Ameer Ali’s Letter to The Australian

Following his recent comments, Ameer Ali, former head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and current chairman of the Prime Minister’s Muslim Community Reference Group has written an interesting letter to The Australian thanking them for their role in the ‘debate’ about Islam.

I WOULD like to thank the editorial team of The Australian for encouraging an open debate and analysis of religious texts (“Brave stand on Muslim honesty”, Editorial, 5/10).

I would also like to thank your reporter Richard Kerbaj for clarifying (“Muslim cleric calls for ban”, 5/10), through the words of Keysar Trad, that the Holy Prophet was perfect as far as human beings go, but the wisdom of God Almighty is always greater. This is what I had intended to say in my comments published on Wednesday (“Prophet not perfect, says Islamic scholar”).

Taj Din al-Hilali’s support for my call for a modern reinterpretation of Koranic text is most welcome. It certainly bodes well for Australian society when the national spiritual leader sends such important, progressive messages. I have had the opportunity to speak to him and clarify my position on the Holy Koran and the Holy Prophet and all these matters will become clear when my academic paper Closing of the Muslim Mind is released later this month.

It is curious how Moustapha Kara-Ali, who only weeks ago was touted as an open-minded, progressive Muslim, has shown his true colours by criticising the inalienable right to question and analyse religious texts and by comparing my comments to the Danish cartoons. This debate has certainly shed light on some prevalent attitudes within the Australian Muslim community and paved the way for a healthy internal debate.
Dr Ameer Ali
Murdoch University, WA

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A belated clarification on our comments and posts policy

I had been meaning to put up a comments and posts policy for some time but having just been made aware of a potentially defamatory comment that had slipped through the net, I think it is appropriate to clarify our policy on such matters. I have added a link to our policies and will update and expand these as necessary.

Firstly, we reserve the right to delete comments. However, we will generally only remove comments that include offensive language, are abusive, illegal, unrelated to the topic, too long, or potentially defamatory. If we delete someone’s comment, we will endeavour to let them know (if they have provided a valid email address). In extreme cases, we may place people in moderation or ban them from the site completely.

Secondly, this is a group blog. As such, it should not be assumed that the posts of any one individual necessary reflect the views, opinions or ideas of the other authors or the Austrolabe site. Each author is alone responsible for the content of their posts.

Thirdly, whilst we will make a best effort to moderate any offensive, defamatory or illegal comments posted to this site, we will not accept responsibility for them. By commenting on this site, you accept that you and you alone are ultimately responsible for your words and whatever consequences may arise from them.

Lastly, it is possible and indeed likely that, from time to time, there will be offensive or other inappropriate comments that slip through. Please do let us know if you see anything that you think is unacceptable and we will take action immediately.

Ramadan Roundup

Alhamdulillah, we have all lived to see another Ramadan and insha’Allah we will benefit from this month of months. As this article reminds us:

The month of Ramadan has arrived again, the month of fasting and prayer. It is the month that provides an opportunity for forgiveness from Allah and emancipation from our sins. It is the month for performing good deeds and giving in charity. It is the month when the gates of the heavens are opened and the rewards for our deeds are magnified many times over. It is the month wherein prayers are answered and the status of the worshipper is elevated. It is the month wherein sins are forgiven.

Allah bestows so many blessings upon his servants in the month of Ramadan. This is the month of fasting that is one of the five pillars of Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted during this month and directed his followers to do the same. He told us that whoever fasts this month with faith, seeking Allah’s reward, will have all of his past sins forgiven. He likewise informed us that whoever stands in prayer throughout this month will have all of his past sins forgiven.

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Muslim Satire

The Satirical Muslim offers an amusing take on Peter Costello’s recent comments and other current events. And whilst on the subject of using satire or comedy for good ends, Sheikh Salman al-Awdah’s site has a fatwa on the issue.

Core Values

In response to opposition leader Kim Beazley’s attempt to force migrants and visitors to agree to some statement of values as a visa condition, the Chaser’s Dominic Knight has put together a draft set of core Australian values:

  1. Respect other cultures if completely assimilated into Australia’s own.
  2. Respect for other religions as long as they’re not fundamentalist (except Christianity).
  3. Respect for Australian institutions such as Don Bradman, Phar Lap, Steve Irwin and Peter Brock.
  4. Respect Australia’s democracy — unless I have a Senate majority.
  5. Respect the equal treatment of women, except when depicted in Ralph, FHM and ZOO. I note note that “equal” does not extend to pay, hiring policies, seats in parliament or adequate childcare facilities.
  6. Respect hard work, especially when directed towards avoiding tax.
  7. Respect Australia’s Laws, and also its Jones and Mitchell.
  8. Respect Australia’s armed forces no matter where America may deploy them.
  9. Respect Australia’s parliaments, except the “fun-sized” NT and ACT parliaments which no-one respects.
  10. Above all respect Australians’ most important value – the value of their mortgage repayments.

