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Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Irfan Yusuf missed out on being born in Australia by five months. He arrived in his mum's lap on a boat (a cruise liner) in 1970, and grew up in the PM's seat in East Ryde. He went to a fundamentalist seminary called St Andrews Cathedral School, and went on to study Law at Macquarie University. He practises in industrial law and is also an occasional lecturer at the Department of Politics at Macquarie University.
Irfan Yusuf

Irfan's previous pieces for Webdiary include An Aussie Mossies' response to Paris burning and A role by name for reality TV raids.  He has also had pieces published in the Australian Financial Review, Canberra Times, Daily Telegraph and NZ Herald  and is a columnist for OnlineOpinion and altmuslim.com. Irfan is an ambassador for the 2005 White Ribbon Day campaign, and if he didn't have so many blogs he might actually get some decent sleep.


Once a person said to a dervish, "All I ask for is a small dwelling in Paradise." The dervish replied, "If you displayed the same contentment with what you already have in this world, you would have found ultimate bliss."
-Abdul Qadir Jillani, "Fayuz-i-Yazdani"

Most readers will have figured out that I come from a Muslim background. The above quote is from a Muslim saint who lived in Baghdad over 6 centuries ago. He belonged to a group of Muslim mystics known as the Sufis.

In case anyone was wondering what my political persuasion is, I am basically a small "c" conservative. Which means that I believe governments should provide some essential services, beyond which they should leave it to the plebs to get their act together.

Basically, Hayek is my intellectual hero. Or PJ O'Rourke. Depending on what sort of mood I'm in.

And so it makes me wonder what sort of conservative government we have that believes it should dictate what people believe and say and think, all in the name of national security. The sedition laws seem little more than an opportunity to sedate the broader community by stopping those few of us who give a shut (as they would say across the Tasman) from speaking our minds on various issues.

Now I seriously find lefties in the press quite annoying. But what has happened to those alleged bastions of conservative comment who have suddenly forgotten what it means to be conservative and want to take us (and themselves) back to the days of Stalinist Russia?

Scared shutless of suicide bombers

I guess it is all happening because people are scared shutless (as they would say in New Zealand). And I don't blame them. First New York. Then Madrid. Then Bali. Then London. Then Bali again. Now Amman. And it seems everyday somewhere in Iraq or Israel/Palestine.

What is this phenomenon? Why are these kids blowing themselves and others up?

The kind folks at New Matilda sent me and my friend (who happens to be of Tamil background) along to watch a Palestinian movie entitled Paradise Now. My friend is an extraordinary woman - a smart, intelligent, good-looking management consultant. But like me, she struggles with identity issues.

She knows what it is like to be part of a group that produces suicide bombers. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE - more commonly known as the "Tamil Tigers") are the masters of this very ungentle art. Suicide bombers have killed at least one Indian Prime Minister and scores of soldiers and civilians in India and Sri Lanka.

The LTTE method was adopted by terrorist groups masquerading as 'Islamic movements' - HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida, Jemaa Islamiya. And, it seems, 2nd and 3rd generation North Indian and Pakistani boys in Leeds and London. And perhaps even local Aussie kids.

We were both troubled by this movie. This is not a movie to watch on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Or maybe it is. Because that's when my friend and I watched it.

We thought we had seen and heard it all before. But nothing could have prepared us for this.

Not a single bomb goes off in the 90 minutes of this movie. A few images were shown of young men being shot at by soldiers. For the most part, the movie centred upon a few well-defined characters.

There is Suha (played by Lubna Azabal), the middle class daughter of a Palestinian hero. She has arrived in the West Bank town of Nablus after spending years studying in France and Morocco. She speaks Arabic with a distinctly cosmopolitan North African accent.

Suha has her car repaired by young Said (played by Kais Nashef, a brilliant actor who at times bears an uncanny resemblance to John Travolta), and takes a liking to him. Said is a young man working at a repair yard with his childhood friend Khaled (played by Ali Suliman).

