Saturday, August 27, 2005

Interview With Terry Lane

As I type these words, I am around 8 hours away from being interviewed live on Radio National. The program is entitled “The National Interest” and the presenter is legendary Aussie journalist Terry Lane.

The show has been promoted on the ABC website as follows:

“This week on the National Interest, Terry Lane is joined by Irfan Yusuf to discuss the Prime Minister's summit with Muslim leaders. Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer,a former Liberal party candidate, a prolific blogger and a self described Aussie Mossie (Australian Muslim).”

What sort of questions will Terry ask me? I have no idea. But I might make a few predictions and prepare some answers. So read on, dear readers, as I try and look into the future …

TL: Hello and welcome to the National Interest. Today we are going to have a jam-packed show to entertain you all on this sunny Sunday afternoon. Sydney-siders will be especially pleased to see the new cross-city tunnel finished. And those of you who watch the wrong TV channels might have seen Geoffrey Robertson QC strut his stuff with a panel of eminent persons on national security issues. Today marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Bulletin magazine. This morning’s Hypothetical was to celebrate that milestone in Australian journalism. And speaking of that Hypothetical and national security, our first guest is a man at the heart of the debate. Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney industrial lawyer, columnist for newspapers in Australia and New Zealand and prolific blogger. One of his blogs is entitled “The Aussie Mossie”. Today, we talk to Irfan about what it is like to be an Aussie Mossie. Irfan, welcome to the program.

IY: Thanks very much, Terry.

TL: Irfan, what did you make of the PM’s summit earlier this week with Muslim leaders?

IY: Look, I think it is a great thing the PM has done. He is trying to engage Muslim Australians in national security issues. He obviously realises that Muslims are just as scared of terrorists as anyone else. He has Muslims in his own electorate. My own family have lived in Mr Howard’s electorate since 1970. The PM knows he can’t afford to marginalise Muslim Australians who are his biggest asset in the war on terror.

TL: So how, then, do you explain comments made by Education Minister Dr Brendan Nelson about Muslim schools not teaching Australian values?

IY: Hey I don’t like talking about Dr Nelson behind his back. I really admire Dr Nelson, especially for his work with issues concerning indigenous Australians when he was president of the Australian Medical Association. I remember sitting on Dr Nelson’s preselection panel and being lobbied by him to cast my vote in his favour. Dr Nelson convinced us preselectors that he was a compassionate conservative. I still think he is.

TL: Yes, but Muslim schools are up in arms.

IY: I know that, Terry. I don’t blame them. I acted for 3 Muslim independent schools in Sydney in their industrial matters. These schools know that, in order to survive and have the confidence of parents, they have to ensure that pupils are not marginalised or taught strange values.

TL: But how do you propose to get this message across to Dr Nelson?

IY: Well, Terry, I am sure he is listening in right now. And so I would like to introduce him to my friends who live in his electorate. On the evening of 22 September 2005, a whole bunch of friends are joining me to celebrate my 36th birthday. I’d like to invite Dr Nelson to join is at the gorgeous Pymble Hotel for drinks and nibblies. Pymble is in Dr Nelson’s electorate, and I urge him to join us that evening.

TL: Would you extend that invitation to other Liberal backbenchers like Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos who are accusing Muslims are not fitting in and who want to take headscarves off Muslim women?

IY: Look, I always find it amusing when people tell Australian women how to dress. My first foray in the media was to condemn an Aussie sheik who claimed that women who dress a certain way are eligible for rape. For 2 female Liberal MP’s to lecture Aussie women on how to dress is just as bad. I would hate to think that Bronwyn and Sophie see themselves as using the same rhetoric as a radical Imam.

TL: Sophie claims that women wearing scarves might be hiding bombs. Do you think the hijab is a national security issue?

IY: Absolutely not. Because if it was, then Sophie’s relatives in Greece should not be wearing it. Christian nuns should not be wearing it. If Jesus decides to bring his mum with him for company, and if Sophie and Bronwyn have their way, Mary should not be visiting any schools in case she corrupts them with her foreign Palestinian ideas.

TL: Mary, Palestinian?

IY: Yep. It was called Palestine in those days. Mary was from Bethlehem, which is today a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank.

TL: Tell us about Australian values. Do you think Muslims need to learn more about Australians?

IY: Muslims are Australians and have been at the heart of mainstream Aussie life for over 150 years. We are one of the oldest and most established faith communities in Australia. Our involvement in Australian affairs predates that of many Christian denominations e.g. Mormons, Greek Orthodox Christians etc. We predate Buddhists and Hindus.

TL: Yes, but what about values in schools?

IY: Seriously, I think Dr Nelson is having trouble with schools. He accuses state schools of teaching anti-Americanism and socialist trendy hippy ideas. He accuses Islamic schools of doing the same. It is scary when an education minister loses touch with the reality amongst the majority of schools. I know what Muslim schools teach and how they are run. I have been lawyer to three of them. Most Muslim parents send their kids to state schools, and Muslim parents are very fussy about education. Many Muslim schools are new kids on the educational block. They cannot afford to teach extreme or fringe values as they will alienate parents. Also, there is a huge shortage of Muslim teachers. Most teaching staff at Muslim schools are non-Muslims. You can hardly accuse non-Muslims of teaching extremist Islamic values.

TL: Thank you for your insights, Irfan. Thanks for joining us today.

IY: No problems. Thanks for having me.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Last Moments of Makkah?

The last moments of Makkah?

‘We are witnessing the last few moments of Makkah,’ said Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect who is an expert on 1400-year old buildings in Saudi Arabia.

The last few moments of the City of the Ka’bah? The birthplace of the Prophet? What could he be talking about?

Angawi is not crazy, nor delusional. The Saudi government, as part of its ongoing campaign to destroy any historical vestiges in Makkah and Madinah, are soon to reduce a 230,000 square metre area near the Makkah Haram to a commercial centre with towers, flats, shops and restaurants. But it’s not just any 230,000 square metres; it’s 230,000 square metres that contains buildings that date back to the time of the Prophet (s).

And, according to Angawi, a house of the Prophet that remains standing could also soon face the demolishers’ ball, like the Darul Arqam – the House of Arqam in Makkah where the Prophet (s) taught the first community of Muslims – did. Not long ago, Angawi had identified and excavated a house of a grandson of the Prophet (s). Soon after its discovery, King Fahd had it demolished.

Over the past 50 years, the Saudis have razed over 300 historical buildings that reflected the Islamic past.

Readers who have been to Makkah and Madinah on hajj or umrah recently will know how utterly history-less these two cities seem because of the campaign to destroy everything old and replace it with tall buildings, hotels and malls. Particularly, there is a campaign to destroy anything of Islamic historical value.

The Saudis claim historical sites could result in people worshipping at them and, thereby, committing shirk (polytheism). So, rather than Muslims visiting Darul Arqam to see the place where the Prophet (s) held his first halaqat and to feel the presence of our 1400-year heritage, the Saudis feel we will go there and pray to the house itself. A bit daft, if you ask me.

I’ve visited historical sites in Cairo and Palestine. Many date back thousands of years – some to before the Prophet (s). Do people come to these sites with a sense of reverence? Definitely! I felt overawed inside the Masjid Ibrahimi in Khalil (Hebron) as I stood before the graves of the prophets Ibrahim, Ishaq and Ya’qub, as I touched the rocks with which the mosque was built, placed centuries ago. I felt transported when I stood inside the Dome of the Rock and tried to see the ‘footprint of the Prophet’ on the rock (whether the footprint exists or not is another question). I felt connected to our intellectual and spiritual heritage as I stood before the tomb of Imam Shafi’i in Cairo’s City of the Dead. I felt numbed as I walked on hallowed ground in Karbala. I gazed with a feeling of timelessness as I stared at Jabal Rahmah on Arafah, where Adam and Eve are supposed to have reunited after years of separation and loss.

At many of these places, I felt like rolling on the ground, in the sand, to absorb some of the glory that lay here. Does that make me a mushrik?

No, it makes me a Muslim who sees himself as part of a long tradition, the last part of which is over 1400 years long. A tradition that stretches back to the first human beings created.

And I did not see, at any of these places, people worshipping these buildings or graves or otherwise doing anything that might lead one to regard them as polytheists. I’m not suggesting these things do not happen. I remember, for example, people in the Haram in Makkah bathing themselves with zam-zam water or praying facing the well. I have no hesitation is saying this is wrong. But I also have no hesitation in saying that the well has an important place in our history, in our tradition, in our understanding of hajj and that visiting it and drinking from it is a means of reconnecting us to that tradition.

But this is not the attitude of the self-proclaimed ‘guardians of the two holy mosques’ and their followers. Theirs is an attitude of holy arrogance. For them, there is no history, no tradition, no culture – except theirs. Nothing exists from the beginning of time until they did – with the exception of the Prophet (s). And even his existence must be sanitised so that it is a legalistic existence only. Not a human one, not a cultural one, not a historical one.

And that is why, for them, leaving a house of the Prophet (s) that Muslims can visit, marvel and celebrate at is so dangerous: because we might suddenly ‘see’ the Prophet (s) beyond his legalism, as a human being. A human being who lived in a house. Who had wives with whom he had sex – as opposed to someone who just gave us laws about sex. Who enjoyed socialising – as opposed to someone who gave instructions on socialising. Who lived within a cultural context – as opposed to someone who made statements about what kind of culture (or lack of it) his followers should have.

But sanitisation is not that simple or innocent. Replacing 1400-year old buildings with a parking lot is not simply neutralising what existed; it is, rather, replacing that with something else. Erasing the physical existence of the greatest human being to walk this earth and replacing it with a commercial enterprise.

If we remain silent witnesses to this outrage of the destruction of the one of the great cultural monuments in our tradition – the house of the Prophet (s) – then why do we complain about the destruction of the Babri Masjid or the Masjid al-Aqsa? Is it because in the one case the cultural massacres are committed by Muslims and in the other by Hindus and Jews? Surely this cannot be a good reason.

