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From Shaykh Bandung to Syria - More Danish food for thought

Show us your Bandung

It was a Sunday afternoon. Our group had survived five days in the heat, pollution and traffic jams of Jakarta. It was our second night in Bandung, once a resting space for Dutch colonialists to avoid the severe humidity and heat of what used to be called “Batavia” (the Dutch name for Jakarta, I think).

Bandung is a gorgeous city, full of old art deco buildings from an era before I appeared on the scene. Our delegation had some free time on our hands, and our host made a suggestion.

“I know some sufi dervishes who live in a hospice with their shaykh (spiritual preceptor) out in the sticks, around 70 km from here. I doubt even many Indonesians have visited the place, let alone Aussies.”

We agreed to the idea, thinking the ride would be as smooth as the run from Wahroonga to Gosford. How wrong we were! After am hour of sitting in a bus, gathering dust and backside bruises, we finally arrived at the Zawiyya Tijaniyya (the hospice of the Tijani tradition of Sufism). To say the least, the trip there was a pain in the [edited in defiance of unbridled freedom to offend by mentioning bodily parts].

Yes, this really was the sticks. The place didn’t have any outside lighting. The walls were made of bamboo and the floor was a combination of scrap wood and what almost smelt like half-baked manure. Which meant resting our sore [edited consistent with Anglican private school education] would be sitting on a pile of [edited to win brownie points with Mum given what appears printed below ...].

Getting High on Sufism

Our hosts looked like something out of the Bob Marley Appreciation Society. The Shaykh and his students were stuffing their lungs with those nasty Indonesian cigarettes that make Indian bidis seem like Marlboro Lights. And coming from me, that comment really says something. I don’t smoke.

The Shaykh and a number of his students went into some long-winded philosophical explanation about the unity of all being and how Nur (literally "Divine Light") influences the share price of News Limited stocks on the Jamaican stock market. Or something like that. I was too stoned on the fumes to remember.

Eventually, after my lungs nearly collapsed and I felt dreg locks emerging from my brain, I was handed a copy of a prayer in Arabic. It was a special prayer known in Arabic as a salawat. This is a form of prayer common to all sufi orders, whether they be the more orthodox of my late Naqshbandi teacher, or the funkier variety that hang out in the sticks near Bandung.

Islam, like all faiths, has a spiritual tradition. Sunnis call it tasawwuf (or “sufism” for those of you unable to say the Arabic word) and Shias call it irfan. In relation to the name, I feel detached and objective enough to state that in my considered opinion, the Shias got it spot-on.

The sufis are regarded as generally a harmless bunch. Usama bin Reagan/Ladin doesn’t have a lot of time for sufis. Basically, sufis focus on purifying the heart and service to others. You might say they are Islam’s answer to Mother Teresa minus the daggy saris.

Faith and Love

All sufi orders are known to have special salawat prayers. And what is a salawat? It is a special prayer in honour and praise of the Prophet Muhammad.

And it isn’t just sufis who do this. Five times a day, Muslims perform their worship at set times. An essential item of that worship is to recite at least three forms of salawat on the Prophet Muhammad, two of which also involve praising and honouring Abraham.

Islamic faith isn’t just about intellectual conviction. It is also about love. The primary object of our love is the Creator. Muslims love the Prophet Muhammad because their Creator ordered them to. And because we love those whom the Creator loves. In similar vein, Muslims are meant to love all the Prophets and all creation. Well, almost all. We generally leave Satan out of the equation.

Love for the Prophet Muhammad is a consistent theme which appears even in the most “moderate” (whatever that word means) strains of Muslim opinion. It expresses itself in some very unusual ways.

The Wise Woman

Last year, I was getting really pussed orf (as they would probably say in Invercargill) at a certain person of the female persuasion who I felt was stringing me along. I cannot remember the number of times I felt like phoning her and telling her off. There was just one problem.

Her surname suggested that she may be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. On such matters, and in similar vein to Mr Blackadder, I often consult “the wise woman”. Except my wise woman tends to be better looking than the one sought by Rowan Atkinson.

Mum’s response was swift. “Give her a call. Tell her off.”

“But mum”, I said, “Her surname is [edited in defiance of unbridled freedom of speech but in support of common courtesy and to avoid serious breach of confidentiality].”

“Then ignore what I just told you!”

You see, according to the Mummy school of Islamic jurisprudence, it is against religious decency to speak roughly to a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Even if there is only a slim chance of such relation being established.

The point of this lame story is to tell all you folks out there in Margostan that even the most unusual and warped forms of Islamic theology involve love for the Prophet. But I am telling you this in confidence. Whatever you do, do NOT tell Mum I said she has warped views. Just keep it between us.

Anyway, now it’s time to get serious.

Love and Obedience

In response to a dozen or so cartoons, some Muslims are expressing their love for the Prophet Muhammad by setting fire to embassies and threatening the lives of Europeans.

They are behaving like litigants unhappy with a Family Court decision who then decide to assault or kill a judge. Already a number of judges and their family members have been attacked in this way.

Such attacks are inspired by a warped sense of love. Some poets say love has no rules, or it makes up its own rules along the way. But Islamic theology knows no such love. Instead, the consensus of opinion across all schools of Islamic thought is that love for the Prophet is displayed by obedience to his dictates and emulation of his example.

I cannot claim to be a theologian. But I have read a fair few biographies of the Prophet Muhammad. I have not come across a single incident where he has shown anything but the highest respect and honour to an envoy or ambassador.

If you want to know what mainstream Islam thinks of the rioting that the Ba’athist regime in Syria refused to put a stop to, just go to the website of the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS). Go to the search feature of the website and type in the word “Islam”.

