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The digital future and my everlasting love-hate for Islam

The digital future and my everlasting love-hate for Islam by Solomon Wakeling

Sx years on and “Confronting Islam”, my first and only foray into (half-ironic) hate speech, still gives me grief, thanks to the persistency of the “Google” search engine in linking some of my younger foolishness to my name, and making it available to anyone who might care to inquire about me. Not that anyone has ever mentioned it, but in the words of Hannibal Lecter: “People don’t always tell you what they’re thinking – they just see that you don’tadvance in life.”

It’s a persistent, if receding anxiety, that I might be misunderstood as racist for something I said (even if I should have known better) a long time ago. Alas, it was my own facility in inflammatory rhetoric which blasted the comments up high enough (454) to ensure that, most of the time, this piece is what people will find first when they decide to stalk me.

(It was a sweet little bouquet of ironies to discover on one occasion Webdiary advertising “Muslim personals” on the page, given how in living memory under Margo Kingston’s stewardship, Webdiary agonised over advertising on the site and the degradation of newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald with their focus on online dating. I don’t mind at all: in the unlikely event one Muslim couple found love because of me, there’s my redemption.)

Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff states in Program or be programmed: ten commands for a digital age: “Sadly for young people, the digital realm is permanent. This robs them of the free experimentation that defines adolescence. Whilst parents might not relish pondering what happens between teens in the back seats of their cars or behind the bleachers on a Friday night, this experimentation isn’t being recorded in a database likely to outlast whatever was chiselled onto the walls of the Parthenon.”[i]

I am not entirely convinced just yet that this is true, and that the permanence involved is not merely an illusion, that the content of the internet is like the markings on a white board of the great long corporate seminar we’ve all been subjected to for the past fifteen years. Hit the delete button and the content is inaccessible and irretrievable, unless someone is keeping watch over it.

Everything on the internet takes up digital space, and, like hardcopy archives, they exist so long as people are willing to maintain them and preserve them. I think we’ve all had the experience of looking for content online which we remember but which is no longer there. The genius of Wikileaks was to re-route through servers in Switzerland when their service was suspended[ii]; the archive here was under siege and displays a deep fragility when it becomes politically inconvenient to the powers-that-be.

Nevertheless it is true for most of us that for the immediately foreseeable future that whatever we publish online isn’t going to go away, and, more significantly, is going to be searchable in a way that microfiche of a newspaper archive is not.

In Webdiary’s case the good angel watching over the archive is the national library of Australia’s Pandora archive, meaning that what we say here, truly will last as long as the national library of Australia exists.[iii]

Blink and you will have missed it but the Eatock v [Andrew] Boltcase[iv] contained a significant finding by Bromberg J about maintaining the integrity of the online archives in the public interest. This principle stands even where the content of those archives is not deemed to have any public interest value and amounts to racial vilification. The old practise of the law to remove noxious material from circulation was found to be obsolete in our digital age (at 463):

In relation to the order sought that HWT [The Herald and Weekly Times pty ltd] remove offending articles from any online site under its control or direction, HWT contends that it would not be appropriate for that order to extend to the internet archives of the Herald Sun. It was contended, and I accept, that the internet archives of a significant media organisation such as the Herald Sun serves an important public interest by preserving and making available historical records of news and information: Times Newspapers Limited (Nos 1 and 2) v United Kingdom [2009] EMLR 14, 45-48.


And further, (at 464):

I can well appreciate Ms Eatock’s purpose in seeking to have the Newspaper Articles removed from the online archive of the Herald Sun. There is good reason to try and restrict continued access to, and dissemination of, the Newspaper Articles by the public. However, it seems to me that, in the age in which we live, any attempt made to restrict access to an internet publication is likely to be circumvented by access being made available on online sites beyond the control of HWT. Ms Eatock’s legitimate objective would be better served by maintaining the Newspaper Articles on the online site to which people looking for them are most likely to go and including at that place a notice of the kind offered by HWT and to which I will refer further below.

My own efforts at racial vilification centred around Sura 4, Verse 34 (Women) of the Qur’an and my own anger at violence against women, leading me to argue for a prohibition on headscarves in schools. With 1.6 billion Muslims[v] currently on earth and endless more to come in perpetuity, the question of what the Qur’ansays about domestic violence and women’s rights is an important one for women and for men, and it was one for which there are no easy answers.

I was relying on a translation by N.J. Dawood from 1956:

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.