The destruction of Islamic history, Islamic cultures and Islamic traditions and the attempt to make all Islamic and Muslim practice uniform – a project the Saudis have undertaken with vigour over many decades – will leave us all poorer, colder and less able to face the civilisational challenges of our world. For without a history, without culture and without a tradition, we will have no civilisation to speak of or to fall back on. And who will we blame when our children marvel at symbols of age and tradition in the capitals of Europe, symbols which have stood the test of time, and we are unable to show them time-honouring symbols from our Islamic tradition?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Proselytize Freedom - Win Prize!

"Over time, freedom will find a way," "Freedom is finding a way in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We must continue to show our commitment to those nations." -

"the trend is clear: In the Middle East and throughout the world, freedom is on the march."

Our goal is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom.

America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world and to all the inhabitants thereof.

- George Bush.

APPLY NOW for the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty

Win $10,000!
Deadline: August 31, 2005

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation (Bringing Freedom To The World) has established the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty to reward the efforts of think tanks in difficult parts of the world that are most effective in spreading the ideas of freedom (limited government, the rule of law, free enterprise, the dignity of the individual, etc.). This annual Prize will provide a $10,000 reward to a single winner that demonstrates excellence in reaching a broad audience or having a substantial impact on opinion-makers, so that concepts relating to freedom become better understood. For example, good candidates for the Utley Prize could be an institute that documents how its radio program reaches 100,000 listeners each weekday with discussions of economic liberty, or an institute that educates 50 college students each year through a certificate program, and has seen a dozen students from past years graduate into high government positions.

Think tanks may compete for the Prize by submitting an application about a specific project that has been completed, or a demonstrated body of ongoing work. Please note that the Prize will not be given to new or proposed projects that do not have an existing track record.

Atlas specifically solicits applications from organizations in countries where the ideas of liberty are not clearly understood or applied (i.e., countries which the various economic freedom indices term as "unfree"). Preference is given to organizations that are headquartered in such countries. However, organizations that are based in freer parts of the world, but developing and contributing to the creation of organizations in the target countries (i.e. serving as a catalyst), are also eligible to apply.

The finalists for the Freda Utley Prize will join Atlas in New York City for our 2nd Annual Freedom Dinner on November 9, 2005. The winner will be announced during the Freedom Dinner.

The above announcement (not including Bush's words) was sent as part of the August 19th e-mail bulletin of the "Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I Don't Know How To Love Him

It was May 2003. Some 500 young men and women had gathered at the Imam Ali Ben Abi Taleb Mosque in Lakemba, Sydney. Seated on a small stool and speaking in a soft tone into a microphone was an American.

He was and is a scholar of the highest eminence. He was also a commercial fisherman and has a passion for the study of medicine. Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller is one of the most respected writers, translators and sufis in the Muslim world. He has students across the world, and thousands have benefited from his writings and his lectures.

Yet tonight Shaykh Nuh said something that, to this day, causes me to shudder. Yet what he said would appear, on the surface, to be little more than a simple dua (supplication).

“How I wish I was her. I ask Allah to make us all like that woman.”

Her? That woman? Who was she?

The final Messenger of God Muhammad (peace & blessings of God be upon him) spoke of a woman whose single action and intention was enough to earn her salvation. Her name was written on the roll of entrants into paradise.

What did she do that was so special? She was about to drink water from a well. She saw a dog dying of thirst. She saw the poor animal in an emaciated condition, its tongue dry and its body ready to give up. She placed a sandal filled with water before the poor animal and saved its life. Then she drank herself.

Thousands of years later, Shaykh Nuh sits in a mosque praying to God that he and his audience be like her. Yet who was she?

Or more importantly, what was she? How did she earn a living?

Women like her were inspired by the teachings of God’s Messiah (peace be upon him). Christ Jesus is reported in the New Testament to have generated honour and respect from such women. They used to wash and massage his feet out of respect. Two of these women are reported to have visited his grave, only to find the stone removed from the entrance to the cave.

Some two thousand years later, a song was penned to give modern voice to the passion these women had for their Messiah. The song is entitled “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”. It is a veritable hymn for the sex industry.

Yes, readers. I am writing about sex workers. But I am not glorifying the sex industry. Rather, I am paying tribute to the essential goodness which our noble Prophets were able to radiate and change the lives of the socially outcast.

I am writing about the awesome Mercy of God, our Creator. Our Lord’s Mercy is for every person. God sees the hearts of all, whether they be accepted or rejected by the society of men.

When Shaykh Nuh prayed that God make him like a prostitute, he did not beg for God to lead him away from scholarship to an industry that oppresses women. Rather, he begged God to give him the purity of heart that this sex worker displayed.

God has blessed me with the company of a woman whom I subsequently found to be a sex worker. She was instrumental in my recovery from a serious illness. She shared with me the healing and wisdom of a woman who has seen too much of the world for a 28-year old.

I was like a dog, dying of emotional thirst following a bout of thyroid illness resulting in a virtual nervous breakdown. She saw me dying. She offered me emotional water which I drank from, even whilst she was still healing her own wounds.

Today, she is like my sister. She is preparing to leave the profession that has damned her existence and forced her to lead a double-life. Who knows where her life will take her. Who knows where she will be in the hereafter.

None of us knows how we will be on the Day of Judgment. We will not notice each other’s nakedness. We will not even recognise our own mothers. But I earnestly hope that when she is being judged, God will call me to give evidence. I will crawl on all fours like a starving dog. I will testify that she saw me in this state, that she satiated my thirst. And I hope that God forgives her and enters her into paradise.

We are all capable of doing good and evil. We are the followers of a Prophet who told us that the first three persons to be judged on the Last Day would be a scholar, a philanthropist and a martyr. All three will go to hell. Despite the apparent greatness of their deeds, these men (yes, men, not women!) will find their worldly intentions damning them to the Hellfire.

We also are followers of a Prophet who gave nobility to all women. A Prophet who declared that even a woman who sleeps with men for money will go to paradise for a single good deed done with noble intentions.

May God answer Shaykh Nuh’s prayer. May God enable us to reclaim our heritage which extracted and recognised goodness in all human beings.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The 40-Year-Old Virgin: When Fact is Fiction

I am happy to share with you the words of another Loser Brother on the movie "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

In an earlier Top 10 list [link] I had mentioned that the movie would resonate with many a LB...and as the following review shows it has:

The wise man says the truest form of art is that which imitates life. A mirror that reflects the accurate image of society, of life, of a man's soul. Once in a while, a rare movie comes along that speaks for a million voiceless voices. That movie has now come.

(DRUMROLL……..) " THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN" : Or, The Autobiography of every Loser Brother Muslim man spawned from Adam to Present. How cathartic to know that brown and Muslim folk aren't the only ones incapable of plowing the metaphorical field to yield visceral fruits. I saw my utter dorkiness and loserishness portrayed perfectly by Steve Carrell, the lead actor, as the 40 year old virgin, who is well mannered, meticulous, and good natured Samaritan whose kindness yields endless, lonely nights of playing video games, collecting toys and comic books, and dancing to 80's music all by his lonesome in his tidy apartment.

As Tyrone pillages the ho-field with wild abandon, our 40 year old virgin, a worthy substitute for any loser brother, represses his lust pangs with the naïve yet hopeful wish that one day, he, too, will no longer be a 40 year old virgin…rather, he will emerge a 40 year old…MAN. Loser Brothers, however, resign themselves to chai and Maxim.com online.We hope our sacrifice will get us janaat, but even that's not a guarantee. Movie deserve 6 starts out of 5!!!

[Ed: If you are a Loser Brother and would like to share your review of the movie send me an email.]

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Imam Ali

Ya Allah, accept my excuse, have mercy on the severity of my affliction, and
free me from my heavy fetters (Dua Kumayl)

Imam Ali was born on the 13th of Rajab

Maulana Rumi in the Mathnawi (Nicholson translation, pg. 509) says:

For this reason the Prophet, who labored with the utmost zeal (in devotion) applied the name "protector" (mawla) to himself and to Ali

He said, "My cousin Ali is the protector and friend of every one who is under my protection."

Who is the "protector"? He that sets you free and removes the fetters of servitude from your feet

Since prophethood is the guide to freedom, freedom is bestowed on true believers by the prophets.

Rejoice, O community of true believers: show yourselves to be "free" as the cypress and lily.

But, like the garden, at every moment give unspoken thanks to the Water.

The cypresses and green orchard mutely thank the water (that nourishes them) and show (silent) gratitude for the justice of Spring

Click here for Shaheed Allama Mutahhari's discourse on Imam Ali, and spiritual freedom.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Final Solution

I have been following the blog of prominent Melbourne barrister Peter Faris QC for some time now. His blog interests me because it is a prime example of the kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric that leads many to commit hate crimes against Muslims.

Hate-speech is a dangerous phenomenon. In the present environment, with social tensions being played in the context of national security concerns, the worst scenario is one where particular ethnic and faith communities are made to feel marginalised.

The bin-Ladin’s of this world are busy trying to generate hatred of Western migrant Muslims toward their host communities. Extremists are also attempting to establish the existence of a giant anti-Muslim conspiracy in order to convince Muslims (both indigenous and migrant) to attack Western targets.

When influential and well-connected persons like Peter Faris QC preach anti-Muslim hatred, they assist the bin-Ladin cause. Peter Faris’ diatribe fuels the fires of hatred and suspicion against Muslim Australians.

What the bin-Ladin’s and the Faris’ of this world attempt is to identify what they see as the real agenda. Bin-Ladin claims that the real agenda of the West is to destroy Islam. Faris, Daniel Pipes and their cohorts claim that the real Muslim agenda is to destroy the West. One coin, two sides.