Khaled loses his job, and has little to do except spend time with activists from an unknown group. Khaled has enlisted his friend Said to join him on a mission when the time is right. And for viewers, it just so happens that the time became right.

For Khaled, the suicide mission to Tel Aviv is about faith and resistance. For Said, there are much deeper wounds to consider. At age 10, Said learnt of his father being executed by the "Resistance" for acting as a Shin Beth agent. Said and his family have been living that shame ever since.

In one difficult scene, Said asks his mother (played by Hiam Abbass) to tell him about his father. She refuses, brushing off his question by the all-embracing refrain: "Whatever he did, he did for our benefit. May God have mercy on him."

I won't tell you the rest of the story. But what my friend and I spent the rest of the afternoon talking about was how on earth these 2 ordinary guys got involved in such a shadowy group that wanted them to blow themselves and others up?

Why would young people want to blow themselves up?

The themes were the same - isolation, marginalisation, limited economic opportunities, etc. But how much of these exist in Australia? OK, Palestinians are being occupied by a hostile army. It isn't nice having a huge concrete wall in your backyard and helicopter gunships attacking your neighbour's place.

But what reasons to young boys growing up in Leeds or Sydney have? Who marginalises them? Who deprives them of economic opportunities? Certainly not the government (apart from some irrelevant backbenchers-for-life).

In my opinion, what alienates Muslim kids the most is that they have nowhere to turn except the thick-Sheiks. Many Muslim kids feel hurt when they see their parents' religion demonised. I almost fell off my stool when my Muslim barmaid friend told me how pust awf (as she would probably say) she was when people were saying Muslims regard rape as acceptable just because of what some bearded dude in Liverpool said in April.

(I guess I was still getting used to the idea of a barmaid being Muslim and being more passionate about these issues than her teetotaller friend.)

Where do young Muslims go when they want to clear up their doubts about themselves, their identity and their faith? Where do they go to express their frustrations about how they are portrayed in the media and by shock-jocks? Who can they speak to? Where can they get accurate information in a language they can understand?

Imams & thick-Sheiks

Mainstream imams and leaders cannot provide the answers. So young kids end up either leaving the faith altogether or hanging out with those English speaking thick-Sheiks that look like something like Team America.

However, there is hope. Some young Aussie Mossies are re-discovering their heritage using more accurate and mainstream sources. There are organisations and institutions out there providing an alternative. There are speakers and imams giving voice to the more sensible and orthodox Islam.

Many speakers coming to Australia are preaching sensible Islam. We have had the benefit of Imams Farid Esack, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Zaid Shakir and others. Farid Esack is a South African scholar who was appointed the first Sex Discrimination Commissioner of post-Apartheid South Africa. Feisal Abdul Rauf was invited by the NSW and South Australian governments to speak on Islam. Zaid Shakir is an American scholar of both Islamic law and international relations.

Real orthodox Islam is being hidden from kids by imams of cultural mosques, most of whom cannot speak English. These imams are guardians of a harmless faith, but lack the language and cultural skills to communicate their rich spiritual heritage to Aussie kids.

Believe it or not, what the thick-Sheiks teach is not orthodox Islam. It is fringe cultishness that is sponsored, supported (and in some cases, funded) by foreign governments.

I doubt thick-Sheiks would tell these kids to literally blow themselves up. But they do teach some pretty weird stuff. One thick-Sheik in Sydney was holding video nights at his centre where kids would watch videos of Chechen pseudo-mujahideen decapitating dead Russian soldiers and kicking their heads around like soccer balls.

When kids listen to enough of this thick-Sheik nonsense, for many the next step will be to become isolationist. Others will grow out of it. But sadly, some may be tempted to go one step further down the road to radicalism.

True Islam, as espoused by the saint I quoted at the beginning, teaches contentment. Just as true Buddhism, true Christianity, true Judaism, true Hinduism, true Shintoism and true every-other-faith-on-the-planetism.

If you are content, why would you get so angry that you blow yourself and others up? Yes, there is plenty to be angry about. But the best way to deal with anger is to find the most appropriate and efficient way to oppose the injustice. Blowing yourself up doesn't give you much opportunity for involvement in future struggles.

