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Akerman crosses the line…

05 Jul

avicenna.jpgAvicenna: “His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, which was for almost five centuries a standard medical text at many European universities.”

Just take today’s pseudo-macho rant from Mister Subtle, God’s gift to community relations in Australia.

IN THE politically-correct revisionist view of fanatical Muslims, the modern world must acknowledge a debt to Islam for all manner of scholarship in the fields of mathematics and medicine.

Those wily Greeks, and later Romans, it is claimed, shamelessly stole the intellectual property developed by followers of the tent-dwelling warrior Prophet’s message of universal love and tolerance, even though the Greek and Roman civilisations pre-dated Mohammed’s birth by centuries.

What is becoming clear however is the Muslim doctors held in the UK for their alleged connection with the weekend’s terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow paid scant regard to Islam’s harmonic interpretations let alone the Hippocratic Oath which governs the philosophy of most of the modern civilised world’s physicians…

I am glad I am reading Robert Irwin (see yesterday’s entry Reading, reading) because while no-one could accuse Irwin of being a soft latte-drinking leftie, staunch defender that he is of Bernard Lewis over against the likes of Edward Said, he duly acknowledges, for example, Avicenna who seems to elude Akerman in his latest anti-Muslim (not just anti-extremist) excursion.

In fact Akerman is depressingly like the long line of anti-Muslim scholars from the early Middle Ages to 2007 whose propagandist dismissals of “the tent-dwelling warrior Prophet” as of no worth at all figure so prominently in Irwin’s shame files. One of the most depressing things about Irwin’s book is that the same idiotic things have been said over and over again both in Muslim and non-Muslim circles for century after century. It is not a “politically-correct revisionist view” at all to acknowledge the positives in the history of Islam, or the West either, for that matter. Irwin does both, differing from Said in his defence of the second of those two.

Nor is it a “politically-correct revisionist view” to deplore the following two paragraphs:

The civil liberties lobby which parasitically infests the West it decries has operated as a fifth column to ensure that Islamists are given the full protection of Western law to preach their sermons of hatred and opposition to Western culture. The fruit of their pleadings is now being reaped by the alleged wannabe terrorists who tried to target holidaying children and dance party enthusiasts celebrating the northern summer.

The detention of a Gold Coast doctor shows the alleged sweeping extent of the global links of international terrorism. Whether or not that doctor is charged with anything, a magistrate has determined there is sufficient evidence for him to be held for questioning.

That last amazing sentence is the old “where there is smoke there’s fire” argument — to be questioned = to be guilty. Really? That’s law in our British legal tradition? I don’t think so. People fought and died fighting totalitarianism during World War II in order to safeguard the idea of civil liberty: and now it’s a parasitical lobby?

Fortunately the Australian Federal Police and even the Howard government are a bit wiser than Akerman seems to be. Consider the very different (and exemplary) content and tone of Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty.

MICK KEELTY: Well, it’s… one of the areas that we’re trying to establish at the moment is whether in fact there’s any evidence against Dr Haneef and it should be stressed that the new powers that we were granted in 2004 were created for this precise circumstance where there is suspicion, there is a complex investigation under way, there is an enormous time difference between what’s happening in the UK and what we’re trying to do here in Australia. And you know, we should be cautious here that Dr Haneef may have done nothing wrong and may, at the end of the day, be free to go. The issue that we need to work on now is whether there is in fact any evidence of any – the commission of the offence, and what if any connection, concrete connection there may have or may not have been with what has happened in the UK.

ALI MOORE: Indeed, but you clearly have sufficient suspicion and sufficient intelligence from the UK to detain this man. Can you give us some guide as to what that intelligence relates to? Is it for example, mobile phone conversations between Dr Haneef and some of the suspects in the UK?

MICK KEELTY: Well the grounding for the search warrants was that we were alleging that Mr Haneef, Dr Haneef, was connected to a terrorist group. Now beyond that it is subject to the investigation and the evidence that may or may not be forthcoming, and I do stress that Dr Haneef, at the end of the day, may be free to go. So we have to be careful how we treat Dr Haneef. We have to afford him all the rights that he has as a civilian in our country under our laws.

ALI MOORE: But you can’t give us any guide as to what – you clearly feel that it’s important enough to hold him, to question him. You’ve questioned him for four hours already today. You can give us no guide as to what the potential connection is?

MICK KEELTY: Well, it’s not appropriate to discuss the evidence…

Akerman, and like-minded ranters, please copy. Keelty at least does not throw our own values out in his zeal, quite proper zeal, in protecting us (in a far more concrete sense than bar-room bully Akerman) from the threat of terrorism.

My last entry yesterday referred you to Legal Eagle on this matter, and to a few past entries of my own. That 7.30 Report item is now online**: see Friend divulges history of Glasgow bomber.

RICHARD WATSON: Shiraz Maher is a former member of the radical political group, Hizb ul-Tahrir, which campaigns for the creation of a global Islamic state. He now completely rejects Islamist extremism. In 2004 while studying in Cambridge, he says he met Bilal Abdullah, a fellow student.