There you’ll find a lecture by a prominent scholar and lawyer of the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), the biggest Islamic organisation in the world. Mohammad Fajrul Falaakh delivered the Acton lecture on “Islam in Pluralist Indonesia” to a crowd of Kiwis at the Great Hall of Parliament House in Wellington in December 2002.

Falaakh spoke about the five basic principles of sharia or Islamic sacred law. The fourth of these principles is the protection of property. Proprietary rights are regarded as sacred under sharia.

Attacks on Embassies Unlawful

You don’t need a PhD in sharia law to deduce that the attacks on embassies are absolutely unlawful. In Lebanon, where the most recent attacks took place, the highest religious authority of Islam (known as the “Mufti”) has repeatedly declared that any attacks on foreign embassies are unlawful acts.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to show your love and honour for someone by doing something they hate and forbid.

Some Muslim dimwits have figured that it’s ok to defy Islamic sacred law in order to protect the honour of the Prophet. How they reach this idea, I will never know. But I can speculate. However, in offering these speculations, I am in no way excusing their conduct. I’m just trying to understand their behaviour which seems as troubling and scary to me as it would to most readers here.

The Absence of Free Societies

The only explanation I can give is that these youngsters simply don’t know what it means to live in a free society. This has a number of implications.

Let’s look at Syria for a moment. It has been correctly said that Syria is a police state. In fact, it would probably be more accurate to refer to Syria as a secret police state. It is estimated that at least 40% of the population belong to one or other of competing factions of the Syrian secret police.

Believe it or not, mainstream Islam is often suppressed in Syria. Many people don’t realise this, but the ruling party of Syria is dominated by a small sect not regarded as Muslims by either mainstream Sunni or Shia Muslims. That sect are known as the Nusayri sect, and they are form only a tiny minority of the Syrian population.

By and large, Syria is home to moderate orthodox sufistic theological schools. Syrian scholars are known for their moderate views. But like all individuals and institutions involved in public life, Syrian scholars are unable to speak freely on a range of issues.

If you have lived in such a society all your life, it is easier to presume every other place is the same. It is therefore little wonder that so many Arab and Muslim groups are calling for such crazy things as a ban by governments on the publication of the cartoons.

Many Muslims do not understand what free press is because they have never lived in a society where free press exists. They presume that all western governments have a “Ministry for Information” that censors everything printed.

(I could write about this topic for a few more pages, but I might just curb my freedom of speech a little.)

Further, freedom of speech is not a concept understood on many Muslim-majority countries. For many Muslims, it makes sense for the government to crack down on anything deemed unacceptable to whoever decides. Whoever that is. Who knows?


I haven’t finished yet. Stay tuned for much much more!


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Thanks, Craig

Craig Rowley, many thanks for the link. That was the exact thing I was referring to, and it gave me the same chuckles now that it did when I first read it...nice to know that fanatacism isn't purely the domain of one secular group.

Silver lining?


ANGRY Palestinians have gathered in East Jerusalem to protest against the publication in Europe of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

One group of menacing young men went up to a TV cameraman who was filming the event and demanded to know if he was Danish. He replied that he was Israeli. "Oh, that's all right, then," they said, and left him alone.

Every cloud...

2c worth

Well, I have read the reports, watch the news bulletins, read the blogs, the forums, the 'independent media' reports to it...anything that is available. Put simply, my opinion (and it is only that) is that this is the most pathetic display of spoilt brat syndrome displayed by those who vehemently demonstrated the cartoon in question.

How the Muslim world, or those who represented it during this time, can be so extremely precious is so repugnant. The double standards and hypocrisy displayed is just a tragic endorsement for the religion and way of life respected by so many.

oh...and if I may be indulged this little bit of trivia, and please feel free to track down evidence, as mine is currently unavailable (the perils of moving house!)...but I was told, many years ago, that the prophet Mohammad was an ordinary man, picked by senior Catholic priests, and was helped by these priests to invent a religion to halt the spread of Orthodox Christianity through the Middle East.......I have no idea as to its veracity, but, if true, it is a nice spanner to throw in the works, no? 

2 minute research

A quick bit of research by Google (all it takes is some nous with advanced search terms) turns up this fellow - Dr. Alberto Magno Romero Rivera - as the source of what I'm thinking is not just a spanner but the tool of a propagandist - a cartoonist would you believe!

a question

Just a question Irfan, if I may, how do come by your understanding of Syria? Have you lived in or visited Syria?

Keep you mind open

I think that a problem with fundamentalists of all persuasions is that they have no sense of humour. They take themselves far too seriously. All religions are ideas and all ideas should be open to criticism. Cartoons are just one way of challenging an idea. Belief closes the mind, love opens it.

the problem with fundamentalism

Hi John, I think the problem with fundamentalism, of all persuasions, is they have far too much power and voice. If they just stood at park corners and spoke into megaphones like the good old days the world would be such a better and safer place.

Free speech

Will, acknowledging the feelings behind the consulate burning or the cartoons does not mean that I condone or support either of them, or that I am voicing any particular opinion on free speech, democracy, and terrorism.


We need to cast out the beam in our eye to be able to cast out the mote in our brother’s eye.  Our invasion of Afghanistan (a much more violent act) is such a beam.  My recollection of the conversation preceding our (and let’s not call it NATO’s) invasion of Afghanistan is:

Us: Hand over Osama

Them: Hello, I didn’t know you were talking to us.

Us: Be quick about it or else we’ll come over and get him.

Them: Ok, Ok, where is the paperwork?

Us: We’re on our way.

