Friday, June 22, 2007

A Huge Day For Australia's Aboriginals

Wow! What a huge, bold and radical set of Aboriginal policies.

Paternalist, interventionist, nannying, illiberal, statist. Yes to all. But i applaud these radical new policies to the rafters. Any libertarian that adopts a knee-jerk negative response to these proposals either has a heart of stone or a mind of clay.

In response to the spiralling cases of child sex abuse in remote indigenous communities, Prime Minister John Howard and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough announced radical measures today affecting Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territories.

i) widespeard restrictions on alcohol sales will be enforced for six months

ii) all indigenous children under the age of 16 in the territory will be medically examined.

iii) 50% of welfare payments will be quarantined to prevent all their money being spent on alcohol.

iv) welfare payments will be dependent on children attending school.

v) meals will be provided to children at school, with parents paying for them.

vi) the permit system for common areas and road corridors on Aboriginal lands will be scrapped, and work-for-the-dole participants will be marshalled to clean up Aboriginal communities.

vii) possession of X-rated pornography will be banned and all publicly-funded computers searched for evidence of stored pornography.

viii) there will be an immediate increase in policing efforts.

Howard made no apology for overriding Northern Territory laws to implement his plans, saying,

"Any semblance of maintaining the innocence of childhood is a myth in so many of these communities and we feel very strongly that action of this kind is needed. It is interventionist, it does push aside the role of the territory to some degree - I accept that. But what matters more, the constitutional niceties or the care and protection of young children?"

Looks like Noel Pearson has got most of what he wanted. Good for him.

What a huge day.


Libertarians Call For BBC To Be Abolished!

The Libertarian Alliance has issued a press release calling for the abolition of the BBC. Not the privatisation, mind, but the sacking of its entire staff and the removal of its licence to broadcast.

It's at times like this when i am surprised that the libertairan movement has even as much as 2% of the popular vote. It won't have for much longer.

Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Sean Gabb,

“The BBC is a propaganda vehicle for the ruling class - that is, for that loose coalition of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, educators, and media and business people who derive wealth and power and status from an enlarged and activist state.

“In its mealy-mouthed, bureaucratic way, the BBC has now admitted that its core function is not to report the news or to entertain the public, but to impose the specific ideological viewpoint known as �political correctness�, an evil axis of anti-liberal, anti-white racist, anti-Western, anti-Enlightenment and collectivist values and coercive social engineering. With the decline of old style Marxism and Socialism this form of illiberal doctrine has gained a growing and hegemonic role throughout much of academia, charities and civil organizations, churches, social and welfare services, most political parties, and government and the civil service. But its main transmission mechanism is via a controlled media, of which the BBC is the natural centre.

“The answer to this admitted bias is not better regulation: all regulation must ultimately be overseen by the same members or clients of the ruling class who produced the bias. It is not privatisation: that will do nothing more than turn a propaganda vehicle for the ruling class into a profitable propaganda vehicle for the ruling class.

“The only answer is full and immediate abolition. The BBC should be taken off air. Its employees should be sacked and its buildings sold off. All its internal records should be destroyed. All its copyrights should be thrown into the public domain.

“But we must begin with the BBC. It must be destroyed - before it destroys us.”

You're making my job an awful lot harder, Sean.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Why Did Salman Rushdie Get Nominated?

When i read of the proposed knighthood for Salman Rushdie, my first thought was 'poor bastard'. Having lived with armed bodyguards for ten years, he was finally regaining a semblance of a normal life.

My second thought was 'why'? They must have known how inflammatory this would appear; how dangerous to Rushdie's life; how simply in-your-face 'fuck you Muzzers' this would seem.

Err, apparently not.

The committee that recommended Salman Rushdie for a knighthood never imagined that the award would provoke the furious response that it has done in parts of the Muslim world, according to the Guardian.

Gotta be a joke?

It also emerged yesterday that the writers' organisation that led the lobbying for the author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses to be knighted had originally hoped that the honour would lead to better relations between Britain and Asia.


The arts and media committee that proposed him for a knighthood is chaired by Lord Rothschild, the investment banker and former chairman of the trustees of the National Gallery. The other committee members are Jenny Abramsky, the BBC's director of radio and music; novelist and poet Ben Okri, who is vice-president of the English chapter of PEN International, which campaigns on behalf of writers who face persecution; Andreas Whittam Smith, former editor of the Independent; John Gross, the author and former theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph; and two permanent secretaries, one from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and one from the Scottish executive. Mr Smith said that,

"Very properly, we were concerned only with merit in relation to the level of the award,"

Very properly indeed, but a little reckless to Mr. Rushdie's health?

PEN International, which campaigned on behalf of Rushdie when he was in hiding during the fatwa years, has lobbied consistently for him to be honoured. Yesterday the director of its London chapter, Jonathan Heawood, said that he was taken aback by the scale of the reaction.

"The honour is for services to literature and a very belated recognition that he is a world writer, who was in the vanguard of a writing tradition that exploded in the 80s in south Asia. It seems a shame that a few lines in his fourth novel should have turned him into this hate figure. He has become a Guy Fawkes figure to be thrown on a bonfire whenever it suits a government to divert attention from what is happening in their own countries."

Too true Jonathan. But you really should already know this.

No date has been set for the investiture. Rushdie could become Sir Salman in the next batch of investitures between October and December or early next year. Or the Foreign Office could veto the proposal.

An unusually sensible remark from Will Self,

"Given the furore that The Satanic Verses occasioned, it does strike me that any responsible writer might ask himself whether the fallout from accepting such an honour was really worth the bauble ... it is surely better that writers decline any form of honour."


266 Reasons To Smoke

A couple of months ago it was reported that there are 266 reasons the state can use to demand entry to your house. This appalling news has been tempered somewhat by today's report that if residents insist on smoking in the presence of council officials the visit will be cancelled and replaced with a meeting at the council offices.

So when the man from the council demands entry to your home under the "Offensive Wallpaper Regulations 2007", all you need do is blow smoke in his face and tell him to bugger off.

And if that's not a reason to take up smoking, I don't know what is.

This gem from Bishop Hill and Tim Worstall.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailors?

Update; i notice that a lot of army personnel are being directed to this article via Google. If you are British Army, then the very warmest of welcomes.

The government report into the captured British sailors has revealed that no-one is to blame and no disciplinary action will be taken!

That's not the verdict of the Army. Last month the Army played the Navy at football. They came prepared with their own special song.

To the tune of 'What shall we do with a drunken sailor'

What shall we do with the captured sailors?
What shall we do with the captured sailors?

