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Federal Election: A Liberal Dose of Racism

It is some time since Webdiary has had the pleasure of publishing one of Irfan Yusuf's invariably engaging and controversial pieces. Today, with Irfan's permission, we publish a piece that has just appeared on New Matilda. Irfan's last piece for Webdiary was Aussie Islam & Howard's cultural minstrels

During my 10 years in the NSW Liberal Party, I found many prominent people on the conservative side had a somewhat laissez-faire attitude toward racism.

I remember attending my first conservative factional meeting outside the Young Libs. It was held in Sydney’s CBD, from memory at a Spanish restaurant named ‘Don Quixote.’ Also attending was Lyenko Urbanchich. It was the first time I met him, and he was introduced to me after the meeting as ‘one of the champions of the Right.’

Urbanchich and I had the following conversation:

LU: So where are you from?
IY: I’m from North Ryde.
LU: No, you don’t understand. I mean what is your country.
IY: Australia.
LU: No, no. Where were your parents born?
IY: India.
LU: So that makes you Indian.
IY: Er, no. It makes me Australian, as a matter of fact.
LU: Do you support multiculturalism?
IY: Yes, I do.
LU: No wonder you speak this cosmopolitan nonsense. I am Slovenian. I am not an Indian. You are. But if I was an Indian, I would want to be re-incarnated and returned in my next life as a White man.

I found this kind of talk grossly offensive, and reported it to ‘Clarkey’ (the nickname we gave to factional heavy David Clarke). Clarkey dismissed my complaint, and told me to lighten up. ‘Lyenko was just engaging in good-hearted banter,’ Clarkey said.

It was around this time that Pauline Hanson was making a serious appearance on the political stage. A bright young man of Chinese heritage named Matt was active in the Parramatta Federal Electorate Conference and was helping the conservatives in a counter-stack to save the Macquarie Liberal Club from falling to The Group (as the liberal faction of the Liberal Party were called).

Later, Matt left the Party. He told me he’d had a long discussion with Ross Cameron (who was the Liberal Party member for Parramatta from 1996 to 2004) about Hanson’s anti-Asian comments. Matt believed backbenchers like Cameron should place pressure on John Howard to openly condemn Hanson’s comments. Cameron allegedly disagreed, even going to the extent (according to Matt) of suggesting he agreed with her views on multiculturalism.

I asked a factional colleague from a Southern Sydney branch about what happened to young Matt. I was told: ‘He was just a f*cking whingeing Asian. We don’t need any of his type in the Party.’

I always thought this laissez-faire attitude to racism was limited to the large-’L’ Liberals I used to associate with. But it was during the 2001 election campaign that I discovered the extent to which this infected even relatively moderate conservatives.

It was just after September 11 that I was asked to nominate for the seat of Reid, the Sydney seat held by the ALP-Left stalwart Laurie Ferguson. It was a busy time. I had a legal practice to run and, like many people of my background, I suffered from Septemberelevenitus, an illness whose symptoms include:

· Being of nominally Muslim background or heritage;
· As a result of a terrorist attack on a Western target, suddenly feeling one must run around like a headless chook, doing as much as they can to allay other people’s fears;
· Feeling the need to take on the burden of multiple persons;
· Trying to compensate for all those years spent engaged in chronically suspicious behaviour — such as just behaving like any other ordinary citizen;
· Hoping all this will somehow save him or her from impending incarceration in some prisoner-of-war camp as experienced during World War II by Italian and Japanese citizens.

All this might sound rather nutty. But many of us nominal ‘Aussie Mossies’ suddenly discovered our religious heritage — in most cases, just an historical accident — was under attack. We could see a serious shift in public perceptions.

I was no longer ‘Irfan the conservative Liberal lawyer of Indian heritage with God-knows how many other shades of identity.’ I was now just ‘Irfan the Muslim, one of hundreds of thousands of fifth-columnists allegedly out to destroy the Western democracy I grew up in and was a part of.’

In an environment where xenophobic nonsense like this was not limited to far-Right tabloid fruitloops but was fast becoming mainstream, we seriously believed that public opinion was such that a government could find support in rounding us all up and detaining us. My Federal election activities in Reid were perhaps a symptom of this fear.

