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Sharia for complete bankers – Part 2

In which Irfan Yusuf continues with his education of Webdiarists in sharia law. Part 1 is here.

Sheik Peter issues his fatwa...

Well, it now seems that our treasurer, Sheik Peter bin Costello, has decided to issue a fatwa against sharia. He claims that anyone who thinks sharia can live in the same place as our common law should be stripped of their citizenship.

Which I guess means that any Australian lawyers practising in Malaysia or Canada should go back to where they came from!

I’ve already told all you people out there in Margostan that sharia is alive and well in Malaysia. Though I understand hardly anyone in the place walks around with an amputated hand or head.

In fact, those in the know about what sharia really is will probably be thinking Sheik Costello is the one who has had his head (or at least his brain) amputated. And in case anyone thinks I just made a cheap personal shot at Sheik Peter, read this. Hard-core Margostanis should switch off the screens in case their own heads self-amputate.

I like Mufti Pete. I hope he becomes Prime Minister one day. He has led our country through years of prosperity. I also admire him for some of his amazing achievements as an industrial lawyer. I like to think that sometimes I am a pretty good industrial lawyer myself. But I doubt I could match Sheik Pete in a head-to-head battle before an Industrial Relations Commission.

Incest and legal traditions

Most legal systems regard incest as undesirable. But I reckon they are all a bunch of hypocrites in this regard. And before you start screaming three words beginning with “W”, “T” and “F”, let me explain why.

I believe that we all came from Adam and Eve. That means we are all distantly related. Similarly, the legal traditions that homo sapiens have used to govern their affairs are also related.

The simple reason for this is that legal traditions have been fornicating with each other for centuries. I learnt this during the first 12 months of my legal training at Macquarie University when I joined 100 or so other completely bored kiddies as we ploughed through hundreds of readings in our course entitled “History and Philosophy of Law”.

Seriously, “HPL” (as we used to call it) had to be the most boring course of study I have ever done. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that I had one of the best law tutors in the Milky Way.

And if there was one piece of Patrick Kavanagh’s wisdom that will stay with us forever, it was that legal traditions never develop in a vacuum.

Plagiarism for lawyers

It gets better. Apart from incest and fornication, the development of legal traditions has also been characterised by lots of plagiarism. Lawyers have been copying other lawyers from other places for centuries.

Back in the Middle Ages, a large number of Europeans were studying at the University of Cordoba in Spain. In those days, the best legal and philosophical texts were taught in a language we now associate with al-Jazeera and City Convenience Stores.

If you wanted to be a top class European jurist, you had to study Arabic. You would then study the great works of Muslim jurists, philosophers and doctors. Much of what you studied had little to do with Islamic theology, but it was certainly studied through Spanish Muslim-coloured glasses.

Medieval Canon Law was influenced heavily by Roman Law. But Thomas Aquinas was known to have also studied the great works of jurists like al-Ghazali, Abu Hanifa] and Shafei].

Unlike today, in those days no one outside of the Muslim empires regarded plagiarism as a big deal. So when the great law schools opened in Paris and other parts of Europe, who was to know that much of the legal doctrine was virtually lifted wholesale from the work of some jurist from Baghdad or Damascus?

Moving back? What the...?

Some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering where this is all going. To confuse you even more, allow me to go backwards.

Let’s look at exactly what we mean when we use the term “legal tradition”. What are we talking about?

When I think of legal tradition, I think of more than just clothes that judges wear and that make them look like Santa Claus during law term when the real Santa is probably in Denmark drawing cartoons to punish naughty Muslim children.

In fact, a legal tradition is more than just a set of rules. Law regulates a broad range of areas. What it regulates and how it goes about it is determined by a huge range of factors and influences.

Law and the process of law-making don’t exist in a social or political vacuum. It is affected by and intersects with politics, religion, culture, language, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and a range of other factors. And legal systems influence each other.

Perhaps the best way to explain a legal tradition is to use the example of a cell. Each of us has millions of cells, though I haven’t personally acquainted myself with any of my own. Cells are surrounded by a wall which lets through certain things that flow through our blood stream. Everything within and including the wall of the cell is called the cell. But there are things outside the cell that eventually become part of the cell also.

A legal tradition is pretty much like a cell. Now cells not only interact with outside influences but also with each other. At least I think they do. But don’t quote me on that. I never studied biology.

A legal tradition might be described as follows:

  • The essential elements within the legal tradition.
  • The extraneous influences outside the tradition. Perhaps we might call them legal imports.
  • The things within the tradition that end up being kicked out from time to time. Call it legal export or even legal excrement if you must.
  • The processes and mechanics of how everything is imported, exported, excreted, held together and all that stuff.

Moving forward again …

Legal tradition is a much broader term than legal system. In Australia, we have in some areas one legal system and in other areas a number of legal systems. Sometimes these legal systems fight it out in the High Court. Similar situations happen in the US and Canada.

However, we are part of the same legal tradition as Canada, the US and other former Pommy colonies. We are part of the Common Law legal tradition.

Sharia is also a legal tradition that contains various legal systems. In some areas of law, sharia hasn’t been applied since the 1920’s. In other areas, it continues to evolve. And whether you believe it or not, in a large number of countries we see sharia sitting side-by-side with the common law.

You don’t believe me? Here’s a short list of common law jurisdictions where aspects of sharia are part of the law:

  • Malaysia
  • Ontario, Canada
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • South Africa

In Canada, the state of Ontario has allowed sharia-based mediation procedures to be implemented in certain family law matters. In India, aspects of sharia family and estates law apply.

So if Sheik Costello tells anyone who wants sharia to go elsewhere, perhaps he might find a tiny flock of Aussie Muslims queuing to head out to the Islamic Republic of Toronto.

But seriously...

I doubt there will be many Muslims queuing up for a one way ticket to Iran or Saudi Arabia. In fact, large numbers of asylum seekers risk their lives coming to Australia to escape that sort of regime.

Only a tiny minority of Muslim countries even try to implement sharia in full. In fact, at least one Muslim scholar has called for sharia criminal punishments to be placed under complete moratorium.

I haven’t finished yet. But I’d still like to know what you are thinking thus far...


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Canadian Muslims' arguments for sharia

For a lengthy and scholarly argument presented by a Canadian Muslim organisation for the introduction into Canadian laws, in the name of "multiculturalism," of the death penalty for cases of blasphemy against Islam, and also for cases of apostasy (renouncing one's Islamic faith), see here.

It seems Sheik Peter's fatwa was right on the money, if this is any indication.

Sheik Multi Kulti issues a fatwa...