What shall we do with the captured sailors?
Ear-lye in the morning

Ooh'ray and Faye is gopping (ed- 'gopping' apparently means 'ugly')
Ooh'ray and Faye is gopping

Ooh'ray and Faye is gopping

Ear-lye in the morning

Take away his ipod and make him blubber

Take away his ipod and make him blubber

Take away his ipod and make him blubber

Ear-lye in the morning

Put him in a suit and make him smile

Put him in a suit and make him smile

Put him in a suit and make him smile

Ear-lye in the morning

Give 'em forty grand and hear them snivel

Give 'em forty grand and hear them snivel

Give 'em forty grand and hear them snivel
Ear-lye in the morning

Give him an alcopop and watch him dribble
Give him an alcopop and watch him dribble
Give him an alcopop and watch him dribble

Ear-lye in the morning

Send the ugly bint right back to tehran

Send the ugly bint right back to tehran

Send the ugly bint right back to tehran

Ear-lye in the morning

Put them on the telly smoking ciggies
Put them on the telly smoking ciggies

Put them on the telly smoking ciggies
Ear-lye in the morning

via Times and the here.


Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 has become the only prohibited game in the country after the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) condemned its “unremitting bleakness” and encouragement of “casual sadism”.

It is only the second game to have been refused classification since regulation of video content became compulsory in 1984.

Created by Rockstar Games, the software developer responsible for Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt 2 involves a deranged character who must escape from a mental asylum, find the people who put him there, and then sneak up on them and bludgeon them to death with axes and sledgehammers.


Rockstar, which is owned by Take 2 Interactive, an American company, had this to say,

"The adult consumers who will play this game fully understand that it is fictional interactive entertainment and nothing more.”


The first Manhunt game was withdrawn by some retailers in July 2004 after the parents of a 14-year-old boy who was murdered with a claw hammer claimed that his killer was obsessed with the game. No link was proved, but studies have suggested a link between video game violence and aggressive behaviour in children.

Long may these nihilistic and sadistic games be banned. Of course there are some unstable kids out there who watch them and are influenced by them. Any idiot could tell you that. How the fuck these games developers sleep at night is beyond me.


Monday, June 18, 2007

To Marry Or Not To Marry

Two pieces of marriage-related news;

i) Labour MP, Frank Field, has discovered that Gordon Brown has been pursuing a policy of hostile discrimination against married couples in the UK. He has shown that for a lone parent to take home £487 per week, he or she must work for 16 hours on the minimum wage; for a married couple to take home the same amount, that number is 116 hours. Such are the punitive rates of marginal tax that have arisen under Brown's attempts not to discriminate against single parents.

ii) The Law Commission, the government's legal reform body, is to publish new proposals to give divorce-rights to non-married but co-habiting couples. The extraordinary implication of this is that if a relationship ends, one partner can sue the other for a significant part of their estate. No weddings required for the gold digging to start.

Fifty years ago, 90% of 16 year-olds were still living with both of their parents; today that number is 62%. Ian Duncan Smith's think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice, has produced a raft of data showing the harm this does to children. He said that,

"Family breakdown is one of the great drivers for under-achievement in children".

He is right.

But with the Law Commission doing their utmost to prevent relationships from starting, and the government furiously trying to prevent those who do hook up to actually walk down the aisle, is it all worth it?

The Pros and Cons of Getting Hitched


i) In the UK, spouses are exempt Inheritance tax. This kicks in at £300,000 at the rate of 40%. However, in Australia, there is no Inheritance Tax.

Net - get married if you're a wealthy Brit.

ii) Divorce laws are highly beneficial to the non-working spouse.

Net - get hitched if you are a gold digger.

The UK Courts will now even award you a share of your spouse's future earnings if you are very lucky.

iii) Married couples are more likely to remain together. 50% of cohabiting couples split up before their child's 5th birthday; that number is just 1 in 12 for married parents. Though, it is probably more likely that cohabiting parents reflect uncertainty in each other rather than in the institution of marriage.


i) Married couples can only have one principle untaxed residence - unmarrieds can have two.

ii) For those on lower incomes, marriage is excessively punitive (see Frank field example above).

Net - never ever get hitched if you are a low wage earner or a welfare claimant.

iii) The average cost of a wedding has risen to £12,000. Not to mention that African Safari honeymoon for another £8k - call it a round 20 'G's.

iv) British Divorce Laws favour the diggers of gold over the producers.

Net - if you are a Producer, never ever get married in England. If you a Freeloader, insist on a charming English Country marriage.

Not exactly being recommended by the State is it?

The History of Marriage

Some background reading courtesy of the LDP site on Personal Choice,

The oldest evidence of wedding ceremonies date from about 2,300 BC in Mesopotamia. By 2000 BC the concept of committed partnership had spread to the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans.

Contrary to popular belief, the origins of marriage are neither religious nor related to the raising of children. Anthropologists theorize that most primitive marriages were polygamous and had little to do with love, monogamy or religion. Rather, they were a means to expand the land or other assets of a clan, either through the receipt of a dowry or the merger of two clans' assets.

With ownership of property by individuals rather than clans, marriage also became the principal means of ensuring the legitimacy of heirs to whom the property could be transferred. Through marriage a woman became a man's property and her reproduction controlled.

Religious guidelines around marriage were first used as a means of preventing different religious groups from losing wealthy followers by restricting them from marrying into other religions.

As the Church gained power, a priest's blessing became required. By the 8th century, the church used marriage as a ceremony to confer heavenly grace while consolidating earthly power. Only in 1563, at the Council of Trent, was marriage promoted as a holy sacrament.

In Western Europe it was not until the Middle Ages that marriage in churches began to occur. However, church marriages were not the norm until the 17th century and then only for the nobility. Marriage was also used as a tool to unite different royal families' bloodlines, creating alliances that were instrumental in enabling the European monarchies to colonize much of the rest of the world.

A new ideology of marriage arose in industrial countries in the 1800s. Longer life spans, working out of the home, urban living and ideals of equality allowed young couples to experience a period of marriage without young children. This encouraged new criteria for successful marriages: romance, companionship, emotional satisfaction and compatibility.

The role of the government in marriage was negligible until it took on the role of maintaining a register of marriages, a function previously performed mostly by churches. Births and deaths were similarly recorded. In the nineteenth century this began to take on a regulatory aspect. For example, laws that set the minimum age for marriage, stipulated parental consent in certain cases and prohibited bigamy and the marriage of siblings were introduced.

In the twentieth century the government's role in marriage increased dramatically with legislation to manage the ending of marriages, particularly relating to custody of children and division of property.


The New 7 Wonders of the World

Voting is nearly closed on a massive poll (50 million votes already cast) to determine the new Seven Wonders of the World.

Currently leading the charge are;

The Great Wall of China
The Coliseum at Rome
Machu Picchu
Greece's Acropolis
Mexico's Chichen Itza Pyramid
The Eiffel Tower
Easter Island
Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer
The Taj Mahal
Jordan's Petra.

You can vote here. There's 21 days to go.

Via Not PC


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Holiday Reading

A 24 hour flight back to the Mother Country looms.

To while (is that how you spell it?) away the hours, I shall be picking up a copy of 'The Islamist' by Ed Husain at the airport, an autobiographical account of the author's journey from radical Islamist to subsequent rejection of Islam.