Perhaps even more interesting than Mr Faris’ own demented views are those of his supporters on the blog. Now we must remember that these views are not necessarily those of Mr Faris. However, Mr Faris does state at the top of each page of his blog:

“This is a public forum. I have no control over comments posted by others. I will delete inappropriate comments if they come to my notice.”

It is strange that the following comment by one “Gravelrash” has not been edited or removed from Faris’ blog. The comment is clearly in praise of Hitler’s final solution, and calls for a mass genocide to take place against Muslims.

This call is being made some 10 years after the Srebrenica massacre in which over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were hunted down, tortured and killed by Bosnian Serb “Scorpion” forces who filmed the entire event. That massacre was shown on the Channel 9 Sixty Minutes program on Australian television on Sunday 14 August 2005.

The Bosnian Serb leadership wanted to implement a Final Solution against Muslims in Bosnia. And many of Peter Faris’ allies wish to implement the same solution in Australia and across the world.

And so, at 9:37am on Wednesday 18 August 2005, the following response appears on the Faris blog. The comment is in response to a posting by Peter Faris entitled “Muslims must become Aussies now”. The comment #96 of “Gravelrash" reads as follows:

“I think it’s time we stopped beating around the bush. Hitler had the right idea, wrong race. A time is coming when everyone will have to make a choice, and that time is soon. What side will you be on?”

These sentiments are reflected in an article by Daniel Pipes in which he states that the best way to deal with terrorism is to lynch Muslim communities anytime a terrorist incident occurs.

These sentiments are the Judeo-Christian version of al-Qaida rhetoric. Peter Faris and his supporters have become the Omrans and Abu Bakars of Anglo-Australia. Yet do we see tabloid programs like “Today Tonight” exposing these dangerous views? Do we read Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt and other conservative columnists attacking these dangerous sentiments?


The Melbourne-based Herald-Sun was quick to draw inferences from a survey it did of Imams in Melbourne. Will the Herald-Sun now expose Peter Faris and his blog as a force of anti-Australian hatred?

Australian conservatives must speak out against this kind of hate-speech. They must condemn the all-Aussie al-Qaida. Because if they stay silent, their silence will be interpreted as support for a final solution against Muslim Australians.


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

An open letter to the British media

I am writing in response to a number of issues raised by Martin Bright's recent articles in The Observer (14 August 2005), and the BBC Panorama programme on British Muslims. At this juncture, I would like to clarify my own views on some of these issues, for the record.

1. Suicide bombers.
“He who has killed an innocent soul, it is as if he had killed all humanity” Al-Qur’an, Surah 5:32.

I am aware that otherwise moderate Islamic scholars such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi are sympathetic to what have been described euphemistically as ‘martyrdom operations’. I suspect that a significant number of British Muslims are broadly supportive of or sympathetic with such views. However, it would be a mistake to think holding such views implies that Muslims are 'extremists' or support political violence outside of Palestine.

I am committed to contesting the belief that suicide bombings are a morally legitimate and effective response to Palestinian oppression. But blanket condemnation and vilification of support for Palestinian violence will only further demonize those Muslims who hold such views, and risks entrenching their opinions as reactionary to a perceived anti-Muslim bias. For similar reasons, I oppose legislation that would effectively drive such views underground.

As the late Edward Said stated, Palestinian violence is frequently represented “stripped of its context and the terrible suffering from which it arises” (Cockburn and St. Clair, 2003, p. 152). The most effective means of challenging political violence in Palestine, and those who condone it, is to make the political and historical context of the conflict the starting point for analysis. To ensure balanced coverage, journalists must pose questions which are not just difficult for the supporters of such violence, but for those who either tacitly or directly lend support to the State terrorism perpetrated by the Israeli government.

2. Holocaust Memorial Day.
I support those Muslim organisations who currently boycott this event, without intending any offence whatsoever to those who survived the Shoah. I am cognisant of the suffering which took place, as much as is possible, having studied the history of Judaism at undergraduate level. I am also aware that this genocide targetted not just Jews, but other groups, including the learning disabled.

Although the genocide perpetuated by the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler is arguably the greatest planned and systematic atrocity ever committed by humanity against itself, it is not unique in history or recent times.

Historically, the genocide of the Native Americans, and the wholesale conquest of their lands, stands as comparable to Hitler’s crimes. Since Word War II, crimes against humanity have been committed by the Indonesian government against the people of East Timor and by the Russians against the people of Chechnya. Others, such as the Bosnian Muslims, deserved to be remembered as victims of ethnic hatred on this day.

As with Palestine, these crimes should similarly not be contemplated without considering the facilitative role played by imperialism, nationalism and bogus sciences such as eugenics – ideologies which continue today, often unabated.

I am concerned that the narrow focus on this event is politically expedient, and the presence of Putin at one of the key Holocaust Memorial services this years was deeply offensive to those who believe Putin's own human rights record is irredeemable. To stage this event with such a butcher in attendance, under the proclamative, “Never Again!” is sickening in the extreme. It raises suspicions that the Holocaust has become an ‘industry’ which exists primarily to aid justification of a terrorist state, where racially motivated murder is an almost daily occurance.

3. Mawdudi and Other Folk Devils.
Like most educated Muslims, I have read and reflected on some of the works authored by the revivalist scholar Mawdudi. He was clearly an inspired thinker, although many of his views – including his alleged admiration for European fascist dictators - are certainly not mine.

Like other educated Muslims, I see Mawdudi, along with the other greater revivalist, Qutb, as a product of his time, part of a Muslim reactionary movement against European colonialism and racism. Equally, I am aware that views held by both Mawdudi and Qutb which are out of kilter with contemporary British mores are too often trawled up with the purpose of deriding Muslims and the Islamic faith.

It would seem the British media is intent on creating Muslim folk devilss, whether it be using historical figures, such as Mawdudi and Qutb, or contemporary figures such as Omar Bakri and Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The substantial differences between these figures is often never highlighted, only the views which are said to clash with the values of 'British people'. The Pope can be anti-gay, but if a Muslim scholar expresses similar views, he is a monster. Few in the Muslim community doubt the Islamophobic nature of such representations.

Things look different when the boot is on the other foot. No one suggests that the anti-Semitism which pervaded Catholic biblical commentaries prior to World War II is evidence of British Catholic doctrine today. Few have considered how the offending sections of these commentaries were quietly erased in post-war editions, to disguise the Catholic Church’s crucial role in manufacturing the anti-Semitism which ultimately informed Hitler’s final solution.

In the history of this continent, Muslims have too long been a projection of Europeans' fears and insecurities, a way of deflecting focus away from their own ills. This Orientalism, which scholars have clearly identified and which still pervades the public spaces of Europe, has to be acknowledged and put to sleep. Now non-Muslims in Europe live side by side with Muslims, there is no longer room for such dark prejudices.

I welcome legitimate criticism of British Muslim organisations, and informed criticism of my faith. But intelligent and balanced coverage of Muslims in the British media is the exception rather than the rule. I regret the largely decontextualised and derisory attacks against Muslims with have recently found their way into the public domain. They appear to co-opt Tony Blair's attempt to exploit fears surrounding Muslims as a strategy for deflectling attention away from his own nefarious foreign policies and the neoconservative political agenda of his New Labour administration. This is regretable.

If you are looking for a community to attack and vilify, then might I suggest you focus on the one surrounding 10 Downing Street, and not one which has for too long been impoverished, exploited and marginalised.


Yakoub Islam

Sunday, August 14, 2005

the jasmine in my mind - Act 1, Scene 2

[As the old Seals & Crofts song, “Summer Breeze”, plays in the background, Husein stands up and holds up the large cardboard credits cards before throwing them into a bin of fire, Bob Dylan style. Husein wears a torn 3 piece suit and has long hair and a beard. Cat Stevens style. He then addresses the crowd in a British accent …]

HUSEIN: It is 2032. Sydney is booming. It has joined the American empire, and has become the 106th state of the United States of Liberty or USL. It is a cornerstone of the USL presence in South East Asia. Amongst its fellow states are Indonesia, Malaysia and Fiji. The rest of Asia has joined the Eastern Republic of Chinese Asia or ERCA. Most Muslim countries have joined ERCA, including the entire Arab League, Iran, Bangladesh and the Central Asian republics. The flashpoint of this conflict is Pakistan, where USL and ERCA forces are fighting street battles for control of the natural gas pipeline.

Muslims in Sydney are subject to suspicion and rumour. Many have been detained under the Patriot Act, adopted by the Australian Parliament under Prime Minister Alex Hawke. The PM’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, was the first to sign away Australia’s sovereignty in 2020, after a failed referendum in which Australians soundly rejected the notion of becoming part of the USL and taking sides in any struggle between superpowers.

Despite popular sentiment, Mr Turnbull was able to secure support from opposition leader Kim Beazley III. Both major parties supported the move, and Australia adopted the USL constitution. USL troops patrol the streets of major cities, and the USL intelligence agencies keep a close watch on the movements of suspected ERCA supporters.

As part of the USL security policy, all media has been privatised and transferred to the ownership of the Murdoch family. The fact that the family also controls all media in ERCA does not seem to bother anyone in the USL administration.

USL includes amongst its ranks all European nations except Albania and Bosnia. These countries voted in 2011 to reject the offer of USL President Schwartznegger to join the rest of the former European Union. Albania retains its independence and is part of the non-aligned movement. Bosnia has been divided between the republics of Serbia and Croatia, and Muslims have been interned in detention camps or shipped to other secret facilities.

The non-aligned movement includes Albania, Turkey, South Africa, India and New Zealand. Pakistan is also a member, but has been rocked by over a decade of military conflict and intervention by USL and ERCA forces.

Because so many Muslim countries support ERCA, Muslim Australians are being watched closely. The Murdoch-owned press has been busy publishing stories and editorials questioning the loyalty of Muslims to Australian membership of USL. Mr Hawke’s Minister for Information & Education, Andrew Bolt, has issued a standard policy for educating Australians about the perils of Islam. The policy is being applied across all forms of media for the past 2 years.