"It has become plain through the recent arguments of Irfan Yusuf and Jamila Hussain that, since sharia in principle is much closer to Australian values and law than many would care to admit, it is - on the balance of things - more sensible to implement Australian law throughout Islam than to seek to corrupt the law of Australia irreversibly; henceforth all resources and agitation shall be immediately redirected towards attaining this goal.

In this fashion, Muslims in Islamic lands are able to attain a purer form of Islam in practice than is possible in the corrupt sharia that exists in all the many forms at present. It shall be known as skip'ia law from this day ...hem hem some tinkering may be necessary with a very small number of crimes acts to prevent mischief... yea it shall truly be a beacon of light to guide the uninformed."

A "Multi-Kulti" fatwa?

Are there universal laws which transcend all particular religious doctrines? Surely we can identify parts of every religion's tenets which most (?) of us would agree should underlie civil rules governing our behaviour. Obeying the Ten Commandments, for example, would keep people out of most of the kinds of trouble we tend to get ourselves into (murder, theft, adultery, bearing false witness, etc.)

There are "universals" in the various expressions of the "do unto others" principle. As in the sage Hillel's aphoristic summary of Jewish law "What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man: this is the whole Law; the rest is mere commentary."

Each religion seems to distinguish between rules binding only on its own adherents and those it sees as universal to humanity.

Judaism, for example, traditionally holds that the Noahide laws apply to all humanity, and these laws include prohibitions against worshipping false gods or idols, blasphemy, murder, theft, sexual immorality (adultery, incest, sodomy, homosexuality), eating a living animal (or being cruel to one in some interpretations). There is also a commandment to set up a fair and honest court system for alleged offences against those laws.

As an aside, Mussa bin Maimun ibn Abdallah al-Kurtubi al-Israili (Maimonides) considered that non-Jews who followed the Noahide Laws were "righteous Gentiles" who would have a share in the "world to come" (afterlife).

As a civil society we would probably agree on the bits that prohibit murder and theft, cruelty, and the judiciary.

A modern secular equivalent to the Noahide Laws might be the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both sets of principles attempt to set out minimum standards of morality within the contexts of their respective belief systems.

Ontario ends sharia experiment

Ontario has recently ended its year-long experiment with a sharia court for family law matters for Muslims. For details see this.

Fiona: Thank you for the amendment, Mike.

Forum comments on Jamila Hussein

The forum responses to Jamila Hussein's interesting article can be found at:  and the article is just a link away from there, for those interested.


Comments on Jamila Hussein

I read Jamila Hussein's article, and the comments. Though I disagreed with a few of the comments (in particular I saw no grounds for dismissing the essay as "spin"), but I certainly did not have the same reaction as Paul Walter. Most of the comments were, if anything, supportive of the author's point of view, in my reading.

Jamila Hussein

Have just come here fresh from reading an article by a Sydney academic called Jamila Hussain, at a site called "Forum", attempting to explain and contextualise Sharia law, as per these current discourses.

Am moved to comment here, particularly as a response to Mahmoud Tlais' despairing post.

One elaborates. Having read Jamila Hussain's concise and relevant brief essay, I moved to the comments section at this site and - well, "abandon hope all ye who enter here".

I have never, even within the pages of WD, read such illiterate, uneducated superstitious-sounding claptrap, from those attacking Jamila Hussain's sound explications concerning this Sharia topic.

Howard surely has the Muslim bogeyman working well amongst sections of the isolated Australian community and I have here to express my profound disappointment at the lamentable sad ignorance, fear of night-terrors and thus unfounded hostility of so many people in a supposedly-educated country.

Recalling the claptrap I read at the comments site, I felt I had been whizzed back through time to the 16th century, and a sort of frenzied modern equivalent to the Medieval hysterics over Goblins, Ghosts and Banshees.

None of the posters had even seemed to have actually taken time to read, much less take in, what Jamila Hussain had actually said.

All I can do, as per Mahmoud Tlais and others are concerned, is express my own incredibly deep humiliation and embarrassment at the ignorance and silliness of so many of my countrypeople to those WD contributors who seek constructive engagement.

Hamish: do you have a link to the Jamila Hussain article, Paul?

Jamila Hussein

Hamish, the article is called "The myths and realities of Islam's Sharia law" and is subtitled "The Sharia system of personal law can coexist with the Australian system".

Jamila Hussain is a lecturer at the Institute of Technology, Sydney, in Islamic law and is an Australian woman who, the blurb tells us, has converted to Islam.

I discovered the article at "Online Opinion"; 2/3/ 06, along with 40-odd public comments (of an often ignorant nature ), in response.

I stand corrected

Paul Walter, I was looking at the Brisbane Forum comments, not the Online Opinion comments. Yes I do see what you're talking about. But here I think people are confusing Islam with what some Muslims may do (or rationalise) in the name of Islam. Still, within all that BS is a valid point, implied if not expressed. If we are considering the compatibility of the Sharia legal framework with our (or any other) civil law framework, then Sharia must be subject to the same scrutiny and criticism as our civil law. And this criticism then can't be equated with Islamophobia.

Quite so, Will

Actually, browsing through previous posts, I discovered that the Jamila Hussain article is most likely the same one that Terry Murphy commended, from New Matilda, as far back as the twentieth of last month in the thread responding to Irfan Yusuf's first foray into "Sharia for complete bankers". Terry's response heartened me, no end.

As does Will Howard's. One must pray some people just get past this 'contempt prior to investigation' mentality that many seem to have been encouraged into by prejudiced, vested or commercial interests, for motives I am not convinced are altogether worthy.

As Prof. Marilyn Lake said yesterday ("Costello ruse echoes White Australia Policy"; Melbourne Age, 3/3/ 06):

"Costello's attack on the political value of tolerance- in its current expression as multiculturalism seems...utterly un-Australian".

Lake had earlier set the context for the above with this previous comment:

"Multiculturalism is not an ideology, as its critics often claim, rather an acknowledgement of social reality".

Yes, we do have the right to expect that newcomers will attempt to "fit in". But we, too, must exert patience and show good faith - that is the real, civilised, "Australian" way - we must give them the opportunity and time to trust us, as we hope of them. For the exercise to be beneficial for all concerned, tolerance has to be two-way.

And that is the pivotal aspect of the process that Hansonists have cast out, fed and driven as they are on the sort of fear and ratings-driven xenophobia that typifies the work of the likes of cheap and sleazy Alan Jones types - our own versions of the so-called "mad mullahs". The intemperance and even slander alienates "others", making so much the harder the job of all "pulling together" for the common good.