The indefatigable Melanie Philipps has this to say,

“‘The Islamist’ should be sent to every politician at Westminster, put on the desk of every counter-intelligence officer and thrust under the supercilious nose of every journalist who maunders on about ‘Islamophobia’.”

More interestingly, the leading left-wing Asian ('we have an Asian tinge to our stories') blog in the UK, Pickled Politics, has this to say,

Whilst it should be remembered that this is a personal account of the author’s experiences and as such treated with a degree of caution, it is a book worth reading. My own view having read this book is that ignorance coupled with well-intentioned multiculturalism have brought about a situation where some pretty unpleasant groups are allowed to flourish unchecked in ways that would be unthinkable if it were far-right organisations as opposed to Islamist groups.

The unofficial segregation of communities has helped create at atmosphere of mutual suspicion which is bound to lead to violence in some individuals, whether in the form of gang fights or terrorism. That Tony Blair can advocate more faith schools in the current climate beggars belief.

Any other holiday reading suggestions?


Friday, June 15, 2007

Abolish The Minimum Wage

'Everyone should be guaranteed the right to be paid a decent wage for an honest day's work.'

'Advocates of abolishing the minimum wage are stooges for Big Corp Inc.'

'If there is no minimum wage, greedy employers will be able to exploit desperate workers.'

These three arguments are widely held beliefs by the electorate. Opinion polls show overwelming support in favour of minimum wages and their reasoning sounds so fair and just.

They aren't and the public is wrong.

Here's why.

The minimum wage increases unemployment amongst the poorest section of society. Forbidden to work in the official economy, people whose skill levels command fewer rewards turn instead to unrecorded, cash income. They forgo all pension benefits and the protection of laws governing overtime, sick pay or other working conditions. Worse, they become dependent on dignity-destroying welfare for survival.

A far better solution is to abolish taxes for the lowest paid.

Rafe Champion at Catallaxy points to a paper published by the National Recovery Administration under President Roosevelt (no right wing think-tank, they) highlighting the damage done to black Americans during the 1940s following the introduction in 1933 by FDR of the minimum wage.

The report estimates that over 500,000 black Americans lost their jobs, all from the poorest section of society.

First, two facts.

1. Market wages are roughly equal to discounted marginal labor productivity.

2. Productivity varies from one worker to the next.

Hence, when minimum wages rise, employers are forced to fire their lowest-productivity workers.

An exhaustive study of the effects of minimum wages by David Neumark and William Wascher, published in 2004 by the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, calculated consistent employment losses among 19 to 24-year-olds in 17 industrialized countries. Many studies peg the losses at between 1-3% for every 10% increase in the minimum wage.

Leading minimum wage apologist, law professor, Ellen Dannin, urges her supporters to

"stand your ground, even if you have never taken an economics course"

This absurd position was debunked years ago by Murray Rothbard,

"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a 'dismal science.' But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance."

Logic and reason are on the side of those who propose abolition of the minimum wage. Emotion and well-meaning compassion are against us. Tough opponents for sure, but for the sake of the poorest members of society, essential to beat.


Caption Competition


Brilliant Carbon Tax Idea; Part II

The ingenious carbon tax idea below can actually be further improved by adding a wrinkle allowing a futures market in the temperature indicator, and tying the tax to the futures price. This futures price would in effect allow companies to bet on the forward development of AGW and hence efficiently plan energy provision.

Too simple, too brilliant to be true?

Author of this paper, Ross McKitrick, is fielding questions here.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Brilliant Carbon Tax Idea

Now this idea is pure genius. A carbon tax proposal by Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph.

Why not tie carbon taxes to actual levels of warming?

Update; McKitrick's idea receives the Adam Smith Institute seal of approval!

Climate models predict that, if greenhouse gases are driving climate change, there will be a unique fingerprint in the form of a strong warming trend in the tropical troposphere, the region of the atmosphere up to 15 km in altitude, over the tropics. The IPCC states that this will be an early and strong signal of anthropogenic warming. Climate changes due to solar variability or other natural factors will not yield this pattern: only sustained greenhouse warming will do it. Temperatures in the tropical troposphere are measured every day using weather satellites,

Suppose each country implements something called the T3 tax, whose U.S. dollar rate is set equal to 20 times the three-year moving average of the estimates of the mean tropical tropospheric temperature anomaly (departure from its 1979-98 average), assessed per tonne of CO2, updated annually. Based on current data, the tax would be US$4.70 per ton.

This tax rate is low, and would yield very little emissions abatement. Global-warming skeptics and opponents of greenhouse-abatement policy will like that. But would global-warming activists? They should -- because according to them, the tax will climb rapidly in the years ahead.

The IPCC predicts a warming rate in the tropical troposphere of about double that at the surface, implying about 0.2C to 1.2C per decade in the tropical troposphere under greenhouse-forcing scenarios. That implies the tax will climb by $4 to $24 per tonne per decade, a much more aggressive schedule of emission fee increases than most current proposals. At the upper end of warming forecasts, the tax could reach $200 per tonne of CO2 by 2100, forcing major carbon-emission reductions and a global shift to non-carbon energy sources.

Global-warming activists would like this. But so would skeptics, because they believe the models are exaggerating the warming forecasts. After all, the tropical troposphere series went up only about 0.08C over the past decade, and has been going down since 2002. Some solar scientists even expect pronounced cooling to begin in a decade. If they are right, the T3 tax will fall below zero within two decades, turning into a subsidy for carbon emissions.

Under the T3 tax, the regulator gets to call everyone's bluff at once, without gambling in advance on who is right. If the tax goes up, it ought to have. If it doesn't go up, it shouldn't have. Either way we get a sensible outcome.

But the benefits don't stop there. The T3 tax will induce forward-looking behaviour. Alarmists worry that conventional policy operates with too long a lag to prevent damaging climate change. Under the T3 tax, investors planning major industrial projects will need to forecast the tax rate many years ahead, thereby taking into account the most likely path of global warming a decade or more in advance.

Pure bloody genius. But unlikely to be implemented because

'It wouldn’t generate any commissions for lobbyists and brokers or expense accounts in night clubs in Moscow and Montreal'

Via the excellent Not PC


A PG Exclusive! Gordon Brown's New Cabinet

Prime Minister.
I'll say that again, Prime Minister.
Me. Not Tony. Me. Gordy. Supremo. Chief. Boss. The Broonster.
Ha! Power at last!
In the immortal words of Richie Benaud, "piss off Tony, you're out!"

Deputy Prime Minister
Me again!
Yup, not hard to look good against the previous occupant of this position, eh?
Just show up for work, avoid shagging the staff and try not to
fuck the country up.

Minister For Taking The Blame
The Rt Hon Member for Not Succeeding Me
David Miliband
Remind you of another grinning idiot? Yup, me too.
I have cunningly devised a plan to pin all the shit on him.
Think your gonna succeed me, eh pretty boy? Think again, loser.