The results of the policy have been alarming. At least 30 mosques have been vandalised and attacked. Muslims have been removed from all sensitive positions in the public service. The constitution has been amended to ensure that Muslim membership of all political parties has been outlawed.

Muslims are also being driven out of elite professions such as medicine and law. Muslim professionals are made the target of smear campaigns, leading to their investigation and removal from professional rolls. Already some 40 Muslim lawyers have been struck off in Sydney alone. Among them is Imran Yunus, an industrial lawyer with some 15 years experience. Imran was also a member of the Liberal Party, and was expelled after a motion moved by Mr Hawke was carried unanimously.

Imran, always referred to by his friends as ‘Yunus’, now spends his time between writing and looking after his mother who suffers from bipolar disorder. Yunus still meets with friends at the pub from time to time, and they are waiting for him tonight.

[Two men sit at a bar. A pretty girl stands behind the bar serving drinks. She has long straight black har. She wears a black t-shirt and black jeans. The men are in suits but with top buttons undone and ties slouched. One is trying to chat up the girl as she serves them and other customers.]

NICK: Mate, when is bloody Yunus gonna turn up?

LUKE: Hey, give him a chance. He is only 30 minutes late. You know what these bloody Muslims are like with their time!

[the barmaid sniggers]

NICK: [to the barmaid in a flirtatious manner] What are you sniggering about, my dear Carmel?

CARMEL: Nothing. Just the way you guys talk about your friend.

LUKE: So why are you so interested in him, ay?

NICK: Yeh, what’s so crash about him? Apart from him crashing his lawyer’s license!

[Both men laugh with loud guffaws. Carmel turns her back on them and starts cleaning some glasses.]

NICK: Anyway, why are you wasting yourself behind a bar? I’ve got plenty of money. Why don’t you try me out?

CARMEL: Yeah, OK. I’ll just wait until I’ve been buried. Then I’ll be happy to join you.

LUKE: Mate, this bird’s a feisty one.

[Yunus appears. He is wearing trousers, a business shirt and shoes with no socks. His trousers are pulled up high so that his ankles are showing.]

NICK: Well, well, well. Look who we have here? Carmel here was just talking about you and your troubles with the law.

CARMEL: [sounding very annoyed] I was not! You liar!

[Nick and Luke have a good laugh. Yunus looks at Carmel and smiles. She smiles back half-amorously.]

CARMEL: Just the usual? Coke with no ice?

YUNUS: Yeah, thanks love. How much do I owe you?

CARMEL: It’s ok.

LUKE: Bloody Yunus always gets favouritism. And he never buys us any drinks, the cheapskate!

NICK: That’s cause he’s one of those pro-ERCA China-loving Moslem bastards. He reckons Allah Akbar won’t let him buy drinks.

CARMEL: Stop it, you 2! Leave my friend alone.

[Nick and Luke stand up and are in the process of leaving to go to another bar.]

YUNUS: Well, I guess I had better be off.

CARMEL: No, stay for a while. I wanna talk.

YUNUS: It’s getting late and I need to …

CARMEL: [cutting him off] No, I insist you stay. Um, sorry to cut you off.

YUNUS: Alright, what is it?

CARMEL: Is it true that Muslims aren’t allowed to drink?

YUNUS: Yeah, that’s true. And we can’t buy drinks for others, or serve it or sell it.

CARMEL: [looks down] Um.

YUNUS: What’s wrong?

CARMEL: Nothing. Actually everything.

YUNUS: Hey tell me this. Why do you keep giving me free drinks? What’s the story, Carmel?

CARMEL: Please don’t call me by that name.

YUNUS: So what name should I call you by?

CARMEL: Call me Yesmina.

YUNUS: Why do you insist on a Muslim name?

CARMEL: Well, you are Muslim, aren’t you?

YUNUS: Yeah, but what’s that got to do with your name?

CARMEL: Come closer.

[Carmel leans her chin on her palm as her elbow rests on the bar table. Yunus brings his head closer to hers and rests his chin in similar fashion.]

CARMEL: [looking straight in his eyes] Don’t tell anyone I told you this. It’s our secret. Promise?

YUNUS: ok, promise.

CARMEL: My dad was Muslim. He was from Bander Aceh in Indonesia. Mum and dad lived there. They met in England. They both studied law there. They moved to Indonesia. Mum converted to Islam. They had 2 boys. My 2 older brothers. My mum was pregnant with me. I was born on 26 December 2004.

YUNUS: Hang on. Wasn’t there a huge tsunami in Bander Aceh? How did you survive?

CARMEL: Mum took us all out of there to Auckland in September 2004. I was in her stomach. Mum applied for custody. The hearing was to be on 5 January 2005. Dad was leaving Bander Aceh to go to Jakarta when the tsunami struck.

YUNUS: So you were born when …

CARMEL: I was born at the same time the tsunami hit Bander Aceh. Mum was really stressed out. My eldest brother Hasan was 6 years old at the time. He told me mum was ringing trying to reach dad from the hospital. His whole family went missing.

YUNUS: So how did you end up with Yesmina?

CARMEL: Dad grew jasmine flowers in his garden. It was his favourite flower. He got a specimen specially from Shaykh Martin.

YUNUS: Shaykh Martin? You mean THE Shaykh Martin? Abu Bakr Siraj?

CARMEL: I am not sure. He wrote some famous book or something. He is related to my mum somehow.

YUNUS: Yeh, that guy is Martin Lings. I read his book every night. It is the best anti-depressant in the world.

CARMEL: What’s the book about?

YUNUS: It’s the life of the Prophet. Everyone’s got it. All the Muslim families. So Yesmina, have you read it?

CARMEL: No. I spend most of my time reading Deepak Chopra and Dalai Lama stuff.

YUNUS: So why do you call yourself Carmel?

CARMEL: I don’t want anyone to know I work here. It’s not right. My dad is Muslim and I work in a pub. Doesn’t sound too good, does it?

YUNUS: So why are you here then?

CARMEL: Long story. One day I’ll get to tell you.


[Other drinkers begin to walk out. Yunus watches them leave]

YUNUS: I guess I should have one more coke and be off.

[Yunus takes out a bottle of pills and removes 5 of them. Carmel watches as she pours the coke]

CARMEL: What are they? Are you on drugs or something?

YUNUS: Yeah, kind of. I have to take anti-depressants.

CARMEL: How come?

YUNUS: Well, it’s a bit like you working in a bar. Long story. One day I’ll get to tell you!

[They both break out into a giggle.]

YUNUS: Sometimes I come here and you aren’t here. When do you usually work?

CARMEL: It depends. I get really bad back pain. Sometimes my younger brother Husein comes and visits me. He lives on the streets.

YUNUS: Why doesn’t he stay with you?

CARMEL: He’s really sick. I mean, he’s kind of schizophrenic. He had a car accident 3 years ago. He had a head injury and became depressed. He started taking drugs and he just became ill all of a sudden.

YUNUS: Hey, there are medicines for these things.

CARMEL: Yeah, I know. But he never takes prescription stuff. Only the other stuff.

YUNUS: So how does he survive?

CARMEL: He plays electric guitar at Central Station.

YUNUS: And what does Hasan do? Is it Hasan?

CARMEL: Yeah. He’s a plastic surgeon. He lives in Brisbane.

YUNUS: And what about your mum?

CARMEL: [flirtatiously] Hey, why all these questions, Mister!

YUNUS: Sorry, bubz.

CARMEL: [giggling] Bubz! I like it. Call me that from now on.

YUNUS: OK, but only when others are around. Otherwise you are Yesmina. So about your mum …

CARMEL: She is like you. She’s a lawyer.

YUNUS: I’m not a lawyer. I just write. And they took my certificate off me when I fell ill.

CARMEL: Why didn’t you go get it back?

YUNUS: Because I am too sick to work.

[Intercom rings. A voice is heard: “OK, Carmel, that’s your time. Close up now and escort the gentleman outside”. Carmel opens the bar door and walks with Yunus toward the door.]

CARMEL: [opening the door] Come tomorrow night. At this time. Please.

[Carmel kisses Yunus on the cheek.]

YUNUS: Sweet. I’ll be here.

[He walks out and away. She shuts the door and leans her head against the glass, staring at him.]

© Irfan Yusuf

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Cindy Sheehan Question!

Photograph of a San Francisco rally in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan and hundreds of anti-war supporters are camped outside of George Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

As a mother who lost her son in Iraq, and as a United States citizen, she is requesting a meeting with the president, so she can ask the question:

"What is the "Noble Cause" for which people died in Iraq?"
But his imperial majesty, Mr. Bush, has so far denied this request, and his entourage drove past the deomonstrators in silence. Cindy Sheehan held a sign that read:

"Why Do You Make Time for Donors And Not For Me?"
Click here to listen to an interview with Cindy Sheehan, and a San Francisco rally in solidarity with those camped out in Crawford, Texas.

Open Letter To Peter Faris QC

Mr Peter Faris QC

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to you concerning your blog located at …


I gave read your CV. I am impressed by your contributions to Aboriginal rights, ro community legal centres and to law enforcement. I note you were a chair of a national crime-fighting body.

You have been a champion of the oppressed, of victims of crime and of those unable to afford all the benefits of legal representation without outside assistance. Further, your crusade against white collar crime has been exemplary. You are one of the few voices in the profession to openly attack the inconsistencies in the treatment and prosecution of white collar criminals.

Sadly, your comments on issues pertaining to national security are not in this productive and sensible league. Instead of enlightening your readers on the real threats to national security, you are demonising 400,000 Australians of a particular faith-community at the heart of Australian life.

I have frequently visited your blog. I read headlines such as “Muslims must become Aussies now”. Further, your 10 or so points on “Defending Australia” are designed to incite hatred and violence against Muslim Australians.

I note that you currently have a contract as a radio announcer with 3AW. I wonder whether your station management are aware of the comments you have made on your blog. I wonder if your advertisers and sponsors are aware of the contents of your blog.

