Anbar. No funds, food or medical support has been provided from any ministry.” and says “We need to go to general quarters on this issue right now… To state that the current system is broken would erroneously imply that there is a system in place to be broken.”

The jail is situated next to the U.S. Joint Communications Center in downtown Fallujah. It was built in 2005 by U.S. contractors to house 110 prisoners, but now reportedly holds around 900, mostly awaiting trial or transfer to Baghdad.

A matter of honour

There is a scene in The West Wing (a show I have belatedly grown to absolutely love for its sharp, intelligent and witty dialogue) where Charlie, President Bartlet’s assistant, gives him a gift: it’s a map of the Holy Land, from 1709. Bartlet, admiring the artwork and history behind it, wishes to display the map outside his office. He is told, emphatically, not to do so by his staff.

“It doesn’t recognise Israel”, says Toby. A perplexed Bartlet points out that it was drawn in 1709. “Israel wouldn’t happen for another 250 years,” he adds.

Toby agrees, but still says no to the map. “Some people are going to find it offensive.”

Bartlet asks why. “It doesn’t recognise Israel,” Toby repeats.

It’s an interesting scene. The dialogue is brief, but it says so much.

And it’s sort of strange that I first saw this in the same week our new PM Kevin Rudd made the fortuitous decision to mark and honour Israel’s 60-year occupation of Palestine — sorry, “statehood”. But this weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Alan Ramsey considered the other side of the story.

Tariq Ramadan’s Silent Revolution

When I first arrived at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, I must confess that I was somewhat disappointed. Given the customary brouhaha preceding a Muslim academic’s (or scholar’s) arrival, I’d expected at the very least a picket (even if it consisted solely of the distinguished Ameer Ali).

You can imagine my further disappointment when the most controversial things Tariq Ramadan, the source of the controversy, said, would be more likely to offend some Muslim sensibilities than the non-Muslims in attendance. In fact, Ramadan, who is an incredibly engaging and charismatic speaker, presented his very sensible points softly but with clear conviction. There was absolutely nothing that might require monitoring by authorities.

Admittedly, the Brisbane conference on the “challenges and opportunities” of Islam in Australia was my first true introduction to Ramadan and his thesis. I understood the following: he is a “reformist”; he believes Muslims need to try harder to reconcile their beliefs with those surrounding them in their particular Western nation; he is dubbed Islam’s Martin Luther; he lacks mainstream appeal; he is more successful in Europe than Australia and the US.

Continue reading →

Charge them wherever you find them

The Australian is reporting today on a disturbing revelation:

A SENIOR counter-terrorism officer with the Australian Federal Police has testified that police were directed to charge “as many suspects as possible” with terrorism offences in order to test the new anti-terrorism laws introduced in 2003.

The admission was made by federal agent Kemuel Lam Paktsun, the senior case officer on the Operation Newport investigation that led to the arrest of Sydney medical student Izhar Ul-Haque, whose trial was sensationally dismissed in the NSW Supreme Court yesterday.

“At the time we were directed, we were informed, to lay as many charges under the new terrorist legislation against as many suspects as possible because we wanted to use the new legislation,” Mr Lam Paktsun testified.

“So regardless of the assistance that Mr Ul-Haque could give, he was going to be prosecuted, charged, because we wanted to test the legislation and lay new charges, in our eagerness to use the legislation.”

Camden and Crime

Many residents in the town of Camden, in Sydney’s south west, are enraged that Muslims are supposedly “invading” their rural community, bringing with them all sorts of criminal behaviours and social pathologies.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

The proposed Islamic school for Camden has outraged thousands of residents, some of whom say it would bring violence to the suburb and turn it into a “dirty looking town like Lakemba”.

And they are going to extraordinary lengths to prevent their little town turning into Lakemba. The Sun Herald reports today that:

Property industry sources and concerned residents said agents at Wednesday night’s meeting debated the issue of selling homes to Muslim families wanting to relocate to the area.

Some residents are even attempting to enlist the help of God:

Continue reading →

“We don’t want no (Islamic) education”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that residents of Camden (an area in Sydney’s south-west) are fiercely opposing a proposed Islamic school in the area. Apparently, census figures have the local population at 69% Christian and another 13% as “no religion”, so there would certainly be a question as to whether those wishing to build the school can justify the need for it.
Continue reading →

When Google’s gain is our loss

The Australian reports today:

ONE of Australia’s leading researchers in artificial intelligence, who developed a computer system that can read sign language, is set to join internet giant Google in the US.

Such news wouldn’t normally warrant a mention here on Austrolabe except the researcher is Dr Waleed Kadous, occasional contributor to this site and co-convener of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN).

In this case, Google’s gain is our loss: they are gaining an outstanding researcher, and the Australian Muslim community is losing one of its most tireless and selfless campaigners and activists.

The Liberty and Democracy Party (LDP)

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many Muslims about the political situation and our engagement with the broader society. Although some may disagree, my experience has been that, overwhelmingly, the Muslim community just wants to practice our religion in peace. We want to be free to believe what we want, dress how we like, associate with whom we please, and say what we wish in our mosques and centers. In essence, we — like most other Australians — want to be left alone to pursue our own personal objectives in a manner we see fit.

As I have written previously, it’s my view that the political ideology that best guarantees us those freedoms is libertarianism. It is therefore of particular interest that there is a libertarian party, the Liberty and Democracy Party, running in the coming election — and they have a real chance.

So, to find out how this party views issues of concern to the Muslim community, I put a few questions to John Humphreys, the party’s vice-president and senate candidate for Queensland. We report, you decide; but I know who I’ll be voting for on election day.

Continue reading →

Let Nalliah speak

The greatest enemy of absurdity is its own voice. It is essential therefore that those with extreme and absurd views be encouraged to speak them as often as possible. Rather than seek to stifle their voice or to remove a platform for their views, one should be provided:

YouTube Preview Image

Another prescient example of this is Danny Nalliah, pastor of the fringe church “Catch the Fire Ministries“. Nalliah has previously been alleged to have expressed the desire for God to burn down mosques. For this and other comments Nalliah was taken to VCAT by the Islamic Council of Victoria for inciting religious hatred. The ICV action was a failure both legally and in the wider court of public opinion. It allowed Nalliah to portray himself as the victim of a secretive religion which was furiously trying to avoid scrutiny as it infiltrated the nation. Money, sympathy and support flooded into Catch the Fire Ministries and Nalliah became a celebrity in the Evangelical community. The federal treasurer Peter Costello appeared on stage with Nalliah and embraced him, as did the then deputy Prime Minister John Anderson.

The case was finally settled earlier this year, with a points victory to Nalliah. This has allowed him the confidence to discover his voice once more and to bless us with the profound insights that can come to those whom God speaks to directly.

Continue reading →

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.