We want them to give our hotheads a chance to "settle", and then we must allow the same for some of theirs as well, through our conduct towards them. Anyway, it ought now to be obvious that some of us have contributed to the current mutual scepticism as much as any of them. It is not a matter of mutual obligation being only one-sided, the situation being solely their blame and hence their responsibility, as Hansonists seem to propose.

Will, lest I be called "hypocrite", by certain others, I will say I understand and concur with some of your concerns. I was very sceptical myself during the global upheavals of four or five years ago, of encouraging similar situations as have occurred elsewhere, as per migration/refugee outcomes.

I believe the situation of today, however, requires a different response and the talking and listening we do in these times is far more appropriate than the raking over of coals and opening of old wounds, that some would seem rather to want to persevere with. We ought to have the wisdom of hindsight lacking back then, that inform us differently in some respects, given what we know now, as per the current situation.

By the way, Mark Ross. Your earlier post to Mike Lyvers, I think, gives me some heart. I was wondering where I was going wrong, yet you appear to have had little trouble discerning my intent and meaning, where others have failed. It is a relief I experience, in the wake of your recent comments.

"so-called mad mullahs"??

Paul, with all due respect, I don't think it is the "cheap and sleazy Alan Jones types" that are responsible for the current critical and suspicious attitudes of many Australians to Islam, but rather the atrocities committed in the name of Islam by terrorists in various parts of the world. And would you really compare Alan Jones to those mad mullahs who call for the widespread killing of Jews and other infidels in the name of Islam, or who call for Danish cartoonists to be beheaded? You almost sound a little like George Galloway who recently said in an interview that he regarded the Danish cartoons as worse than the Sept. 11 and London terrorist bombings. As if a few silly cartoons are actually a worse atrocity than the horrific mass murder of thousands of innocent people. Unbelievable.

As for sharia, in today's Weekend Australian I read that with the introduction of sharia in Aceh, women who go out in public without wearing a shroud, and couples who kiss in public, will be subjected to whippings. I guess that's a different version of sharia than the one Jamila Hussein argues for - at least I hope so!

PS You might try reading my response to Mark's post too.

Irshad Manji

All those interested should check out the Wikipedia entry on Irshad Manji.

This is amazing. It has

This is amazing. It has been a long time since I responded on this blog. I think I realized how pointless it was to discuss the meaning of Islam with the many contributors who base their knowledge of Islam from watching TV, reading anti-Islamic websites and so on. I remember a post a while ago by some Webdiarist who stated that “Allah fights for the axis of evil”. I don’t recall any Webdiarist challenging that statement. It was like a universally agreed fact on this blog that Allah (indirectly Islam and Muslims) has some deep-rooted animosity to the non-Muslim world. I think that became the final step for me to temporarily stop contributing.

To be brutally honest I believe that trying to solve the many “misunderstandings” between the Australian Muslim community with typical Anglos and other non-Muslim ethnicities is a waste of time. Terms such as “building bridges” or “Islamophobia” are used to tone down the seriousness of the deep rooted misconceptions of my faith. I think there is a major problem with the non-Muslim world which simply, in its own world, forms these warped views of Islam that seriously undermine the faith in their own countries.

It also, in my opinion, diverts attention from other serious issues which often go unnoticed in the world. These issues include the millions of civilian deaths resulting from wars and tyrants who are kept in power by Western governments. The seriousness of having a mere human in charge of nuclear and other deadly weapons. These are not weapons that are built to be kept in a museum so society can watch in awe and amazement of the “progress” of mankind. These are weapons that will be used when slightly threatened. Do we not forget the dummy nuclear bombings during the Korean War against the Chinese government? Or when Israel moved its Jericho (nuclear warhead) in position when Baghdad rained scuds on its capital? I pose the following question to all pro-Americans. Do you believe that the United States of America will not launch its nuclear arsenal against a country which legally and humanely marched on Washington? Do you actually believe it is morally right to annihilate (murder) an entire country’s population (including women and children) because it was defeated in a war? That is a very serious scenario put forward as, in future, one country that is attacked by the US may have the means to march on Washington justly and humanely. For that reason, I find it contradictory that any person could be so proud of democratic and liberal nations in light of the death that these countries possess.

I read many posts from people like Mike Lyvers and Bai Ren who spawn absolute rubbish concerning laws of Islam. These are the same people who have no qualifications to comment about Islamic Law. They don’t speak Arabic, have never attended an Islamic University, nor have the audacity to contact a local Muslim Imam in Australia about a verse they are concerned with. You find these people searching on Google looking to dig any sort of rubbish about Islam. They almost always claim to have Muslim friends as well. Most of the things Bai Ren stated about Sharia Law in his earlier post were outright incorrect, and others had viable explanations which he doesn’t know of out of sheer ignorance.

On a final note, I would like to make a point which is often conveyed by critics of Islam about Muslims reactions to apostasy and blasphemy. Many critics are quick to point out that Islamic history enforces harsh laws against apostates and blasphemy. That is because, unlike in Western countries, these actions are equated with treason. The reason is that apostates in Islamic history were treacherous, and never, as far I know, has there been an apostate or blasphemous individual who wasn’t hostile to the state. For example, when the Prophet Muhammed died, many false prophets and movements sprung up, creating mighty armies. One such false prophet managed to besiege Mecca. This military hostility by apostates and blasphemous people continued for the next millennium. Simply put, in Islamic history, there are no fairytale apostates who happened to be loyal to the state. They either created mischief or raised armies. Even in this day and age, people like Irshad Manji show their contempt and animosity towards Islam. Although I thank them, as their actions seem to increase my faith in Islam.

Fatwa against extremism

Mahmoud Tlais notes the " warped views of Islam" in the non-Muslim world which divert "attention from other serious issues which often go unnoticed in the world."

If what you're trying to say, Mahmoud, is that there are a lot of problems in the world and they're not all the fault of Muslims, then I agree wholeheartedly. But there are some bad things being done in the name of Islam, just as bad things are done in the name of Christianity and other religions.

I don't think these are the result of some inherent fault in Islam (whatever Islam's strengths or weaknesses may be). Just as I think it's not Christianity's fault that so many Christians are not very Christian. In the case of Muslims' misdeeds carried out in the name of Islam, or at least the culprits' ideas of Islam, only the Muslim community really has the moral authority to counter the views of Islam that seemingly justify such crimes.

I was encouraged last year to see a fatwa against terrorism issued by the Fiqh Council of North America, a group of Islamic judicial scholars. The fatwa reads, in part:

"Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism.

Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not martyrs ...

