Sunday, February 19, 2006

Isma? We're listening.

I've been reading the HREOC report into discrimination experienced by Australian Arabs and Muslims since September 11th, 2001. It's a challenging read.

On the one hand, there are the incidents of harrassment, particularly of women, which I find shameful.

On the other, there are the eternal calls from the Muslim communities in Australia for more respect and consideration and understanding.

I initially found the idea of this investigation repugnant and a waste of taxpayers' dollars, (why no reporting on Chinese Australians after the Tianenmen Square massacre, for example), but in the end, it is a valuable piece of reporting.

In a nutshell, both Arab and Muslim Australians have experienced an increase in discriminatory practices since 9/11.

However, a closer look at the report shows that there are gaping holes in the information it provides.

For example, 1475 questionnaires were distributed amongst individuals and communities in NSW and Victoria in 2003. 186, or 12%, were returned. This, surely, is not representative of Arabs and Muslims in our community. It is only representative of those who wish to participate. Of those 186, one third also agreed to follow-up interviews. Only 34 semi-structured interviews were conducted. Those are the numbers I would expect to use in a corporate situation when instituting new policies, not when investigating a specific segment of the community.

Of course, there were other initiatives taken by HREOC in the course of this investigation. 1426 people participated in 69 consultations in all states and territories. When we consider that according to the 2001 census, 281 278 Australians, or around 1.5% of the population designate themselves as muslim, 1426 is not a large cross-section. Mathematics was never my strong suit, but that looks to me to be around 0.5% of the Australian Muslim population.(I'm probably incorrect in my percentages, as I don't have a calculator so it's mental arithmetic, but in any case, it's still a minute percentage.)

Okay, we have a minute percentage of another small segment of the society providing us with a look at how they have coped since 9/11 pushed them and their religion/belief system into the limelight.

It has become harder for arab- and muslim-australians, the former because they can be mistakenly targetted as the latter, and the latter precisely because of their religion. Is this because of the lack of understanding in the wider community or does it come down to a basic incompatibility between the muslim way of life and the Aussie/Western way.

A brief overview of Islam is supplied in the report, but it is, indeed, brief:
1.2.2 Muslim Australians

The terms 'Muslim Australians' and 'Australian Muslims' denote Australians who identify themselves as followers of Islam. All Muslims who live in Australia, including those with temporary resident status, comprise this group. Islam is a major world religion with an estimated 1.2 billion followers worldwide. Muslims believe in one God (Allah who is the one, single god of Islam and is considered to be the same god as that worshipped by the Jews and the Christians) who has sent prophets and messengers, from Adam, the first prophet, to Muhammad, the last. Muslims also believe that God provided revelations in the written scriptures including the Torah and the Gospel, and that the Holy Qur'an is the final scripture from God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The Qur'an, together with the stories, sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad (the 'hadith'), sets out the five fundamental practices for Muslims:

* making the shahada - a declaration of belief in Allah as the one and only God and Mohammed as his final messenger
* five-times-daily prayer (salat)
* fasting during the holy month of Ramadan (sawm)
* giving charity (zakat)
* pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).[17]

This does not address in any way, shape or form, the basic premise of Islam being the total submission to Allah above all else.

Unlike the Christian and Jewish traditions, which it is supposed to complete, Islam is not about the Love that God has for his people. The recurring theme throughout the Qur'an is the submission to Allah and his Apostle, Mohammed.

But back to the Isma report.

We have a tiny minority facing discrimination due to the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of their religion.

This is a tiny minority of some 1.2 billion people worldwide. One fifth or so of the population, and apparently, the world's fastest growing religion.(Of course, the pagans also think that they are the world's fastest growing, as do scientologists, christians, and buddhists. I think, therefore, that that particular claim is irrelevant.)

So how are the Arab and Muslim Australians misunderstood in their religious beliefs?

If Islam is such a peaceable way of life, why are there more rioting Muslims around the world than in Australia altogether?

Why did we have to suffer 9/11 in the first place? Or Madrid, Bali (twice), London and Beslan?

Why are people dying because of cartoons?

Where is the evidence of a peaceful religion? Where are the shouts of outrage that Islam has been hijacked?

Yes, there are moderate Muslims - just as there are Christians that do not follow their Lord's commandments. This is human nature, and true of every belief. The exceptions prove the rule, as they say.

The difference is that where aberrant Christians are not supported by their co-religionists, the same does not apply to Muslims.

When moderate Muslims keep their head down waiting for the storm to pass, they are condoning the rioting, the beheadings, the shootings, the hangings, the stonings, the rapes carried out in the name of Allah and his prophet.