Them: If you are so serious we will find him and give him to you.

Us: Too late, we’re mad, need to smash someone up, and you’ve volunteered.

If I’ve taken poetic liberty with the truth, I welcome correction. Like Iraq’s WMD, we never got Osama.  Certainly, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan were very nice countries, and as a global citizen I had a (small) duty to do something about it. There were, however, cheaper, more effective and less dominant ways to influence positive change. Because I chose to intervene, my duty to set things right is no longer small.

Consider a 1950s school, with two cultures, English and Italian.  An English boy taunts an Italian – “Your mother is a wh*r*”.  A group of Italian kids catch him after school, and bloody his nose.  All the English kids rally and start taunting the Italians in the same way.  Are they really defending free speech, or are they sending another message? 

I value living in dignity more highly than being able to speak freely.

In answer to your question, Will, I really have no useful opinion on Israel, Bosnia, East Timor etc. I am not a major stakeholder and my opinion doesn’t count.  Yes, I’ve shoved myself down aboriginal throats.  I also add value to Australia, this value does not equitably reach all aboriginals, aboriginals are sometimes their own worst enemy, the law requires the redressing of past wrongs, a huge cost, the law is an ass, possession is nine-tenth of the law, and finally, I sometimes sacrifice my ethics for personal gain.  The relative weight I give to these truths depends on where I’m sitting, and is less important than my willingness to acknowledge that all these truths are valid.  When negotiating with angry people, I frequently notice that simply acknowledging their views calms them, to the point where some walk away, having gotten what they were really after.  It also makes it harder for me to implement an unfair solution.

A few years ago, while I was walking along deep in thought, a drunk aborigine shouted at me in rude anger “you f*cking Indian”. I stopped, turned around and gave her a friendly grin.  She grinned back  I may be arrogant in assuming that it made a difference to her day, but it certainly made mine. 


We have WMD, the Muslims have oil.  If they turn off the tap, we will probably invade, but the oil is then unlikely to flow again, a lose-lose situation.  The problem is that both we and the Moslems have proved that we can’t control our temper, and can behave illogically.

However, the main selfish reason we need to develop better skills and a better culture is the Chinese, another Collectivist society.  They are both disciplined and subtle, and are likely to be the most dominant player in the world’s stage in fifteen years time.

If my comments have upset anyone, I apologise for my discourtesy.  

Auto da fé

Paul Walter: "I personally thought what he was talking about the detestable tendency of bigots to vilification, in place of reasoned debate, In much the way the Nazis did with the Jews and Communists; creating a bogey to legitimise in the public mind a bogey to justify a policy of aggression.

In fact, here's a stark illustration of what Paul's talking about from the Frankfurt Book Fair;

"The Frankfurt Book Fair has informed the public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt that complaints have been made against Iranian exhibitors at the Book Fair.  According to information provided by visitors at the Book Fair which ended on Sunday, the collective stand presented by Iranian publishers included books and brochures the contents of which were anti-Semitic and glorified violence."

So, Damian? How would the proposed anti-Blasphemy laws work that would be different from the existing laws against racial vilification?

And who would adjudicate on matters of Blasphemy? Canonical Courts made up of leading theologians?

Would these be mixed? Or would there be special courts for individual religious denominations?

Some nice precedents from Massachussets and Madrid you might like to refer to.

Would you like a Danish? Or something stronger?

Damian Lataan: "It seems (and why am I not surprised?!!) that the originators of the offending cartoons has connections to at least one leading neoconservative in the US."

The originators of the offending cartoons?

Do you mean the mild, Danish variety of cartoon?

Or the deliberately offfensive, fake cartoons being used to work up the crowds in Damscus and Tehran?

And while I'm at it, I'd like to congratulate Peter Woodforde for his personal candour and crisp, efficient writing style.

Much, much better than, say, Christopher Hitchens "sneering at the world" while "braying like a lunatic".

Cannot take a joke, obviously

"Poland's Roman Catholics have expressed outrage after a magazine published a picture of the much revered icon of the Black Madonna with pop singer Madonna's face transposed onto it...."

So, will they burn down the American embassy and take out a contract on Madonna?

100 Pipers can't be wrong

Sorry, Damian. I is heard Daniel Pipes mutterimg wildly to himself ad nauseam on Philip Adams’ show on Radio National.

Philip, like others, let Pipes spout his poisonous bullshit until the normally copious sick buckets overflowed into the ashtrays and down fourteen flights of stairs.

That’s how it is with creeps like Pipes and his fellow travellers. No limits.

They are, after all, part of the war machine of the greatest and sickest empire the world has ever decided to get rid of via global warming and insane guerrilla warfare. And the rest of us with it.

Crikey alright. And Pipes is so sick he will probably launch Armageddon by asking Donald Rumsfeld to gas the moonmen who are “visiting his dreams.”

Or napalm Mars and so on.

You want restraint, go to the Danes. All they have done is send a submarine to Baghdad as part of the Coalition of Swill. Nice, and very droll touch.

But having 100 Pipers on don’t mean that cow cockie Philip is a mad neo-con, we hope. Probably just a bit mad after Pipes, who is a not very genial basket case (the kind with lots of dried soit around his mouth), had polluted the airwaves. Part of the “I’ve given Achmad Chalabi a blow job and I’m proud of it” White House clique is Pipes. They must grow them in the DC sewers like mould.

Adams also has had the bombastic pompous ass loon Christopher Hitchens braying like a lunatic on his show, wrapped in at least a 3,000 metre swath of Stars’n’Stripes, stirring WTC dust into his Darjeeling and sneering at the world while he roars insanely about Henry Kissinger (and Le Duc Tho).