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.

2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.

3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians. We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him."

I'm curious, Mahmoud

I'm curious, Mahmoud, do you hate Irshad Manji because she is gay, or because she advocates a more liberal and tolerant Islam, or both?

Believe it or not, I actually do have Muslim friends, but they are of the liberal and tolerant variety so you may not consider them Muslims even though they themselves most certainly do.


"Bruce Bawer's new book, While Europe Slept, is an instructive read in that regard: he's a gay American who moved to Holland because it was more open and tolerant than his repressed uptight theocratic native land yet in the end he was driven out of the Netherlands by a--what's the phrase? --"rising tide" of gay bashing and other forms of homophobia from the ever more culturally confident young Muslim men who now dominate urban life up the European coast from France through Belgium to Scandinavia. It's not a good time to be a gay man in Europe."

This was from Mark Steyn, but I have read similar comments elsewhere (eg about the recent rise of anti-Jewish violence in Europe). Of course the "culturally confident young Muslim men" must be a tiny minority or else there wouldn't be many gay clubs (or synagogues for that matter) left in Europe. Nevertheless I find this concerning, like the recent cancellation of a gay pride march in Moscow due to threats and pressure from some Muslims. These are examples of the "creeping social conservatism" that may be one result of large-scale Muslim immigration to the West. Many Christians would welcome this. I would not.

Second Reply

I note that my last reply to Mike Lyvers was not posted. In that comment I corrected myself for calling him a racist. I then asserted that the characterisation of a bigot would have been more apt. Why? Let’s have a look…

I heard on the BBC news this morning how many young Palestinians are scared of Hamas' stated goal of imposing sharia on the territories. Women have already been threatened for not wearing veils, and restaurant owners who sold alcoholic beverages have been ordered to close. Bad news indeed for those who do not want an Islamofascist state in the region.

All good until you decided to link Sharia with ‘Islamofascism’. Bit of a broad generalisation. Sort of like…"The fact that the Danish cartoons have brought out the worst in many Muslims is very revealing."

I would actually argue that the cartoons brought out the worst in very few Muslims. How many Muslims in the world? How many violent protests around the World? Oh, never mind. Hyperbole is fun. For instance, why settle with “many Muslims” when there’s a whole world to conquer?

Who is being more "egocentric", Bryan? The Muslim world which goes completely berserk over a silly cartoon, or the Western world where everyone’s ideas are equally open to criticism and even ridicule? Perhaps the main problem in the Muslim world has to do with their extreme, hypersensitive egocentrism.

Yeah, that’s the main problem, but not the only one.

"The ultimate oppressor in Islamic societies is clearly Islam itself, an ultra right wing ideological force that oppresses women, gays, and nonbelievers most cruelly, but everyone else in various ways as well." I just love that last little tag of yours…”everyone else in various ways as well. So in other words, under Islam everybody is well and truly fucked in a multitude of fashions. Nice one!

Of course, it’s not just those living under Islam who are in trouble.

I've been reading the Koran, and came across a passage where God states the following: "O Believers, you must never become friends with Christians or Jews." What could be more divisive than that - the very Word of God (as Muslims believe)? What does this imply for the future of multiculturalism, particularly in the face of Islamic fundamentalism?

Stop the presses!! What was that? Once more with feeling...

Irfan, I suppose you would accuse Pipes of being a bigot if he wrote something like "Christians and Jews, never take a Muslim for your friend." But what about Sura 5:51 of the Koran: "Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends." Isn't that a bit on the bigoted side? Perhaps even more than anything Pipes has written. Your thoughts Irfan?

Hey.There’s that ‘b’ word again. Tell me, Mike. Did you find anything else interesting in the Koran? Or were you just looking for something that served your interests? For reasons best known by yourself, we need to know that "Muslims are attacking Buddhist monks in Thailand in the name of Islam, Christian schoolchildren in Sulawesi in the name of Islam, Hindu pilgrims in India in the name of Islam, Jews everywhere in the name of Islam, and various other infidels all over the place in the name of Islam. There does seem to be a worldwide "jihad" against non-Muslims, not just "one incident of extremism" as you put it. Yes this is a minority faction within Islam doing all these terrible things, hopefully one which will not spread much farther among the world's Muslims than it already has."

As you say, it’s a “minority faction within Islam”, but the more shit you throw, the more we’ll notice the smell. So...

"I guess many fanatical Muslims have good reasons to feel humorless towards Buddhists, too, given the recent slaughter of Buddhist monks by Islamic radicals in Thailand. And to little Christian schoolgirls in Sulawesi, Hindus in India, Jews everywhere, and....(insert your belief system here)."

Still can’t smell it? Here you go...

By "Nazist racist bigots" I assume you mean people like Bin Laden; Zawahiri; the murderers of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus in the name of Islam all over the world; those who demanded in London, New York and elsewhere that any material that Muslims regard as blasphemous must not be published in the West; the President of Iran; and so forth. Right, Paul?

And why are they doing it? Well...

Terry, you ignore the fundamental role... of the Islamic religion in Islamic terrorism. For many, and perhaps most, Islamic terrorists their motive - as they themselves frequently assert - is religious in nature. They are waging a "Holy War" with the stated aim of imposing fundamentalist Islam on much of the world - and eventually all of it. This is what Abu Bakir Bashir has said in interviews, for example.

Ah ha! It’s a world domination thing. Well, thank you, Mike Lyvers. You’ve alerted us to the danger.

The above quotes were taken from the last 6 weeks of postings and reflect about 75% of his comments on the above topic and roughly 50% of comments on all topics. I have to say that on other topics, Mike Lyvers has said some things which extremely sensible and others that are downright inspired. In most circumstances I agreed wholeheartedly with his views.

On the topic of Islam he falters. A thorough reading of his opinions highlights an uneasy morphing of fascism, Islam and Muslims into a nebulous common enemy of the world. At times he argues that select individuals cause all the problems and then uses terms like ‘most Muslims’. Mike speaks of fanaticism in one breath and then alludes to the fundamental role that Islam plays in these troubles. Is it the fringe or is it the core? Where is the rot, Mike?

Throughout all of his comments, Mike never once sought to understand the reasons why some people use Islam to lend credibility to their violence and hatred. When Paul Walter tried to do just that, Mike came back with this corker... "You can't blame the errors inherent in Islamic culture on the West."