Deputy Minister For Taking The Blame
The Rt Hon Grinning Idiot
If the shit won't stick to Miliband, then Tony has kindly agreed
to be blamed for everything that will go wrong.
And i intend to keep TB busy in his new role.
Oh yes.

Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Rt Hon Member for The Pearly Gates
Because it's going to take a fucking miracle to salvage this economy after ten years of me tinkering with it.

Treasury Secretary
The Rt Hon Member for Sherwood Forest
We can always count on Paul's vote by continuing our policy
of robbing Peter to pay him. And thanks to me, there's far more Pauls than there are Peters. What a plan!

Minister Without Portfolio
Ed Miliband
Another candidate to replace me.
Not on your life pal. No way, Jose!
No portfolio, no responsibility, no nothing.
Knob off.

Minister Without Principle
The Rt Hon Member for Whatever It Takes To Get Votes
You can always rely on Pete, no matter what the issue, to
speak entirely devoid of principle, views, or opinions.
First man in any supremo's (yes, that's me now) new team.

Defence Secretary
The Rt Hon Member for Crying
Faye Turney (aka Topsy)
About time the defence forces were led by a compassionate woman.

Minister for the Arts
The Rt Hon Member for Tubbyshire
This should tick a smorgsmabord of diversity boxes.
Not human, gay, purple, ethnic, fat, jug ears and barely literate.
Oh, and has an aerial for a head.

Head of the Tax Office
The Rt Hon Members of the Streets With No Name
These boys have forgotten more about tax avoidance than you
or I will ever know. Perfect for the job.

Culture Minister
The Rt Hon Member for Binge Drinking
Freddie 'Shipfaced' Flintoff will lead the charge to remove
alcohol from Britain's streets, singlehandedly.

Minister for Liberty
The Rt Hon Member for Mauritius
Dave the Dodo

Minister for Spin
The Rt Hon Member for Yosemite
I am often asked whether 'spin' will be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Over to you Yogi...


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fisking Time Out

Time Out, the 'what's on' in London magazine, has an article by Michael Hodges entitled, "Is London's future Islamic?". In it, he argues that London would be better off under Islam.

The article is so poorly written, so infantile in its points, that it beggars belief that a quality magazine of the status of Time Out could have deemed it fit for publication.

Anyway, here are its key points and mine.

i) Public Health

Islam offers Londoners potential health benefits: the Muslim act of prayer is designed to keep worshippers fit, their joints supple and, at five times a day, their stomachs trim. The regular washing of the feet and hands required before prayers promotes public hygiene and would reduce the transmission of superbugs in London’s hospitals. Alcohol is haram, or forbidden, to Muslims. Turning all the city’s pubs into juice bars would have a massive positive effect on public health. Forbid alcohol throughout the country, and you’d avoid many of the 22,000 alcohol-related deaths and the £7.3 billion national bill for alcohol-related crime and disorder each year.

However, despite all these wonderful benefits, Hodges shoots himself in the foot by conceding that

On the surface, Islamic health doesn’t look good: the 2001 census showed that 23% of Muslims suffered long-term illness and disability.

So Michael, why is this so? And are you really advocating prohibition of alcohol?
Also, why are 25% of Muslim prisoners in jail for drug-related crime? As this article from Muslim organisation MPAC states,

'from the late 1980s onwards, according to Maqsood Ahmed, it appears that Asians replaced Afro-Caribbeans as the main drug pushers on the streets'

ii) Ecology

The Islamic concept of halifa or trusteeship obliges Muslims to look after the natural world and Muhammad was one of the first ever environmentalists, advocating hima – areas where wildlife and forestry are protected.

I have heard Mohammed praised for many things, but never, ever for his green credentials. Is this a joke?

iii) Education

Muslim children do better in their own faith schools than in the mainstream state sector. If Islam became the dominant religion in London, this could have a revolutionary effect on educational achievement and general levels of discipline and self-respect among London’s young people

And the evidence for this?

Presently, Muslim students perform less well than non-Muslim students. In inner London, 37% of 16 to 24-year-old Muslims have no qualifications (compared to 25% for the general population of inner London). When it comes to university education the picture is equally gloomy: 16 to 24-year-old Muslims are half as likely to have degree level or above qualification than other inner London young people.

Huh? How so? I thought you said Islam would raise the educational standards in our schools?

Social factors rather than religion have led to this state of affairs. Young Muslims are more likely to encounter racism and to suffer from poverty and bad housing."

Aaah, I see. So why do only Muslims suffer racism and not Hindhus and Sikhs, Michael?

iv) Food

Application of halal dietary laws across London would free us at a stroke from our addiction to junk food. As curry is already Londoners’ and the nation’s favourite food, it would be a relatively easy process to encourage the adoption of such a diet. Not eating would be important as well. The annual fasting month of Ramadan instils self-discipline, courtesy and social cohesion.

So we should all eat halal food, chicken tikka masala (is that healthy?) and fast like Kate Moss. Brilliant deitary advice, Mickey.

v) Inter-Faith Relations

In an Islamic London, Christians and Jews – with their allegiance to the Bible and the Talmud – would be protected as ‘peoples of the book’. Hindus and Sikhs manage to live alongside a large Muslim population in India, so why not here? Although England has a long tradition of religious bigotry against, for instance, Roman Catholics, it is reasonable to assume that under the guiding hand of Islam a civilised accommodation could be made among faith groups in London.

Have you ever heard of the dhimmi status of non-Muslims living in Muslim countries, Michael? Or the jizya? Did you really just say that Muslims and Hindhus live harmoniously in India? Are you aware of how Pakistan came into being? Or Kashmir? Or the Mumbai bombings? Is Christian bigotry really to be saved from Islamic tolerance? Really?

vi) The Arts

Some of the finest art in London is already Islamic.

Yes, The Tate and the National Gallery are positively overflowing with Islamic works.

vii) Social Justice

Each Muslim is obliged to pay zakat, a welfare tax of 2.5% of annual income, that is distributed to the poor and the needy. If the working population of London, 5.2 million, was predominantly Muslim this would produce approximately £3.2bn each year.

But Michael, haven't you just stated that 37% of young Muslims in London are out of work? What use is an income tax if there is no income to tax?

Also, why are Muslims so over-represented in the prison population? (They account for 2% of the general population but 9% of the prison population)

Amir, in the comments section, points out yet another error in this comedy-of-errors article,
"Actually, the tax isn't on income but on savings that has been held for more than one year. In other words, if I put $1,000 under my pillow today, in a year, I would be required to pay $25.00 to one of the categories of people and cause mentioned in the Quran".
and the piece de resistance,

viii) Race Relations

Under Islam all ethnicities are equal. Once you have submitted to Allah you are a Muslim – it doesn’t matter what colour you are. End of story.

No, they aren't. Only those that submit to Allah are equal.
And are you proposing that all Londoners are forcibly obliged to commit to Islam?