Soon after nominating, I received a call from the State Director, Scott Morrison (now endorsed Liberal candidate for the safe southern Sydney seat of Cook). He gave me this wise advice:

The media will be trawling down our candidate list and your name will stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t be surprised if some journo or your ALP opponent tries to drag you into some messy ethnic or religious controversy. And before you publish anything, you must run it past me or someone else here at HQ.

When I wasn’t engrossed in my legal practice, I was out on the hustings. I simply didn’t have the time to watch the news and discover just how bloody awful both sides were behaving in relation to asylum seekers. Plus, when it came to foreign policy, it was easy to feel comfortable. Reid takes in the suburb of Auburn, with its large anti-Taliban Tajik and Hazara presence. Many were supportive of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan, though some were still rather cold toward me. Still, my job was to work for the people of my electorate, not for particular interest groups.

Then, one afternoon in October, I received a call from a lady named Mahbooba who ran a small charity working among Afghan orphans in Pakistan. She wanted to introduce me to a Middle Eastern chap. We agreed to meet at a small mosque in Auburn.

I entered the mosque and saw Mahbooba sitting with a visibly distraught man whose reddened eyes betrayed days of mourning. The man continued to weep in my presence while Mahbooba showed me some photos of some young children. The man then spoke:

These are the children of my sister. She was killed by the government of our homeland. I’ve been an Australian citizen for 25 years. I run my own business. I pay my taxes. I have only ever asked one thing from my local member and that was to help me get my sister and her children out of there.

‘Who is your local member?’ I asked. ‘John Howard,’ was his answer.

He then told me about how he was informed by other relatives that the children had been placed on an unseaworthy boat. They were among some 350 others who had drowned.

This was the first time I had heard of the SIEV-X incident. I wasn’t sure what I could do. I was just a candidate in a hard-luck seat with little hope of winning. What could I hope to achieve for this man?

‘Some people in your Party are starting to tell lies about my sister’s children. They are saying my sister taught her children to be terrorists. You must speak out against them. Remember what the Prophet Mohammed said — that the best jihad is to speak the truth to rulers. It is easy for you because you are in their Party’

I listened to the man’s story and looked at the photos of these young children who had barely reached their teens. After the meeting, I got onto the phone with campaign HQ. I told them about the conversation I’d had with the man, and how I wanted to make some statement about it.

‘No way, Irfan,’ said the voice from HQ. ‘You mustn’t talk about this topic. I’m warning you that if you say anything about it, you might find yourself disendorsed and expelled from the Party. We are running hard on security and terrorism.’

‘But these are young kids,’ I objected. Then the HQ officer told me something that made me shudder.

‘Listen, I know how much you hate Pauline Hanson. You’ve got to understand that we have a deliberate strategy here. We want to destroy Hanson by sounding like her and attracting her voter base away from her. It’s part of a deliberate strategy, and it’s temporary.’

I believed that HQ officer. I said and wrote nothing — in English. I made sure it was all said in Urdu, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic and Vietnamese instead. What HQ didn’t know wouldn’t harm them or me. Ignorance is bliss.

But now I wish I’d said it in English. Five years later, Howard Government ministers continued alienating asylum seekers or persons of Middle-Eastern appearance. Six years on, and the Howard Government are demonising African refugees. All this talk of integration, yet the government happily deals with non-integrated groups like the Exclusive Brethren. All this rhetoric about national security while a bunch of comics can breach security barriers costing millions of dollars.

There is something patently illiberal and unconservative about despising individuals due to factors beyond their control. To despise an individual due to the colour of their skin or their ethno-religious background requires a suspension of one’s reason.

I always thought Liberals believed individuals should be given every opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of their background.

All of which raises the question — is John Howard’s Party still a Liberal Party? And if it isn’t, who should real Liberals be voting for in the upcoming election?

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The Lodge, Potpourri, macrame and bongs or torture chambers

With Labor on the brink of a preference deal with the Greens, Nick Minchin warned on Saturday of the Greens taking control of the Senate and holding Rudd hostage to "radical causes that would damage the fabric of our society and our economic prosperity". Surely, too, the Lodge would be littered with potpourri, macrame and bongs.