(I’ve added links to the above list for the benefit of our overseas readers)

Source: Crikey

Desperately Seeking Celebrity

Roger Howard has an interesting piece over at the Social Affairs Unit. He writes of meeting the leaders of al-Muhajiroun in June 2001 and his conclusion that far from being interested in martyrdom, Omar Bakri and his crew were more interested in celebrity.

Far from telling me stories of suffering or of the Prophet Mohammed, the young adherents of Al Muhajiroun instead reached for what looked like an enormous book. Now they were suddenly smiling, their faces glowing with pride as they pointed to it and gestured me to take a look.

This was not a large copy of the Koran but a scrapbook that contained numerous press cuttings about their organisation. These supposedly devout Muslims slowly turned each page for me to see, wanting to share their glory and watching my reaction closely to make sure that I was properly impressed by what I now saw. The larger the article and the more damning the headline, the more proudly it was shown to me by these young men whose whole presence, demeanour and bearing had changed so visibly during these few minutes. Bakri was also watching and visibly crowed with delight, laughing out loud as the articles were displayed. “They hate me, the press!” he cried out, as his followers laughed with him.

A Reader Asks: What can conservative Muslims do for music?

In response to the recent reports that some Muslim parents had withdrawn their children from music classes in school, a non-Muslim reader writes to ask what can conservative Muslims listen to if they don’t listen to musical instruments.

There is a class of song known as a nasheed. It generally has a religious or moral message and is sung a capella; meaning it is sung without any form of musical accompaniement. Remarkably, the genre is incredibly popular in the Muslim world — particularly the more conservative gulf states — and occupies a similar place in the life of a conservative Muslim as music would occupy in the life of the average Westerner.  For example, sung at weddings and times of celebration. There are stores dedicated to the sale of nasheeds, and even video clips produced for the more popular songs.

A few examples will give one a good idea as to the typical style and substance of these songs.

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It’s a culture guaranteed to cause a clash

Miranda Devine had an excellent piece in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald that is worth drawing attention to.  She comments on the recent calls by the PM for Muslims to ‘integrate’; arguing that it is difficult to expect Muslims to integrate with an increasingly sexualised culture that even many non-Muslims wish they could avoid.

…is it any wonder some Muslim families might want to segregate their daughters from the raunch culture that has engulfed the 21st-century West, in which a girl’s worth is measured by her “hotness”, 10-year-olds learn the art of “turkey slapping” from Big Brother, and schoolgirls have breast augmentation so they can look like Pamela Anderson.

Why would you want to integrate your eight-year-old daughter into a culture that seems to take its decadent cue from Paris Hilton, when your religion offers an apparent safe haven?

Better to dress little Fatima in a burqa and keep her away from the “infidel” girls at school in an attempt to preserve her innocence as long as you can. Better yet, send her to an Islamic school so she won’t be polluted by association.

Devine makes some very good points that I think will resonate with many Muslims.  It’s worth reading.

‘Cultural diversity’ in Muslim schools

The Herald Sun reported a few days ago:

Education Department senior education officer Brian Collins said parents at St Georges Rd and Wilmot Rd primary schools had objected to music classes.

“Some Muslim families have requested their children don’t attend music classes for cultural reasons,” he said.

“And we respect cultural diversity in schools.”

He said the children were being supervised by other teachers during music classes.

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How to beat up a Muslim Beauty Queen

Yesterday, we witnessed yet another Muslim-as-a-beauty-queen moral panic with the Herald-Sun reporting that

A MELBOURNE Muslim girl condemned by Islamic leaders for entering a beauty pageant has defied protests to be shortlisted for the Victorian final.

Ayten Ahmet, 16, advanced to the top 26 of Miss Teen Australia yesterday despite an outcry from some of Victoria’s senior Muslims.

Now, as the old adage goes, a dog biting a man isn’t news; but a man biting a dog is news. A modern version might be something like this: a woman in a beauty pageant isn’t news; but a Muslim woman in a beauty pageant is news (even if she doesn’t identify herself as Muslim, wear hijab, or mention Islam). And that is especially true if you can accompany it with a nice side serve of clerical outrage.

Here’s the recipe for others that are interested in reproducing the beat up: if a woman with a vaguely Muslim name or background enters a beauty pageant, then call Muslim representatives, tell them that a Muslim girl is in the contest and wait for their ‘condemnation’; call the girl or her family and relay the clerical condemnation; and then report that Muslims are ‘protesting’ her appearance or that there is some sort of ‘outcry’ against her participation.  Publish the Muslim outrage on day one, and save the girl’s response for day two.