SHIRAZ MAHER: You know he was introduced to me and I spent a lot of time chatting with Bilal, we lived on the same street. He was someone who would come to my house, he had met all my family and all sorts. So Bilal was someone who was very close to me in that sense, and someone who struck me as being a very nice guy.

RICHARD WATSON: Mr Maher says he was very shocked to see his former friend in the newspapers.

SHIRAZ MAHER: The background of the character immediately struck me as the Bilal that I knew, someone who had come from Baghdad aged 27 now. I knew him two years ago, so when he was 25. (Inaudible) and then I saw the picture, I’m absolutely certain it was the same guy that I knew at Cambridge. And over the course of the day I’ve spoken to a number of friends and other sources who were in the know, and all the information seems to correlate and suggest it’s the same guy.

RICHARD WATSON: Shiraz Maher says Bilal Abdullah was radicalised by the destruction in Iraq, but he was driven by much more than simple opposition to the American and British invasion.

SHIRAZ MAHER: To say, you know, it is just about all Iraq or something or foreign policy I think is highly misleading. It feeds off a much wider ideological infrastructure and one can’t exist without the other. You’ve got to have the vision of the (inaudible) and of Islamist supremacy and dominance in the world in order to do something like this. And Bilal certainly believed in that and this is why he had a very small social network within Cambridge. But certainly the members of his (inaudible) – myself and this other individual – he had a lot of time and respect for us, and that mutual respect and trust was built off the back of the fact that really we shared the same ideological vision and end point, but perhaps different methods…

In the same Daily Telegraph where Akerman mounts his pulpit one can also find, somewhat less prominently, She’ll be right, Mohammed by Kuranda Seyit.

Do we really believe that 3000 people are in sleeper cells awaiting the green light from Osama bin Laden? I have lived and worked with the Muslim community in Sydney all my life and in more recent times I have met many Muslims from Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Canberra and other capital cities.

I have worked as a high school teacher in private schools where there have been a majority of Muslims or at least as a large percentage in other schools. I have run youth programs and worked at the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and I can safely say that I know and understand the Muslim communities of Australia better than the average person. And I have made documentaries about Muslims.

My research leads me to believe that while there are Muslims with extreme ideas in Australia, by and large they do not advocate violence or any form of terrorism.

Exactly, which in no way minimises the harm those few who embrace violence can do, or our revulsion at the idea of doctors for bombs. The irony is that if the roots of this violence may include a sense of humiliation, personal or religious, and the idea that the West is seeking to destroy Islam, then those violent ones simply add to the problems Muslims may face. They certainly do not help either their co-religionists or the world at large, more than two-thirds of whom simply don’t care one way or the other about Islam but would be prepared to live and let live nonetheless. And that is called sanity, in my book.

See also in today’s Sydney Morning Herald The rough road from carer to killer by Tanveer Ahmed, an Australian Muslim psychiatrist.

…For those with a sense of victimhood and alienation, Islamism offers a potent identity to express alienation and connect their personal story to a larger, global struggle, fuelled by television images of conflicts such as those in Palestine, Chechnya or Iraq. In this way Islam has become a symbol of protest – political or social – attracting many who feel disenfranchised or wronged by the society in which they live.

This gains greater weight when you consider that not only are a great proportion of the world’s poor Muslim, the places of social exclusion in the West also have a strong ethno-religious flavour, from North Africans in Paris to South Asians in Britain and to a lesser extent, Lebanese in south-western Sydney. These groups often perceive themselves as marginalised or undervalued in their society and thereby feel a connection with the “real” poor and dispossessed Muslims in other parts of the world.

These imagined feelings of connection with the poor and dispossessed are the reasons why the middle classes of the developing world have so often been the leaders in radical groups, including terrorist operations. This is heightened when they feel a sudden drop in status on migrating to the West or are excluded from its liberal social mores.

Overseas doctors as a group are not a terrorist threat. Most make a wonderful contribution to our society. It is a quirk of immigration patterns and Western skill shortages that they have formed the bulk of the latest terrorism detainees. But the event illustrates the kind of groups that may be vulnerable to the lure of terrorism. In this case, sadly, those who were dedicated to preserving human life were transformed into the exact opposite.

Akerman’s extremist position, by contrast, offers no intelligent analysis, no understanding, no solution, and no hope, beyond endorsing the very attitudes (on both sides) that feed further hatred and violence. His broad-brush anti-Muslim stance feeds those who may be alienated, and rewards, on our side, the ignorant and prejudiced, while displaying an alarmingly cavalier attitude towards the most evolved Western — indeed, human — values, such as civil liberties.

In qualification, it is worth reading Yawning Bread on The peace faction has got it wrong. His thinking is not unlike Robert Irwin’s; Irwin also regards John Esposito as having a Mary Poppins view of Islam.

Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader, a 28 year-old lawyer, was detained without trial earlier this year, but his capture was only announced this month. He had planned to travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan to join the war against what he saw as enemies of Islam. The new twist from his case was how he had not been recruited by any terrorist network, but was “self-radicalised” through surfing the internet, in the words of the Singapore government.