I would rather see the Lodge with potpourri, macrame and bongs than torture chambers. The fabric of our society has been seriously damaged by 11 years of a radical Howard government. 

No link

No link to the story Margo, just a reminder that real people were on the boat and that they still suffer.


Add Bruce Billson to the List of Liberal Incompetents

I quote an article in the Atomic Fallout a periodical for the Atomic Veterans of Australia.

Dated June/July 2007, it was headed What Hope Do We Have With A Minister Like This?

"Three month into his stint (we hope it is a short one) as Veterans' Affairs Minister Bruce Billson has managed to raise the ire of ex-service folk with a statement made in an interview given to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Billson said the armed forces need to foster a new breed of "emotionally resilient" personnel, who are better equipped to cope with the demands of modern military engagements.

The 40 year old with no military experience said the mental wellbeing of military personnel began at the recruitment stage and mental illness among serving troops and veterans "is a real priority" with me.

Billson went on to say that whereas in the past the military was viewed as a place where "social misfits" did time in order to get "sorted out", such people were not suited to today's defence force, where multiple deployments to difficult environments was the norm. 

Obviously World War 2, the Occupation of Japan, Korea and Vietnam were not difficult environments. [End of quote]

The reason that I resigned from the R.S.L. was because the hierarchy is too politically biased to the Liberal/Nationalists who, while they are warmongers, have nevertheless employed special privatised companies to spy on veterans to avoid pensions.

And further - to Alan - do you still refuse to believe that re-elected Howard warmongers would NOT introduce conscription to assist the Americans in invading and occupying more sovereign countries?

Keep looking at the WorkChoices, climate change, health, education, failing security and nuclear reactors on prize beach front land.


RSL membership

Ernest , You say "The reason that I resigned from the R.S.L. was because the hierarchy is too politically biased to the Liberal/Nationalists"

I have just become a life member of the RSL in Cairns. I agree with what you say about political bias in the RSL.  I have just become a RSL welfare officer. We need good people in the RSL; we can change the politics. As many of the WWII veterans pass on, the good work they have done on veteran welfare will be lost, unless the younger veterans pick up the torch. We need more Labor supporters and more ex Navy. Don't give up on them, mate.

The word profit spoils the best of intentions.

G'day John, no problem mate - I have been active in that field for some time.

I have had the honour of facing the Veterans' Review Board on behalf of veterans when the Officer in Charge was one Brigadier Rolf.

A top young man and very concerned about the welfare of ex-service personnel, veterans or no.

However, I was not an accredited advocate and the actual people with whom I faced were very understanding and compassionate.

This only enforced my belief that, no matter how sincere the volunteer advocates may be, it is rarely the RSL itself that provides assistance under the Howard government.

I believe that when Australia lowered itself to invade a sovereign country which bore us no ill will, our service personnel were then ordered to do things no less unprincipled than Hitler's WW 2 legions.

I believe that the RSL was created on a very proud basis, that is, our men and women fought against the people who tried to deny us our freedoms and human rights.

Yet here we are, with the same RSL supporting a fascist government to whom a war is just another way of making money for an out of control military/corporate regime in America.

Our only independence seems, John, to try to help the youngsters whose lives are being lessened in dignity as indeed they were under the Menzies regime.

The RSL should have remained a bastion for those who fought and died for our country and who should be remembered, as it once was, by their relatives on going.

Keep up the good work mate.

Cheers Ern G.

Hanson's battlers

Earlier this year I interviewed a woman I had met in researching an article on involuntary treatment in mental health. She was very anti-immigration and at another time told me that Pauline Hanson was quite right in what she said. I think it gives some insight in to the kinds of people who were attracted to Hanson. I changed the names to protect the privacy of these individuals.

"There is a significant burden on the family members and carers of mentally ill people and this needs to be taken in to account when considering involuntary treatment. Sandra's husband and her daughter both have bi-polar disease. Whilst treatment has been voluntary, it is clear that the nature of the illness can create strong levels of denial and stubbornness, making it harder to improve the quality of life of the people involved.