I encourage you to put your views on Muslims to some of the advertisers and sponsors of 3AW and its affiliate stations. Perhaps you could invite John Ilhan or Ahmed Fahour to comment on your blog. Or perhaps you could invite other prominent Muslim Australians for their views.

Your views on immigration and citizenship are particularly interesting. I wonder if senior Department of Immigration, Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) bureaucrats such as Mr Abdul Rizvi would agree with your sentiments.

We live in a free country. You are free to say and write what you wish. But as a Queens Counsel, you have certain ethical obligations to the legal profession and the community.

I would humbly submit that the contents of your blog are inconsistent with your ethical and professional obligations.

I encourage you to reconsider your views on these matters. I welcome your response and am happy to discuss the matter with you face-to-face, including in the media. I would be happy to appear with you on, for example, the ABC 7:30 Report, Lateline or the Today Show. We can have a frank expression of views, and we can let viewers decide.

I look forward to your response. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at the following address …


Yours faithfully,
Irfan Yusuf., BEc, LLB (Macq), GradDipLP (UTS)
Barrister & Solicitor

Friday, August 12, 2005

Fight terror with terror?

Whoever takes the life of one human unjustly, it will be treated as if he has taken the lives of all humans whoever walked this earth.

We find this message in the Qur’an and in the Bible. Similar messages can be found in the scriptures of other religious traditions. Human life is always sacred. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands and take revenge on some perceived injustice by killing innocents.

Perhaps the worst excesses in murder and genocide in human history were carried out by the Mongols. I mention them because they were my ancestors. The Mongols swept across China, forcing the king of China to build a huge wall whose trail to this day can be picked up by satellites in space.

The Mongols then smashed down the doors of Baghdad and other cities. They plundered, raped, murdered and burnt wherever they went. No one was safe. We read reports of Mongol troops grabbing babies by the feet and smashing their heads against the walls of Baghdad. All in the presence of their mothers, who were typically raped and then murdered.

Baghdad back then was what London is today. The Mongol attack on Baghdad involved terrorising the heart of civilisation. Baghdad was a place where scholars and dissidents, students and artists would all meet under the protection of the Caliph. The Tariq Ali’s and Salman Rushdie’s and Abdul Majid Khoei’s of that time found security and sanctity in Baghdad. At least until the hordes arrived.

Apart from Hitler’s treatment of European Jewry, it is hard to find a modern equivalent of the Mongol massacre. The closest would perhaps be the war in Bosnia.

Human life is all sacred. We all have the same coloured blood. Among the victims of the London bombing was a young English Muslim girl named Shahara Islam. Her surname is a powerful metaphor in this conflict. If anyone needed proof that Islamic civilisation is much a victim as any other, it could be found in her name. Islam is a victim. Islam is innocent.

London had some 80 Shahara Islam’s die in the bombing. And hardly 10 years before, another place in the heart of Europe saw 8,000 Shahara Islam’s brutally murdered. Yet sadly little coverage was given to this anniversary.

In case anyone still remembers, the name of this town was Srebrenica. In July 1995, some 8,000 men and boys were massacred in this town. Their crime was that they supported a multi-ethnic multi-religious state. The inhabitants of this town were largely Muslim. The defenders of the town were a Bosnian army unit consisting of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The invading army were Serb ethnic chauvinists.

The UN peacekeepers sat back and watched the massacre take place. The world watched. The Bosnian army, hampered by a UN-imposed arms embargo, were powerless to do anything. The ethnic chauvinists won the battle. Humanity lost the war.

80 Britons died in London. 8,000 Bosnians died in Srebrenica. 6,000,000 Jews died in the Second World War. No one knows how many died at the hands of the Mongols. The numbers just keep getting worse. Humanity keeps losing the war.

So what is the answer? Civilisational war? Seeking justice for past crimes? There will always be Christians who never forgive Jews, Jews who never forgive Christians, Hindus who never forgive Muslims, Muslims who never forgive Sikhs.

And a God who will be happy to forgive the lot of them if they just stopped fighting and tried to get along!

You cannot fight terror with terror. Mongols terrorised the world. But one day a sufi Muslim introduced Islam to a Mongol warrior. Within a month, the vast Mongol horde had been adopted by the most civilised nation of the day. Centuries later, they arrived in India and left us with such wonders as the Taj Mahal.

If there is one thing all faiths teach, it is that you can never write off anyone. The ones society damns are often the most blessed. Christ spent much of his time with tax collectors and prostitutes. Muhammad’s closest followers were slaves and the homeless. Religion teaches love. Terrorists teach hate. Terrorism knows no religion.

Whether it be 80 or 8,000 or 6 million. Human life is human life. As one holocaust survivor said, we should not focus on numbers. Rather, we should look at it as one life lost, then another, then another, then …


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Islamic Ocean

I pray:
More depth
A theology of madness
I ask for no pen, no paper
No "I" or "You"
No prayer mat
Just skin
Porously chanting
In the name of
The oceanic

Thursday, August 11, 2005

for the month of Rajab

O He who administers and manages the wants of the needy;

(who) is aware of that which is hidden in the heart of the silent sufferers,
every problem receives Your attention and is settled.

O my Allah Your promises come true.

Your favours are many,

Your Mercy is extensive,

I beseech You to send blessings on Muhammad and on the family of Muhammad, and fulfil my desires in this world and in the world to come, verily You are able to do all things.

(Imam Ali bin Husayn Al Zaynal Aabideen (a.s.) used to recite this dua'a
in the month of Rajab)

A Belated Ragha'ib Prayer

I just read an article about the importance of the first Friday night of the Islamic month of Rajab. I read about how it is the Night of Wishes. I never knew this to be the case. I feel like I have missed out on God’s treasure.

I have numerous wishes in my life. Most have come true. I am back practising law. I am dabbling in writing and expect to have my first article published in a non-Australian newspaper (the NZ Herald) in the near future.

But I have one wish remaining. I wish she would ring me.

She came into my life in the same manner as a thief might appear in my living room. Totally unexpectedly.

I went to her to seek advice about someone else. She was my mentor, my teacher, my adviser. She quickly became my friend. We learnt about each other, and I became her adviser. She yearned for a heritage she felt had been lost. I yearned for someone to listen to me and someone to laugh and be silly with.

I went to her to learn about another. When my life declared that other emotionally redundant, I still wanted to be friends with my new friend.

Then I started to fall for her. It was awkward for both of us. What made things for better and for worse was that she was falling for me. She felt the time just wasn’t right. She was sorting out her Rumi syndrome. She was hibernating from life and sleeping in a cave of depression and memories. She was hiding away in Christ’s tomb and the stone had been rolled to cover the opening.

Ahmed Deedat once asked the question: “Who moved the stone?” In the case of her self-imposed purgatory, our love was slowly chiselling away at the stone.

So we made an agreement. I would go away and hang out with every female on the planet. I would date everyone I met. I would see if I could forget about her. She would try and sort things out in her life. We would adjourn the hearing in cupid’s court for a few months.

But this was no cupid situation. This was a case of Rumi and Shums. But in this case, Shums-i-Tabrizi became Shums-i-Kiwi. And the Aussie Rumi was missing and yearning for Shums-i-Kiwi badly.

I would think about her. I created a private blog (if there was ever such a thing) and imagined writing to her. I prayed for her. I yearned for her. And every female I met during this time could tell that I was treating them like the wrong answers in a multiple-choice examination. By a process of elimination, I was reaching her.

She was indeed the right answer.

But I couldn’t reach her! All I had was her mobile number, a few details about her siblings, her first name and some history of her studies. After hours of consulting with Shaykh Mevlana Google, I managed to track down a sibling. I took a risk. I put fingers to keyboard and wrote to her.

It was a clumsy letter. I made some excuse about how I reckoned she had lost her phone again. I incorporated a few silly jokes about definitions of Muslim impotent men (the ones who have only one wife!). Only God knows what her sibling thought of my crazy fax.

I expected she would want to kill me for barging into her life unexpectedly. I thought the police would be around to arrest me for stalking. I asked friends, and they told me I should leave town. I did.

I went down to Canberra for budget night. The biggest night in the national capital. I was there with the rich and powerful, with government ministers and their gorgeous female advisers. Alcohol flowed freely, and the music was loud. Journalists were everywhere. I was in the thick of things (or as she would say it, “the thuck of thungs”!).

The next day, I returned to Sydney. By 2pm, I was watching and waiting for a police car to arrive and for handcuffs to disable me. The phone rang.

“Hi. It’s me.”, Ms Shums-i-Kiwi said.

“Hi. How are you? I am sooooooo sorry. I should never have done this”, said Imbecilic Irfan.

“Hey, it’s ok. I kind-of expected you would do this. I am up here with my siblings. I was trying to contact you but I left everything in Sydney. I’m so glad you did this. So sweet of you!”, Ms Shums-i-Kiwi continued.

We spoke for another half an hour. She kept depositing coin after coin into the public phone she was calling from.

The next day. Same time. Same station. Another 45 minutes. Then the next day. Same thing.

By now I was ready to whirl like a dervish.

She returned to Sydney. We met up on a number of occasions. But I was getting nervous and pushy. It was all too slow. The disciple was yearning for fana’ with his murshid.

“I would just like to know where I stand?”

Shums-i-Kiwi was circumspect. At the time, I thought she was as subtle as a sledgehammer.

“I can’t be your girlfriend. When I remove myself from my current state, I will leave everything behind. I would like to take you with me. But I have no idea in what capacity.”

Then last week, she called me after I repeated the same trick of faxing her sibling. I still did not have her details, and I wanted to contact her desperately.

“Please don’t invade my life like this. I cannot even help myself. How can I commit to you? I can’t tell them about you. Each time you do this, I get interrogated.”

Aussie Rumi had made Kiwi Shums cry. Rumi felt somewhere between Abu Jahl and Shaythaan. He still does.