The point of this article is not to 'have a go' at Islam but to show the utter banality and ignorance of Hodge's arguments. There are many aspects of Islam that i admire; the emphasis on family and community as opposed to the atomisation of the West; the self-sacrifice demanded by Islam as opposed to the 'me first' culture of the West; the spirituality of Islam as opposed to the rampant secularism and nihilism of the West; the emphasis on learning about the great teachers as opposed to the West's mantra that education is relative; the worship of God and rejection of materialism as opposed to the worship of money and celebrity; and the focus on helping the poor and the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimmage as opposed to the selfishness of the West.

I have to conclude, therefore, that Hodges either has some highly uncompromising pictures of the Time Out editor or is a Christian evangelist cleverly arguing the case against Islam. If so, he has brilliantly achieved his goal.

Shame on Time Out for publishing such an anti-Islamic piece.

Time Out article found at The Midnight Sun, here, and reviewed by The Brussels Journal, here.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Aid - The White Man's Burden

Tony Blair has used his keynote speech in South Africa to say there is a 'moral obligation' to use political action 'to make the world better'.

I believe he genuinely means well. But he is going about it in all the wrong and failed ways.

Banging the same broken drum is the OECD, which has called upon rich nations to increase aid to Africa by 11% a year to reach $130bn by the year 2010.

In the past 50 years, Africa has received $2.3 trillion of foreign aid. Liberia now relies on aid for 50% of its GDP. There is little to show for all this largesse.

In contrast, the most dramatic reductions in poverty have come from India and China. These economic success stories have nothing to do with aid and everything to do with free market reforms - the abandonment of collective farming in China and the cutting of government red tape in India. You would think, and hope, that the world would look to these two countries as shining examples of how to eradicate poverty. You would be wrong.

Kenyan economist James Shikwati is clear where the fault lies,

If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor. For God's sake, stop the aid!"

And so is Moeletsi Mbeki (brother of the South African President). In particular he is scathing of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deals that are now prevalent in South Africa, arguing that SA must prioritise wealth creation rather than wealth re-distribution.

Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute rips into the aid industry with this objectivist tirade,

"Instead of disputing how aid is measured or guiltily promising billions more, the G-8 should repudiate the alleged moral duty to selflessly serve the world's poor. We have no moral duty to sacrifice for the poor. Those who earn their prosperity by production and trade have a moral right to every penny of their riches. The notion that the richest nations must serve the 'needy' is based on the vicious moral code of altruism.

Altruism holds that one's highest moral duty is to selflessly serve others--and thus that the world's 'haves' must sacrifice for the sake of its 'have-nots.' The productive, on this abhorrent view, have no moral right to pursue their own interests and keep their wealth; their only justification for existing is to serve the needy. Thus the world's richest nations must atone for their prosperity by sacrificing for the sake of those who lack, or don't care to earn, values.

Africa is poor because it is rife with bloody tribalism and superstition--ideas that in the Dark Ages kept the Western world as poor, if not poorer, than today's Africa. If aid advocates were genuinely concerned with helping Africans, they would campaign for political and economic freedom, for individualism, reason and capitalism, for the ideas necessary to achieve prosperity."

And here in Australia, Noel Pearson, Aboriginal leader of the Cape York Institute, says much the same,

'The vortex of substance abuse and passive welfare has distorted our system of reciprocal obligation into a culture of humbugging, bludging and one-sided obligation, chiefly on the part of responsible elders to irresponsible drinkers.'

You do have to wonder why so few in positions of power have questioned the concept of perpetual aid, given that it has been such a spectacular failure. The benign racism of low expectations reigns supreme within the aid industry. If my seven year old takes a pee on our new rug, i would haul him to task. If my dog did the same, i would not as I expect more from my son. If only the aid industry and the G8 would expect more from people, they might finally give them the opportunity to show what they can do.

Shikwati and Journo quotes sourced from a recent ace blog discovery - Not PC

Oh - and in case there are any racists reading this who are thinking that Africans are incapable of looking after themselves, check out the inspiring story of little known Somaliland, a moderate Muslim state that is ineligible for any foreign aid, and that is, err, strangely, prospering...


Australia's New Mufti

Australia has a new mufti. This matters.

A mufti as an Islamic scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law (Sharia), capable of issuing fataawa (plural of "fatwa"). He is the most important Muslim in Australia.

In the UK, such a position does not exist. There are a bunch of Muslim organisations that compete for the attentions of their followers, but no one single 'leader' of the Muslim community. The mufti in Australia is such a person. Amir at Austrolabe is convinced of the need to have this position abolished but for now it exists, and the new guy, Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam, will now come under intense media scrutiny, his every utterance poured over.

As the guys at Austrolabe correctly predicted some months ago (and The Australian got wrong in its editorial this morning), the National Imams Council have provided the previous mufti, the notorious Sheikh Taj ad-Din al-Hilaly, with a face saving exit. Whilst they officially elected to keep him on as mufti, a deal was cut several months ago to have him removed, mainly thanks to the sterling work of Dr. Tom Zreika, President of the Lebanese Muslim Association, and easily the most impressive of Australia's leading Muslim figures.

First things first. Let's take a moment to celebrate the fact that one of the most despised and ridiculed figures in Australian life is no longer in a position of such authority. Sheikh Hilaly's tirades have become the stuff of legend. Whether you are Jewish, female, gay, a rape victim or Western he has some comforting words for you all. He also proved to be a highly effective recruiting sargeant for Islamophobia, converting 10,000 agnostic Australians to the cause every time he opened his poisonous mouth.

So, i am pleased to discover and hear it on good authority that Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam is rather different. His fans describe him as 'moderate', 'low-profile', 'consensual' and a 'peace-loving man of God'. He cannot do a worse job than his predecessor so it's with minimal expectations that he begins his two year term.

Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam first came to Australia from the Lebanon in 1951 as a newly-trained imam and has since built up a large and loyal following in Victoria. I would love to hear from people who know him and who have worked with him as i have a few reservations about his appointment, namely

i) He is 79 years old and apparently in terrible health
ii) Despite having lived in Australia for 56 years, his English is poor. The Imams Council have not exactly shown their concern for integration with his appointment.
iii) He has made some worrying comments about Hizbollah, describing them as 'freedom fighters' and arguing to have them removed from the proscribed list of terror organisations (he lost his appeal).
iv) He foolishly supported the citizenship application of terrorist, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, though he immediately regretted this decision as the latter's extreme views became apparent.

His inaugural press conference over the weekend contained few surprises. Understandably reluctant to elicit strong views on any subject at this point, he has already infuriated the local press by refusing to condemn suicide bombings or to comment on Iraq. But in my view, this is a misguided attack on him, designed solely to sell newspapers (note to the ABC - 'proscribe' and 'prescribe' are two very different words).

Fingers crossed.

Update 1 - Andrew Bolt reports that the new mufti is a '9/11 conspiracy theorist'.