This true faith isn't being reflected in the words and actions of thick-Sheiks or migrant community leaders. I could write much more on all this, but I think 1,486 words is enough for a Friday arvo. See you all down at the Pymble Pub.

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re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Irfan I reckon it's worth making the point in some circles that virgins aren't what they're cracked up to be...

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

David and Irfan I actually like the picture conjured up by "Thick-Sheikhs". Thick all the way through, sickly, bad for your health, with froth at the top. Sounds like some politicians we know.

It may be a good time for us to think about how one goes about committing sedition, there being apparently no verb in English "to sedite". Perhaps we should have a Webdiary contest, and since this is Irfan's thread I will leave it to him to decide on the prize, though I'll pass on the virgins thanks (or white raisins as that well-known Koranic scholar Craig Rowley would argue) unless of course the virgins are the male variety (Those in the Garden will be attended by immortal youths with wide, lovely eyes. 56:17-23).

Cheap shots like "Howard is a wuss" won't do it though, true though it may be...we need resonantly robust rants redolent with rampant radicalism.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

The Weekend essay in today’s AFR has this excellent article by the former prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohammad. It contains ideas pertinent to all religions.

“The great prophet of Islam, Muhammad, brought one -and only one- religion. Yet today we have perhaps a thousand religions that all claim to be Islam, divided by their different interpretations. Muslims do not play the role they once did in the world; instead, they are weakened and victimized. The Shia/Sunni schism is so deep that each side condemns followers of the other as apostates or kafir. The belief that the other’s belief is not Islam, and its followers not Muslim, has underpinned internecine wars in which millions have died and continue to die…… ………

We are also taught by our ulamas {religious instructors) that their teachings must not be questioned. Islam is a faith. It must be believed. Logic and reason play no part in it. But what is it that we must believe when each branch of Islam thinks the other is wrong? The Koran after all is one book not two or three or a thousand. According to the Koran a Muslim is anyone who bears witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his Rasul (messenger). If no other qualification is added then all those who subscribe to these precepts must be regarded as Muslims. But because we Muslims like to add qualifications that often derive from sources other than the Koran, our religion’s unity has been broken.

Perhaps the greatest problem is the progressive isolation of Islamic scholarship –and much of Islamic life- from the rest of the modern world. We live in an age of science in which people can see around corners, hear and see things happening in space and clone animals. All of these things seem to contradict our belief in the Koran. This is so because those who interpret the Koran are learned only in religion, in its laws and practices, and thus are usually unable to understand today’s scientific miracles. The fatwas (legal opinions concerning Islamic law) they issue appear unreasonable and cannot be accepted by those with scientific knowledge. …………………..

So what do we need to do? In the past, Muslims were strong because they were learned. Muhammad’s instruction was to READ, but the Koran does not say what to read. Indeed, there was no Muslim scholarship at the time, so to read meant to read whatever was available. The early Muslims read the works of the great Greek philosophers. They also studied the works of the Persians the Indians and the Chinese.
The result was a flowering of science and mathematics. Muslim scholars added to the body of knowledge and developed new disciplines, such as astronomy, geography and new braches of mathematics. They introduced numerals, enabling simple and limitless calculations.

But around the 15th Century, the learned in Islam began to curb scientific study. They began to study religion alone, insisting that those who study only religion –particularly Islamic jurisprudence- gain merit in the afterlife. The result was intellectual regression at the very moment that Europe began embracing scientific and mathematical knowledge.
And so, as Muslims were intellectually regressing. Europeans began their renaissance, developing improved ways of meeting their needs including the manufacture of weapons that eventually allowed them to dominate the world…………………….
Failure to understand and interpret the true and fundamental message of the Koran has brought only misfortune. By limiting our reading to religious works and neglecting modern science, we destroyed Islamic civilization and lost our way in the world.”