I hope and pray God gives me the strength to carry on with this. I spend so much time writing and thinking and praying. And I ask you all, dear readers, to join with me in this belated Ragha’ib dua (supplication).

God, You chose to separate Rumi from Shums-i-Tabrizi. I am no Rumi. But she is my Shums. I don’t have the strength of Rumi to be separated from Shums any longer.

God, I am weak in a way. I get scared she will throw me out of her life. If that happens, I get scared I will break again.

I have everything from You, God. But without her, I feel I have nothing.

She is the light that you created and that I bless everyday. Do not take my last last chance of happiness. Let her grant me one more indulgence. But don’t let me turn her into an enemy if she just wants to be my friend.

I have lost the power to pretend that there could ever be a happy ending. She is the light that I blessed. I feel she is my last chance of happiness.

God, give me strength. Give me Shums-i-Kiwi. I beg you, Lord, for the sake and honour of your Noble Messenger and his Noble Household, her ancestors.

(I wrote this article whilst listening to Elvis Costello’s “God Give Me Strength”.)

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Customer Service for Amazon.com

"Two years ago, my sister Patsy e-mailed me in distress because she couldn't locate a customer service number for Amazon.com. With a little sleuthing, I was able to discover that the number is 1-800-201-7575. To this day, publishing Amazon.com's customer service number (not once, but twice; I'll probably do it again when the Christmas shopping season rolls around) is my most profound contribution to the commonweal. When I die, I expect my tombstone to read: "He published Amazon's customer service number. Those bastards tried to keep it a secret, but he found it, bless him, and he splashed it all over the Web."

Green Controversy in New Zealand

Abdur Raheem Green has been banned from entering Australia. He is addressing groups in New Zealand as part of the “Islamic Awareness Week” organised by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ).

Green is a London Muslim preacher. He has no formal theological qualifications, and is not regarded as a Muslim scholar. He is, however, a charismatic figure and frequently engages in debates with representatives of other faiths.

I first saw Green address a crowd of some 300 Muslim students in Sydney in the late 1990’s. He was giving a speech on responsibilities of Muslims toward missionary work.

I recall him speaking to the audience about how calling people to Islam is not calling them toward a particular group or legal tradition or sufi order. I was not troubled by this.

What did trouble me, however, was what he said outside the hall. Green was poking fun at an international Indian-based sufi group known as the “Tabligh Jemaat” (literally translated as “Missionary Group”). The TJ are popular among sub-Continental and Fiji-Indian Sunni Muslims, and focus their attention on the “greater jihad” of cleansing and purifying the heart.

I distinctly recall Green lambasting the TJ for spending their time eating curry and speaking in Urdu. His comments had clear racial overtones. I challenged him over what he said. It was then I discovered who Green really was and what he represented.

Green is part of a minority so small, it could not even be regarded as a sect. He belongs to the “Salafi” sect, an offshoot of a small fringe sect known as the “Wahhabis”. The Salafi strain includes elements from the benign to the outright dangerous. Usama bin Ladin belongs to the Salafi strain. But so do most Saudi religious authorities.

The various Salafi strains have a number of common features. Salafis take an anthropomorphic view of many of God’s attributes. For instance, when the Quran speaks of God’s hands, most Muslims take this metaphorically. But Salafis insist God literally has two hands. They regard anyone who rejects this view as “kafir” (infidel).

As a result, Salafis regard most Sunni Muslims as kafir. But it isn’t just Sunnis that Salafis reject. Salafis reject Shia Muslims as kafir. And their worst venom is reserved for Sufi Muslims (both Sunni and Shia).

The Sufi tradition is the spiritual tradition of mainstream Islam. Sufis such as Rumi have inspired millions, including prominent spiritual figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Deepak Chopra.

Sufi traders from the Prophet’s descendants (known as the “Bani Alawi” clan) in Yemen took Islam to places today known as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Today, descendants of these tribes can still be found, and common surnames (or Malay abbreviations) suggest their ancestry.

But Salafis regard many Sufi teachings as outside Islam. One of Green’s fellow Salafi preachers, an African-American named Dawud Adib, once told an audience at Melbourne University that a prominent Sufi text written by Imam Ghazali (known in Europe as “Algazel”) was worth less than a mosquito wing.

Because the Salafis reject mainstream Islam, they are regarded as on the very edge of the Muslim fringe. Which makes it most unusual that someone from the strain could be invited by a mainstream Muslim peak body.

On his previous visits to Australia, Green has not only been promoting his fringe Salafi strain of Islam. He has also been preaching a most destructive view of education. Green told shocked female audiences that it was “haram” (forbidden under religious law) for women to attend mainstream universities.

Women make up over 50% of the Muslim communities in Australia and New Zealand. Muslim women are amongst the most educated and talented members of the community.

In Australia, the first textbook on Islamic law to be published by a mainstream Australian legal publisher was authored by Jamila Hussain, an anglo-Australian Muslim female law lecturer. One of the most popular books on Australian Muslim history, Caravanserais, was penned by Haneefa Dean.

In recent times, three Muslim women have published books on their experiences growing up in Australia. Lawyer Randa Abdel-Fattah has written “Does my head look big in this”. And two journalists, Taghred Chandab and Nadia Jamal, have teamed up to write “The Glory Garage – Growing up Lebanese Muslim in Australia”.

Around 12 months ago, I befriended a girl working behind a bar in Sydney. She noticed I was not buying alcoholic drinks for my friends. She asked if I was Muslim, before telling me that her late father (whom she never met) was Muslim. I asked her what she does when she wasn’t behind the bar. “I’m a neuroscientist”, she responded. I was most impressed.

These Muslim women are more representative of mainstream Muslim opinion in Australian and New Zealand than Abdur Raheem Green. Had they followed his prescription and decided not to pursue tertiary studies, they would never have written books or published scientific papers.

Mr Green has been invited to New Zealand as part of Islamic Awareness Week. He claims to have moderated his views. But if his past comments are anything to go by, one wonders what sort of Islam he will make New Zealanders aware of.

(The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer. iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au)

© Irfan Yusuf

Racist Rebranding

One of the late, great postcolonial Muslim thinkers, Eqbal Ahmad, pointed out that 19th and 20th century Muslims living on the Indian subcontinent were utterly opposed to nationalism. The believed, unashamedly, that nationalism was anti-islamic. Most of the religious scholars of pre-Independence India were opposed to the idea of Pakistan.

The people who bought nationalism to the masses of the colonial nations were those with European educations, but who were largely excluded from being truly 'British' or 'Dutch' by racism. Despite the fact that racism is often individualised and psychologized, racism is better understood as an integral facet of nationalist and patriotic ideologies.

Patriotism and nationalism were used to justify colonialism, but the educated elites of the conquered nations were quick to spot the massive hypocracy of colonial powers celebrating their 'freedom' whilst they enslaved millions. And the educated elites of the colonial nations were also well placed to exploit one of the key tools in perpetuating nationalism taught them by their masters - print capitalism.

Europe is adept at massaging its history, but contemporary European nations are really inventions, thought up largely by politicians rather than ordinary people, beginning with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Nationalism was further boosted by bloody events such as the French revolution and its imperial aftermath. The European wars of the 20th century would have been inconceivable without nationalism - whether it be Churchillian or fascist.

The problem is that, particularly in contintental Europe, cultural realities have rarely coincided with the political fantasies of nationalist ideologues. The Basque, with their unique linguistic heritage sprawling from Southern France to Spain, are perhaps the prime examples of this contradiction. But few if any have been able to resist the sweet smell of patriotism's poison. The Balkan wars, which led to the massacre of Sebrenica, simply awakened a slumbering nationalism which had been frozen in time by the cold hand of communism.

Today, nationalism in Northern Europe is less about nations and borders, and much more about culture. This understanding was at the heart of the thinking that led Hazel Blears, who currently leads a government commission on "integrating minorities", to suggest that Britain's ethnic communities should "rebrand" their identities in an attempt to inspire greater patriotism. Muslim leaders could only respond by presenting a different version of nationalism and patriotism because the ideology of nationalism is now almost normative.

The deepening inculturation of nationalism signals that questioning its sentiments is almost as dangerous as questioning the illegality of paedophilia. This paranoia is aided and abetted by the stalwarts of popular nationalist sentiment - the tabloid newspapers. This is the place where corporate interests and public manipulation meet and marry. It is clearly in the best interest of the neocons to perpetuate nationalist sentiment and thinking. The last thing they want is for people of the global North to feel anything more than a passing sense of fellow feeling for folks like themselves living in the global South. Their nightmare scenario is human unity fuelled by a sense of social justice.

Nationalism, despite its claims to unite, always divides - the 'natives' from the 'foreigners', the whites from the blacks. Its divide people into groups like a farmer seperates out different breeds of cattle. Islamophobia is simply a reformulation of this colour-based racism. Nationalism is a virus of hate, and now it has infected Muslims. Those fanatics who support the London suicide bombings of 7/7 follow a mutated genus of this disease - one which swears allegiance to a reified ummah and a king-god, whilst rejecting other 'nations' as the spawn of Satan. Indeed, extreme Islamic nationalism is at the heart of the debased theologies informing all global khalifa movements.

Islamic nationalism needs to be challenged. This does not mean that we should stop feeling the pain and suffering for our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Chechnya. It means extending this empathy to include all of humanity. Someone asked me, on hearing about the famine in Niger, whether it was a 'Muslim country'. Does a Muslim child starve to death differently from the child of a Christian or an animist?

Nor does challenging Islamic nationalism mean opposing the unity we feel when praying in Jummah or other forms of Ibadah. There is nothing that prevents us from praying alongside Christians, or fasting alongide Jews, or even sitting next to atheists in silent contemplation. If we seek to unite the world, it should surely be in thought and remembrance of Allah.