Why Hitch hasn’t bothered just to kill Heinrich after all these years is a mystery. The hatred is real and intense. The Bin Laden thing is probably just transference. Somebody should give him a Glock for next Xmas.

But does that mean Adams is part of a secret post 11/9 pact to destroy “Islamofascism”?

Probably. If Robert Hill can cosy up to John Faulkner while Stephen Conroy plays drop the hanky with Airbridge Bill Heffernan, anything’s possible.

And putting a Luger to the head of any fascist seems like a good idea at the time. Thousands did it 65 years ago, and then ate their tea afterwards, if they had any.

And maybe Malcolm X, rather than Christian X, was the True Danish King who rode his horse into Jutland, displacing the Hun.

Ask any Tasmanian. Look into the coffin. Swallow, don’t spit. Hail Mary, Full of Grace.

The Outer No-Limits

"... part of the war machine of the greatest and sickest empire the world has ever decided to get rid of via global warming and insane guerilla warfare. And the rest of us with it."

"... Pipes spout his poisonous bullshit until the normally copious sick buckets overflowed into the ashtrays and down fourteen flights of stairs."

Sheeeesh. And that was just for starters.

And Pipes and his fellow travellers have no limits? A good thing none of them are around here.

The metaphors would be so mixed and explosive they would blast a hole in the ozone level with a single lit match.

Mixie goes Metaphor straight after the Wiggles


If I is no more allow to mix more metaphors, or metabolites, than you is had hot dinners, then you is got me on toast, young Geoffrey Pahoff. And cooked m’goose. Searing (but peppery) stake through the black hole in the black heart. Done to a tea, both sides, irony chef. Basted, baked, roasted (on a spit), boiled in a bucket. It’s a snack. Serves Janet Albrechtsen and Miranda Devine, why not multitudes?

Loaves and fishes on the side, lilies of the field for table flowers. Neither toil nor do they spin doctor.

Seriously though, Dersu, thanx for the accolades – you is not mean to seep arsons, I is certain. Or serve Molotov Cocktails.

Now off to your dinner be before it is get cold.

Kindest regards,

Hunter, Captain Vladimir Arseniev,
Tsar’s Imperial Far East Survey Corps

The Neoconservatives And The Cartoons Link

It seems (and why am I not surprised?!!) that the originators of the offending cartoons has connections to at least one leading neoconservative in the US. Apparently, according to this article, Flemming Rose, an editor with Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that originally published the cartoons, had travelled to the US to visit none other than Daniel Pipes, probably one of the most virulent Islamaphobic and extremist right-wing Zionists the US neoconservative ranks possess. Flemming Rose, so the article implies, was very impressed with Pipes.


Neocons and Cartoons link

Damian Lataan, naturally anything bad will be sheeted home to the Americans by those so minded. However, I wonder about the link you provide which quotes one Christopher Bollyn as the authority for Flemming Rose making a trip to the USA to visit Daniel Pipes. If true this does not demonstrate anything. But is Christopher Bollyn to be trusted? Elsewhere in the webpage found at that link he refers to the "Zionist myth of the Holocaust". You can see where he is coming from.

News Flash! Journalist Interviews Commentator!!


Of course not Damian. Surely you don't believe in coincidences do you?

What of earth would an editor of a newspaper be doing interviewing one of the most prominent commentators on the Middle East? A leading expert on the Israel/Palestine dispute and Islamism, a prolific writer on the subject, a leading academic in the field and a director of the thinktank Middle East Watch? Back in October 2004?

Like you I can not possibly imagine. It has to be a conspiracy. I know. They cooked up the whole cartoon plot between them back then so as to make the justly angered Muslims look bad when they understandably reacted to the blasphemy of the depiction of the image of the Prophet especially in such obscene ways. It was all a calculated and deliberate provocation.

Naturally it would have absolutely nothing to do with the lengthy article on Pipes, the Middle East and Islamism subsequently written by Flemming Rose and published in Jyllands-Posten on 29 October 2004. It is out of the question that the two men were just doing their jobs.

It has to be a conspiracy. All the Zionists would have been in on it. Made an absolute killing short-selling Arla Foods shares last December.

Speaking of conspiracies. I've just seen published on another site the name of which we'll not mention, through links, what is to my eye at least pretty compelling evidence that the said blasphemous obscene inflammatory cartoons were published in an Egyptian newspaper last October. Al Faqr on 17 October 2005 to be precise. Right in the middle of Ramadan. Without a peep from anyone.

October 2005. Isn't that about when the Danish imans were in the Middle East on a mission to kick up serious strife for the country of their residency and citizenship?   

Protocols of the Learned Mullahs of Amman, Cairo, Tehran etc etc

Geoff Pahoff, if you wish to believe that the earth is flat or that Pipes has Messianic knowledge of the Middle East and Islam, be my guest. In my opinion and in the opinion of the vast majority of experts on Islam and the Middle East, Pipes is an A-grade fruitloop.

If I take the typical Pipes article and replace the word "Muslim" with "Jew" and "Islam" with "Judaism", I'll get something that reads like the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Pipes is just another conspiracy theorist who wants us all to believe that Muslim minorities are out to take over Western countries and turn them into caliphates.

If you believe that sort of tripe, I can recommend some really good shrinks who can help you.

Pipes boasts about knowing Arabic. Yeah? Which Arabic? Mauritanian dialect? Tripolian slang? And who says most 19th and 20th century political Islam literature was written in Arabic? In fact, it was written in Farsi and Urdu.