I believe that Mahathir Mohammad has touched on a fundamental point we must understand science and science must become part of our believe systems.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Irfan, I understand what you are saying and it is reasonable. However if you look at the history of all religion, you will see that it has but one outcome, violence and destruction. The "God" religions, have had two thousand years to prove that they are loving peaceful beliefs. That has been a monstrous failure on all aspects, bringing us to the present time and future. That future is also looking monstrous.

Everyone has the right to their beliefs, as long as they don't infringe upon the rights of others to not believe. Sadly religions have but one aim, conversion and control, by whatever means. We have that now within our own country and most other countries in the world. History shows us that this destructive belief system has shared its violence between two factions, islam and christianity. This is the current situation and the results are turning out the same as in past history.

Until we remove religion from the its present position, as being above reproach and put it into its proper position within society, in the home, place of worship and nowhere else, we will continue to have these wars between you both.

I would like you to tell me what major war there has been where the churches of both god religions, have not been willing and co-operative participants.

Why do they kill themselves, the same reason that heads of states send their people to war for political and economic reasons? Stupidity. Forcing religious culture upon others is the problem, this is the expression of religions.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Believe it or not, what the thick-Sheiks teach is not orthodox Islam. It is fringe cultishness...

The scary thing is, so many people want to believe the opposite. They imagine every Muslim's goal is the establishment of the "Caliphate". They seriously argue that Islamist terrorism points to fundamental problems with the philosophy of Islam; problems that mean Muslims can never live peacefully with others.

In these times, Irfan, yours is an important voice. Keep it up.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Irfan. I think you will find that there is a very negative attitude towards those of middle eastern appearance in many schools. I know that from experience as my children are of Lebanese background, they are not Muslim but mostly people don’t ask.

This problem and negative attitude towards those of Middle Eastern appearance that is rife in society doesn’t stop or just go away when the kids go to school. Many teachers and adults pretty much look down on the Muslim students and those of Middle Eastern background and treat them unfairly. Of course there are always some that don’t but often they are too scared to speak up about what they see. There are teachers and adults and even students that don’t like those of middle eastern background so they pick on them, bully them and aggravate them - the system wants the students to retaliate so that they can be blamed for being aggressive or violent and prove that these children are bad. It’s a discrediting process.

Young people are being discriminated against every day at school and on the streets, there are no real avenues of having their grievances dealt with, they are being treated unfairly, they are often marked down, put down and publicly humiliated and because they are of Middle Eastern appearance and young nobody believes them or cares.

It’s no wonder so many Muslims want to go to their own schools or group together in schools, as there they are treated with respect and/or have support from their own. Protection in numbers. When you do not treat people with respect and you try to keep them down and you aggravate them and humiliate them what you end up with is people who feel cheated and hurt and who are angry. People who feel cheated, hurt and angry can easily be led into acts that they would otherwise not even consider.

If we want to stop suicide bombers in Australia we have to start looking at the way we treat our young persons that are of Middle Eastern background and stop seeing them all as trouble makers and potential terrorists. They are victims, many time over and they deserve to be given a fair go and to be protected. They need support to ensure that they don’t go to these terrorist groups to get the support, encouragement and protection that they desperately need. They are just kids.

It would also be a good idea if we looked at the way the system treated our Aboriginal students. Treating people with disdain has never been productive.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Irfan's 1486 fluid words bear witness to a splendid talent. It's so essentially of The Great South Land, it could have been written by Fred Jones, under pseudonym.


Willem, Jan and their parents came to an outer suburb to live, in the early 1950s. I don't know what they migrated away from, or if they thought Australia was Paradise. They did move, eventually, from the sponsor's converted garage into a new 3 bedroom home on a quarter acre block. The streets were unmade, there were no lawns or flower gardens, but Mr vB had full employment in one of the big factories, either Holden or Heinz.

In Grade One at the local state school, Jan become John. He quickly picked up the native dialect, and his speech lost all trace of his Dutch heritage. At home, with the clogs at the back door and the smell of ground coffee in the kitchen, John's mum knew who was being asked for, although she called out for 'Yarn'. Later, John dropped the 'van' and inserted an 'h' to break up the 'aa'. Imagine if the school had let him remain as Jan - a girl's name! His older brother became 'Bill', of course.