Nations to not exist as communities in the same way as a rural village. They are, as Benedict Anderson says, imagined communities, created by appeal to a central script language and a material conception of temporality, and perpetuated by print-capitalism. But English is now a world language; time, like all meta-concepts, is open to challenge within the critical methodologies of poststructuralism; print capitalism has been subverted by cyberspace. As the Qur'an says, we were created so that we might know people different from ourselves. By Allah, let's do it!

When Doves Fly Away: What happens to all those birds they release?

From Slate:
"Bird rescue workers say that a ring-neck dove released in a city will likely starve—if it doesn't get hit by a car or eaten by another bird first."
I guess its all about "Peace" except for the dove.
"Dove releases are fairly common in the United States, but there aren't many laws concerning the abandonment of domestic birds. In most jurisdictions, anyone can walk into a pet store, buy some white ring-neck doves (for about $25 each), and release them at a wedding or a funeral."

You may rightfully ask "Why Loser Brother did you post this as your other posts deal with being a loser?" I answer, "Thank you for the question. And you're right, but this is a question a Loser Brother would ask. As such, I posted it for the benefit of other LBs out there."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Nagasaki - August 9th, 1945

It was perhaps unforgivable, but infact at the time, I was completely calm and composed. In other words, perhaps it was just too much, too enormous to absorb. - Yosuke Yamahata (Photographer)

Listen to a first hand account of the bombing of Hiroshima on the Ihsan Podcast.

Check out Democracy Now's coverage of the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki nuclear bombings.

Visit the Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace museums

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hiroshima August 6th, 1945 - 60 years

Allah bids to justice (alAAdli) and works of beauty (al-ihsani)

Qur'an (16:90)

Each year, the nuclear - weapons of mass destruction - bombing of the cities of Hiroshima (August 6th, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9th, 1945) are ceremoniously remembered in Japan with lanterns of peace floating on rivers. Above is a photograph of a similar rememberence in Berkeley, California 2003.

Listen to a first hand account of the bombing of Hiroshima on the Ihsan Podcast.

Check out Democracy Now's coverage of the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki nuclear bombings.

View the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

Friday, August 05, 2005

Loser Brothers: a Bar, a Club, and Excessive Self-Pity

In Frontline narrators’ voice:

What follows below is a real IM (instant messenger) conversation in which both Loser Brothers wallow in self-pity. A sad, true, life story. No joke. This is a real conversation.

If someone is Photoshop friendly...I would greatly appreciate a Loser Brother icon.

Loser Brother 1: I need a Muslim bar
Loser Brother 1: Where i can drink my sorrows away
Loser Brother 1: and confide in a bartender
Loser Brother 1: named Smitty
Loser Brother 1: who serves non-alcoholic drinks
Loser Brother 1: like Squash
Loser Brother 1: Rooh-Afzah
Loser Brother 1: BubbleUp
Loser Brother 1: Pakola
Loser Brother 1: Orange Fanta
Loser Brother 1: some kashmiri chai
Loser Brother 2: it's called home
Loser Brother 1: in a fountain
Loser Brother 2: or Karachi Gym-Khana
Loser Brother 1: we need
Loser Brother 1: a club
Loser Brother 1: I like Sindh club
Loser Brother 1: LB Club?
Loser Brother 1: how bout "The Club"
Loser Brother 2: no money
Loser Brother 1: i need something
Loser Brother 2: it used to be regent apt
Loser Brother 1: yes
Loser Brother 1: yes it was
Loser Brother 1: no more
Loser Brother 1: i would be willing
Loser Brother 2: or fox plaza
Loser Brother 1: later in life
Loser Brother 1: to rent apt
Loser Brother 1: for exclusive club purposes
Loser Brother 1: or buy it
Loser Brother 2: i would love to do that
Loser Brother 1: insha' Allah
Loser Brother 1: when you/I/others
Loser Brother 1: make partner
Loser Brother 1: or start firm
Loser Brother 2: hopefully at that time we will not need club
Loser Brother 1: no. we will

the jasmine in my mind - Act 1, Scene 1


Scene 1

[A young man sits on a milk crate. He has longish hair and is of dishevelled appearance. He holds a guitar and starts to play a few lines. A girl walks upto him from the distance. She wears black jeans, a black t-shirt and a black apron. She comes closer to him and smiles before giving him a small hug. She is Yesmina. He is Husein.]

YESMINA: How are you? How's my big brother?

HUSEIN: Hey, I ain't no cheap TV program. Don't call be big brother.

YESMINA: [giggles] You haven't lost your sense of humour, Husein.

HUSEIN: Did you just finish your shift?

YESMINA: Yeah. And I came to see you. I wanted to hear you sing.

HUSEIN: I'll keep singing. But when are you gonna stop working in that bar with all those sleazy guys starin' at you?

YESMINA: One day. Not sure when.

HUSEIN: Hurry up! I worry about you. Just 'cause I am a loser, doesn't mean you have to be.

YESMINA: [clearly upset] You are not a loser. Stop saying that. You know how upset I get when you put yourself down.

HUSEIN: Yeah, I am. Look at me. No life. My wife and kids have left me. My publishers don't wanna know me.

YESMINA: One day you will go back to writing. Serious. You will. Remember when you used to give me tickets to see all those bands? Remember how we'd write those band reviews together?

HUSEIN: Yeah. You wrote most of it. But you never wanted your name on any of them. That's my kid sister. Humble as ever.

YESMINA: Well I don't have much to be proud about.

HUSEIN: Bullshit. You have everything to be proud about. You're smart. You're beautiful. You were lecturing at uni? Why did you leave all that behind? And to work in a bar?

YESMINA: One day you'll understand.

HUSEIN: Just like one day you'll understand me. Anyway, I wrote a song for you.

YESMINA: [suprised and enthusiatically] Really?

HUSEIN: Yeah. I reckon you're gonna find a man one day who will sing it to you better than me.

YESMINA: Yeah, right! As if someone would marry me.

HUSEIN: Yaz, I am sick of hearing you put yourself down. And I wrote it just for you. You wanna hear it or what?

YESMINA: Sorry, brother. I'm listening.

[The music to an old Seals & Crofts song, “Summer Breeze”, plays in the background, sung (or rather, mimed) Husein. The lyrics of the song play on a big screen at the back of the stage, interspersed with images of the Jasmine flower, the Bander Aceh beach, the whirling dervishes and the two lovers Yunus and Yesmina ...]

See the curtains hangin' in the window,
in the evenin' on a Friday night.
A little light a-shinin' through the window,
lets me know everything is alright.

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine,
blowing through the jasmine in my mind.
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine,
blowing through the jasmine in my mind.

See the paper layin' in the sidewalk,
a little music from the house next door.
So I walked on up to the doorstep,
through the screen and across the floor.

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine,
blowing through the jasmine in my mind.
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine,
blowing through the jasmine in my mind.

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom.
July is dressed up and playing her tune.
And I come home from a hard day's work,
and you're waiting there, not a care in the world.

See the smile a-waitin' in the kitchen,
food cookin' and the plates for two.
See the arms that reach out to hold me,
in the evening when the day is through.

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine,
blowing through the jasmine in my mind.
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine,
blowing through the jasmine in my mind.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The New Crescent Moon

O obedient creature,
speedy and untiring,
frequenter of the mansions of determination,
moving about in the sphere of governance!

I have faith in Him who
lights up darknesses through you,
illuminates jet-black shadows by you,
appointed you one of the signs of His kingdom
and one of the marks of His authority,
and humbled you through increase and decrease,
rising and setting,
illumination and eclipse.
In all of this you are obedient to Him,
prompt toward His will.

Glory be to Him!
How wonderful is what He has arranged in your situation!
How subtle what He has made for your task!
He has made you the key
to a new month
for a new situation.

(Sahifa al-Kamilah -
Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn)

Three Stooges Reunited!

At the funeral of "king" Fahd, Jalal Talbani (of democratic Iraq), Mahmud `Abbas (of democratic Palestine), and Hamid Karzai (of democratic Afghanistan) were seated together.

Here you see them in intense discussion about democracy, and how a democratic pledge of allegience (to the USA) can be made part of a broad "middle-east" democracy constitution.

Karzai is reported to be advocating that all goods manufactured in the democratic "middle-east" be stamped "made in USA" - this, he said, will help win democracy's hearts and minds.

(Angry Arab heard a different report).

See also World Movement For Democracy

The World of Naseeb.com

Naseeb.com burst onto the scene nearly two years ago as a cheap imitation of Freindster but for Muslims. It now boasts members in the tens of thousands – nearly everybody and their mother is now on Naseeb.com from all across the globe.

Most member profiles are rather bland, some border on the narcissistic and few are honest. What’s often worse than the member profiles are the testimonials which are little more than odes for the member that they are being written for. Take for example the following testimonial from this profile:

“My sweet little Marnoom...what do I say? You're NUTS, super funny and gorgeous as all hell. K, there's a little more to you... but those are the things people notice first. Underneath that pretty little exterior beats an even more beautiful little heart. My cousin is sweet to those she loves and is always loyal. Don't get me wrong though, this girl has some bite to her...so don't get her mad, actually she'll probably bite you anyway...are you sure you aren't secretly a scorpio??? Love you :)”

Despite all the aggrandizement, some of it no doubt solicited, there have been some who have mastered all that is Naseeb.com. Sabih towers above other males on Naseeb.com and has an impressive number of 326 friends. The distaff is represented by MissChe who claims that she is the most popular woman on Naseeb, which may indeed be true, she has 125 friends.

I am not impressed by the number of friends or the flowery testimonials, what I am most impressed by is the ability of some on Naseeb to strike up conversations, build friend/relation-ships with strangers. These two testimonials best demonstrate this. The first is a testimonial from a man to woman; the second is her testimonial for the man.

She is a beautiful young lady, on the inside and out. We have had some great conversations, and I hope to get to know her better. She is definitely someone worht talking to.”