Update 2- thoughts on the new mufti from Amir here


Monday, June 11, 2007

UK Housing; The Mother of all Bubbles

What goes up.....

The Economist has a scary graph for UK homeowners to ponder over their morning Cornflakes.

They cite three reasons for the boom that has soared past its nearest Western equivalent, France.

i) Housing supply has only crept up

ii) Net immigration is running at a record breaking 185,000 per annum.

iii) More people are living alone driving up the need for more homes.

I would add three more;

iv) Globalisation has made the country an awful lot wealthier

v) Due to 9/11, the rapid development of the Credit Derivatives market and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, The City of London has now overtaken New York as the world's financial capital. This is acting as a magnet for wealthy foreigners and is spreading wealth across the country.

vi) Interest rates are way, way too low. Central Banks, in focusing solely on (increasingly massaged) goods inflation data have ignored rampant asset price inflation. The bond market is just waking up to this fact as ten year gilt yields have increased 100 basis points since the start of the year to now stand at 5.32%.

Wanna a buy-to-let on a 100 year interest-only 110% mortgage?


Sporadic Posting

Due to my wife having to fly up to the Gold Coast for a funeral, posting will be sporadic this week.
I'm currently knee deep in washing, ironing, cooking, chauffering, cleaning, hoovering, chauffering, homeworking, chauffering, playing, calming down, motivating, chauffering, cheering up, chauffering, persuading, badgering, cajoling, pleading, begging, bribing, oh and did i mention chauffering.

Have updated Popovich's extensively sourced reply to Kizzie and her response to Popovich on Kizzie's post. Both are well worth a read.

No time for opinions or views.

Except, don't forget to vote for me! I'm slipping...


Friday, June 08, 2007

BlogPower Awards

Lots of blog awards currently being nominated for here.

I have been nominated for Best Blog Post Of All Time for my 'Self-Hater's Guide To Science.

Click this link to go to the poll.

You can vote once a day if you really want to.

Thanks mainly to Tim Blair featuring the post on his website, and then 24 other bloggers linking to it, it generated over 10,000 page views.

Nice weekend!


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Who's Gonna Pay For All This?

Standard & Poor's projected future national credit ratings on the basis of current policies and promises. So in 2023 French government bonds will be junk rated (that means very likely to default) and the same for the US in 2026.....ooooeerrr. Full report here.

S&P are predicting debt to spiral out of control unless current fiscal policies are radically reversed

In addition,

i) Gordon Brown could have entirely abolished income taxes had he kept spending constant.

ii) Tax Freedom Day is now only reached on June 3rd (compared to April 25th in Australia).

iii) 47% of UK voters work for the State.

Something's got to give....

via Scrivener and the Adam Smith Institute


FGM From An African, Muslim And Female Point Of View

This is a guest post by Kizzie, a Sudanese female Muslim blogger, currently living in Cairo. Her blog is here.

In Islam, if a woman is not sexually satisfied, she has the right to divorce her husband.

Female Genital Circumcision or simply Female circumcision is the excision of any part of the "female genitalia". FGM is common in African countries such as Burkina Faso ( 70%), Djibouti(90%), Egypt (97%), Guinea (98%), Somalia (90-98%), Sudan (90%) and some Arab countries in the Middle East or even the immigrant population in Europe and North America.

There are four types of FGM

1. Clitoridectomy: total or partial removal fo the clitoris.

2. Excision: removal of the clitoris and the partial or complete removal of the labia minora.

3. Infibulation: removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora.

4. Other types: usually found among isolated ethnic groups and it involves "cutting". There is no removal of tissues.

Part 1

Why is FGM not Islamic?

Their are three main arguments against this widespread belief

1. FGM predates both Christianity and Islam since it is believed to date back to time of the Pharaohs.

Evidence 1- It is mentioned in an ancient Greek document that it was a common practice in Egypt (the document dates back to 163 B.C.)

Evidence 2- In Sudan, infibulation(type three) is referred to as the "pharonic circumcision".

2. FGM is found in non-Muslim societies example: Christians in Ghana and other non-Muslim societies in India and South America.

3. If FGM was obligatory in Islam then Muslim scholars from all over the world wouldn't be working together to ban its practice.

i) At a conference on female genital mutilation in Cairo, Muslim scholars from around the world called for female genital mutilation to be banned and for those who carry it out to face punishment carried out by the government.

ii) Last year, a meeting was held at azhar university( the top Islamic university in the Middle East and North Africa ) and they finally banned FGM from all Muslim societies and they classified it as a "Crime".

iii) In 2005, at an African Regional Conference on "Islam and the Family Well-Being" ,Dr Ahmend Talib, Dean of the Faculty of Sharia, Al Azhar University, Cairo, said: "All practices of female circumcision and mutilation are crimes and have no relationship with Islam. Whether it involves the removal of the skin or the cutting of the flesh of the female genital is not an obligation in Islam".

I would like to add this very important piece of information."Infibulation, or Pharaonic Circumcision is mutilation (Arabic: Muthla) and as such is chargeable as a crime in Islamic law. The practice, if perpetrated, would obligate that the defendant pay the full price of blood-money to the plaintiff for removal of the labia. If sexual stimulus is lost then another compensatory payment would be paid equal to the first, and if procreation is impossible then another of equal value. This view means that FGM in Islamic law is equal to wrongful death. The judge presiding over the case may opt for jail time as a deterrent, or public reprimand, or any other non-proscribed punishment that is seen as fitting to deter the rest of the public for the act "". (

Part 2

Social custom...Yes..No...Maybe?

The evidence presented above leads us to to believe that FGM could be a "social custom" or a "cultural practice" and not a religious one. It is true that FGM is very prevalent in Africa but it is also found in parts of Asia such as Indonesia.

Type I (commonly referred to as clitoridectomy) and less invasive procedures (Type IV) are the forms of female genital mutilation (FGM) or female genital cutting (FGC) practiced in Indonesia. The practice is generally referred to as female circumcision in Indonesia. It occurs in parts of East, Central and West Java, North Sumatra, Aceh, South Sulawesi and on Madura Island, as well as in many other parts of the archipelago.

Virginity in Africa

It is very important to understand that a girls virginity is very important in almost all African societies. It is assumed that FGM controls a woman's sexuality. In other words, it makes sure a woman stays a virgin until marriage ( For example:- After infibulation, the labia majora are held together using stitching so when a girl gets married she must undergo reverse infibulation which involves her husband using a "knife") .

In some African societies, social conformity is always emphasized upon ( e.g:- my aunt told me a story about a girl who wanted to be circumcised because her friends and cousins were circumcised and she felt singled out).

Why is FGM a symbol of Islam's oppression?

In the last few decades, FGM started to be considered as another symbol of the "woman-hatting", "gender apartheid enforcing "and "oppressive" religion called "Islam". This is mainly due to the constant association of Islam with FGM perpetuated by "literature". Beyond the veil: Male-female dynamics in a modern Muslim society by Fatima Mernissi, Desert Flower by Waris Dirie, Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali are all books that portray FGM as a savage practice mandated for Muslim women.

