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Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

G'day. Sydney lawyer and Webdiarist Irfan Yusuf has been sharing his Aussie Mossie perspective with a response to Paris burning, A role by name for reality TV raids, reflecting on 'Paradise Now' and Miranda joins 'Team America'.

by Irfan Yusuf

What has happened to my old factional colleague Bronwyn Bishop? She used to be such a solid citizen, a centre-right MP with good sense. I remember the days when she used to be committed to all her constituents regardless of their colour or faith.

Back in the late-90’s, I met an Aussie Indonesian dude from the Dee Why Mosque at a cultural function. In those days, I was going out with a Young Liberal branch president who spoke fluent Bahasa Indonesia (a fancy way of saying “Indonesian lingo”). She translated for me the words of this “brother” (Muslims love calling each other “brother” and “sister”, even if they bitch and bicker and backbite about each other as much as every other God-fearing group).

“Please convey our thanks to Mrs Bishop. Her support helped us to negotiate a deal with the local council for our mosque extensions."

Around two weeks later, my then girlfriend and I were at a NSW Liberal Party State Council meeting. I spotted Bronnie (as we used to call her) and walked up to her to convey the thanks of the Islamic Society of Dee Why.

Bronnie even wrote an article for the ANZAC Day edition of my radically conservative mag pro-Action when she was Minister for Veterans Affairs. Actually, she didn’t write it specially for the mag – her staffer got her permission for us to reproduce one of her speeches.

I also remember Bronnie giving a speech at Hughes Federal Electoral Conference (FEC) fundraiser in 1996 or thereabouts. She gave a superb speech about the intrinsic value of the individual and how liberalism has always stood up for minorities. It was really superb stuff, and she certainly showed up the “wet” small “l” liberals present.

So what has happened to this wonderful centre-right heroine? Why has she suddenly become so feral about Aussie Mossies? Which mossie bit her recently? Why does she insist Australians spray themselves with ethno-religious aerogard when it comes to Muslims?

Bronwyn has been talking a lot about headscarves, often referred to as the “hijab”. Now before I go any further, allow me to make a confession. None of the women in my family wear one.

My mum doesn’t (unless she started wearing glad wrap on her head). Neither do my sisters. I have two real cousins and one adopted one in Australia. The two real ones don’t wear it, even when they aren’t sipping red wine as I sip my coke down at the Pymble Pub. My adopted cousin is half-Hindu, half-Catholic. So good luck if you see her head covered in a hurry.

Most of my close Muslim female friends wouldn’t be seen dead with cloth on their head, even when it’s raining. I have a few that choose to wear it. But they usually wear it so stylishly, you’d think it was a fashion accessory.

No one I know wears the full-on black face-cover Darth-Vader thingamajig (I think they call it a ‘burqah’). Many have suggested that I should wear one, though usually if I haven’t shaved for a few days.

In fact, I reckon the overwhelming majority of Muslim women, including many prominent Muslim leaders, don’t wear the hijab. One of my good buddies teaches Law at UTS and is secretary (I think) of Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia. Her V-P is a high-powered management consultant who probably earns enough money to buy Sydney Harbour. Neither of them wear hijab.

In France, where aggressive secularism has become a state religion, they decided to outlaw the wearing of hijab in state schools. The closest thing to that happening here was when Auburn Girls High School student Yasmin (what a gorgeous name!)  Attahir was stopped from wearing some Iraqi cultural overcoat called the “mantoo”.

Bronnie weighed into the debate and said the hijab was a sign of rebelliousness and that Yasmin should conform.

Yeah, right. Try telling a Muslim chick named Yasmin to conform. All the Yasmin’s I know are tough cookies. Serious. One of them married this tall strong African dude. You look at the guy now – in front of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, he’s become like Tweetie Bird!

Anyway, so Bronnie sees what Yasmin does with the school authorities and says in response that it’s time to ban hijab. Huh? Why the hijab? What did Yasmin’s Iraqi-style hijab have to do with the price of Australian wheat? The controversy was over the mantoo, not the hijab!

Then a few weeks later, someone at Radio National decides it’s a good idea if I get interviewed by Terry Lane. So I go in and just chill. I say a few things I probably shouldn’t have said. Here’s a sample …

Terry Lane: Where did you parents come from?

Irfan Yusuf: Well my parents actually are originally from Delhi, which is in India.

Terry Lane:: I know where Delhi is, yes.

Irfan Yusuf: But yes, I just thought I’d say that for some of those Liberal backbenchers out there who probably don’t know where Delhi is. Funnily enough, they know where Greece is some of them, but they don’t know where Delhi is …

(Then there was this absolutely ghastly and sexist remark totally unbecoming for a man of the hijab-cloth …)

Terry Lane: … Look, and now, in your own family, are your parents observant Muslims? Are you an observant Muslim? Do you go to mosque every Friday? Do you observe Ramadan?