Tarif Khalidi translates this passage differently in his 2008 translation:

Men are legally responsible for women, inasmuch as God has preferred some over others in bounty, and because of what they spend from their wealth. Thus, virtuous women are obedient, and preserve their trusts, such as God wishes them to be preserved. And those you fear may rebel, admonish, and abandon them in their beds, and smack them. If they obey you, seek no other way against them. God is Highest and Mightiest.

According to George Sale’s 1793 translation, helpfully archived by Project Gutenberg, the passage reads:

Men shall have the preeminence above women, because of those advantages wherein GOD hath caused the one of them to excel the other, and for that which they expend of their substance in maintaining their wives.  The honest women are obedient. careful in the absence of their husbands, for that GOD preserveth them, by committing them to the care and protection of the men. But those, whose perverseness ye shall be apprehensive of, rebuke; and remove them into separate apartments, and chastise them.  But if they shall be obedient unto you, seek not an occasion of quarrel against them: for GOD is high and great.

This passage, if taken literally, does indicate a level of repressive behaviour which our society cannot sanction. Differing and more nuanced translations go a long way to resolving such conflicts but ultimately words do need to have some objective meaning or else the whole business of translation is pointless. However laws to counteract such dogmas need to stop at the point where they cease to be about addressing specific wrongs and become arbitrary. A piece of cloth, however it is worn, and whatever dogma is behind it, does not make you oppressed; being beaten by your husband or confined to your home does, and Australian law will protect you no matter who you are; this is what equality for women truly means and what section 116 of our constitution seeks to protect when it prohibits the Commonwealth from making laws imposing religious observance. My own attribution of Turkish secularism as spear-headed by Ataturk as the solution was short-sighted in the extreme; Human Rights Watch reported in 2011 on the insidious culture of family violence in Turkish society.[vi] I don’t shrink from confronting violence against women but this is not an issue unique to Islam, nor does it have anything to do with religious dress. The two issues have no connection and what I said was deeply offensive. I was wrong and I’m sorry.

Many times I wrote lovingly of Islam on Webdiary (See: Cultural diversity and photography), but this is unlikely to be what endures under present conditions in connection with my name. This is something I have to live with. Nevertheless the hard lesson that theorists like Rushkoff ask of us has a lot of resonance for me: be yourself, use your own name, own your own words and it will go a long way to re-personalising a de-personalised online environment. I’m proud of myself for writing with my own name and not anonymously and glad that long, long ago, Margo Kingston realised we all should, too, if we wanted to really connect across social divides in a civilised online debate. If we do this, eventually, every door shuts but the path to healing.i


[i] page 88

[ii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8179044/WikiLeaks-back-online-after-moving-to-Swiss-servers.html

[iii] http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/21852

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Formidable Stinker? Why not...

Did someone mention a pisshead and formidable thinker?

Got no idea what the latter means but as far as the former goes I'm all in.

Talk about nothing so lonely shocking or queer, Weird Dairy has been chaotic not, without any beer.

Grumpy old man hey Scott - don't worry mate we'll all be dead soon, but glad to hear you are still respiring.

Yep, looks like fascism, so we can expect the trains to run on time one day - I hope.

And what's this about belief systems?

If yours truly had no gods he'd be totally fucked. Mate, I discovered a new one just the other day: the washing machine god - yeah, I had no idea either, but one exists - Pumpkin is my witness. The fucking washer shit itself, I prayed (specifically) to the washing machine god and BINGO. Now, how else could one explain such a miracle?

And numbers?

That's easy: think digits mate, after that one can grasp anything numbers - it's all a bit of tautology really. One finger plus one finger is exactly the same as saying two fingers, is it not? The same goes for toes - if you have enough of them.

Anyway gotta run - think I might have spied iHarry wandering about - he reckons I owe him an iApple, but I reckon we was always talking iBananas. Never could understand the finer details of a contract. Fucking lawyers - fruit cakes the lot of them - I'd rather be a nurse (at least you can bury your mistakes).

Douglas Rushkoff

Okay, I support Solomon Wakeling 110% in his recommendation,especially the first ten minutes, which is the key part.  The speaker begins to take questions at 41:38 and I didn't find them interesting.

I sympathize with Solomon Wakeling's failure to say what it's all about because it's impossible for me to make the subject other than devoid of all interest if I attempt to express it in my own words.  Rushkoff can make it interesting as I could not.  But it's basically that growing up in a computer-driven digital world you couldn't afford to be computer illiterate, yet almost everyone is.  For all the enthusiasm of the enthusiasts for social media they have never learnt to use computers, they have only learnt to use applications that use computers.

The key problem is that for all the centrality of computers in the modern world they have never learnt to write computer programs, and so control and properly use computers.