Well just meeting the guy on Naseeb has been a great thing, I have had great chatts with him and I hope to chatt with him some more soon again.”

There have even been some folks who truly have met their naseeb while using this site and have since married. This trend in online match making is nothing new, even ABC now has a special on women and online dating. What I am amazed by is the ability of folks to “spit game” online.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

We ban Muslim scholars at our peril


Naima Bouteldja

Front page horror stories of extremist preachers putting suicidal thoughts into young British Muslims are a crude but clever means of reinforcing the
ideological environment necessary for authoritarian responses. They also sell more newspapers. And since the tragic events of 7 July, Fleet Street’s own fundamentalists have been trotting out all their old favourites. We’ve had ‘mad’ Omar Bakri, ‘bad’ Abu Qatada, and of course, the British media’s favourite Islamic villain, the one-eyed, hooked-handed Abu Hamza.

While the attempt to divide and rule the Muslim community by creating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims is expected, editors and politicians are making a grave
mistake in turning their fire on the very thinkers Muslims and non-Muslims alike need to hear in these inflammatory times.

First there was Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, widely regarded as a moderate and one of the most respected scholars in the Muslim world embraced by the Mayor of London. By having once given qualified support for Palestinian suicide bombers as part of their daily resistance struggle against Israel’s
murderous occupation, the media links Al-Qaradawi to the London bombs and wants him banned. His unreserved condemnation of the London bombers for their targeting of civilians goes largely unreported, an inconvenient

Now enter Tariq Ramadan. This Sunday, the Swiss-born Muslim academic is due in London to address young Muslims at The Middle Path conference at the Islamic Cultural Centre near Regent’s Park. It is sponsored by the Metropolitan Police. His message will be simple and unambiguous: the London bombers were criminals and we should neither accept nor listen to their probable justifications in the name of an ideology, a religion
or a political cause.

New Labour’s favourite focus group, The Sun, is leading a campaign to have Ramadan’s invitation revoked and ban him from the UK. According to The Sun,
he is an “extremist Islamic scholar” who is “banned from both America and France”, he “backs suicide bombing” and has “suspected links with terrorists”. The paper goes on to warn that Ramadan is “more dangerous” than Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri: “He is a soft-spoken professor whose moderate tones present an acceptable, “reasonable” face of terror to impressionable young Muslims”. The accusations are now being repeated as fact by the London Evening Standard, The Times, the Independent, TV pundits and politicians.

Could this be the same Tariq Ramadan who is renowned across the Muslim world as the reformist thinker despised by traditionalists for his progressive
interpretation of Islamic sources? Who, like millions of people in this country, supports the right of Iraqis and Palestinians to resist occupation and war but has never supported suicide bombings? Apparently so. For the record, Ramadan has no links with any terrorist group and is not banned from France. When his Visa and work permit to teach in the US were suddenly revoked last year without explanation by the Department for Homeland Security days before he was due to take up a professorship, British MPs, US
academics and human rights lawyers all rushed to his defence in condemnation of the Bush administration’s senseless actions. The fact that Scotland Yard is relaxed about paying his travel expenses to Sunday’s conference would indicate he is not on their wanted list of so called “radical preachers” nor likely to make Charles Clarke’s proposed “global database of extremists”.

The question the British media should really be asking
is where are right-wing editors getting their
insidious misinformation from about a man who Time
magazine placed in their top 100 most important
thinkers of the 21st century and whose previous hosts
include the U.S State Department, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, and former presidents Clinton, Gorbachev
and Vaclav Havel? The answer can found just 21 miles
across the English Channel. The hatred of Tariq
Ramadan by France’s political establishment and
mainstream society seems unrivalled.

His status as France’s public enemy number one was
sealed after he wrote an article on the eve of the
second European Social Forum in Paris, October 2003.
He accused high profile and influential French
scholars of allowing their support of Israel and
Zionism to dictate their public stands not just on the
war on Iraq and the occupation of Palestine but also
domestic issues relating to Islam and the problems of
the suburban French ghettoes.

This sparked one of the most vicious and unrelenting
media witch hunts and smear campaigns France has ever
witnessed. Ramadan was instantly held him up as an
anti-Semite, the press suggested that a terrorist
bloodline passed directly to him from followers of his
grandfather, Hassan al Banna, who founded the Muslim
Brotherhood, that he had links to terror groups and
was really a ‘fork-tongued fundamentalist’ who seduced
people with liberal rhetoric in French but called for
violence in Arabic.

The hysteria has since spread to the political level.
French local authorities routinely try to ostracise
and boycott Ramadan and his associates, withdrawing at
the very last minute the public rooms and halls
hosting their events. In March last year a three day
anti-war conference in Paris was cancelled by its
university hosts because of Ramadan’s presence. In
January of this year the organisers and participants
of a conference in the Netherlands were “strongly
advised” in private by the French Embassy to cancel
Ramadan’s invitation and not participate in any public
meetings with him, saying that he was “dangerous”.

Despite never having been charged with any crime, and
without a shred of evidence supplied to back up these
claims, the French press with the help of the
country’s top politicians and a compliant left have
continued to mould Tariq Ramadan into a fictitious
monster. The parallels with The Sun’s recent coverage
are striking.

The successful smear campaign against Ramadan has
nothing to do with fear of religious extremism – this
is no rabble-rousing cleric with a perverted take on
Islam. Instead, it is mainly motivated by the cultural
imperialism that grips France’s republican white
majority and Ramadan’s serious challenge to it through
the popularity and influence of his innovative
thinking among France’s five million Muslims,
especially the Muslims youth.

For Ramadan’s unique interpretation of Islamic
scriptures and Western liberal democracy charts a
clear path for European Muslims to live a true Islamic
life and at the same time be fully participating
European citizens. By asserting that “anything not
explicitly forbidden by Islamic principles is
permissible” he is the first Muslim scholar to have
defined a framework for a Western Muslim identity that
is legitimised by Islamic thought. Through the civil
liberties enshrined in Western liberal democracy,
Muslims can simultaneously enjoy the freedom of
religious conscience, worship and _expression, and the
freedom from being forced into practices and beliefs
that Islam explicitly forbids, like supporting or
participating in unjust wars whether they be against
Muslims or non-Muslims. Ramadan therefore argues that
the problems Muslims encounter in Europe are generally
caused by racism, discrimination and the poor
application of law, not by the inherent
legal-political structures themselves

Ramadan takes on those traditionalists and literalists
who consider that the only legitimate culture of Islam
is Arabic, and so end up defining their identity in
strict opposition to a Westernised ‘other’. In
Ramadan’s intellectual framework, Muslim identity is
always grounded in the universal principles of Islam
but shaped by the context and cultures in which it
operates. “There is only one Islam”, he has stated,
“but it can be culturally African, Asian, European or

For second and young third generation Muslims in
France who experience something close to schizophrenia
as they are constantly torn between the liberties and
discriminations of French society and the
traditionalist and spiritual stance of their parents,
Ramadan’s guidance has been something of a revelation.
Since the myth that Muslims would one day ‘return
home’ died among the second generation, European
Muslim populations have been desperately trying to
understand what type of participation and engagement
in largely secular European societies Islamic
scriptures authorise.

By finding within Islam the legitimising principles
that allow one to become a genuine French citizen
without having to renounce one’s faith, Ramadan has
challenged French Muslims to explore beyond the limits
of their existing intellectual horizons because “there
can no be genuine understanding of Islam if there is
no understanding of the realities we live in.” This
has effectively undermined the ‘communitarianists’ who
see Muslims and non-Muslims as binary opposites.
French Muslim activists directly cite Ramadan as the
person responsible for their strategic shift beyond
Islamo-Muslim circles to build partnerships with
secular and Catholic organisations, the traditional
left and most recently the alter-globalisation
movement. ‘In understanding’ argues Ramadan, ‘that
Muslim references are sources of universal values that
are not exclusively Islamic, Muslims participate in
the societies they are living in not on the basis of
their belonging to a cultural or a religious
community, but on the basis of their belonging to a
community of principles’.

More fundamentally, Ramadan has also challenged the
cultural imperialist assumptions of the dominant
French assimilationist model, rooted across the
political spectrum, which claims to put forward
universal values whilst asserting a rigid and
exclusionary conception of citizenship.

Ramadan’s point is that people frame their
understanding of universal values in different ways,
and that there is no need for France’s Muslims to
abandon their beliefs in order to be truly French. He
challenges the assumption that there is a prior norm
to which Muslims must ‘integrate’ themselves –
“integration to what and in relation to who?” he asks.
The question recalls those of revolutionary thinkers
like Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X, who also challenged
the supremacy of seemingly immutable ‘Western’ values.
For Ramadan, the universality of Islamic values can be
sustained within Western societies, a perspective
which shows up the particularlism of those who would
expect Muslims to ‘integrate’ themselves out of their
faith in order to enter the public sphere. It is
possible to be French and Muslim without
contradiction. A ‘dangerous’ thought indeed!

This is why he is smeared as an anti-Semitic,
terror-loving extremist. By attracting supporters
among intellectuals and Muslim youth alike, Ramadan’s
project of Muslim self-liberation has rung alarm bells
among dominant social forces in France and America,
and now it seems in the UK. The Sun is unwittingly
correct: his sophisticated arguments against the
hegemonic narratives of Western governments and mass
media are potentially far more dangerous to the status
quo than the firebrand clerics who turn off the vast
majority of Muslims.

The tragedy is that by shutting down debate in
Britain, Muslim scholars and clerics like Ramadan,
Al-Qaradawi and even Omar Bakri, cannot be questioned
in public spaces by Muslims and non-Muslims on the
vital issues of Muslim identity, citizenship and
shared and contested values. If they were, figures
like Ramadan would quickly silence the segregationist
and extremist voices across British society. This
issue goes well beyond Tariq Ramadan: it is about the
very future of Western Muslims and their fellow
citizens living together in peace and mutual respect.