To make matters worse her husband, Donald, suffers from injuries from work, with slipped discs in his back and carpal-tunnel in his hands, meaning that he is in constant pain. He is on heavy pain-killers as well as other medication for his mood-swings.

"People with bi-polar get very angry outbursts. They are very impatient. If they don't understand what is being said to them they get very frustrated and very irritable." She said. "I know that underneath that exterior he is a kind and gentle man. We used to get in to a lot of fights. He was very one-eyed, black and white. He used to blame us for a lot of things. Once he was diagnosed and treated he became easier to get along with. He learned to work through it, to work with it."

It took a lot of fighting for their family to get an insurance payment for her husband's injuries. She said the process of going to court was mentally exhausting. She was also exhausted from having to deal with his problems. At first he was unable to dress himself as he had lost feeling in his hands. He wanted to go back to work but he was unable to sustain the effort. Finally an independent doctor from Centrelink assessed that he was unable to go back to work because no-one would give him insurance considering all his problems.

"Once Centrelink gave him the DSP (Disability Support Pension) he was able to relax more, now that he was not being pressured to do something he was physically and mentally unable to do." She said.

Her daughter Talia has short-term memory problems and this has been a cause of significant distress to her. "The hardest part for her was accepting it. She gets very frustrated. She found it hard to accept that she wasn't like everyone else." She said. "She just wants to be normal. She wants to succeed."

In high school Talia became something of a recluse and suffered a lot of bullying.  She is now studying a TAFE course. Her mother says she has put everything in to it. "She never gives up. She is very determined." This determination can be of concern to her mother, who feels that sometimes her daughter puts too much pressure on herself. She had to give up a passion for martial arts because she could not remember the routines and this was causing her a lot of distress. "I told her you have to do it for the right reasons. Not to prove to anyone else what you can do. Just to enjoy it." She said.

In the end acceptance appears to be the key, both by the sufferer and in those in whom their care is placed."

The word battler comes to mind, not as some kind of media stereotype but just as someone who, like Hanson, has had "their share of life's hard knocks". One phrase I didn't quote but which had a strong impact on me was when she said: "I've hardened up. I've hardened up a hell of a lot."

Katharine Betts wrote some interesting work on immigration, arguing that the bipartisan support for high immigration by both major parties was the only way such a policy could succeed. She said that being pro-immigration came to be a badge of honour for intellectuals and a way to distance themselves from "parochial" common folk, and who could buy themselves immunity from the consequences of the policy through their wealth. With no-one playing Devil's advocate a "third force" in politics was the only way such issues could be debated at all. I wonder if Hansonism might not just have been about putting immigration on to the agenda, rather than being solely anti-immigration. These are issues that affect people's lives and if those in power are not responsive to the electorate it becomes undemocratic and can fuel outrage.

I think there are also underlying issues to be addressed, which may have no direct bearing on racial or immigration issues. As Kingston says Hansonism had a lot to do with "economic exclusion". If you can make life easier for people in their day-to-day lives then you have got more leverage to appeal to their compassion. We should work to soften hearts.

A bit of Morris Gleitzman on silver screen and voila, no PH

Every time I see the name Pauline Hanson I think of Abbott and his secret monied up slush fund(that the electoral commission thought wasn't political, sure) and the list of members and the stolen hard drive and the death of the party member and how that list was published and how that hard drive cost money (10g??)to get back from the PM office … all a bit of a blur now in the memory and on the old hard drive but all there in the SMH at one time and would make an interesting whodunnit that no-one would believe had any truth. What on earth was all that about back then? Maybe some enterprising journo will rake it up and ask a few more questions.

There seem to have been quite a few uncertain deeds done by our government over the years. How easily they fall from the public consciousness. No court case, so they mustn’t have really happened must they? Hope we will learn from the US failing now. If they had sorted out their criminals with hefty sentences once they were out of office they would not be around again to cause more mayhem and tragedy and this time drag the US down too.

SievX, with so many dead, may be a good place to start. Gallipoli memorials are for our military failure to remind us not to be under imperial command. Perhaps the SievX memorial can be for our moral failures for the same reason.