Pipes' PhD thesis was in medieval European history. Fantastic. So he knows everything about the Ottomans and perhaps even the Normans. How does that qualify him to be an expert on contemporary Muslim political thought in all its permutations and combinations?

If I wrote about Jewish minorities what Pipes writes about Muslim minorities, I'd be accused of anti-Semitism. And rightly so. Pipes doesn't criticise Islam. He attacks and spews out hatred toward Muslims, their cultures and even their "smelly" foods.

Pipes is a fruitcake. Just accept it.

lets follow the good political officers links....

Well, who could expect a post by Damian Lataan to suggest a "Neocon" conspiracy?

So I followed the link, and clicked on another link... and came to this site...http://www.rumormillnews.com/cgi-bin/forum.cgi?read=83815

The following is an extract from a little down the page...

Now why would Rose refuse to publish a cartoon depicting Ariel Sharon, a known war-criminal and genocidaire, strangling a Palestinian baby?

Why would such a cartoon, correct and accurate in its depiction, be considered "racist" by Flemming Rose? Sharon has certainly been responsible for the murder of thousands of Palestinians during his time on this planet. He is a well-known war criminal. So, why would an Israeli war criminal be protected by Mr. Rose?

Are we likely to see cartoons in Jyllands-Posten calling into question the force-fed Zionist myth of the Holocaust, which has become the new "Holy Cause" of Europe?

Why should the criminal history of a Zionist leader or outstanding questions about the the Second World War be more protected than the worshipped prophet of one of the world's major religions?

Well you could knock me over with a feather. A good dose of anti-Semitism and a bit of Holocaust denial to boot.

Not the sort of thing we would expect from our resident "radical left winger" is it?

Damian, you have the hide to give a journalist an honourary SS rank?

Craig Warton Strikes (Out) Again

Craig Warton, I should imagine if you follow enough links you’ll eventually turn up something that will suit your polemic. In your case I suppose you thought a juicy Holocaust denial link would be just the ticket to have go with. It’s about as impressive as your argument last year that people are able to fly aircraft after having had nothing more than instruction in a simulator.


You think SS-Rantenfuehrer is an SS rank?  Since when? And as for your assertion that there is actually honour in having an SS rank – what can I say… unless, of course, you happen to be a right-wing Islamaphobic racist journalist!

Damian ...

Damian Lataan, the sad thing is, I did not have to click far at all - just a link on the page you linked to.

I'm not having a go at anything Damian, you have succesfully done everything yourself here.

Oh and I know that Rantenfeurher isnt an SS rank and you made it up. But there again that seems to fit perfectly into your form of pseudo-history, so I was happy to bestow the rank on you because the "sources" you link to and I use that term very loosely suggest it fits you to a tee.

You are of course totally correct about flying. Why could anyone fly an aircraft after simulator training? Heavens no! Any reasonable mind can clearly see that they must have been radio controlled. But only flown in after that special jewish code had been transmitted so that all the jews could get out. Should I throw in the cheering Israeli agents now?

Ranten for honour

Damian Lataan, there is a difference between 'honorary' and honourable. Craig wasn't suggesting that there is anything intrinsically 'honourable' about an SS ranking, only that Albrechtsen seemed to have been somehow 'honoured' by gaining the ranking without having had to go through the normal Nazi promotion system, or receiving the normal SS-Rantenfuehrer's wages.

Is it OK by the Prophet himself?

An article from Znet by Tarek Fatah says:

During his lifetime, Prophet Mohammed endured insults and ridicule on a daily basis. His opponents mocked his message and used physical violence to stop him from challenging the status quo.

At no stage during this ordeal did the Prophet lose his temper or react to these provocations. Tradition has it that he would, instead, offer a prayer of forgiveness to those who showed contempt for him.

Today, however, many followers of Prophet Mohammed are acting the exact opposite. Reacting to the provocative Danish cartoons about the Prophet, they are burning newspapers, threatening journalists, issuing bomb threats, yet claiming they are standing up for the Prophet himself.

He also goes on to say:

Having said that, the way some Muslims have reacted to the provocation leaves a lot to be desired. Provoked, they walked blindfolded into a trap set for them, and came out worse than what they started with.

I am pro free speech but there is a definite stench of intentional stirring up on one side and rabble rousing on the other side which serves no decent purpose. I would more readily accept a structured article on the failings of religion and its fanatical adherents than poor quality spoof intended to annoy. It is a waste of precious free speech.

My money's on CP

CP: “I am pro free speech but there is a definite stench of intentional stirring up on one side and rabble rousing on the other side which serves no decent purpose. I would more readily accept a structured article on the failings of religion and its fanatical adherents than poor quality spoof intended to annoy. It is a waste of precious free speech.”

Mate, the stench is growing stronger and stronger, and after lurking around the designer threads all I can say is I await with baited breath to relive your gallant and brilliant defence of common sense. Bring it on.

Not equivalent at all.

Graeme Finn : "I am pro free speech but there is a definite stench of intentional stirring up on one side and rabble rousing on the other side which serves no decent purpose."


But what should also be noted are the consistent expressions of regret, sympathy and understanding, coupled with calls for calm amongst the European heads of government and their allies.

Contrast that with the expressly provocative language and actions of, say, the Taliban and the Iranian regime.

Now, the news that right-wing Muslim clerics have, it seems, deliberately stirred up the issue by introducing fake cartoons into the mix.

Undoubtedly there are those in the West who are enjoying all this.

But if some group of Christian zealots was rampaging around the USA or Germany or Australia threatening to "behead infidels" , or if a group of Orthodox Jews were carrying on that way in Israel, I rather doubt anyone would be so equivocal about where the fault lies.