What is it, Mike, that has made you a crusader against Islam? I know that they must have hurt or offended you in the past, that much is clear. What does your Buddhist teaching tell you to do when people cause you harm? If you wish to deny your bigotry towards Islam, then I can only refer you back to what you’ve written over the past few weeks. I’ve spent my morning working on this reply. It’s not something that I’ve done to be spiteful. I’ve done it because, on this topic, a sensible person has lost their senses. I implore you to come back to your senses and not use the rhetoric of the likes of Steyn, Pipes and Coulter.

Wow, I've got a fan!!!!

Mark I'm ecstatic that I have such a dedicated follower of my postings as yourself. Very flattering indeed!

Now let me clarify. I forcefully disagree with religous fundamentalism in all its forms - not just Islamic ones. I've been battling against Christian fundamentalism most of my adult life. (You should see the sort of exchanges I have had with some Christian fundamentalists - if you think I hate Islam you'd faint over some of the things I've said about Christianity!) I feel very strongly that liberal secular democracies that support freedom of speech and religion/no religion, women's rights and gay rights are the way to go, as opposed to medievalist notions of blasphemy and such. I don't consider my attitude "bigotry" but rather "anti-bigotry." It seems you have misinterpreted some of my postings as attacking Islam in general, which I was not doing; if this was my fault I apologise for my sloppy expression. The sufi tradition of Islam is a perspective I admire.

To answer your question, yes I find much to admire in the Koran, especially when interpreting certain passages symbolically rather than literally. I also have to admit though that if interpreted literally some of it is pretty scary stuff. Of course it is a product of its time, written by humans not God (but I'd be killed for saying that in some countries!). As such it is very interesting. I'd recommend that everyone interested in religion and culture read it.

I have several Muslim friends. I'm no "crusader against Islam" but I AM a crusader against bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, intolerance and anti-liberalism. Yes I am intolerant of intolerance. As for the "inherent defect" comment, all cultures have inherent defects as they are human creations and humans are by nature imperfect. My point was simply that the defects inherent in Islamic culture are not the fault of the West.

I hope I have clarified things for you, and again, thanks for your considered attention to my postings.

Ross Chippendale "After

Ross Chippendale "After all, a fair number of voters have never had any other PM and most would not know even who the last one was. Was it 1917 he first weaselled his way into office? Can't remember - it seems so long ago".

I remember more than a couple. I wish there was a clinic or something that could make me forget. Howard is indeed easily the best PM in at least my memory.

He will be talked of and debated long after he is gone. One thing for sure, he won't be forgotten.

Congratulations Ifran

Congratulations Irfan, on getting your opinion piece in a mainstream daily. You are a fine writer.

Irfan's article in today's SMH

I'd encourage everyone to read Irfan's excellent opinion piece in today's SMH, A soulless distortion of Islamic law. Well done, Irfan!

(PS I'm a fan of Sufism so Irfan's emphasis on this highly spiritual form of Islam pleased me a lot.)

Hamish: hey Irfan, they spelled your name, Irfan Yusef, whereas your Webdiary spelling is Irfan Yusuf. Which is correct?

Spelling ... and sufism

Hamish, this is the second time the SMH has gotten my surname wrong. I think poor Broan Robins must be severely overworked. It's not easy being the opinion editor of one of Australia's finest newspapers. And as long as I get paid, they can spell my name in any way they like!

Thanks, Mike. What sufi stuff have you read? Maybe I'll make sufism the theme in Part 3. Any thoughts?

Sufism in depth

Irfan, that would be great. I'd love to read an in-depth article on sufism. The stuff I've read about it was long ago and I've forgotten the details (authors etc.), but I was impressed by the spiritual depth of that perspective, as well as the positive attitude toward other religions. So if you could write about it as a sufi, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Irfan's article in today's SMH

I read it. I saved it. I'm going to read it again. Well done, Irfan.


Mike Lyvers: "You can't blame the errors inherent in Islamic culture on the West".

Oops, your racism is showing.


Is Islam a race, Mark? I suggest that if you think so, then it is YOUR racism that is showing.

Islam as race

Mike, in numerous parts of the world, Islam is directly linked to ethnicity. For instance, in the former Yugoslavia (and in its offspring states), religion and race are inter-changeable categories. Also, in Malaysia the idea of being Malay and Muslim is interchangeable.

So for many Muslims, an attack on their religion represents a direct assault on their ethnic and racial identity. Hence, many refer to being Muslim as an ethno-religious phenomenon.

Personally, I don't like using the "r" word too much in the context of being Muslim. I prefer to use the "c" word - "c" for conspiracy. Sadly, there are some people in this world who will find a way to blame Islam for anything and everything that anyone with even the most tenuous link to Islam says or does.

"race" is a biological non-entity.

There really isn't any such thing as "race" in the first place. But I've known Muslims of all "racial" categories so I don't think of this or any other religion as a "race." For example, the fact that most Buddhists are Asians doesn't make Buddhism a "race". And most Christians these days, I suspect, are blacks and hispanics. Again, "race" is a ludicrous concept to begin with, but if one insists on using it there is still no justification for labelling any of the major world religions as races.

Reactionary reactions

Paul Walter says: "Reactionary retreating into conservative interpretations of cultural customs occurs in non western societies the world over, not just Islam. It is a psychological response to do with disempowerment and a search for value and meaning in an increasingly hostile and mystifying world, typified by increasingly scarce resources. The despair and inflamed tempers must increase exponentially when it is also realised that the scarcity need not exist - that the best of local resources has been creamed off by outsiders and their local political puppets."

But how does this explain the extremism emanating from wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia? (Unless we consider the royal family there "puppets" of outsiders? Is that your point?) Or the fact that many of the most radical of Islamic extremists (eg bin Laden) are wealthy, or at least middle-class, well-educated people? Even in extremely wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia, the money has not been put to use raising educational, social, or political opportunities. The Arab Human Development Report of 2004 notes the development lag in the Arab world. I don't remember the exact statistic, but aside from oil income, the 22 states of the Arab League have the same GDP as Spain. You get the picture.

By any measure of educational, scientific, and technological development these countries lag behind "the West" (publications, patents, PhDs, etc.). Demographically, the Arab world also has a very "bottom-heavy" age distribution (high proportion of young people). So that's lots of undereducated, unemployed young people going around feeling (as you point out) disempowered, disenfranchised, and just generally dissed. Meanwhile, the royal families' kids go to Eton and Harvard and spend their holidays in the sinful decadent infidel fleshpots of Club Med and Gstaad. Want to talk about being insulted and humiliated?

And no, I don't think we can just blame that on the usual baddies - "the West" or Israel. "Gee, kids, we'd love to build you universities, or at least schools where you can learn something useful, and give you the vote, and meaningful career opportunities. And let you ladies drive. But we can't, you see. Because those evil running-dog imperialist Zionists are stopping us." Uh-huh.