Interestingly, old researches about FGM in Africa usually concentrated on FGM as a social costum or tradition but now it is usually discussed from a religious perspective. Living in a post-9/11 world we should expect things to be very religionized and not culturized . Let's say a Christian man is killed by a Christian man, it will be reported as " man killed man" but if a Muslim man killed a Christian or a Jewish man, it will be reported as "Muslim man killed Christian man". I don't see why we should blame religion for everything or even view religion as the only cause of things. We should look at other factors affecting a society such as "culture. I know that the cultures of both African and Arab societies are generally affected by "religion" but there are things that are banned by religion but accepted by culture (A common example is forced or arranged marriages. There is no evidence in Islam to justify "arranged marriages". In fact, a girl has the right to marry any man she believes is the right one for her even if her family disapproves.) In other words, arranged marriages are usually influenced by the society a personal lives in and the culture they have to conform to.

My favorite culture vs. religion example is "pre-martial sex". I believe that pre-martial sex is prohibited in Islam/Christianity and Judaism but one can't help but notice that most Muslim societies are very strict about this. This is not necessarily because of religious beliefs, it is also because of pre-martial sex being so culturally-unacceptable here.

This brings us back to the importance of virginity in the Muslim world.

Wholeheartedly Not Oppressed Sudaniya

Thanks to Rob, for pointing me in Kizzie's direction.

Update; Popovich has posted a response to this post over at his blog, Tao of Defiance. It is lengthy but well sourced.

And now Kizzie has responded to Popovich.


The BBC Will Always Be Biased

Rod Liddle, ex-Editor of the BBC's Today program, and now uber-curmudgeon columnist for the Spectator, is one of my favourite journalists. He is always sarcastic, rude, embittered, cynical and negative. Just as all good columnists should be.

His last two pieces for the Spectator have focused on the 'cultural pecking order' at the BBC. Here are his views on who is open for attack at the Beeb and who are 'off-limits'.

Category I - Groups the BBC feel its staff must roundly abuse or even physically chastise


Non government-approved Islamic Groups

Any Imam who has hooks rather than hands

Category II - Groups towards whom the presenter should display contempt or quiet hostility

Conservative MPs


All Israelis other than those 'who are activists within peace groups'

Evangelical Christians

Supporters of the Countryside Alliance

Roman Catholics


Chairmen of Multinational Corporations


Category III - Groups to whom the presenter should affect an air of studied indifference or mild distain

Members of the Labour Government (unless they were against the Iraq War)

Category IV - requires the presenter to fawn in a sickening manner and, on occasion, even proffer sexual favours

Pop Stars wishing to write-off African debt

All disabled people

'Ordinary' members of ethnic minorities

'Moderate' Muslims

Charity Spokeswomen

Bearded scientists in spectacles who insist the Earth is going to turn into a cinder by the year 2012

Those wishing for a 'neutral' bias at the BBC are smoking something strong. No news organisation can be neutral. It's simply impossible. The best and only solution is to privatise the BBC and let their bearded charity workers compete agasint the other 'biased' stations such as CNN and Fox News.

The same applies to Australia's national broadcasters, SBS and the ABC. End the taxpayer subsidies ($80 per head solely for the ABC), release them to fight in the open market and allow their biases to flourish.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Anorexics Rule!

I have a confession to make.

In my spare time, i sometimes watch 'Australia's Next Top Model'. It's actually quite compulsive viewing.

Last night, the winner was announced. Her name is Alice Burdeu (right hand girl in the photo), a 19 year-old suicidal looking six-footer who hasn't eaten since Christmas.

It is a shame that the 'expert panel' decided to award the competition to a girl who looks as though she is the love-child of Morrissey and Kate Moss, because it will reinforce the view commonly held by all Australian teen- and tweenage girls that to succeed in modelling you need to skip such non-essential luxuries, such as eating.

However, despite that being the way of the world, it doesn't prevent the likes of fellow anorexics, Kate Moss and Keira Knightley, from praising the look of the, err, non-waif-like Beth Ditto (below and singer of US punk band The Gossip for those a little behind on their modern music).

Keira stated that she would rather look like Beth.

"The woman is just amazing. And she's so sexy. When she was performing she started taking all her clothes off. I stood there watching the strip, thinking,'Oh my God, that woman is so sexy. She has the most amazing body'"

Keira - did you know that two hundred years ago Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story about people like you. But do you really find her sexy, Keira? If so, then may i apply for the job of your manager. For a mere 20% cut of your earnings, i'll devise a daily workout of KFC for breakfast, The Golden Arches for lunch and the Aberdeen Steak House for dinner. Contract in the post.

Patronising? Blind? Stupid?

You be the judge.


Last Word on Ayaan

Asabagna at Afrospear sent this me wonderful quote from Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

It is from a speech she gave on January 15th, 2005 at the Congress of Racial Equality’s 23rd annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where she received CORE’s International Brotherhood Award.

It's the last word from me on the issues of FGM, Islam and feminism, and cultural relativity.

“Human beings are equal; cultures are not.

A culture that celebrates femininity is not equal to a culture that trims the genitals of her girls.

A culture that holds the door open to her women is not equal to one that confines them behind walls and veils.

A culture that spends millions on saving a baby girl’s life is not equal to a one that uses its first encounter with natal technology to undertake mass abortion simply because baby girls are not welcome.

A culture with courts that punish a husband for forcing his wife to have sex with him is not equal to a culture with a tribunal that decrees a young woman be gang-raped for talking to a boy of an allegedly higher caste.

A culture that encourages dating between young men and young women is not equal to a culture that flogs or stones a girl for falling in love.

A culture where monogamy is an aspiration is not equal to a culture where a man can lawfully have four wives all at once.

A culture that protects women’s rights by law is not equal to a culture that denies women their alimony and half their inheritance.

A culture that insists on holding open a position for women in its Supreme Court is not equal to a culture that declares that the testimony of a woman is worth half of that of a man."


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Health & Safety Madness

When this happens....

.......this happens.

i) Midlothian Council is to leave the lights on in derelict buildings to prevent burglars and vandals from hurting themselves. Hit this link to prove that i'm not making this up.

ii) My solicitor advised me to fence in our swimming pool so that trespassers won't fall in, drown and then their families sue me. I dont have a link for this one, but again, i'm not making it up.

iii) The UK government has banned hobbies as they may encourage paedophiles.

iv) The UK H&S Executive has advised firefighters that they should not attempt to rescue people from drowning because it is too dangerous. Fireman Tam Brown is facing legal action after he saved the life of a woman who had fallen into a river.

v) The word 'accident' has been banned from the Highway Code. All accidents, err, collisions, are now someone's fault.

Graph; courtesy of some very happy law student over at the ALS.


A Bridge Too Far?