Another immigrant family from Europe lived in the next street from John. Jacques, although he adopted 'Jack', became less happily integrated into mainstream suburbia. His passion for hotted-up '56 Zephyrs got him into conflict with the constabulary, and there were rumours of actual crimes.

An older lad, Dieter, kept his birth name. This one-child family, said to be from Poland, lived in another one-room shack until dad finished building a small bungalow. Dieter was even more of a tear-away, last seen at the age of 18 or 19 driving a '34 Ford hotrod, to the tut-tutting of the solidly conservative neighbourhood. Dieter had a terrific collection of 'comics', like Superman, Phantom, Donald Duck, that he was happy to swap around with younger boys. He also had some stuff souvenired from the war, including a tin of the high-explosive that came out of a bomb or shell.

Three first-generation post-war immigrants: one becoming a small businessman in the typical Howard mould: one who didn't take to a normal, settled life; another who could have been out on his own trajectory of semi-fantasy.

Here's a stretch of the long bow. John and Jack were, and probably remained, avowed secularists, without much depth of 'vision' or spiritual perception. Dieter, however, was the more susceptible of the three, by a long chalk. I imagine a clone of him, today, walking through a shopping mall, in his maladjusted youthfulness. A couple of friendly dudes approach him with an invitation come round to an informal meeting in a private home, to talk about world events. Neo-Dieter goes along, and becomes sucked in to a crusading fundamentalist philosophy. The house-meeting is a fringe element in a nation-wide Christian evangelical denomination. The leaders are a small group, almost a family, of self-styled charismatics. Meetings for the new initiates are, at first, very inclusive and welcoming of all comers. After a while, subtle demands are made, as tests of faith. Meetings also centre on personal failings, such as moral lapses and implications of sexual "impurity". Neo-Dieter feels the urge to purify himself of past behaviours, and undertakes the mental exercises and buddy-work, trying to insure he doesn't make more mistakes. He fails, but keeps coming back to hear further judgments and urgings to make more devotions in the name of the faith. Shame, guilt and the threat of humiliation work on his brittle mind, and drive him further into the clutches of the cult.

In this, what Henri Nouwen in The Wounded Healer, calls the convulsive generation of Nuclear Man, the equivalents of Dieter became disciples of Aum, brought down the Murrah building in Oklahoma and the WTC towers, and dedicate themselves to destructive jihad.

Paul McGeough's Reasons to hate in SMH gives reasons why alienation arises. Ethical Politics would aim to minimise the underlying factors that lead to hatred.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Jolanda Chalitta, I believe that if you had been here 1960 - 70, you would probably be calling yourself Joanna Charles, or something similarly westernised: that is, I am suggesting that things change slowly, but they change. Would Robert Zimmerman need to change his name today?

Western society likes women, in particular, to be blue-eyed blondes, - dark hair is more acceptable in men. That's the way it is, and all of us who don't fit that stereotype have to live with it - again, the acceptable models are far wider than they used be.

I find it very difficult to believe your claims, although if you had used "some" instead of "many", I may not have said that. I assume that it is the ME appearance that you are mainly speaking of. I do not believe that” many teachers and students...look down on...and treat them unfairly...some (who) don't (often) are too scared to speak out". This in no way connects with any kind of reality that I am aware of...it sounds bizarre, to be frank.

And, I doubt that most Muslim students go to Muslim schools for protection...I assume that they go so that their culture will be passed on, just as in catholic schools, eg.

Don't mistake the reality that many schools are awful inept failures, and let lots of students down, with an assumption that this is due to your children’s ethnic background. Hugh Mackay, (I think it was) has spoken of a senior teacher who hated him and took every opportunity to attack, demoralise and diminish him, and how such an attack is even worse because it is not based on the broad brush of your ethnicity or appearance, but on some integral, personal quality of oneself. Many people have had that experience.