Predictably, newspaper columns were found or commissioned to once again press home the point that Islam is a religion of peace. Exactly what good these will do is an open question. If people have serious grievances and wish to act on them, they will anyway find the reasons they need to do so.

Perhaps however, such articles may still serve two other purposes — to prevent Muslims who are wavering from tipping over to the extremist side, or at least not to extend sympathy to those on that side, and to counteract a tendency in non-Muslims to look suspiciously at Muslims. Frankly, I am doubtful if even these can be achieved, because firstly, people read what they want to read, and secondly, when so many articles all say essentially the same thing, they acquire the feel of propaganda. The more you print, the more credibility you lose…

…in trying to appeal to people to take a certain interpretation of Islam, these writers must invoke the authority of Islam. Logically speaking, the argument that “Islam is a religion of peace” is no different from “Islam is a religion of war”. Both rely on the listener accepting that whatever “Islam” says, goes. But authority in Islam is highly decentralised, and there will always be the problem of “you say, I say”. The texts themselves are ambiguous, as Esposito’s examples show, which means the “peace” faction may call for selective reading even as they accuse the “war” faction of doing the same. A small band of Muslims intent on being extreme can just as logically choose their own authority and their own reading of the texts and feel equally validated in their views…

To truly inoculate people against extreme Islamist appeal, we may have to question the habit of investing so much in the primacy and authority of Islam. Zakir’s call to “debunk exclusivist and intolerant interpretations of the faith” and to embrace diversity might be better framed in a different way: an injection of secular humanist values as antidote to total reliance on religious teaching. Yes, I am saying it: less religion, more secularism. The best antidote to crazies appealing to religious loyalty is to teach people to be sceptical of the whole she-bang.

In a nutshell, countering religious extremism requires us not only to deal with extremism, but also with the “religious” end of the beast.

Yes, I am saying it: less religion, more secularism. The best antidote to crazies appealing to religious loyalty is to teach people to be sceptical of the whole she-bang. But has Yawning Bread’s anti-religious orientation coloured his views too strongly? What do you think?

Is it not better both to support and argue for humanist values and simultaneously to encourage religious believers to hold their faith in a humble and pluralist spirit? Is it wrong to appeal to religious tradition in pursuit of this? Again, in yesterday’s Reading, reading post I point out that one can divorce religion from the concept of the infallible book, admittedly a difficult task for many, if not most, Muslims…

In qualification of what Yawning Bread says — and others say — read Eteraz in The Huffington Post: Media Reliance on Former Terrorists and Radicals is a Joke.

…Now Hassan Butt has come along. Once foolish enough to be duped by the disgusting tactics of al-Muhajiroun he is now lecturing Muslims on how they need to disavow what he didn’t have the intellectual know-how, or spiritual elan, to resist on his own (and which most Muslims disavowed regularly while Mr. Butt went under).

This time it is not Fox News slurping up his words, but the Observer, who really should know that such conversions while authentic (I’m glad Mr. Butt left the dark side), are as much about self-preservation as they are about faux altruism.

The sad part is that Mr. Butt is not really adding anything to the discourse — except of course the fact that the media is willing to promote him given his duplicitous and dangerous history. What has been his brilliant new solution to dealing with radicalism? Calling upon Muslim scholars — not even upon himself — to fashion “new theological territory.” Startlingly, and yet, not surprisingly, his article does not list a single actual name of the kind of scholar who can break such new ground. Does he know any? Perhaps he can take the same way out that Ed Hussain, author of The Islamist recently did: invoke the one name that 99 percent of Muslim youth already know: Hamza Yusuf, the famous Caucasian convert to Islam, and leading authority in traditionalism. Yet Hamza Yusuf and his brand of traditionalist, orthodox, and ultimately pacific Islam, was around back in the late parts of the last decade as well. There had to be a reason that these men didn’t gravitate towards Yusuf then. That reason is not discussed. Instead, responsibility is shifted upon Yusuf to do the actual hard work of speaking to youth.

What these former radicals and terrorists are not telling us that the “alternative discourse” to radicalism and terrorism existed among Muslim communities for a long, long time…

That done, I propose to shut up on the subject.

Let’s face it: we know so little, don’t we, as Eteraz reminds us, but we all have an opinion… 😉 And mine is that the Way of the Akerman is definitely not the Eternal Way.

** Or was. At 12.45 pm that link, still in the ABC’s 7.30 Report archive, was yielding “Sorry, Page not Found.” LATER: It does seem to have been removed. One possibility is that the interviewee was mistaken: …then I saw the picture, I’m absolutely certain it was the same guy that I knew at Cambridge… Perhaps it wasn’t, though that doesn’t make his remarks uninteresting. Or it may be that it impinged rather too much on the ongoing investigation.

I see Legal Eagle has referred to the same article by Hassan Butt that Ali Eteraz finds so annoying. Read Hassan Butt, and also read Eteraz + comments there.

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