Irfan Yusuf: I like to think I can observe Ramadan, but because I have to take – in order to observe Ramadan, I guess there’s a couple of things, you have to fast, and you have to fast between sunrise and sunset. My problem is that the timings of Ramadan conflict with medication that I take, and it’s interesting that I actually met this really cool Muslim bird (I shouldn’t call her a bird, it’s a bit sexist) but I met her in this bar. I didn’t even know she was Muslim, and she was one of those barmaids, you sort of look at her and you say, ‘Five Cougars thanks’, and she –

Terry Lane: I see. Now first of all, let’s make this clear, that as a good, devout, observant Muslim, neither of you should have been in the bar anyway.

Bronwyn was most offended when we got to the end of the interview. In fact, she was so peeved that she rang Tony and told him what she thought. Here’s what she was pust orf (as they say across the Tasman) about …

Terry Lane: Yes. I hate to say this, I’m going to have to say goodbye to you, and now I’m going to ask a question, which you should have about 3-12 hours to answer, and that is, Should we be worried?

Irfan Yusuf: We should be worried, because I think what we’re seeing is a Talibanisation in Australia of our culture. Bronwyn Bishop, Sophie Panopoulos, these represent the Talibanisation of Australia. We’re seeing al-Qae’da in an Australian form coming out, demonising people, demonising Muslims. This is what al-Qae’da wants. I mean Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos are doing Osama bin Laden’s work. Osama bin Laden doesn’t have to lift a finger, because he’s got Liberal backbenchers doing the work for him. He wants Muslims to feel marginalised in this country, a community that’s been at the heart of this country of mainstream Australia for over 150 years. He wants them to feel marginalised. He doesn’t have to do anything because he’s got Bronnie and Sophie doing it for him. So Osama will be sitting in a cave, clapping his hands when he reads some of the – I mean he’s probably got his laptop with him, he’s clicking on to the ABC website, and there he is in his cave saying oh, very good Bronwyn, thank you, thank you. So what can I say?

By now, poor Bronnie was on fire. She wasn’t a happy camper. You can read her response here.

Things became really heated when she read something I had written on the magnificent OnlineOpinion website, which can be seen here. It was then that my name (or the Hansard misspelling of it) was mentioned in the hallowed halls of the House of Representatives. Read this excerpt from early September

Personal Explanatons

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (3.05 pm)—Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

The SPEAKER—Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?


The SPEAKER—Please proceed.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP—It has come to my attention today that an opinion piece has been authored and distributed by a Muslim activist, known for his offensive behaviour to women, by the name of Mr Irfan Yousef. He has made a number of scurrilous, ridiculous and inaccurate statements concerning me. For the record, I totally refute his statements but, as he has not resorted to bomb throwing, I guess we can handle his accusations.

Now if I were writing for a publication of lesser esteem than Margo’s Webdiary, I would probably have said some words beginning with a “W”, a “T” and an “F”. Because seriously her personal explanation really doesn’t explain much.

Perhaps what made things even more amusing was that a few days later, I got an e-mail from the wonderful people at the Aussie branch of UNIFEM inviting me to become an ambassador for White Ribbon Day, the UN’s designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women! So much for “offensive behaviour to women”.

The media, of course, had a field day with all this.

Poor Bronnie. You’d think she’d have learnt from all of this. Sadly, it seems not. Bronnie is again going for girls with cloth on their heads. Her calls have scared the shut (as they say in Dunedin) out of other faith communities. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry have stated they are opposed to any ban of hijab, fearing it could lead to the ban of other religious symbols being worn (such as the “yarmulke” traditionally worn by observant Jewish men and boys).

Mr Howard, of course, has shown so much commitment to the rights of Muslims in his electorate that he has remained completely silent on the matter. However, future Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott was swift in his repudiation of Bronnie’s suggestion.

Tony’s seat of Warringah adjoins Bronnie’s seat of Mackellar. And in that great political chess-game of Liberal preselections, I am so happy the folks up there put an Abbott next to a Bishop to keep her under control.

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re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Another excellent and humorous contribution Irfan, thank you. I hope you aren't right about Abbott though. That would be even worse than Howard.

Tony shows worrying signs of Christian fundamentalism to me.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Irfan, care to comment on this piece?

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Strangely Irfan my own mother is a German/Welsh bitsa and has never to my knowledge left her house in the past 55 years without a scarf of some sort.

She says it controls her perm. I wonder if Bronnie might like to consider one to protect her beehive, so 60's Bronnie.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

What has that got to do with the article T Tazman?

Sounded like a rascist cop sounding off to me. It is these types of attitudes that cause violence such as we are seeing in France.