I believe that the populace of NSW is proud of both having a woman governor, and that that woman has a Lebanese heritage.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

F Kendall, my family did come to Australia in the 1960s, 1967 to be precise. We also did change our name, although it was our surname that we cut short. I had a nickname from when I was very little that stuck with me during school and it wasn't until a few years after I married that I started using my full name. I was called Joli by everybody, my family still call me Joli.

My husband came from Lebanon in the early 1970s. On his first day of school, he was 11 years old, he was told by the Principal that they didn’t have Pierre’s here, and that his name was now Peter and the school changed his name on the roll and he had to be called Peter. He still calls himself Peter to avoid issues and questions.

I don’t see how one word, from many to some, could make such a big difference in the way you see the matter. I am of Spanish background and I am fair and have greeny/brown eyes. I didn’t’ suffer racial discrimination when I came to Australia as it is almost impossible to tell what nationality I am.

My experience comes after marrying my Lebanese husband and having children who are very Lebanese looking and seeing the way that my children and family have been treated and dealt with. I also have spoken to many young Lebanese Catholic and Muslim students and people and they all complain about the same thing. Australia is a very racist country.

Do you not think that Marie Bashir was put into the position that she was for a reason? To paint the picture that they want to present and look how it works, you plucked her out to show that Australia is not racist. I wonder exactly what she does because you don’t hear much from her.

There is so much racism, prejudice and malice in society and it is has flourished because it remains unchecked and people just refuse to believe that it exists and that it is so widespread.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Jolanda: I saw teachers change names back then: from Yusuf to Joseph, say...20 years before, it was Dionysius to Dennis, and such, among Greek families. I always saw it done out of great ignorance and great good will.

The difference between "many" and "some" seems to me to be vast. Perhaps I am wrong - still, you need a very wide experience before you can claim "many". I would claim that your experience, remote as it is from any knowledge that I have, is of the few. Perhaps you could name the many to support your argument .

Certainly, there is racism here, but it is not endorsed by any authority...and is, as I say, a fizzling out of the attitudes that used to denigrate the Irish, eg; and certainly Catholics.

Inferior schools, of which there are many, make inferior decisions....don't get me started, But what your children achieve depends upon you.
And, for whatever devious reasons you believe that Marie Bashir was chosen, she has been embraced and celebrated by the community. Why you haven't noticed this, beats me.

Yes, we are indeed a racist and prejudiced society, but this is diminishing. What society is not? As for the "malice" that you claim - you are mixing with the wrong people if you are experiencing this, Jolanda.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

F Kendall, what you see and what is really happening can be quite different. There was no good will in the manner that my husband was told that he could not use his name. It was said in a manner that today it still disturbs him.

Depending on where you live could mean the difference between some and many. If you happen to be of Middle Eastern background and you live in a predominantly Anglo area your experience will more likely be many and not some.

I do have experience. I met my husband when I was 14 and we pretty much grew up together and even back then there was racial discrimination, especially for those of Lebanese background and even against other nationalities.

I was always worried when we went out. Back then it was more physical and overt. Nowadays people discriminate in ways that are more psychological and done behind closed doors and the fact that you can’t prove that it was because of your race, as people have learned to not use certain words and to blame the target or victim, ensures that they are protected, as the Anti Discrimination Board won't even investigate a complaint unless you can first prove that it was because of your race. Discrimination based on prejudice, spite or malice is not against the law and it should be. Terrorism has made the situation for those of Middle Eastern appearance even more difficult.

I guess you may not have ever experienced being continuously discriminated against and treated like a piece of dirt and being put down, marked down and humiliated and you may find it hard to believe or understand.

What you achieve does not necessarily depend on you, especially when your marks are used to provide opportunities and placement for your career and future. Your marks are controlled and are provided by bureaucrats/teachers in a system that can do whatever they want with your marks without question or challenge. The word favouritism comes to mind.

Racism is not diminishing. Not for the Muslims and for those of Middle Eastern appearance. Yes my family is experiencing malice and victimisation but it’s not from the persons that we mix with but from those who target, bully and discriminate against us.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Irfan Yusuf, your writings have a way of making others excel in their jottings as well.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Jolanda, I do not for the life of me understand why you do not “feel safe” in Webdiary.

