Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tony Talks Terror Across the Tasman

During his recent visit to New Zealand, British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke of climate change, closer bilateral relations and the strong historical ties between Britain and New Zealand. But not of Iraq.

And who could blame him. Even when visiting Australia, a most willing partner in the Iraq expedition, both Blair and visiting US Secretary of State Rice faced anti-war protests.

Australians getting nervous about their role in the Iraq war, hoping it doesn’t make them a target for terrorist attacks. Australians can well understand Kiwi elation at the release of a hostage from Iraqi kidnappers. Australian Douglas Wood came close to execution on a number of occasions.

Add to this reports from the Washington Post that 25,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian clashes since the bombing of a Shia Muslim shrine on February 22. Coalition forces claim they are needed to maintain security and order in Iraq. The record shows they are failing miserably.

It seems unbelievable that Mr Blair can have a completely different rhetorical focus on either side of the Tasman. His message to the Australian Parliament focussed on the fight against terrorism through the promotion of common values.

This message was especially poignant with news of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian convert, facing a possible death sentence. Rahman has since been released from custody.

Mr Blair message of common values was especially relevant to conservative politicians on either side of the Tasman. He suggested preaching is most effective when you show your message is identical to the true beliefs of your audience.

Hence: “… we have to win the battle of values as much as arms. We have to show that these are not Western, still less American or Anglo-Saxon, values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.”

Those who seem to treat us with scepticism are not the enemy. Often, their scepticism is a product of how they perceive our actions.

“Ranged against us are the people who hate us; but beyond them are many more who don't hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness. These are the people we have to persuade.”

Blair correctly isolated “Islamist extremism” as our immediate enemy. Yet these extremists are just as much enemies of Muslims as they are of non-Muslims. Most victims of Islamist-inspired terror attacks are Muslims. At least 10% of victims of the London attacks were from Muslim backgrounds, including a 21 year old British woman with the surname Islam.

At the same time, Islamist extremists are seeking Western recruits through convincing mainstream Muslims in the US, UK, Australia and other Western countries that Muslims are second class citizens because of their faith.

The overwhelming majority of Muslim citizens are sensible enough to reject this propaganda. Although in Australia, there are times when the rhetoric of Liberal backbenchers (and, in recent times, senior ministers including the PM and the Treasurer) must make Aussie Muslim wonder whether extremists might have a point.

In New Zealand, editors of conservative pro-Creationist magazine Investigate have attributed sinister political intentions to Muslims in at least on eof their editorials. The magazine’s March edition claimed Islamic political theory only recognises God as ruler and that "there are only two states in the world: Muslim and infidel". It then suggested that Muslim migrants "don't respect the nation-state model. Where there's a conflict of allegiance, the nation state will always lose."

Conservatives wishing to score short-term political points would do well to consider Mr Blair’s message and understand that their Islam-bashing rhetorical gymnastics serve the cause of the very “Islamist extremists” Blair calls upon us to fight.

Further, their antics lead Muslims in Australia and elsewhere to “question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness” in the very manner Blair identifies.

Writing in The Australian, Greg Sheridan described Blair’s speech as a ringing endorsement of the neo-Conservative policies dominant in the Bush administration.

Yet Blair’s speech should be read as a warning to pompous neo-Cons who constantly lecture us on the supremacy of “Judeo-Christian tradition” and the need to do away with pluralism and multiculturalism.

These same people are usually found spurting out hatred for all things even remotely related to Islam, openly marginalising Muslim communities living in Western countries and projecting images of nasty Muslims joined in a huge conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation.

Tony Blair is in effect saying that certain basic values are universal to all peoples, cultures and religions. And his claims are not empty rhetoric.

At the recent Commonwealth Day service held at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney, one of six affirmations read by clerical representatives stated:

“The Commonwealth believes in democratic political processes, international peace and the rule of international law.”

How appropriate that these words were read not by a bishop or a pastor but rather by Sheik Fehmi Naji el-Imam AM, Secretary of the Board of Imams of Australia.

(The author is a Sydney lawyer and occasional lecturer at the School of Politics at Macquarie University. iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au)

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

6 comment(s):

  • so when is Blair going to take a self look at his own extremist policies in Iraq? following the example of Bush's extremist policies all over?

    i also believe that Muslims are indeed targeted in "the west" and elsewhere because of "our" faith...

    i suppose, that makes me an extremist also - so be it...

    "moderates" can enjoy their 15 minutes of fame hanging out with war criminals Bush/Blair - while they engage in mass slaughter. As long as they, themselves, are "safe" (for 15 minutes) - why concern yourself with petty details about Iraq?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/30/2006 12:19:00 AM  

  • More of the usual nonsense by Mr. Yusuf.