While Tony Blair is trying so hard to keep a diplomatic immunity job to escape his destiny, let us hope Johnny quietly retires to await the knock on the door.

Solomon, nice ideas but perhaps if life is easy for people they become politically apathetic and leave it all to the more extreme agenda beating members. Rather than numbing away any cares or concerns, although there is a certain lulling attraction to that, more of the Morris Gleitzman action is what enervates us to others suffering. Now make the two books into movies and watch the understanding spread and the empathy grow. We have to get to know people as individuals like us, to care.


Thanks for That Link Eliot

I always forget to read sites like the Green Left – but I didn't see Pauline Hanson mentioned in that piece.She is similar, though, to the Lyons Forum – absolutely hypocritical.

Pauline made a financially rewarding career out of slagging off the "Aboriginal Industry" and their supposed handouts, much like the Coalition has and continues to – always mentioning the millions supposedly given to Aboriginal communities but never mentioning that the vast majority of funds goes to pay public servants or, as in the recent takeover of communities, actual wages for the infantry and probably Mal Brough's salary. The money that finally trickles into the hands of indigenous folk is very little.

A bit like Lyons himself, who married a 16 year old.

God bless Pauline

Michael de Angelos says:

"News Ltd's sordid tale of her campaign worker was completely irrelevant."

I dunno. According to this Green Left Weekly article, Pauline works in much the same was as the 'moral right'.

"...it serves the parties' moral agenda in much the same way as the Pauline Hanson-inspired “race debate” does."


I wrote this story at the time of the first anniversary of the sinking of SIEVX, a tragedy that has ceased my ability to ever sleep soundly again.

It was about the 14th October 2002 and I was heavily involved in the first memorial.    I went to the Amnesty office which was helping and ran into a beautiful Iraqi woman and her mum all in mourning black.

She was in front of the poster I had designed for the day and when she was introduced to me we just held each other crying for about 20 minutes while her mum hugged us both.

Najah lost her baby boy and brother that day.

Margo: Did you forget a link? 

Liberal Morals

The Coaltion deserves the catastrophe heading it's way-no matter what spin The Australian tries to put on a small percentage rise. Abandoning principals for the craven ambition of one man was bound to end in tears.

Eliot Ramsey : despite my intense dislike of Pauline Hanson and all she stands for ( although she's impossible to dislike in person )-News Ltd's sordid tale of her campaign worker was completely irrelevant. Where would they be though without another sex 'scandal' ?-minus most readers I should think.

Howard has shown that morality can be moulded to suit whatever-thus a tax dodger like Kerry Packer is given a state funded funeral and a rorter like Dick Pratt is praised as a good bloke.


Convicted pedophile working for Pauline Hanson

"SENATE-hopeful Pauline Hanson's latest tilt at federal politics has been dealt a savage blow with revelations she has knowingly allowed a convicted pedophile to work on her campaign.

Ms Hanson yesterday confirmed she was receiving volunteer help from Bob Dutton, who pleaded guilty in 2003 of sexually molesting two children about 30 years ago.

Concerned parents aware of Mr Dutton's criminal history told how the pair spent last weekend at a festival in Wynnum-Manly.

Ms Hanson campaigned at the festival under her latest political party banner - Pauline's United Australia Party."

I don't know what's funnier. That story, or that it's reported at something called 'The Anglo-Australian National Community Council'.



The Liberals and SIEV X

Great piece, Irfan.  How far the Liberal party has drifted from basic humanity is best illustrated by the chasm between Malcolm Fraser's and John Howard's positions on refugees during their respective Prime Ministerships.  

When boatloads of Vietnamese refugees were washing up on Australian beaches in the 1970s Fraser sought to allay white Australia fears and publicly took a humanitarian stand.  (My own family supported - and grew to love - one of those refugee families when I was a teenager).  

When boatloads of (mainly Muslim) refugees washed up on Australian beaches between 1999 and 2001 John Howard sought to portray them as child-sacrificers and told us we didn't want ‘that sort of people’ in Australia.  Quite similar to anti-Jewish propaganda the Nazis put about. 