I agree with Margo, you have had a great run.

Whilst you are away from WD, I suggest you seek some help.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Well that's it for me on Webdiary for a while. There is favouritism on Webdiary and "some" are a protected species. I get annoyed when we are not treated equal and some are allowed to have their digs yet others are muffled. I don't feel safe.

Margo: Jolanda, you've had a great go on Webdiary, and more than one Webdiarist has looked at your complaints re your children. Goodbye and good luck.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Mmm, popcorn - good idea, Malcolm. And I think we'll also need some jaffas to roll down the aisles.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Raglar, I wasn't talking about just names. The problems we have today are not caused by names, they are caused by actions and worse still by inaction. I am still interested to know what LOT you put me into as I am yet to understand what you are talking about.

I am not complaining about something that happened 20 years ago. I have said before I didn't suffer from any racial discrimination. What I see and complain about are things that are happening now and in particular the way many of those of middle eastern background are treated in schools, by the police, by the community etc. If things were to change then maybe these people would stop feeling like targets and victims but things haven’t changed. It’s unreasonable to ask somebody to accept being treated unfairly and blame them if they are victims.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Now this is terrific Raglar v Jolanda.

Do we get popcorn?

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Jolanda, I wasn't referring to bullying, nor crime, just names. “Your” lot appear to be those that support religion intrusion upon peoples lives against their wishes, allowing it to become a part of our country's laws to our detriment. Any legislation or changes that admits religious requirements into law is a one way ticket to hell. Having a secular society means just that. It is about fitting in, not pushing in. Just look at the countries that have religion as a part of their legal system for a view of that form of future.

You can be an unwilling victim at one point in time, after that event, you become a willing victim. Unless you can leave it behind you and learn from it in a positive way. Turning negatives into positives is a sign of mental growth, clinging to negatives is a sign of a mental oaf. But then again, I may have completely misread you.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Irfan, I disagree with you about the heart of true versions of faiths being the same. I don't think it is possible to narrow religions down to one "true" version. A reason we have different names for all the religions is that they are fundamentally different from each other in core beliefs.

Besides this, people of every Christian denomination like to argue over who are the true believers. I'm sure the same happens in other religions too.

I think you're committing the "No True Scotsman Fallacy". If we only say X or Y is an example of a religion's "true" beliefs we're redefining religions beyond what it is reasonable to do.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Raglar Hanavak, wow, how you read that out of my posts is beyond me! Do you have any idea how you sound to those that are victims of discrimination, violence or crime. I feel that those that blame the victims or targets must have something to hide and are most likely bullies or feel that they are superior.

Yeah right, when somebody is victimised or bullied or treated unfairly they are not supposed to feel anything, react or say anything, they are supposed to accept it and cop it sweet, take their position under the bullies feet and if they don’t its their fault and they created the problem. We are not robots Raglar, we have feelings and pride and if what happened to you made you stronger then good luck to you but what is being done to many people causes them so much anguish and despair that it causes them to do things that they would otherwise not normally have considered.

You have no idea what you are talking about. For the record I am not religious. I find religion to the basis of all problems. I was brought up Catholic, but we didn’t and I don’t go to Church. My husband is also Catholic and he does sometimes goes to Church.

I don’t expect anybody to follow my religion or anybody else’s religion for that matter. To each their own. I believe that we should be required to care enough to be fair in our dealings with one another and that we should be required to treat each other with a certain level of respect, regard and consideration.

I would love to know what lot you think that I am part of.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Dear Jolanda, I see you are a member of the victims society. This organisation has been growing for years, fueled by the politically correct, poor me syndrome. Discrimination, we all get that. How do you think I went back in the 50s with my name and being a white, blue eyed 5th generation Aussie, at school and work. Teachers called me lots of names as did many kids, I was constantly asked what country I came from and why I didn't have an accent when applying for jobs.