    Here is are excerpts from an article pointing out what Blair is really about:

    *** In his latest lamentation on the exclusively Islamic sources of ulta-violence, terrorism and war, Blair echoed the mantras of the coterie of deeply Islamophobic neoconservative intellectuals who emerged from the right-wing witches' cauldron of Leo Stein at the University of Chicago.

    Blair's diatribe was the performance of a committed idealist, a demagogue mesmerized by his own ideology and not that of an intellectual, an academic, a mainstream politician or a statesman. Blair inhabits that shadowy region of Christianity that sees itself as totally separate and apart from the other faiths stemming from the house of Abraham: Judaism and Islam. In Blair's vision of Christianity, there are no Muslims who accept the messianic status of Jesus; no Christians who launch terrorist atrocities and no Jewish terrorists, either.

    In the mind of Tony Blair, the trouble with world terror stems exclusively from the ideology and culture of Islamic fundamentalism. In Blair's deeply bipolar world, Christianity and Judaism are blameless for the rising tide of terror.

    To date, let it be noted that Blair has not called out in public for the genocidal extermination of the entire Islamic population of the world. Let it also be noted that Adolf Hitler did not publicise his plan for the final solution to what he perceived as the problem posed by the Jews he hated and feared. Hitler's tirades against the Jews led to the public acceptance of anti-Semitism. Will Blair's on Islamists lead Britain in the same direction?

    Above article was posted here:


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/30/2006 12:33:00 AM  

  • In the world according to Irfan Yusuf and Tony Blair you are either with them or you are an extremist/HT. That is the narrow worldview that Irfan Yusuf is pedling these days in the Australian press.

    He will never speak strongly against the slaughter of Muslims by the hundreds of thousands by the Anglo-American army. Why not? Because they will stop publishing him in the Aussie press, thats why. So, he peddels the usual crap about extremists and HT.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/30/2006 02:07:00 AM  

  • Anonymous @ 2:07. Thank you for your comments. I am so pleased you are adding to my tally of comments.

    What you are effectivelky doing is making my articles and my views so much more attractive to read.

    Anyone reluctant to read my articles need only look at the tally and be given more reason to read the article.

    So once again, many thanks.

    By Blogger Irf, at 3/30/2006 11:35:00 PM  

  • How arrogant of you Irfan when you think people adding comments and making your articles more widely read is the issue.
    Here in the UK the most widely read(?) paper is the Sun so please don't equate populism with the truth.
    Our PM Tony Blair does not believe in universal values but wants people to conform to the prevailing values which have made the current global situation the most unjust and unequal in human history.Some of the only people having a different worldview are Muslims advocating a return to Shari'ah and the Latin american socialists under Chavez and Castro amongst others.
    It is our duty to dissent against the current status quo and if that means being labelled an extremist or a terrorist..then so be it.We should feel insulted when we are called mainstream/moderate by Blair/Bush et al because it means we are not a threat to their nightmarish project.
    Respect to the 13 year old Indonesian schoolchild who told TB the truth when he visited their school recently.Definitely not a moderate or mainstream Muslim!May Allah grant us more mujahids like this who say they truth in the face of the oppressor.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/31/2006 02:46:00 PM  

  • Anonymous @ 2:46, the real arrogance happens when you insist on freedom to express your views without taking responsibility for them by refusing to reveal your identity.

    I realise this may be impossible for some people here to understand. But my problem is that I have to live in the real world.

    That means that I have to interact with people whose essential world-view is often completely different to mine.

    If everyone in Australia and New Zealand read Chomsky and Fisk and Said, my job would be so much easier. But the reality is that they don't.

    For that reason, part of the methodology I adopt is to co-opt the words, phrases and ideological leanings of others and use them to my advantage. It's called spin. Everyone does it, be they Fisk or Said or Pipes or Steyn.

    Perhaps you and others here cannot appreciate this. That's your prerogative. And it is good for me to get your feedback because it reminds me of what some Muslims are thinking as they lick their wounds.

    But we cannot stay in an intellectual ghetto. We have to fight on all fronts. That includes ensuring that we put our best foot forward regardless of which sector we work within.

    I cannot simply go in and tell everyone: "Listen, you kuffar are all out to get us Muslims. So I hate you all."

    I cannot say this because apart from the fact that it is complete nonsense and I don't believe it, the fact is that it will turn more people off and will achieve little.

    People's perspectives do not change overnight. You have to give them time. That means you have to speak to them using a paradigm they understand.

    You might call it lies and hypocrisy. In Arabic, it is called "hikmah".

    By Blogger Irf, at 4/01/2006 01:29:00 AM  

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