So, listen to it, please, at least that first part.  Then, if you were listening to it on a computer whose operating system (do you even know what that is?) is named after holes in the wall of a certain kind, or even if it is named after a carnivorous mammal with a strange connection to the fruit of the apple tree, do these things:

 1.  Download a bootable Slackware Linux DVD (or CD series) from here or here;

2. Make sure it's bootable.

3. Back up anything that's your own creation.

4. Format your hard disk.

5. Boot and install Slackware GNU/Linux.

6. Spend a couple of months getting used to the new world you are in.

7. Download (also after a couple of months: what's there now is obsolete), compile and install the GNU Sather compiler, read the accompanying manuals, and get programming.

(I actually listened on Slackware 13.0 - current version 13.37 untried.) 


It was very stupid of me to write offhandedly as I did.  It there is anyone out there with any inclination to take my suggestion seriously, DON'T format your hard disk.  It'd probably work fine as described, but there is a risk.

Instead, while running the Linux setup program, delete the disk partitions that the other system was installed on.

But do things experimentally, alertly, not blindly.

Of course, I don't need to say that to you, but ...


Loving muslims

Michael, thank you for your response. My comment sounds patronising and I'm sorry. I just had this feeling that Webdiary had become a wasteland and no-one would be listening. Perhaps it's not so bad as I imagined. I'll do better than write a summary; I'll review Rushkoff's "Program or be programmed", mentioned in the above piece, as my next webdiary project. His essential thesis is that without some understanding (or better yet, skill) at computer programming, then people will lose track of the way in which their reality is programmed by others. You don't have to listen to all of it, just 2 minutes, and see if it grabs you.

The original piece "Confronting Islam" is here and was published on webdiary in 2006. (I ask the moderators nicely to hyperlink it in the above piece to avoid further confusion).

The above piece is still a critique of Islam, it just doesn't aspire to the depths of vilification. Originally I compared the Hijab to graffiti and said they ought to be banned in schools, as expressions of the indoctrination of young muslim girls into a repressive religion.

It's less that I love islam than that I love Muslim people and it is a religion that will be with us en masse for a long time to come. I thought it worthwhile to be more specific about my criticisms, to point to a source, to accept that I don't and never will speak Arabic or be an expert in Qur'anic studies, and leave a gateway open to repair the fracture between Muslims and non-Muslims in my own country. Viewed in terms of a broken relationship I wanted to extend a hand and then re-define where that goodwill stops. The correct response to dogma is education and discussion; the correct response to actual repressive behaviour like domestic violence, religious or secular, is to engage the law. These are not difficult concepts to grasp but in my confusion, anger and mixed up state at 23 yrs old, I mangled these concepts in a way I should not have, and probably would not have when I was nineteen.

I'm not familiar with the passages you mention in any detail. I am glad I didn't grow up having to grapple with that kind of a heritage.

Old friends

So Solomon, what concentrates your mind on any form of religion?

All belief systems are stultifying. Whether it be religion or mathematics people become blinkered. Accept that beyond the conceit that consumes mankind our thought proceesses are no more than passages of relatively massive particles, electrons between our neurons. If we try to divine anything it's analagous to repairing clockwork with a cold chisel and hammer. People take from religion that which suits them and there are as many gods as those that believe. Especially the control freaks.

As to mathematics, just another belief system ( very useful at that,) but it is incomplete. It can't explain transcendental irationals and is based on "number line" theory. Oh, it works fine but it is only a model, there is no line as such, only a continuum. Infinity exists between zero and one. Everything is infinitily divisible.

Take heed from one of the finest polymath minds of medieaval times, a pisshead and formidable thinker.

an! well , come put me to the test-
a lovely old book in hideous errors drest-
Believe me, I can quote the Koran too.
The unbeliever knows his Koran best

'And do you think that unto such as you
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew
God gave the secret, and denied it me ?
Well, well, what matters it! believe that too. "

Omar Khayyám, Rubaiyat (1048–1123)

I'm not trying to convert anyone; shit that's the last thing on my mind. You wouldn't want to be in my head for quids. I just want to convey an alternative perspective, It's lonely in here, nothing is certain and I have all sympathy for Hamlet..

You're right about Webdiary, it is a wasteland, hopefully it will change and hat's off to Richard who has singlehandedly kept it going. His fortitude is exemplary with only Paul to respond (to whom he talks to over the bar anyway,) and occassionally Justin. More of which later.