Fair enough

You are right that the call is for more tolerance of Muslim sensiblilities is louder than the call for condemnation of the obvious failings of their own behaviour (shock jocks etc excluded) but I won't join in balancing the equation.

I will not be complaining about the weeds in my neighbours yard while mine is a jungle.

Religions are just ideas

Religions are just ideas - bad ones for the most part. And they deserve to be thoroughly ridiculed because they are ridiculous. This is not "racism" in any sense of the word.

Besides, if a religion is actually true, God does not need any human defenders against ridicule. God even says this in the Koran!

I guess what shocks me most here is that self-styled "Left winger" Damian Lataan is essentially arguing for a return to laws against blasphemy. What could be more "ultra right wing" than that? (Perhaps stoning gays to death... oops, that's Islamic Law!)

Glass houses and religious rules

Isn't it still a criminal offense to have anal intercourse in Tasmania? That would put Tassi in the same club as Moslem Malaysia which sent it's politician to gaol for such a crime. Some of our allies execute people for carrying drugs. I don't think that is a capital offense in the Koran. What does the Koran say about torture? I don't think much yet our allies are busy busy in the name of christian western democracy values. Human rights have a long way to go in many countries and is some it is going backwards so fast one can't say sedition and freedom of association and thought and innocent until proven guilty. In other countries minors and mentally retarded are killed for crimes. Some would call that the ultimate barbaric. There is plenty wrong out there and as a Great teacher once said: ..."...perhaps we should remove the log from our own eye first." or the old glass houses and throwing stones. All fundamentalism is wrapped in rules of ruthless control which distance them from any g-d they may have thought to touch. The lack of humility that precludes the consideration that they may not have a monopoly on truth is the other common denominator.

Pretty much concur this time, Angela, but...

Pretty much concur this time, Angela, but it's the presumption of "our own eye" that bothers me a little. For who is "us" here but humanity in all its manifestations?

I don't think a gay man facing execution for being gay in Iran should not deserve our sympathy and support due to unenforced archaic laws in Tasmania (if such laws are still on the books). Both sets of laws are absurd in the abstract, but the Iranian absurdity has dire and fatal consequences.

Tasmanian laws against homosexual sex

Tasmanian laws against homosexual sex were repealed a few years ago (it was 1997 or '98 I think), and these days Tassie is considered is considered fairly progressive in its stance toward homosexual rights.

so true, mike

So true Mike, so true! All about the savage treatment of gays by Iranian law, and Saudis and ....so on.  Dreadful! And as you say, to hang for! Some of the guys weren't even adults. At least in the old days it was just oblivion for the whole town and a block of salt if ya watched. Probably worse if you videoed it. Block of pig fat? Some parts of Sharia law sound quite good, imagine putting those husbands and their slut girlfriends into the ground and throwing stones. Actually I couldn't do it myself, but visualising it helps when I hear how yet again a family is broken up by such vermin. We could have sessions before the football instead of cheersquad girls dancing. There, that was cathartic.

It has taken a long time for Christian dogma to accept such loving gay relationships and at last it has been happening in both the Uniting and Anglican against the wishes of the incredibly slate dirty-stone-throwers. I wonder how Pell and Jenkins can consider such relationships so wrong and supporting a war of aggression so right. Guess that is the difficulty of assuming the task of interpreting a deities wishes and laws. I am not sure even Reform accepts such marriages and can't think of any official Islamic group. Hindu? 

return to censorship

Mike Lyvers claims: "...Lataan is essentially calling for a return to laws against blasphemy..."

"essentially", eh. Is that what he is really calling for, or is this just an accidental, or more likely wilfull misrepresentation of what he's really saying? "Essentially" is just a bit too opaque, Mike - either he (genuinely ) is,or he is not. Why not focus rather on what he was really trying to say.

I personally thought what he was talking about the detestable tendency of bigots to vilification, in place of reasoned debate, In much the way the Nazis did withthe Jews and Communists; creating a bogey to legitimise in the public mind a bogey to justify a policy of aggression. Beside, after watching Abbott in action today, I should think we can look far closer to home for authoritarian fanatics.

What do you think of the so-called "sedition laws", Mike? Setting a good example as per free speech with those?

If we are "civilised", should we not be setting an example in reasoned debate to our rightly aggreived, over generations, Muslim brothers and sisters? Or is slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the last fifteen years the only example the West should set as to norms of behaviour, to these "mad others"?

Paul, you've been around here a while

Paul, you've been around here a while, so you should know that I opposed the Iraq war in this very forum.

Look closer to home for authoritarian fanatics? I too oppose the easy availability of the abortion pill. But there are degrees of fanaticism, and the attempt to deny women the abortion pill is a far cry from stoning to death of rape victims or homosexuals, don't you think?

Huh? Mistake in previous post!

It should read, I too FAVOR the easy availability of the abortion pill.

Geez how did that happen? I've been fighting for abortion rights for most of my adult life. Ultra-right-wing spooks perhaps?

Guest Ed Ross - Instant karma's going to get ya Mike!


G'day Mike, good to see you back. As many viewpoints as possible, particularly from those who can add to a debate. For my part, I'd accept the warning that the line I and others take need not sink into a black armband view of the West and its viewpoint. We can make mistakes, and if we can, so can others and vice versa.

I  think of Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian and his shrewd observations about the astonishment different tribes who employed totally opposite funeral rituals experienced, when they discovered how others went about doing the same thing.

I don't like the intemperate fundamentalist opportunists exploiting the masses' anger in the Mid- East any more than  I like some of the more unsavoury examples of this populist tendency from people in positions of influence in our own society.

