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Allegedly Halal Thoughts

OK, all you Margostanis out there, listen up! I haven’t had time to work on a continuation of Sharia for Complete Bankers, but I am working on it.

In the meantime, here are my allegedly halal thoughts on some issues making the press. Enjoy!


For some reason, former President of the Lebanese Moslems Association Keysar Trad has a problem with the government telling Aussie imams to start speaking in English. Trad was quoted in the Melbourne Herald-Sun on 9 March 2006 as suggesting the call was a ploy to get people to stop focussing on the AWB scandal.

For years, Mr Trad claimed to be the adviser and translator of the AFIC-appointed Mufti, Sheik Tajeddine Hilaly, despite admitting to not having any proper NAATI accreditation for the role. The Mufti still finds it hard to address people in English.

Today, Mr Trad is the president of the Islamic Friendship Society. I’m not sure if the IFS has open membership or whether it is incorporated. If its membership policy is anything like that of the LMA over which Mr Trad presided, I think it will be a closed shop to anyone who isn’t from Lebanon.

The Chair of Victoria’s Board of Imams, Sheik Fehmi Naji el-Imam agrees with Mr Ruddock’ whose call for English sermons is based on the policy of the UK’s Islamic Reference Group. In case you didn't notice, I agree with Ruddock also.


That American newspaper calling itself The Australian continues with its hysteria on the allegedly controversial attempt by a Victorian history textbook to get students to compare the Crusades to the attacks on September 11.

The American paper reports on March 8 2006 that the Year 8 textbook, entitled Humanities Alive 2, suggests a common purpose between Catholic and Muslim fighters whose goal was to reach paradise.

It goes onto quote from Melbourne University history academic Barry Collett, who compared the Crusades to Australia’s intervention in East Timor.

I’m not aware of any Australian troops massacring Jews and Orthodox Christians in East Timor. I’m also quite sure that Australian troops did not eat human flesh as the Crusaders did at the Syrian town of Ma’arra.

Collett, a specialist in medieval history, further makes the interesting claim that the Spanish Inquisition was more concerned with helping families divided along religious lines than with killing heretics and oppressing converts.

I’m not sure which version of history Collett and his friends at the American newspaper are relying upon (presuming of course that his views have been reported accurately in The Oz). Is it the Opus Dei school of historical revisionism?

On the same day, the American paper then printed a piece from Kevin Donnelly about the Victorian textbook. Donnelly is somehow able to link Danish cartoons and the Victorian textbook to a giant conspiracy hell-bent on denigrating and destroying “Australia's Anglo/Celtic tradition or this nation's Judeo/Christian heritage”.

Conveniently, Donnelly fails to mention the Crusaders’ massacre of tens of thousands of Jews and Orthodox Christians, their assault on Orthodox churches in Constantinople and the Church’s role in the persecution of Jews in the Spanish Inquisition as perhaps a mitigating factor in the development of a Judeo-Christian heritage.

Then again, these days you don’t need facts and evidence to become a regular contributor on such issues to The Oz’s op-ed section. All you need is strong links with the Menzies Research Centre or some other allegedly conservative sink-tank.


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The Crusades

Just to get back into the swing of things after a couple of months' absence, Webdiarists might wish to advert to Runciman's A History of the Crusades 1991 Penguin, Evan S Connell's Deus Lo Volt A Chronicle of the Crusades 2000 Random House (Pimlico imprint) or even Terry Jones excellent TV series The Crusades which is probably available through the ABC shop.

Jones' (quite plausible) thesis is that the first Crusade had more to do with stopping Teutonic knights slaughtering one another than it did with regaining the Holy Land. The external enemy always brings a measure of internal unity (although tell that to the serfs engaged on the Peasant's Crusade).

The reality is that the conflict on both sides (apart from initial defence) was motivated by plunder and glory. The crusaders re-won Jerusalem briefly and the Turks (in their various manifestations) reached Egypt, Spain and the gates of Vienna. The forces unleashed in those conflicts are still playing themselves out.