The best has been creamed off, but not by outsiders.

These countries have had decades, and astronomical amounts of oil income, to get their development acts together, and they haven't done it. Meanwhile, countries with practically no mineral wealth, like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, have modernised their economies and societies and shot far ahead by any any measure of development.

The UAE (Dubai) is one exception I can think of - looking ahead to when the oil runs out.

Why didn't Indian or Malaysian (or Australian or American for that matter) Muslims go on a consulate-torching rampage after the infamous cartoons came to light? Could it be because these people live in democracies with rapidly-modernising economies? Because they could express their sense of outrage peacefully, by writing an angry letter to the editor, or even their congressmen?

We can talk all we want about the golden age of Islamic science and philosophy, and acknowledge the debt the modern West owes to Muslim mathematicians and other scholars, but that was five centuries ago. If Maimonides turned up in Saudi Arabia today, would he be welcomed as a wise counselor, or would he be kicked out as some sort of Zionist usurper?

I know that all sounds harsh, and I didn't mean it to. But I think there are some harsh truths that need to be faced about what's happening, and not happening, in the Muslim world.

the thwarting of democracy.

Nope. The events and politics of the last century or so are the major cause of breakdown and resulting violence and authoritarianism in the region.

Who put the Saudis in power, for their own base interests?

Who thwarted the Iranian people in 1953 by installing the Shah in a coup, when the  Iranians attempted to try democracy? Who imposed an unworkable solution on  Palestinians because they were unwilling to pay for the tragic consequences of anti-semitism out of their own pockets and instead imposed the cost on the hapless Arabs?

Who saddled the region with local satraps like Saddam Hussein? As in the Latin countries, once one tinpot general installed to attend to the interests of foreign powers and big business outlived their welcome, who was lurking in the background to replace them with a new thug?

Across the Third world, whenever popularly elected leaders have been voted in, outside forces have intervened to interfere with the process and sabotage the sorts of governments who could lead nations to nationhood. Read the tombstones of Lumumba, Mossadec, Allende etc.

But why continue. These matters have been revealed so many times in these threads that to respond is to only encourage further perversity.


Read up on history before commenting, Paul. Your post above is, to put it bluntly, dumb. Do you really think that before, say, the Saudis were in power, people in these areas enjoyed basic human rights such as freedom of speech and press, separation of church and state, gender equality, democracy, and so on? Come on now, Paul.  Utter nonsense. You can't blame the errors inherent in Islamic culture on the West.


Mike Lyvers, I am truly gobsmacked! You claim you also saw the Cutting Edge doco. How on earth, then, can you come to the conclusion that:

"... Saddam was more a client of France and Russia than the USA",

My point was quite clear. The more reactionary aspects of mid-eastern, especially Muslim culture (eg more reactionary interpretations of religious dogma and doctrine) are part of an historical process that involves the accelerating ascendancy of the West.  Reactionary retreating into conservative interpretations of cultural customs occurs in non western societies the world over, not just Islam. It is a psychological response to do with disempowerment and a search for value and meaning in an increasingly hostile and mystifying world, typified by increasingly scarce resources. The despair and inflamed tempers must increase exponentially when it is also realised that the scarcity need not exist - that the best of local resources has been creamed off by outsiders and their local political puppets.

Had the "civilised" west and its corporate and political leaders post- WW2 stuck with a Keynesian approach, especially with the USA, places like Iraq, Iran, Algeria and the like may have been won over to a more relaxed liberal progressive ideal, happy to follow a more civilised approach instead of the barbarian lawless example instead set.

However, people having to cope with increasing poverty, or worse still, having their countries turned into war zones over and over again, simply for having the cheek to want some say in the determination of their own lives and resources become disillusioned people who lose hope and retreat into reactive responses of the like we see increasingly, through our own era.

Unfettered capitalism has had this effect even in Western communities, as people have also become alienated. Today politicians here increasingly also adopt defeatist ploys on fear and ignorance, as elsewhere - impotent give-up responses to an outside-imposed lack of capacity to deal with real problems anymore.

In turn the exploitative, emotional and wanky stuff of Howard, Costello and Jones here, is so underlying similar to the exploitative populist rubbish offered by radical imams to their disaffected constituencies in  muslim communities. With these sorts of people, on both sides, it has all become too hard. The dog whistling is such an embarrassing symptom of the sickness of defeated politicians, too. Just find a scapegoat to blame and garner easy influence with the punters in the meantime. Denial and avoidance of facing up to the real problems leads only to the consequence of a sort of eternal return of grief when real issues remain untended.

And no, Mike, I would hardly value the responses of the Alan Jones constituency responding to a loaded, bodgie poll question based on a furphy (intro of Sharia law?). Much more rewarding to come here and benefit from the more considered insights of Murphy, Howard, Saliba and others.

PS Webdiarists, can anyone offer a final definition as to "Australian values"? Do we mean the "fair go" open-mindedness, tolerance and inclusion or ignorant hostility and exclusionism of the like that eventually morphed into something exponentially worse during the Third Reich?

"Australian values" are a bit like "sedition" - much too nebulous for this contributor.

Australian values

Australian values, as I see it, are Western post-enlightenment, secular, liberal values such as freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion/no religion, women's rights, gay rights, separation of church and state, etc. These are contrary to Islamic values as expressed in Arab countries (as well as Iran) today, and over the centuries as well. These Islamic values come from the Koran and its interpretation, not from any Western influence. As for "unfettered capitalism," my impression is that no culture is more traditionally capitalistic than those of the Middle East. Visit an Arab market and you will see capitalism run amok!

Regarding that doco last week, remember it was a French doco and therefore perhaps had a French point of view. The strong links between Saddam, France and Russia have been covered in detail on other threads here.

PS Paul

PS Paul - you will probably hate this:

Howard voted best PM in Newspoll


Just so, Mike. Now back to "dayz of our lives".

Best PM?

Howard may have been voted the best PM in a poll; but these sort of polls are invariably skewed towards the recent. I bet that if another poll is conducted in twenty years, a large proportion will be saying John who?


Of course Howard has been voted the best PM.

It's like asking a group of young NRL fans who is the greatest fullback of all time. They will name the fullback for their club, of course.

I might ask "Best at what?" but I'm cynical.

After all, a fair number of voters have never had any other PM and most would not know even who the last one was. Was it 1917 he first weaselled his way into office? Can't remember - it seems so long ago.