Michael, I know where you're coming from but what's in it for the average Joe? I came to computing in my early fifties. Finally I had found something that could focus my grasshoper/butterfly mind.. Something (programming) that could keep me totally focused, sometimes 'til 3-4 in the morning. Data access looped programs that took as much effort to read as write, but all beome boring, write one algorithm and you've written them all . I don't know how to send a text message and don't intend to learn. Twitter is for twits and anyone who does, goes down in my estimation including Annabelle Crabb (the thinking man's totty). What one can say in limited characters apart from "have a nice day" and "fuck off" isn't worth saying.

Never mind me, I'm a grumpy old man.

All the way to Timbuktu

I notice a news item on page 68 of today's Adelaide Advertiser headed "Unwed lashed".  It is reported that a man and a woman each received 100 lashes after their child was born out of wedlock in Timbuktu, Mali.

The Islamist group Ansar Dine (elsewhere in the article called "the rebels") had taken control of the town and imposed sharia law forbidding non-marital relationships.  The report said that the child was conceived before the rebels took over.

There is no need to express one's own option on this.  It speaks for itself.  It happened within Islam, it could only have happened withing Islam, is happened in a characteristically Islamic context.  It shouts to all of the essential nature of Islam.  There are more backward places in the world than Timbuktu where such a thing could never happen.  It happened because of Islam.

Whether it is good or bad that it happened, whether Islam is good or bad, can be left to the reader to decide.

One can say, however, at least, I say, that the latter can be accurately inferred from the former.  I think it would be bizarre to propose the contrary.

Incidentally, for non-Islamists: the couple are being treated in hospital.

The digital future

Whether I still care I'll never know because I'm not going to listen 55 minutes and 39 seconds because Solomon Wakeling "highly recommended" that I do so.  Solomon, post a summary in writing.  A Web diary is something you write.


I couldn't find the supposed criticism of Islam by the person who many times "wrote lovingly" of that religion.

But all you have to do is refer to known facts and quote from the Koran.  You don't need to express your own views.  The essential nature of Islam speaks for itself.

That an Ayatollah calls for the murder of Salman Rushdie speaks for itself.

That the god of Islam expressly authorizes a man to prostitute his slavegirl for his monetary profit and without her consent speaks for itself.

That Dawood uses the word "slavegirl" and another translator, "more nuanced", uses the word "maid" cuts no ice.

That the god seemingly provides that if the slavegirl is a virgin her consent must be obtained also cuts no ice, when in another place Mohammed claims that the god gives the man the right to "plow" the women he owns, that  they are his flelds and he has a right to plow them.  So the slavegirl has no say as to whether or not she is a virgin, the god has gratuitously announced the unconditional right of the man to prostitute the woman for money.

It is gratuitous, if you look at the context, a total change of subject from what went before.  Just something Mohammed needed the god to say, coming from nowhere.

Up to that point I didn't use the word "duplicitous" to refer to the language of the Koran in seeming to but not really qualify the right of the man to prostitute the girl.  That's my own view.  But if you simply refer to facts, and there are hundreds of others that expose the moral quality of Islam, what Islam is of its essence, they speak for themselves.  There are dozens in the Koran itself.  It's not something you said, it's what Mohammed claimed to have heard or what the Ayatollah said which instead of being universally condemned enlisted a thousand would-be murderers.

The very sentence, "There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet" is coercive in its origins and of its essence, aimed an Arabian Jews who suddenly had a prophet imposed on them by force, who supposedly were now committing an offence against their own god (who would have to have been an unspeakably treacherous one to spring this on them)  if they did not become disciples of Mohammed.

And rather than "more nuanced" translations, be aware that "more deceptive" fits as well.

I'm very uncertain of the genuineness of the sentiments expressed here by Solomon Wakeling.

Social impact of Islam

A social problem we now have is that Islam's low moral values and legitimization of violence and murder are for some members of our society not repulsive but attractive.

The conversion of a bikie gang member to Islam is very different from such a man's conversion to Christianity, the "born again" experience of becoming aware of one's sin, repenting of it, and embracing beliefs that were not invented to serve one man's agenda, but which totally transform his life.  The conversion of the gang member to Isam serves to legitimize his fantasies of being a warrior.  Not a conversion, but the enlistment of a religion to his advantage, now adding a new fantasy of legitimacy to his lifestyle.  That the exploitation of women is legitimized as the same time is no doubt an added attraction.

Recently there was a funeral of a murdered bikie gang member with an Italian surname.  You would expect that it would be conducted in a Roman Catholic church, but the newpaper reports carried photos of the enrobed Muslim cleric who presided over the funeral at the mosque.

Online lecture by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff

This is highly recommended for anyone who still cares.

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