Whatever those softies among you might say about the unity of nations and the essential goodness of man is twaddle. Man is a violent animal who needs to be civilised to operate in a social setting. All we are seeing in conflict on both sides now, as through the ages, is that thin veneer peeling back.

Try, by all means, but do not let your efforts lull you into pacifism for no human system has ever been without conflict and it never will be.

Where Irfan Yusuf and I might agree is that we think we have discovered a slightly more ordered way of resolving that conflict than blowing people up as a first resort. Where I suspect we may differ is the resorts to which we may both be prepared to go to spend our holidays.

Fiona: “If a brother who through his own fault leaves the monastery should wish to return, let him first promise full reparation for his having gone away; and then let him be received in the lowest place, as a test of his humility. And if he should leave again, let him be taken back again, and so a third time; … “ (The Rule of Benedict, Chapter 29). Malcolm, how enchanting to encounter you on Webdiary again.

The Crusades

We were talking about the Crusades (briefly) on one of the threads below. The causes were more complex than some people allow. I want to repeat what I posted there:

"The different crusades had different causes. The First Crusade was prompted by the struggle between the declining Byzantine empire and the advancing Seljuk Turks. Alexius I called on Pope Urban II for soldiers to help defend his borders.

Urban II issued a call, not just to defend the Byzantine empire against the Turks, but also to retake the Holy Land. He appealed to the nobility and peasants with promises of wealth and land in Palestine, as well as a heavenly reward after death.

This was just after the Great Schism. Urban was hoping to consolidate the power of the papacy (which had been weakened) and potentially reunite Eastern and Western Christianity. He may well have genuinely believed it would be a good thing for Jerusalem to be under Christian control."

It seems to me that the blame for the first crusade could fairly be divided between three men - Malik Shah (the Seljuk Sultan), Alexius I (the Byzantine Emperor) and Pope Urban II. It’s not as simple as "a whole bunch of Christians decided to go slaughter some Muslims".

A clear case of projection

I must agree with Mike and Irfan: the only good thing about the Donnelly piece is how obvious his propaganda is. His American style conservatism by the numbers is accompanied by a particularly Australian vapidness that could see him playing Pauline Hanson to Keith Windschuttle's John Howard.

Apart from the straw man generalisations about postmodern and left wing views (unsourced and basically just there to arouse prejudice) his comments on the teaching of history are a clear case of projection. Namely he is accusing others of what he actually wants to do. That is that history should be made to serve the political needs of the present and be first and foremost a tool for the indoctrination of patriotism defined as loyalty to the establishment.

Take, for example:

“Students are told that Australia has always been multicultural and that our history is one of multiple heritages, influences and connections. The focus is on various and diverse cultural groups without any recognition that the contributions of some should be more valued than others.

In line with a postmodern view of the world, one where there are no absolutes and where knowledge is subjective, students are also told that historical understanding is multiple, conflicting and partial as ‘there are many perspectives on events and that explanations are often incomplete and contested’.”

And which groups in Australian history should be valued more than others? Squatters, bankers and protestant preachers, one suspects. And there's nothing especially postmodern about the definition of historical understanding, only a very simple person would think history was straightforward and fully known. But then that's how it should be, implies Donnelly. And of course there should be absolutes, presumably handed down from on high by the PM in the shape of defined values.

And I'm not even going to go into the sad and hypocritical irony that the globalisation Donnelly's erstwhile masters so ardently support is also tearing apart the fabric of certainty he claims is needed. Then again, to be tearing down something on the one hand, while mustering support by decrying its destruction on the other, provides us with a breathtaking level of cynicism.  

I did note the American paper was promoting itself on campus last week, offering students weekday copies at $15 for the academic year. My response: that's a bit of a rip off.

I agree, Irfan.

Some of the ideology behind the orgy of mass murder of infidels called the Crusades sounds very similar to that expressed by Osama bin Laden. I would no more want to be facing a bunch of Crusaders than I would want to face a bunch of Al Qaeda terrorists - the result (death) would be identical. Let's face facts: religion has long been one of the most divisive forces afflicting humankind.

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