None of these behaviours are addressed by the Isma report; they were not in the frame of reference, although perhaps they should have been.

Another omission regarding the misunderstanding of Islam is the practice of taqqiya:
Dissimulation; lying for the sake of ones religion; concealing ones true religious beliefs for strategic reasons. Taqiyya is a lie by commission, rather than by omission, as in kitman. The concept of al-taqiyya is one historically associated with Shia Islam. This is because Sunni Muslims, who believe that Shiites are heretics, would impel them to denounce their faith, thinking this would expose them as mushrikeen when they refused to. In response, the Shia would do so, but hold true to their faith in their hearts, thus preserving their faith and their lives. Taqiyya is now used by all Muslims as a means of deceiving infidels about Islam's aims, practices, and aspirations.

Personally I don't agree with Patrick Kafir's assertion that it is practised by all Muslims; there are many who have never studied their Qur'an critically. Indeed, they are enjoined not to, and thus blinded to its inherent violence and hypocrisy.

This is where the misunderstanding comes in.

A society with a history of open and frank debate, meeting a society that does not condone such principles.

Looking at the current state of affairs, it doesn't look like the misunderstanding will be resolved any time soon.

On a hopeful note, however, Johann Hari notes that small voices are starting to be heard:
...across Britain, Muslim women are refusing to bow to fundamentalists who believe beheading is a legitimate form of literary criticism. While criticising the cartoons of Mohammed as “distasteful”, Fareena Alam, editor of the Q News, damned the protestors, demanding to know “what the parents of the child wearing the ‘I love Al-Quaeda’ cap would say had their son been on the number 30 bus that terrible day.”

And this:
Only a fierce, fighting moderate Islam can win this struggle. In France’s Muslim ghettoes, an amazing movement of Muslim women called "Ni putes ni soumises" (neither whores nor doormats) has risen up, initially to fight against the epidemic of domestic violence in their communities but increasingly to craft a liberal – even feminist – brand of Islam.

There is hope for us all, yet.


At 4:50 AM, Blogger Em said...

I've been a lurker for a while and your posts are always very comprehensive. I am an Aussie living in the UK and I am getting quite fearful about the whole situation. I am a Christian and our approach is so different to that of Islam, although we certainly have our fundamentalists who don't seem to espouse the example that Jesus sets for us (I feel Tony Abbott is one of them!).

At 7:55 AM, Blogger Nilk said...

Thanks, Em. I try to back up my opinions - there is not room to get irrational and emotional.

I appreciate what you're saying about living in the UK. I was over there in 1999 for a couple of months, and I had a great time. These days, you couldn't pay me to take a holiday in that part of the world.

We also do have the Christian fundamentalists, but I disagree about Tony Abbott - at least you can predict his stand on things, and he's very open about his beliefs.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nilk,

re your last hopeful points on moderates that are actually speaking out and refusing to cede political capital to their extremist co-religionists:

The moderate Muslims of Denmark are speaking out. This is clearly connected to Denmark's stand on the cartoon issue.

Is it that real moderates are so scared of their nutter co-religionists that they are too afraid to speak out in Australia, which does not stand up to Islam as resolutely as the home of our new Princess ?

Or are the "moderates" in Denmark becoming aware of the wrath of their countrymen, and finally choosing to practice a bit of dhimmitude of their own ?

Either way, it took guts on Denmark's part to confront Islam and allow this much needed bit of reconquista to occur. Do John Howard's and Peter Debnam's recent comments show that we are learning ?

(Re. Debnam, some friendly Sydney-Melbournabad rivalry : our Liberals are way cooler than your Victoristan dhimmi Liberals ! In fact, even Iemma is less of a dhimmi than Bracks)

Regarding Fareena Alam, the British Muslim woman you quote: in the UK at least it looks like moderates may be the minority. 40% of British Muslims say they want Sharia Law! Factor in the remainder that actually understand Taqiyya and replied deceptively in the negative, and and you might just get an outright majority. In any case, they are already have the strongest, most well represented and most intimidating faction.

- Ben Ze'ev

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Nilk said...

Ben, I'm sure the moderates are most definitely in the minority. Plenty of Aussie muslims think they would be better off as part of the Ummah, with all it entails.

Of course, I don't know how many of them really understand what they would be getting themselves (and the rest of us) in for. A quick look at any Islamically run country should give a clear view, but again, it means criticising the foundations of their worldview, and that is verboten.