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I went to see the SIEV X memorial in Weston Park, Canberra.  Each of the 353 white poles, which wind up a grassy slope by Lake Burley Griffin, represents one of the lives lost when the boat went down.  Near one end of the line the poles are arranged in the dimensions of the boat, a tiny space 19.5 metres long that is shockingly at odds with any conception of 400 passengers. 

All of the poles were decorated, beautifully, by groups from all over Australia.  Some of the poles bear names and ages; lots of mothers and young children, a couple of babies, men, whole families.  Many of the poles represent an ‘unknown’ victim: unknown woman, unknown man, unknown girl, unknown baby.  Family poles are placed together – mother, father, two children.  

Zahra, an Iraqi girl, daughter of Faris Kadhem, aged 7.

Fatima Alrimahi, an Iraqi girl aged 14.   

Naima, a 31 year-old Iraqi woman.

Yasser Al Helou, a 45 year-old Iraqi man. 

Mahdi Al Husseini, a 6 year-old Iraqi boy. 

Like any large tragedy, I think what happened to the SIEV X can only really be felt when it’s personalised.  I never felt the tragedy of the Holocaust as keenly as when I stood in Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam, looking up at the pictures of royalty she had cut from magazines and stuck on the wall.  I defy anybody to visit the SIEV X memorial and not be moved to tears. 

The sadness is tempered by seeing the effort compassionate people all over Australia made to honour those lost lives with beautiful paintings, mosaics and sculptures.  Some of the paintings are of beautiful, green, tranquil landscapes, like the dreams they must have had for their future.  So unlike their last terrifying moments. 

The federal Territories Minister, Jim Lloyd, wanted the memorial removed by 3 December.  Memorials only honour Australians who died serving or defending the country, he said, whereas the SIEV X victims died “illegally trying to enter the country”.  He said the organisers “have made it into a political issue”. 

Mr Lloyd criticised the ACT Government's decision to extend the memorial by twelve months, saying it was 'damaging' to other memorials in the capital.  

Let's Take Howard's anti-Union Stand for what it is!

A Fascist Australia is the only answer.

The test case concerning Howard's WorkChoices destroying Unions was held in the Federal Court. 

It was judged that, although the employer clearly sacked his employee for being in a Union, the WorkChoices legislation provided the right of the employer to sack for any or no reason.

So let's get this straight:

  • On what democratic foundation does the Howard "New Order" claim that it is dangerous for ex-Union Officials to be in a democratic government?
  • How many of Howard's ministry are members of Unions for professionals?
  • There are 26 Corporation Unions who control Howard - is that OK?
  • When Joe Hockey almost blew the cover on the removal of Trade Unions, Howard was forced to "appear" to support Union existence - but NOT in his style of government.
  • Does this also apply to his attitude to Muslims?
  • Does this also apply to his infamous racism against Asians?
  • How about the fascist Exclusive Brethren who support Howard's fascism with millions of dollars and yet - they don't vote?  Does he prosecute them for trashing the Federal Election Laws?
  • Unions have proven beyond doubt that they are the only trustworthy and organised resistance to work place exploitation and unsafe practices.
  • There is no such thing as "full-time"; "permanent"; "secure" or "legally protected" employment under WorkChoices when an employer can sack anyone, at any time, day or night.
  • Howard considers the Unfair Dismissal Laws are "dreaded".  By whom?
  • Howard considers Australians to be just another commodity and we should be thankful that the foreign corporations allow us to work for them.

Just consider that, should the Howard "New Order" be re-elected, there will be no Unions to protect the workers because the AWA employers will not allow employees to be in a Trade Union - courtesy of WorkChoices.

So much for a fascist "Choice".


Election Laws

Ernest William,  "How about the fascist Exclusive Brethren who support Howard's fascism with millions of dollars and yet - they don't vote?  Does he prosecute them for trashing the Federal Election Laws"?.

In Wentworth there is supposed to be a leaflet doing the rounds from the Exclusive Brethren, which the police are investigating. IMHO I suspect that a non=Liberal candidate could be behind it.