The difference between me and your lot, is that I am proud of my name and what I am and understand how they used to view things from their illusional standpoint, so there was no need for me to become a victim.

The problem is not demographic culture, but religious culture. I worked with many immigrants during those years, most couldn't speak a word of English and we ribbed them something shocking. But we had lunch with them, took them for a beer and devised ways to communicate on the job. We also made up names for them until we could actually pronounce their names. It wasn't long before they became good Aussies, remained proud of their heritage and the acceptance they got from us. Those migrants came to Australia to get a new start, become new people and forge a new future. They didn't lose their culture, but kept it within their homes. In public, they were Aussies and over time became an important part of society. They integrated and the jovial discrimination became acceptance and friendship. What they gave to us, can be seen in our varied culinary appreciation.

Now you lot, you want your religious cultures to become the accepted norm and change us to that. It has nothing to do with names, it is to do with religion. It is those like you that are the racists, you espouse that by your posts. You want to be victims so that you can try to pull the heart strings of the populance and slowly impose your own religious cultural delusions on us.

For me undergoing adversity made me a very strong person, who is proud to have a Romany heritage. But I am a much prouder Australian than any ideology that I may aspire to. Sadly for you and your lot, you thrive on negativity and confusion. It is your religion that is the problem, whatever that is, as I don't discriminate between religions, I know they are all a part of a despotic evil that only the desperate, ill informed and downright stupid follow. Those that don't want to take responsibility for their actions are the most religious. This country should be totally secular and anyone that wants to change that, should leave and let us get on with enjoying life. Take the politically correct with you and all go to the Middle East. Then stand up and shout, you can't do this, we don't like it. I am sure that your complaints will be well received and acted upon in a way that is acceptable to you, as it appears that the minuscule freedoms you have here, compared to the rapturous freedoms they have in those countries, is what you seek.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Nice work Irfan. I find your articles really refreshing. I am a Muslim Australian, and do understand the fears, and frustrations of average Australians from terrorism. However, when facing problems of this complexity we all need to rise up and be brave, rather than taking the easy option of giving in to fear.

Until now, Australia has been an envy to many countries in social harmony, and the onus is in all of us Muslims and Non-Muslim to keep this way; out of our belief that it would be in the interest of our generation and the generations to come.

Islam has been around for over 1400 years, and while muslim terrorism has surfaced since 2001. This shows it is a problem in the Muslim society. It is more a product of other complex factors, rather than a problem of Islam.

The only way to deny the people who have an interest in dividing Australia is by dispeling the prejudice, distrust, and misconceptions about muslims thats building up. Let's all start to engage with each other, talk to your neighbours, colleagues and find out first hand about Muslims, rather than relying on tabloid papers.

Even the muslim community is living in fear. The muslims fear from terrorism like all Australians. In addition, we fear from the backlash of the Australian community. Even more sad, the muslim community live in fear of their elected government, as they feel targeted by the latest terror laws.

Margo: Hi Yousef. Full name please, or email me your name, a nom de plume, and the reason you need one.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Jolanda Chalitta has her own blog here if you want to keep in touch with her.

re: Reflecting on 'Paradise Now'

Yousef, there is a lot of work to be done in getting people to take each others' perspective and break down barriers. Irfan's response to Miranda Divine's Sun Herald article is excellent in this respect.

Miranda's perspective on Hizbut-Tehrir when compared with Irfan's is a striking contrast: potential terrorists vs idealisitic innocuous time-wasting teenagers.

By the way, if you think Muslim terrorism has only emerged since 2001 you might be a little mistaken. Take the Munich Olympics (1972) for example. 300 people were killed by terrorist bombings in Beirut back in 1983, etc.

That aside, though, plenty of people now seem to have forgotten that lots of terrorism, even in the last 30 years, has been perpetrated by all sorts of groups, not just Muslims, eg, the (Catholic) IRA, various Communist rebel groups, etc. I heard a guy on the radio last week say, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims". Obviously, that kind of ignorance of even the most recent few decades' history is a big problem.

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