I don't have much hope at all, but some is better than nothing.

As for Melbournistan. Don't get me started unless you want to see a good characterisation of rabid. :)

Bracks really should know better, but then again, I think he was a teacher before he got into politics so has been pretty sheltered from the real world.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Ben Ze'ev said...

Re. Bracks:
Interestingly, Pim Fortyn's openly gay teacher friends' experiences with violent homophobia from their ROP students are what pushed him towards becoming Europe's first anti-dhimmi politician.

Also, Bracks' background as a Lebanese Christian should mean that the usual well-meaning ignorance does not hold his case.

Similarly, the politically correct convictions of many of Sydney's leftie teachers have been lost, or continue to be eroded daily by Lebanese ROP kids in South West Sydney schools. It is fun to watching the resulting cognitive dissonance and attendant hand-wringing.

The interesting thing about Islam in Muslim countries is that our intake of ROPniks have an odd opinion of them. They seem to think that the problem with all of these countries is that in those states there is no Islam, there is not enough Islam or it is the wrong Islam.

Re Melbournabad. OK, let's bury the hatchet and pretend that Victoristan is still part of the Commonwealth. I suppose it is no worse than those bits of Eurabia which have caved. Heck, we allowed the creation of the South West Sydney Calipahte. Maybe that's why our approach is more sober.

As Sydney bloggers go my anti-Victoristan beef is pretty mild.
I recall an article on where Paul called on Peter Cosgrove to either resign or stage a military coup over the fact that Howard allowed the Victorian religious tolerance laws to apply to the Two Dannies of Catch the Fire Ministries.
But Paul is always coming out with shit like that...

Here it is:

On the other hand, there is much to say for Chapel St, Ackland St. and St Kilda beach.

Ben Ze'ev

At 5:15 PM, Blogger Olivia said...

Personally I think all these reports of how horrid we are to Muslims are exaggerated, even fabricated to a certain extent. They love to play the part of the victim, and have really been overplaying that role in the past few years. It takes the spotlight off them, and puts it onto us.

I was extremely offended at the comment by a Muslim on a tv forum, who said they're copping it as bad as the Bali victims did. They have a warped sense of the world. They are superior, we are nothing. So they don't care what happens to us, we either deserve it, or it doesn't matter because we're filthy kafir. Therefore, a dirty look or a stupid comment directed to a Muslim is the end of the world, while people who get obliterated during some jihad is ... ho hum, inshallah! Doesn't even register on their radar.

I'm seriously sick and tired of their constant mewling about how hard done by they are. What about the thousands and thousands of victims, and the tens of thousands of their loved ones left behind to grieve and suffer, all due to some idiotic religion.


At 7:03 PM, Blogger Caz said...

If the sampling of people is random, or rather, randomly selected against a range of demographics (eg, age, gender, or whatever), the sample size only needs to be remarkably tiny to provide valid results and to allow accurate statements to be made when extrapolated to a wider population. This is a statistically established fact, and the reason why studies are confined to well under 2% (1 or 2% would be large sample, providing very robust results) of the target population; it’s not because they are being cheap about their research, it’s that larger sample sizes will reap exactly the same result (with the standard margins of error). Sounds counter-intuitive, but statistically true.

Self-selecting surveys on the other hand always have totally skewed results, so not a lot can be read into the outcomes; other than “hmm, how interesting”. The results would need to be validated with random sampling, otherwise there’s nothing that can be concluded – just gives people something to talk & speculated about, or provides ideas for future (valid) research.

Australia now has 25% atheists, and growing; it’s not the fastest growing religion, but it’s certainly over-taking as the belief in nothing. Or something like that. :-)

It has taken the Australian Muslim population around 25 years to grow from about 78,000 to the current figure. The next generations (Australian born) will not reproduce at the same rate as their parents, or their grandparents. However, even assuming steady state of reproduction in the Muslim community (improbable, living in a western culture & economy), it would take another 100 years for the Australian Muslim population to reach one million people. Not sure what the ABS forecasts are for the total Oz population in 100 yrs time, but I figure at least 50 million?

At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEROC "investigations" are a farce. First pick a conclusion then only admit any "evidence" that backs it up. By evidence that means stories not subject to any checks or rights of reply.
We had Sev Ozdotski(?) come to Port Hedland and treat the staff like shit while he listened to any story put to him.
The organisation is a farce.
Have been dropping in on your site for a while and its pretty good.

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Jai Normosone said...