Margo: Alan, be careful re defamation laws, OK? 

Social control

My understanding is that '"Aussie mossie" is Irfan Yusuf's own creation as a way of trying to soften perceptions of Muslim Australians. I suppose it is better than "Camel jockey" or "Towelhead" which are the only other colloquialisms that I am familiar with in regards to Muslims, and, I don't think they will ever become terms of affection the way "Wog" is alleged to have.

From my experience Muslim Australians and other ethnic communities have distinct cultural attributes, different from that of their country of origin. Sometimes it can be simply a public face, with deeply held traditions in private, or it can just be a general absorption of Australian culture. There is even a kind of ethnic-Australian accent which seems to develop in first-generation immigrants.

Interesting that Irfan Yusuf has a rather relaxed attitude to his religion, calling it an historical accident. Certainly there can be a tendency for the dominant groups to define people in narrow terms and then enforce these definitions upon them. For many culture, tradition and religion are things they inherit and make little use of, as a kind of respect to their parents and family and ancestors. Others take it quite deadly seriously and develop a hostile attitude towards Western liberalism. This is their prerogative but it wont make them any friends. The breakdown in relations is a two-way street.

Muslim women have a particularly difficult time because their traditional dress advertises their religion. Hitler put badges on Gypsies, Jews and homosexuals as an instrument of exclusion and terror. It singled people out for violence because they knew the state would not protect them. Muslims and other ethnic communities put badges on themselves, and, in accentuating their difference exacerbate the problems inherent in a hostile society.

I think there is that underlying fascist tendency in our country, by a few individuals, to want to attack and terrorise the weak and vulnerable. Irfan Yusuf talks of the fear the Muslim community feels and I think this is justified; Recall the way in which, after September 11, Muslim women had their head-scarves torn off them. Whilst our state is willing to protect its citizens from physical abuse, it is becoming less inclined to want to protect them from verbal abuse.

There was a time when I thought this hostility ought be reflected in the media and politics, in controlled amounts, to try and stop it from spilling over in to more extreme forms. New Zealand took a soft stance on the Iraq war and they had Neo-Nazi protests. I can see a connection.

The major issue for Muslims in a country like Australia is prejudice in employment because of their race, dress and last names. In the past immigrants would attempt to anglicise themselves and I am not sure this is such a bad thing. Why make life difficult for your children by perpetuating traditions that will make life hard for them? Surely a Hijab is unsuited to the Australian summer.

Not long ago in Australian history racism was an everyday thing, even at the highest levels of power, in the media and political spectrum. In response to that we developed a system of heavy social control with vilification and anti-discrimination laws, which required a shift in culture and I think a certain amount of resentment. A laissez-faire attitude to racism has its merits in that it does not put pressure on individuals to conform. On the other hand, forcing improvements in human behaviour, even by coercion, makes life better for us all.

Hansonism and its many varied cousins is a mechansim designed to break social control. It sees only the obvious prohibitions on behaviour and then seeks to transgress them, whilst the more complex forces, social, political and economic remain largely unrecognised and unchallenged. People get sick of being kicked around and if they feel that way they lose their sympathy for others, not in response to events but even in anticipation of them. I think its a kind of pre-formed maliciousness, truly a "prejudice" against particular groups.

Racism is also fundamentally an inclusive doctrine, that is its appeal. Of course it excludes a great many people but its underlying purpose is to unite people and create a sense of community. Religion, empire and nationalism serve similar functions. Nationalism is criticised as narrow-minded compared to internationalism and cosmopolitanism, but what it actually amounts to is commonality within a particular jurisdiction. Calwell called new immigrants "new Australians" and this was a worthwhile way of normalising foreigners in to the institution of Australia.

A government has a responsibility to try and relieve divisions within the Australian community, to represent the interests of all and to negotiate between them. This process is unfortunately quite messy and complicated and there is no easy solution. Universal suffrage does not allow for democratic exclusion. Democracy is like being hand-cuffed to people you may not particularly like. Sooner or later we will have to deal with the Pauline Hansons of this world, just as we will have to deal with the Sheik Hilaly's.