Have just "lost" a

Have just "lost" a detailed reply to Mike Lyvers' asinine comment in the system; will now content my self with saying that I do not think that adopting the worst excesses of others is an adult way of dealing with a situation. As my parents used to remind me, when I was on the verge of adopting other's negative behaviours, out of retaliation, or a desire for slavish imitation, "If others stick their heads in a bucket of water, how does doing the same benefit me"?

You think the thoughtful response to the people you cite and their behaviours should be to adopt their traits and become like them? We should cut off our noses to spite our faces?

If other people living in chaotic war zones react desperately to situations out of their control, how does this excuse the Australian government and people from not attempting to avoid succumbing to irrationality seen in others, when the situation is Australia is relatively peaceful? The last thing needed is for trouble to be stirred up. And from the supposedly most responsible members of our community, to boot - The Government!

The Government ought to be applying a little grey matter to the raft of real issues that face this country, not resorting to cheap shots and the inflaming of prejudice to divert attention and avoid constructive thought and action concerning issues. More thoughtful Australians actually despise Costello and co for their lazy resorting to populist race-baiting to solve their short-term political problems by exploiting ignorance and the baser aspects of human nature.

I take it, Mike, that you missed last week's "Cutting Edge", which concerned 40 years of the shabby relationship between the US and its client, Saddam Hussein?

Perhaps you have adopted some sort of essentialist approach that sees the Mid-East's problems as down to some sort of inherent racial or cultural flaw, rather than deriving from a century of non-stop military and political interference by Big Powers in the region, exclusively for their own narrow and badly thought out motives, especially if at the region and its people's expense.

"Civilised", indeed!

What are you talking about?

What the heck are you talking about, Paul?

Rather than name-calling, perhaps you should address my comments directly and specifically. For example, where have I ever said I think "the thoughtful response to (such) people and their behaviours should be to adopt their traits and become like them?" I never intimated any such thing.

How people react in war zones? Is Denmark a war zone? Or London (well I guess so, after the London bombings)? How about the Netherlands? Are these countries war zones, Paul?

By your comment I guess you think 75% of SMH readers are not "thoughtful Australians," as this percentage responded that they supported Costello's comments in an SMH online poll. Costello's comments were just common sense. Of course those who want to impose sharia law do not belong here. Who could disagree with that? (Well perhaps advocates of sharia...)

I did see the Cutting Edge program; what is your point exactly? BTW, Saddam was more a "client" of France and Russia than the USA.

As for the history of the Middle East, I'm sure you'd agree that this is a region that has suffered from repressive regimes for 1000 years or more. That sad history has been cited by some (not me - I was against it) as an argument for the invasion of Iraq. In any case I never invoked any "racial" factor whatsoever, as "race" is something I don't believe in.

Shari'a in practice

It is quite apparent, from some of the silly comments, that some contributors to Webdiary take the view that "my enemy's enemy is my friend."

And can we please lay off the “racist” tag? Islam is not a race. Islam is a religion. Just as there are lily-white, blonde, blue-eyed Christians, there are lily-white, blonde, blue-eyed Muslims. There are Arab, Chinese and African Muslims, just as there are Arab, Chinese and African Christians.

Is that constant critic of Christianity in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular, Phillip Adams, a racist because he criticised the Polish pope?

In Pakistan there is the death penalty for blasphemy. Christians have been sentenced to death for blasphemy on hear-say evidence.

In Pakistan, an illiterate 14-year-old boy, Salamat Masih, was sentenced to die in 1994 for allegedly writing words offensive to the prophet Mohammed on the wall of a mosque.

He was saved by a last minute reprieve, but forced to seek refuge in Germany after threats to hunt him down and murder him.

Under Shari’a law, a single woman by herself cannot testify, and non-Muslims cannot testify against Muslims.

Under Shari’a, if a single woman becomes pregnant, that is proof that she has committed adultery. It is then up to her to prove that she was raped. Rape can only be proved if there were four male witnesses, which is well-nigh impossible.

If she cannot prove the rape case, she is guilty of slandering the accused rapist. So she will get 80 lashes for slander, and then 100 lashes for her "immoral behaviour". Such is the Shari’a law in parts of Nigeria.

You may recall a report in The Age, 14/4/2005, where Muslim preacher Sheikh Feiz Muhammad told his audience in Bankstown Town Hall that "Every minute in the world a woman is raped, and she has no one to blame but herself, for she has displayed her beauty to the whole world."

Shari’a laws, allowing for 100 lashes or death by stoning for homosexual acts were introduced in Pakistan in 1990. Other countries which provide the death penalty for homosexual acts are Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, the Chechen Republic, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. All Islamic countries.

Since 1980, over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed in Iran, according to the exiled Iranian homosexual rights group, Homan.

Now, some people may say that this is not “real Shari'a”. Jamilla Hussein, the apologist for Shari’a linked to on Terry Murphy’s post above, says in the linked article “...Pakistan has re-introduced it in an unfortunately ultra-conservative interpretation”. This is not much comfort for those who suffer under it.

Bai, you have a point ...

Bai, you have pointed to some really awful instances of where the criminal punishments of sharia are applied in countries where corruption is rife and where (jn the case of Pakistani blasphemy laws) sharia is used as an instrument to fight personal vendettas.

I would hate to see such laws implemented in Australia. We are a secular country, and I'd prefer it to stay that way.

When I think of sharia, I think of liturgy. I don't think of surgery. I seriously think that Muslims who complain about how they are treated as minorities in Western countries should be at the forefront of campaigning for non-Muslim minorities in Muslim-majority states.

I recall reading someone a saying of the Prophet Muhammad. He said: "If anyone oppresses a non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state, he will have me acting as a witness against him in God's court on the Day of Judgment."

Islam is not a race. Sadly, some Muslims treat it as a form of nationalism, feeling the need to justify what Muslims do even when they are wrong.

The Jewish Sharia

Angela, although not an exact fit, the Jewish equivalent of Sharia is called Halakah. It is the closest you'll get to a codifying of Jewish law as it relates to ritual observances and requirements. The more esoteric elements of Jewish law, those dealing with moral issues, are represented in the Haggada. Both Halakah and Haggada are administered through Rabbinical traditions. I did hear talk, some years ago now, that there were ultra-conservative Jewish groups in Israel seeking to set up Halakah courts. I don't know what became of them.

I think the most important thing to understand about Sharia, Halakah, Mitaksara (Hindu) or any other legal system is that, though conservative by default, they are only as good as the people administering them. Do you remember the Australian judge who, while ruling on a rape trial, said that, sometimes, "when a girl says no, she really means yes"? No single ethnic or religious group has a monopoly on Neanderthalism.