You would have noted Tim Priest's comments on the influence of 'LA Style' gangs.

You would also have noticed his reference to many other ethnic crime problems - so why try and turn this into a Muslim issue instead of a criminal issue.

The man even bemoans the fact that different sentences can not be given based on ethnicity alone, to deter what he calls ethnic crime.

One would think that good white Australians don't get involved in drugs or drug trafficking given this man's very biased and (I think) jaundiced views.

We all know from recent events that this is not the case. As we have also seen traffickers can become involved from recklessness or misadventure - the motives are not always as sinister as you imply.

And for the record I do not condone the use of or trafficking of drugs. I simply think it is simplistic to blame ethnic groups.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

"Bronnie keeps bomb in dress." (I've got tears in my eyes at the thought of it). A thought provoking piece on a current issue. Good one Irfan.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Thanks Irfan, gotta get a laugh outa this crazy, but scary right wing world. And Abbott keeping watch over the Bishop at night is a wonder, but Abbott keeping watch in another role is very scary indeed.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

T Tazman, I had a friend who used to live a few doors away from the drug caravan and he moved because he was sick of being broken into.

The report, though interesting, does not shed any light on Irfan's criticisms. One is a story of violent criminals who should be locked up and the other was a stoush over whether a rather devout young school girl could wear a piece of clothing that was religiouly orientated. She didn't sell any drugs or throw any bricks.

I don't particularly go for public displays of religiosity of any kind but I've learnt to live with it.

The area of policing and policy would make an interesting, and no doubt divisive, discussion.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Margo, I do admire Irfan's persistence in the face of blind ignorance.

I listened to the Lane interview and then the Bishop response. I thought Ms Bishop's line of argument about head dress was pure tripe. It seemed to me that she was hunting for a headline, a way to insinuate herself into a debate that it much better off without her, when it seems to me that she is politically irrelevant. Sad, pathetic and totally "wrong headed" on this issue.

But then, I have never thought of Bishop as being a person who made a difference, more like a speed bump in an otherwise smooth straight road.

Where does the Liberal party find these people. Hells bells, her spot must be really on offer.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Bob Wall, exquisite! PLEASE let it be true!!!

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Irfan, your articles are a very welcome addition to WD. Thanks.

On Bronnie bashing:

One former Senator once remarked that there waseratin female senator to whom people took an instant dislike "as it saves time."

Gareth Evans once remarked to Bronnie during Senate QT that: "What you need to worry about, Senator Bishop, is that one day I don't get up quietly and walk across the Chamber and throttle you with your own scarf".

Bronnie does generate strong opinions.

I hope this is a true memory and not a faulty one - I recall that when BB was junior minister in Defence she decided to get some hands-on experience of the portfolio and did an overnighter on one of our submarines. A newspaper headed its article on the event:

"Last night Bronwyn Bishop went down on a submarine."

Oh, I hope I recall correctly - deserves to be true. Anyone else remember?

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Oh please TT Tazman, I'd take Jay White seriously before I believed Tim Priest. How appropriate him addressing a Quadrant dinner.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

If only I could run down that Ron Tandberg cartoon: "Bron-air" I think.

Bronwyn drifting down over the rooftops, beehive hot-hair balloon billowing like some latter day "Politico Poppins".

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

What happened to the rumoured challenge in her seat from the very clever Lousie Daniel? Stuart Lord should be a fan of Daniel as she calls for a flat tax, I like her for other reasons. Why does the Coaltion hold on to Bishop when all she offers is entertainment value?

Margo: She's got a super-strong support base locally..

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Fiona, sounds too good to be true, That is why I have doubts, but it has been in my memory for years and I think it is true. I don't think I could make it up.

Bronnie could play Medusa without makeup .. if looks could kill, the Opposition benches would be empty ...

Margo, I am originally from the northern beaches in Sydney - at least when I grew up we had Billy Wentworth as our member. A true character.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

I recall a report by the late Paul Lyneham in which he used the term "carpet bombing raids" to describe then-Senator Bishop's attacks on then-Foreign Minister Evans over the overseas abduction of the Gillespie children. There was a shot of Evans almost simpering under the onslaught, which perhaps helps to explain (but not necessarily excuses) Evans' throttling threat, Bob.

Margo: "She's got a super-strong support base locally."

... which probably is as good an explanation as any for what she's up to at present. In short, bare-arsed populism.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Brownyn takes a strong stand against a degrading and medieval dress that discriminates against women and calls for consistency in school uniforms and the so called western secular feminists are strong against Bronwyn? Wasn't it Natasha Stott Despoja who suggested that a certain hardline regime in Afghanistan gives maternity leaves for its women? Lefties are hypocritical and hilarious in their consistency.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Michael de Angelos, I commented to friends recently that the Liberals could put up a convicted war criminal in Pittwater, and they would still get elected. It is, I think, the second safest Liberal Federal seat in NSW.