A bunch of comics

Well, thank heaven for foreigners. And deplorable icon-busting comedians, pregnant teenagers, unionist bosses, underage smokers, winos and inner city elites who let their dogs foul public spaces. It's impossible to define current Liberals without beginning by what they are against, in the same way that fundamentalist religionists cannot do without Satan.

I'm thankful I was born a white-bread Ocker, and can stroll through any shopping mall without attracting a single hostile stare. As for those Moslem chappies who spread their prayer mats in the privacy of their own premises, well, they can just go back where they came from. And, while I am at it, let me just say that I am appalled at the bombings in Karachi. It's no wonder that the leader of the free world is warning about the dangers of the third world war, when violent anarchists and Muslim fanatics get hold of modern American peace-keeping weapons.


Interesting that you use the phrase "Ethno-religious" and claim it is beyond an individual's control. To a certain extent a person is not responsible for their background but this point ends at adulthood. I don't blame people for their culture/religion but they are responsible for what they do with it. Some do better than others.

I agree that the government is hypocritical in its approach to the exclusive bretheren, compared with other religions. It should be outspoken about all religious groups that disadvantage their children and perpetuate disempowering belief systems. Islam has a case to answer on this front but is hardly the worst offender. Islam is a religion with a future but it also needs to deal with its past. All I see here is a glossing over of problems - understandable but fruitless.

Some advice: drop the term "Aussie Mossies". Whilst Australians love to shorten words a "Mossie" is short for mosquito and is an irritant. It will also never catch on because it sounds ridiculous. I find that most of the time it is sufficient to address people by their names.

On trying to find the bookshop for the Sydney launch of SNHJ, I got ruefully lost and went in to an internet cafe to try and get some directions (eventually I got so lost I became disheartened and went home). The man at the counter couldn't serve me because he was praying to Mecca. I left - who has the time? My outside impression of Muslim people has long been that they behave like slaves to a God of fear. It is what I hear in their chants and read in their holy book. They say Allah Akbah, God is Great, over and over, but I am not really convinced that they believe it. They don't seem confident that Allah is "Compassionate and merciful", and the Qur'an only sometimes backs this up. Sorry to hurt feelings but when you accuse people of deserving hell-fire for their unbelief you invite criticism.

Real Liberals

Solomon, I don't think he was talking about Australians in general. “Aussie Mossies who suddenly discovered their religious heritage” must surely be Aussie Moslems, no? Not that I can claim to have ever heard the term before.

To me, what sets Aussie Moslems apart is, they not only don't eat pork, they can be offended by anything even remotely porcine. They do quite like a laugh, though, and to hang out with the boys and go fishing. When Ahmed burst out with “Stop making that noise like pork!” we all fell about laughing, almost capsized. We knew he found an innocent burp disconcerting, because he always gave the burper a hostile look; but before his outburst we hadn't known he associated it with the sound made by pork. I don't think he could have brought himself to say the word “pig” — altogether too disgusting. Another thing: people brought up Islamic find it offensive to be shown the soles of other people's feet, whether shod or not. I've heard this applies especially to Indonesians, but it seems to apply to Arabs as well.

But what do you think about Irfan's bottom line question? The thrust of his argument? Do you agree that the Liberal Party has gone off the rails under Howard's leadership? Who would a real Liberal be voting for, this election? I think Malcolm Fraser will be voting Labor. He vehemently detests where his party has gone under Howard. Who would Menzies be voting for? A sententious old stodge, in my estimation, but not a man without a conscience. I don't think he would like the look of the venal thing his baby has grown into.

Seems to me both main parties have shifted quite radically to the right of their traditional positions. I think the Hawke, Keating and now (maybe) Rudd Labor Parties are pretty much updated versions of Fraser's, and before him Gorton's, Liberal Parties. There is no Labor Party any more, it is as dead as its Tree of Knowledge; and the modern Liberal Party occupies a position never before seen in Australian politics. And another win, I reckon, will make it even uglier.

A Liberal dose of racism...

Where do you mean,  Irfan Yusuf?

Cronulla or Yuendumu?

If ever a country needed to drag itself into the twenty-first century it is this one.

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