Remember Pluralism

You want to kill these people?

I mean, you really wanna reach in and kill them where they live?

Keep accepting more than one idea.  Makes them absolutely crazy.

Josh Lyman, in Isaac and Ishmael, a special episode of The West Wing just after 9/11.

So under Costello Halal is not Kosher?

Great series, Irfan. Very educational. I'm keen on getting to the part where we'll learn why Sheik Costello wants a closed shop on methods of preparing and cooking food.

As I understand it, halāl food is only that if it meets the requirements of sharia. So will zero tolerance on sharia in Australia mean (imagine voice of that famous soup nazi): "No halāl for you!"

Costello on the Insiders

Today on the Insiders Barrie Cassidy asked Costello how he intended to turn his new policy to practical effect. ‘What are your proposals?’ Cassidy inquired. Cossie said we needed a ‘big flashing warning’ to new Australians taking up citizenship, so they didn’t stray from authentic Australian values. ‘What happens if they ignore the warning signs?’ Cassidy pursued:

PETER COSTELLO: I also want to say that if you can't live by that pledge and you are a citizen of another country, then you're not eligible for Australian citizenship.

BARRIE CASSIDY: How do you establish that?

PETER COSTELLO: Well I think you establish it first of all by making your values clear and asking people to subscribe to them. And I would like to get universal acceptance of those pledges and of those values. I must say, Barrie -

BARRIE CASSIDY: How do you do that, though?

PETER COSTELLO: If there's ambiguity which is coming through in the media or from leaders in some communities, as I think we saw this week, ambiguity that you're not actually obliged to do all these things, then you're neutered from the start. That's why I would ask community leader, all community leaders in all communities, themselves to unequivocally themselves express these values and to urge them on their followers.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But you want universal acceptance of certain values. You saw the trouble the country got into trying to come up with a preamble on a Republic. It will be as tough, isn't it, to agree on a set of values?

PETER COSTELLO: I think we're a long way there. We've already got four things in our pledge that we're asking of every citizen - loyalty to Australia, democratic beliefs, acceptance of the rule of law and an undertaking to respect the rights and liberties of others.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So what's missing?

PETER COSTELLO: Well actually, that's a pretty long way. What's missing, I think, is an unequivocal message that these are our values and we expect them not just to be subscribed to, but to be lived by.

Costello didn’t answer the original question, what real changes is he going to propose to enforce those who take up citizenship adhere to Australian values? This is all just talk to shore up some popularity. And boy has it worked, people calling talk back radio and saying they’d never liked Peter Costello before, but are now on side.

Only days ago I’d been telling a friend that Costello would make a more small ‘l’ liberal PM than Howard, due to his views on things like the Republic and recent speech on RU486. Boy was I wrong.

Shaun Carney wrote a terrific bio of Costello that’s very much worth a read.

I don't get it, Chris.

Why is it "less liberal" to be opposed to fundamentally anti-liberal traditions? I would think the opposite is true.

Mike Iyvers - obviously, I

Mike Lyvers, obviously, I was not referring to the parts of Costello's speech where he talks about the need to adhere to the rule of law and support for democracy. What I meant was his exploiting the fears and anxieties of Australians with regards to our Muslim population. This is not the sort of thing I would expect a small 'l' liberal politician to do. I would expect them to try and create more harmony, not discord.

If the problems are as serious as he makes out, why not have a set of proposals for changing the laws? As Barry Cassidy showed on the Insiders programme, this is all really just talk, a way of garnering suppot by exploiting people's fears. Costello has no intention of making changes to the law with regards to citizenship pledges etc. etc.

Even Howard had to hose down fears when he was on talkback radio with Neil Mitchell, and the conversation suddenly went from Sharia law to stoning women for adultery. Howard knew it was absurd to be suggesting that this sort of law could be passed by our parliaments into law in Australia. But many in the government keep playing up fears, rather than playing them down. 

Costello's all talk and no action. If the problems are as seious as he makes out - he's talking about stripping people of citizenship afterall - why not put forward some real proposals?

Michelle Grattan says it better than I do here.

Sharing Sharia

Irfan notes: "In Canada, the state of Ontario has allowed sharia-based mediation procedures to be implemented in certain family law matters. In India, aspects of sharia family and estates law apply."

A similar situation occurs between Jewish law (also a millennia-old legal tradition) and civil law, where religious tribunals often rule on family law matters, and their rulings are treated as valid mediation by the civil courts. So overlap between religious and civil law is nothing new, and is hardly confined to Islam. And after all, clergymen of all flavors are given legal authority by civil government to preside over, say, marriages ("by the power vested in me..."). In Israel, for example, there is no such thing as civil marriage; it is left to the respective religious authorities to govern on marital law.

Costello's statements are unfortunate because they send the wrong message about our society's accommodation of a wide range of beliefs and values. We can accommodate just about any set of beliefs - it's religious practices which may have to be modified or curtailed to fit Australian society.

sharia or Sanhedrin? back to wigs is it? bigamy? disempowerment?

I would be interested to read how "Sharia" law and "Jewish" (which?) law treat the rights of women as compared to "secular" law of, for example, our country here. In relation to divorce? Adultery? Rape? Sexual harassment? Any examples?

The more I think about all this the more I am starting to think like Mr Costello. Frightening.

Sharia and Women

Angela, I posted this link in a comment on Irfan's first part of this series. It deals very succinctly with the Sharia part of your question. I don't have any information on "Jewish" law.

In part, the article says:

As regards the position of women - there is no argument against the proposition that Islam gave women rights which were unprecedented in the world at the time of its revelation. Muslim women have always been entitled to a separate legal personality and may retain their own names on marriage. They are not considered as one entity with the husband as was the rule in Christian countries until the 19th century. Muslim women have been entitled to inherit and to acquire and control their own property since the 7th century and have been entitled to earn an income for themselves and keep it. They are entitled to an education and may be appointed to public office - as was illustrated by Shifa bint Abdullah who was appointed to the important position of Inspector of Markets by the Caliph Omar.

However, just as initial liberating ideas in other world religions such as Christianity and Judaism succumbed in time to the influence of patriarchy, so in Islam. The status of women became diminished over the ages as men reserved for themselves the right to interpret the scriptures and adopted interpretations which favoured men and kept women in their 'place'. In time, for a variety of reasons, the status of women in Muslim societies declined so that today, in some Muslim countries, they are among the most oppressed in the world. Today many of the conservative interpretations are being challenged by progressive Muslim thinkers but change on the ground remains slow. [My italics]

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