We are well-off in the West, and I'll gladly go to my grave if need be saying our so-called civilised and Christian world could do incrementally better and more generously, as to the global poor.

Muslim immigration

This cartoon business has made me question my previous positive view of Muslim immigration to western countries. I have some Muslim friends who fled their homelands to escape brutal theocratic, sexist, racist societies. They have done well here and love Australia. They have become much more socially liberal than they were previously - to the extent that their relatives back home would condemn them, or worse, for their drift away from their religion and its ultra-conservative values. But I see their conversion to more liberal, tolerant, secular values as a great positive, and it probably wouldn't have happened if they had not been allowed refuge here.

On the other hand, there are plenty of immigrants who retain many of their religious values when they migrate to western countries. We in the West have fought long and hard for our liberal, secular societies and for women's rights, gay rights, freedom of speech and expression, etc. What would happen if large numbers of people who are opposed to such rights come here? I am frankly worried that eventually, such hard-won rights might be taken away. This is what many Europeans are worried about right now. So I have mixed feelings about Muslim immigration that I have not resolved.

A bit of a diversion, Paul, but your post made me think about this - thanks.


Mike, you are wondering how I've reacted to these problems? Well, firstly new immigrants. I suspect every wave of new immigrants bring their own cultural inheritance. I remember as a kid growing up in the sixties, how odd Mediterraneans ("other") seemed. They seemed to live in their own little enclaves and chat away in their own lingo. Italian women always seemed to wear black because, as I later found out, this was a cultural aspect of their grieving rituals. Then there was the seeming heavy display of the outward expressions of their religion, involving crucifixes and the like. We called them "wogs" and I later found out (as usual it was later) that they in turn mocked us as "skippies", which expressed to them our follies. Growing up in the manufacturing satellite city of Elizabeth I also had to, very literally, adapt to being a minority Aussie in rough schools and factories dominated by people from Britain and Europe. These days the process involves Lebanese and the like. The NSW Premier, a man of Italian extraction, during the Cronulla antics, adopted the Australian nationalist (at its worst, chauvinistic) point of view which obliquely shows how the forces of assimilation and multiculturalism work over the long haul on different levels.

As to the Lebanese and other Eastern Mediterranean groups, they have been here awhile and are assimilating, on the whole, the same as previous groups, with most of us probably the better for it too.

Except that the position relative to them, particularly some Muslims, has been exacerbated by international events and the accompanying propaganda wars, which currently run the unforeseen risk of victimising and alienating some of these people locally. Particularly some of the younger hot-heads who are stirred up by a minority of clergy with axes of their own to grind. Not to mention vice-versa from those Anglos pushing a similar knee-jerk reaction, as they feed off per local redneck anxiety.

My attitude five years ago, when the seeming- rush of boat people was on, was one of caution and suspicion. How dare these interlopers turn up on the doorstep without asking permission first! Besides, being unemployed, I had a feeling that immigration would be used by employers to even further load the game against local workers and unemployed- a bit NIMBY, but I needed time to adapt too, which is why I have been doing uni courses.

At this time the papers were full of the Bradford riots, French problems and the unfortunate local cases involving pack-rape. Seemed no sense importing people from hot zones like Palestine when tempers were inflamed, all round. Multiculturalism was and is an OK idea, but then it seemed to be hiccuping, being pushed just a little too far, too hard and too fast - better to allow the process time, so people could adapt to it and each other. Then followed Tampa and New York.

As it has turned out, we needed not fear "queue-jumpers", since most of the government's own figures show that the boat-people were in fact genuine refugees of the type you described; educated decent people getting away from dictatorships the same as the Latinos who escaped from South American regimes in the eighties, or from Europe after WW2 and the cold war.

Given the subsequent treatment of asylum seekers, it seems possible that some Australians, including some in the civil service and current government, might need to look at their own dubious attitudes, rather than those of asylum seekers. The nutty comments from Dana Vale and her coven of distracted hens are the most recent exemplar: hysterical, Chicken Little-ish, unhelpful . Really makes Pauline Hanson seem almost intellectual, given the day and age we are now living in and the problems we currently face.

You mentioned that like me you had doubts about Iraq. Surely the hostility of many Muslims toward the West must be slotted home, at least in part, to the expedient policies of the West toward the region and its people, now over generations? The hostility is an unfortunate result for us, and a comment on governments and big business ignoring everyone else's concerns and needs bar there own. And examples like the one on telly tonight involving a bunch of British troops belting c..p out of local lads must only add to the impressions gained by Muslims and others, that they are never going to get a fair screw from us. The fact that the problem has been ideologicised out of the academic theorisings of people like Huntingdon for the uses of vested interests’ expedient purposes only reinforces the problem.

Besides, race and culture are not the only ingredients for change and future shock. As a "grumpy", I can only look back in wonder at the enormous battles I have had adjusting to things like computers, feminism and the new economy, over the decades. Others with more wherewithal adapted sooner and some never will and I guess the same will be the case for others, including migrants, manufacturing workers and uncomfortable locals; all people in different national or social (sub) cultures for whom the new is an as yet unidentified surprise that threatens or disturbs, until time allows for readjustment.

Thanks for your considered thoughts on this, Paul.

PS. I too saw the footage of British soldiers beating up some kids and immediately wondered how inflammatory this footage will be in the Muslim world. It may even provoke violence against Westerners - the very reason cited by so many media outlets for NOT showing the Danish cartoons! How do we spell "hypocrisy" again?

Ross, are you an agent of karma here??

I hope not! (That is, I hope it was my stupid mistake.)