.50xxx% - nothing wrong with your mental arithmetic! :)

I am in total agreement about the reports being exaggerated. The media in this and several other countries are not neutral and observing in their nature. If anything, when it comes to the recent riots, the media is nothing less than a co-conspirator. "Fair and Balanced" is a falacy.

Funny how you mention: "They love to play the part of a victim" - that helped me develop their behaviour into somewhat of a paradox. Is it not a symbol of the lazy and decadent westerners to be weak and puny and blame everyone else for their short-comings, quite unlike the strong and able-bodied warriors of Islam - yet these abled-bodied warriors of Islam are going: "Whinge, whine... why do you treat us so badly? Is it your fault that we riot and kill and maim and destroy!". Sounds like the same excuse that a spoilt child with ADHD would use to explain a total lack of self-discipline.
"Islam warriors are strong - you infidels are weak! But you infidels accept that we are weak in your strength!"

I am of the opinion that Australia having an increasing number of Atheists is due to nothing else other than the usual case of laziness, apathy and the desire to attempt to stand out from the crowd and maybe shake a couple of trees along the way. A lot of people (late teens through to late 20's IMO) will say that "Atheism is the total disbelief in god" and run with that assumption without knowing much more about it. My understanding is that it is very different to having no religion (even though I don't know that much more about it either).
I'm not an atheist but I'm not a 'nothing' - I just haven't worked out just what is out there and probably never will.

I do know that if I am ever in my life destined to worship a deity (or whatever), it will not be a false prophet and a book of rules that encourages deception of people in general as well as treating females like property and teaching them to know their place.
How are the practices of Islam different from the Ku Klux Klan (not the earliest incarnation where it wasn't based on anti-Jewish, anti-black teachings and practices) that decreed that blacks (& Jews) couldn't marry whites or hold prominent positions?
Isn't the KKK banned in most parts of the world?

Besides... I much prefer a woman that can think for herself and be self-reliant when there isn't a man around to bail her out of trouble :)

At 7:33 PM, Blogger Nilk said...

Caz I don't know if the sampling was random, but I suspect it wasn't. We are dealing with a section of the society that does not intend to integrate, so it's in their best interests to say things to ensure they can keep their ways. Irrespective of the cost at large.

Also, the problem with surveys is that plenty of people can't be bothered filling them in. I know I can't - and those that do usually have some sort of a barrow to push.

Along with stories of CAIR over in the US beating up hate crimes suffered by muslims in the US post-9/11, I do wonder at the veracity of the responses here.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Olivia said...

We also have to remember that deliberately producing survey results that shows Muslims are suffering horrid abuse and discrimination is a good way to push for special concessions and protections, and get them. Religious vilification laws, being one result they'd love everywhere.

Oh, they are spreading hatred for Muslims by criticising our holy religion, so make them stop!

This HREOC - weren't they behind the persecution of the two Danny's? Hell bent on producing proof that Muslims were suffering after 9/11, but they couldn't find much. So they sent out spies to a Christian seminar. Still couldn't find much, but convinced the spies that the laughter made them feel "afraid" and "vilified". Too much similarity to the East German Stasi for my liking.

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Caz said...

Jai - a "belief" in atheism is a classic oxymoron!

I think ignorance rather than lazyness?

But true atheism is increasing, however slowly. My daughter was raised entirely without religion and entirely without any gods. She has only been inside a church once in her life. This is still an unusual upbringing, which I sitll find very odd, but that's me. :-) (That is, I find it really odd that so many non-believing, non-church attending parents raise their children within a religion, for no identifiable reason. Weird.)

Nilk - yep, agree. I was actually trying to make exactly those points (obviously rather badly). Self selecting surveys produce highly biased results. The studies you mentioned in the post were clearly not random. My other point was simply that the quantity of participants was not really the problem (for wonderful statistical reasons), rather than lack of random sampling.

At 8:07 PM, Blogger Nilk said...

Sorry, Caz, I misread what you were saying. :)

Regarding religious upbringing or lack thereof, I was baptised at 5 and that was pretty much it until friends started getting married when I was 17. My mum was an atheist, and my dad believes there is something there, just not sure what. Religion was something that was a non-subject.

And yet I got called. Go figure! We go to church regularly these days, and Magilla enjoys it. Every church we walk past she wants to go into, whether it's open or not. There are worse things, I guess, and I'm not one for forcing my beliefs down other people's throats.

It's only lately that some of those closest to me have realised how deep my faith is. I've just tended to keep it close as it's nobody's business. If we are talking about a clash of civilisations(tm) then we all need to be open about where we stand.

That's the way I see it, and it's time to say so.


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