We have an interesting demographic, with a lot of 'latte sippers/chardonnay quaffers' who are concerned about environment/civil liberties etc..etc.., albeit usually from a distance - although the local Kurrawong (sp?) campaign did succeed. Then we've a large young population who are seemingly only interested in surfing and getting off with each other. And finally, we have a huge, well-to-do, comfortable grouping of what I would term Daily Mail readers - i.e. have always been 'conservative', only ever believe what Howard says, without interpretation or understanding, and whose views are basically fear of the great unwashed tribes of Labor scum disturbing their lifestyle.

Having said that, Bronnie is pretty popular with most groups, as she is a pretty active local MP, turning up for many small and unremarkable meetings and events simply because they are run by her local constituents.

However, judging from what others have said, and news in the local rag, the non-local Liberal party staffer parachuted in (Paul Nicolaou) to campaign for John Brogden's seat is definitely not an automatic shoe in. Locals are vary disturbed by Brogden's dismissal, by the manouverings orchestrated by the NSW Liberal Right flank, and by the fact that NSW Liberals completely ignored calls for a local representative rather than a Liberal spin meister.

Plus there is a deep disquiet over the AU$55 million Howard spent on his IR propaganda - local people think that is a gross misuse of public funds for party political purposes.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Jacob Stam, the understanding is that Bronwyn Bishop wanted the headscarves to be restricted at public schools and standardisation of uniforms. Yeah Despoya's blunder on the maternity leaves is well known, no wonder the Democrats are getting irrelevant in Australian politics and society.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Greg Hynes: "Brownyn takes a strong stand against a degrading and medieval dress..."

Can you substantiate by reference to a statement made by Mrs Bishop, Greg? My reading is that Mrs Bishop wishes to quell the 'rebelliousness' of Muslim women and girls in defence of 'our values'.

Interesting that, in the Terry Lane interview, Mrs Bishop relates how "a Muslim Ambassador refuse(d) to shake my hand in my country because I’m a woman, and I am unclean". I wonder about that, because Bilal and Maha Mahmassani told Andrew Denton that the stricture against men shaking hands with women was about modesty and limiting physical contact between the sexes.

GH: "Wasn't it Natasha Stott Despoja who suggested that a certain hardline regime in Afghanistan gives maternity leave for its women?"

Yes indeed, Greg, and quite a cock-up it was - for example see here. Basically a staffer gave 'Tash some really old information.

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Greg Hynes: "...the understanding is that Bronwyn Bishop wanted the headscarves to be restricted at public schools and standardisation of uniforms."

I see. So then, you now retreat from your original assertion that Mrs Bishop "takes a strong stand against a degrading and medieval dress that discriminates against women"?

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Further to my comments about the upcoming Pittwater election, it seems even mainstream media are picking this story up.

Personally am hoping Nicolaou gets reasoundly beaten, if only to show all political parties that local people want local representation, not some party apparatchik thrust upon them. some bland faceless non-entity who is being rewarded purely for his loyal party work, and who will do absolutely nothing for the local electorate, but merely, and meekly, follow the party line.

Politicians, aren't you sick of them...

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Two quick points on Pittwater election this weekend.

Liberals are very worried, judging by the amount of election material from Nicolaou coming through the mail. Last Federal election we got one pamphlet from Bronnie, for the entire campaign. Now we've had upward of five or six from Nicolaou in a couple of weeks - which I immediately recycle.

Even the SMH is keeping up with the story. Has a fairly balanced view of the election, and damnably accurate on the electorate.

And they're repoting a Liberal spend of AU$150,000 on this one by-election. Does that stack up against other State election spending?

re: Bronwyn mis-beehiving again?

Looks like Debnam and the Liberals got one almighty bloody nose this weekend. Personally thought they would get a shock, with a big swing against them for their various nefarious tactics. However did not expect McTaggart to get up so easily.

Worrying thing is that this will probably mean less support / funds heading Pittwater's way, as Iemma can now safely ignore us again.

Watch for further over-development by Labor's friends with no improvement in infrastructure.

Watch for the closure of Mona Vale hospital - the only one close enough in an emergency for many residents - because it sits on prime real estate, which Labours' developer friends covet, and hang the local needs.

A local was elected on local issues, but that just means Labor and Liberals will completely ignore us again.

Another local resident hit the nail on the head in another blog, prior to the election:-

"1. The Liberal party safely ignores Pittwater knowing that they never lose.

2. The Labour party ignores Pittwater because they know they can't win."

Point one is now invalid, but it doesn't change the fact that it doesn't matter who is in power in NSW, Pittwater can go hang.

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