BTW, have you shut down commenting on Irfan's latest? He asked me for details about the version of the Koran I'm reading and I wanted to oblige him by responding.

Guest Ed Ross. No, fire away Mike on Irfan's article. Re the error, perhaps it was someone moving in mysterious ways? Forgive my attempts at humour!

Why is this man smiling?

GOING TO JAIL: Former Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Said Agil Husin Al Munawar is escorted by court officials into a prosecutor's office vehicle after being sentenced to five years in jail for corruption by the Central Jakarta District Court on Tuesday for for embezzling Rp 652 billion (US$70.7 million) from the Haj Trust Fund over a four-year period.

see: Jakarta Post, 9/2/06

In God we trust. Others pay cash

"The religious affairs ministry -- long regarded as one of the country's most corrupt government agencies -- has a near-monopoly in the lucrative business of transporting about 200,000 pilgrims annually to Saudi Arabia for the haj, The Associated Press reported."


If I'm not mistaken,  it was for something similar that Philip the Fair purged the Knights Templars in the 14th century.

Didn't they have a monopoly on transporting Pilgrims to Jerusalem?

Were some cartoons faked

Damian Lataan: "Articles like this written by Albrechtsen (and another by Miranda Devine in today’s SMH) are designed to be specifically confrontational."

Actually, Miranda Devine has picked up on something a few people have begun to notice.

Hamish: Greg Hall has made this point here, with links, which are very interesting.

Some of the cartoons being circulated in the Middle East may have been fakes.

This may explain a number of odd things about the controversy.

How, for example, some of the cartoons being shown of television news services and being described in print media and on-line seem to be different from those being shown on, say, the Guardian website and elsewhere.

Also, it may account for some part of the extraordinary anger we are seeing in the Middle East, entirely out of proportion to anything which would seem reasonable in response to the cartoons we are seeing here.

Also, there's some background in Denmark itself which helps explain why this may have happened, including the Danish Queen getting involved in the debate about immigration there.

The agitation is being managed

The Herald on-line is essentially confirming that fake cartoons are circulating.

"The re-printing of the 12 offending caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a French satirical weekly, along with a fresh batch of similar cartoons, was likely to deepen Muslim anger against what is perceived as an act of blasphemy."

Clearly, the issue is being driven for political purposes by one side or another.

My guess is it's no coincidence that the Iranian regime keeps trying to link the controversy to Israel, nor that Syrian and pro-Syrian elements in Lebanon are at the forefront of the agitation.

A prelude to something else coming that will be portrayed as "retribution" for the "blasphemy"?

Free Speech Or Islamaphobic Racism?

Jay White, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to be able to see right through SS-Rantenfuehrer Janet Albrechtsen’s ‘defending free speech’ garbage as simply being a front and opportunity to spew her Islamaphobic racism.

Damian Lataan

Damian Lataan: "SS-Rantenfuehrer Janet Albrechtsen seems to think that the vilification of a religious prophet whose adherents are literally willing to die for is simply a joke that Muslims can’t take!

I would have thought somebody linking to revisionist sites such as the one Sid Walker did with David Irving front and center may be more in keeping with a SS-Rantenfuehrer? Perhaps even somebody who sees a zionist plot around every corner?

Defending free speech now leads to somebody being called a nazi? I thought they burnt books? I find it most curious that a person willing to defend Sid Walker would accuse others of nazi sentiments. I bet others do too.

A very curious connection indeed!


Watch out, Jay. They'll be calling you a white supremacist next.

Albrechtsen and Devine's Racism

Andrew McRae writes: “…I don't think being willing to die for some religious prophet means anything”. With all due respect, it doesn’t really matter whether you think it means anything or not; it clearly – rightly or wrongly – does to them.

Articles like this written by Albrechtsen (and another by Miranda Devine in today’s SMH) are designed to be specifically confrontational. That’s flat out racism. Which brings me to your other point where you say: "The word ‘racist’ is just too readily bandied around, I find, Damian, and is mostly not necessary or appropriate, when it's really cultural and ethnic mockery that's involved.”

It’s precisely that ‘cultural and ethnic mockery’ that you talk of which is very specifically a form of racism. It’s called ‘new racism’. It’s the racism of culture and religion, as against the ‘old racism’ of blood and biology. In academic sociology the term is well defined. The historian Robert Manne describes it thus:

Old racism argued that the intractable differences between human groups were rooted in biology and blood. This form of racism was discredited by Hitler and the Holocaust. A new racism took its place. It argued that differences between human collectivities were based on the ultimate incompatibility not of blood and biology but of culture and religion. (1)

Finally, I’m quite happy to front up to the right-wing attack dogs. My epidermis is far too tough and thick for their old and brittle fangs to have any effect.

(1) Robert Manne, Left Right Left: Political Essays, 1977-2005. (Black Inc, 2005) p. 490.

So if I criticise Christianity I'm a "new racist"??

Makes lots of sense, Damian. Your remarks above are absurd Orwellian doublespeak.

Albrechtsen Displpays Her Islamaphobic Racism

SS-Rantenfuehrer Janet Albrechtsen seems to think that the vilification of a religious prophet whose adherents are literally willing to die for is simply a joke that Muslims can’t take!

It is the attitude of Albrechtsen and her right-wing Islamaphobic racist cohorts both here and elsewhere that are bringing shame on Australia and disgust from the Muslim world.

Janet Albrechtsen

Albrechtsen made one comment I agree with 100%:

"If freedom of speech means anything, it means the right to offend the sensibilities of others. Standing up for the right to express namby-pamby, inoffensive opinions is the easy part. It's defending the confronting, offensive and insulting stuff that tests our commitment to free speech."

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