Leading leftwing UK blog, Harry's Place, reports on the utterly depressing results of the latest poll commissioned by Channel 4, examining the views of British Muslims on 7/7.

Key Findings

1. 59% believe that the government has not told the whole truth about the 7/7 bombings.

2. 24% believe the government was involved in some way in the bombings.

3. Just 40% believe that the four men identified as the 7/7 bombers were actually the ones responsible for the attacks.

4. Only 21% believe the British Muslim community bears any responsibility for the attacks, though 58% believe that their community is not doing enough to address extremism.

I can only assume that the majority of agnostic, apolitical England will wake up tomorrow morning and conclude that the gulf in trust and beliefs between the Muslim community and the rest of the country has become so large as to be totally unbridgeable.

Sadly, it's a great day for the BNP.

However, i refuse to end this post on a downbeat note. Read this inspiring article in the WSJ that i was directed to by Diogenes Lamp by ex-Jemaah Islamiya member, and now doctor and Muslim reformer, Tawfik Hamid.

If standing against the violent edicts of Shariah law is "Islamophobic," then I will treat her accusation as a badge of honor.

Memo to John Howard, Kevin Rudd, the Australian Muslim community and everyone else - please, please do all you can not to allow this gulf to open up in Australia.

Rachel from North London believes this survey reinforces the need for a full and independent inquiry. She is right.

Other blog comment here and here.


Monday, June 04, 2007

"It's Just Another Book"

"I am a Muslim because I understand why so many Muslims are silent when the Holy Book is invoked to behead captured aid workers, journalists and other Western wanderers.

I am a Muslim because i understand why a woman ululates when her son dies in a suicide bombing. She rejoices for her son's closeness to God."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Not words that you might expect from one of the world's supposedly most anti-Islamic apostate writers.

Last night, i joined 1,200 others at the Sydney Recital Hall to worship at the temple of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She had been invited to close the Sydney Writer's Festival - a brave choice on the part of Artistic Director, Wendy Were.

The audience were hardly your typical neocon warmonger crowd. Women outnumbered men 2:1 and the luvvy quota was high. Ms. Were opened her introductory speech by offering thanks to the local Aboriginal tribe for lending their land to host the Festival. She was cheered to the rafters.

The arrival of Ayaan Hirsi Ali was quite dramatic. Because so much attention is focused on her words and her actions, little time is spent discussing her look. She is, quite simply, beautiful. Very tall, slender and dressed all in black leather save for an African shawl draped across her tiny shoulders, she looked more at home with Naomi Campbell than Naomi Wolf.

However you are quickly reminded that she is no catwalk super-model when she opens her mouth. Rather than a blurred trans-Atlantic drawl, she speaks her English with the soft, almost giggly voice of an African schoolgirl. It is just not what you expect from such a towering political figure. It is a reminder of who she is rather than who people have turned her into.

That she is a polarising figure is indisputable. Blog chatter in advance of her talk had produced some of the most vitriolic dialogue that i have seen since arriving here last year. She is a Muslim apostate, a cheerleader for GWB's War on Terror, scream the Left. Nonsense, retort the Right, she is a victim, an oppressed spokesperson for the downtrodden. Conversations amongst us non-Muslims focused almost entirely on the subject of female genital mutilation, or the sanitised 'FGM'.

I accept the arguments made by some of the more enlightened bloggers at LP and by Kizzie, a Sudanese blogger, that her traumatic experiences have so affected her experiences of Islam that she confuses culture and religion, but i would answer that for her to remain impartial is akin to asking an Auschwitz survivor not to let his experiences of the concentration camps colour his views on Nazi-ism.

However Ayaan ignored us all. FGM warranted barely a mention. Her speech was about a Book.

"a bestseller among the wealthy and distributed free of charge to the poor. It is a book that should not be put on the ground. A book that should not be touched by a menstruating woman. It is a book that inspires one man to put his forehead on the ground in piety, and can rouse another to war. It is a book that contends that the greatest act of worship an individual can aspire to is committing suicide, while taking the life of a sinner.

It's author has 99 names but not one of them appears on the cover. This book demands total submission by its readers. And has captured the imagination of more than a billion people. This book impressed me even before I could read. To touch the book I first had to wash my hands, then my face, mouth, and my arms, all the way up to the elbows, run some water over my hair and ears and wash my feet. Everything about it was sacred."

and one particular aspect of this book,

"The Day of Judgement, the day God will judge us, the day my father warned us would be severe for us if we failed to live by The Book"

Her speech was about her upbringing, her fear and her love of the Book, and of her close bond with her sister. She regaled her audience with charming tales of how they would hide pages of romantic novels in betwen pages of the Koran, anything to wile away the hours of boredom, brought on by their father's refusal to allow them out of the house - a house that was kept locked by "three padlocks". She did not talk about her sister's later suicide. Or of their mutilation at age five.

She talked of how she, like most Western teenagers, rebelled against her parents' wishes and ultimately fled an arranged marriage to a distant cousin,

"The hell at the end of life for me seemed abstract, whereas the hell of being forced to submit to a stranger, was immediate, and final. This would be the hell of never feeling love, the hell of never choosing my mate, the hell of spending my life with a man to whom I would have to ask permission before being allowed to exercise my everyday freedom. A man who could take my body without permission. This stranger had the Holy Book on his side."

She talked of how she demanded the beheading of Salman Rushdie as a schoolgirl following the publication of the Satanic Verses, of how she learned to despise Israel without knowing a thing about it.

And then she spoke of September 11th, 2001.

"On a bright Tuesday morning in New York and Washington, planes full of people flew into buildings full of people. I prayed this was not the work of Muslims. I picked up the Holy Book and there I found Osama bin Laden's words of justification. Did the attacks stem from true belief in true Islam? I had to make the leap to believing the Holy Book was relative - not absolute, not the literal syllables pronounced by God, but a historical record, written by men 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad's death. In other words, it was just another book."

She dismissed those critics who claim she is anti-Islamic with the words I started this article with. But she also added that she is not a Muslim because

"I have lost the fear of the Holy Book. I have lost the terror of being burned alive after I die. I am not a Muslim because I lost respect for the book and its author and his messenger. I lost respect for them because of their bloodthirsty demands to kill and hate. I now feel the common humanity with those I once shunned: the Jews, Christians, atheists, gays, sinners of all stripes and colours. I lost respect not for Muslims but for what they fear."

She finished with a plea to Australians not to ignore the Saudi-funded Muslim schools on our doorstep that "preach a closed mind, that preach hatred of the Jew, that preach the terror of the Day, that preach total submission."

This largely female writer/luvvy/theatre crowd cheered her enthusiastically at the end of her speech. Though not all stood for her, all had been touched by her magic.

Note - i made notes in a dimly lit theatre. Hence the quotes may not be entirely verbatim accurate. However, the message is true. I make no apology if i sound a little like a star-struck schoolgirl meeting Justin Timberlake for the first time.