Relativist tossers willing to promote Hizb ut-Tahir’s misogyny

June 29, 2014 at 5:46 pm (Australia, Feminism, islamism, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, sexism, wankers, women)

Following the publication of this pretentious filth at the Graun‘s Comment Is Free site, it’s a pleasure to republish the following article, from Joanne Payton’s excellent blog:
Oriental Other

In Australia, there is an event called the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, with some high-calibre contributors, like Salman Rushdie and Steven Pinker. One of the speakers they invited was one Uthman Badar, of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The title of the speech was Honour Killings are Morally Justified.

Badar says he did not choose the topic himself, but accepted it upon the urgings of the board. The festival’s co-curator Simon Longstaff said he had nominated the topic for six years in a row, because the point of the festival is to push boundaries ”to the point where you become extremely uncomfortable”.

Yet again, misogyny, racism and violence against minoritised women is considered edgy, rather than banal and conservative.

What’s more edgy and dangerous and uncomfortable than suggesting the world is a better place because a Tunisian father burned his 13 year old daughter alive?  What’s more edgy and dangerous than saying certain women and girls don’t deserve to live?

For Aya, it was ‘dangerous’ to walk home from school with one of her classmates, and no doubt somewhat more than ‘extremely uncomfortable’ to die of burns a few days later.

It is a wonder that Longstaff didn’t realise that other speakers had balked the topic for six years in a row not because it was “uncomfortable”, but because it was morally repugnant: hate-speech as clickbait, where the names and faces of the victims are erased for the sake of a headline.

Enter Uthman Badar, the only man vainglorious enough to make the attempt. There are, of course, many experts in ‘honour’-based violence, people who have dedicated their careers to exploring its dynamics, conducting research, developing protection measures, supporting victims. Badar is not one of them. According to his page, he’s an economist (although apparently, he is not actually a student of the university that he claims to attend).

Even Badar doesn’t seem to have wanted to defend the murders of girls and women and young men: his preamble suggests he’s not even going to try and justify ‘honour’ killing. Let’s look at what he was going to say:

“Overwhelmingly, those who condemn honour killing are based in the liberal democracies of the West.”

This is untrue:

Here are 300 Tunisians demonstrating against the murder of Aya.

We in the West know about ‘honour’ killings only because they were brought to our attention by local activists: it was  Asma Jahangir‘s decision to exceed her brief as Special Rapporteur into Extrajudicial Executions that brought the subject up; it was Rana Husseini‘s activism against the laws of Jordan that told us how embedded such crimes were in their societies, and it was Fadime Sahindal‘s prediction of her own death that raised the topic as something which occurred in the West.

Perhaps it is true that many of those who commit honour killings may not be based in the liberal democracies of the West but that doesn’t mean that they are accepted within their societies. Of all the Muslim countries surveyed by Pew, only in two did more respondents approve than disapprove of ‘honour’ crimes. Overwhelmingly, the scholars and activists who work against ‘honour’-based violence are people working in their own countries and communities, both within and outside the ‘West’. To ignore this fact demonstrates a strangely Eurocentric world view.

Aya’s father is taken as an exemplar of Tunisia: Aya herself is erased, the 300 Tunisian protesters are erased, Tunisian women’s rights activists are erased, the fact that ‘honour’ killings are vanishingly rare in Tunisia is erased. And this is all done in order that Badar can synechodically present ‘honour’ killers as the true representatives of ‘Eastern’ culture. This smacks of orientalism in itself: the presentation of a diverse culture and people as homogeneously violent, and obsessed with ‘honour’, against reams of evidence to the contrary.

And so, the next sentence:

“The accuser and moral judge is the secular (white) Westerner and the accused is the oriental other: the powerful condemn the powerless.”

The person at the actual nadir of powerlessness, the victim, is totally absent from Badar’s analysis. The actual situation — where the accuser and moral judge is the enculturated (brown) Easterner and the accused is the feminine other: where the powerful not only condemn, but slaughter the powerless – is erased. The victim is erased, and the murderer is granted victimhood in her stead.

And on:

“By taking a particular cultural view of honour, some killings are condemned, while others are celebrated: in turn, the act becomes a symbol of everything which is wrong with the other culture.”

Let’s ignore this strange position where we are led to believe that some killings are celebrated, which seems to be an attempt at whataboutery and decontextualisation too vague for me to parse. On the other hand, his point that the discourse of ‘honour’ is used to demonise the ‘other’ culture is unavoidably true. However, there are many more people who are far better qualified to argue this than Badar. Aisha Gill and Avtar Brah have done this excellently, and are feminists to boot.

Katherine Pratt Ewing, to give another example, has written an entire book on the topic, and a speech by her on how ‘honour’ crimes are used to stigmatise minorities would be informative, and moreover, informed by research. That is not what Longstaff wanted though: it wouldn’t have have got him in the headlines.


After the cancellation of the speech due to public outcry, Badar produced a petulant statement which attributes the outcry to Islamaphobia, as did Longstaff: ‘Have not the ‘Islamophobes’ already won the day when a person dare not speak on controversial matters because he is Muslim?’, he tweeted, rather pompously.

Let’s consider this charge for a second. Almost all Muslim organisations take pains to distance themselves from ‘honour’ killings. Almost all serious scholars address the issues of culture with caution, and with due attention to the worrying levels of xenophobia in the West. Training materials in use by professionals to help them respond to ‘honour’-related violence in the family stress the importance of not making cultural assumptions.

Just as a thought experiment, consider this: if you really hated Muslims and Islam, what would be the best way of overturning all this good work done in balancing the rights to life and freedom of young people (many, but not all, of whom are Muslim) with respect for the culture of their families? How about promoting a speech called ‘Honour Killings are Morally Justified’, and getting a speaker whose only qualification is being a Muslim to present it? Would that work? I think it would.

H/T: KB Player

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Julia Gillard v the neanderthals

June 27, 2013 at 5:48 pm (Australia, Jim D, misogyny, Pilger, reformism, sexism, women)

In most respects it’s difficult to feel much sympathy for deposed Aussie PM Julia Gillard. After all, she knifed Kevin Rudd in 2010, and now he’s returned the favour.

Above: opposition leader Abbott in front of semi-literate anti Gillard banners

It’s also true that, despite some minor progressive reforms on disability and education, her record was not one to inspire great enthusiasm from the radical left.

Nevertheless, her arrival as Australia’s first female prime minister was a milestone for gender equality, and it’s beyond doubt that sexism and misogyny played a big part in bringing her down.  She was subjected to personal comments, jokes and cartoons about her appearance and private life that no male politician would have been subjected to.

In a dignified valedictory speech, Gillard probably got it right when she said negative reaction to her gender “doesn’t explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing.”

Unfortunately, the right wing neanderthal Tony Abbott of the so-called “Liberal” opposition is the gainer from Labour’s civil war, and looks like winning the September elections with ease. Look at that picture of him (above) and note the banners. that he seems happy to be pictured standing in front of.

Gillard was not a great prime minister and certainly no great socialist. But (despite the bleatings of poor, mad Pilger) she deserves to be remembered for That Speech if for nothing else. If you missed it at the time, or just want to see and hear it again, here is that virtuoso performance:

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Justice (of a sort) for Peter Norman

August 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm (Anti-Racism, Australia, Civil liberties, good people, history, Jim D, sport)

The inspirational activist and former athlete John Carlos recently visited the UK, speaking at a number of meetings where his message of how sport can play a part in anti-racist struggle was, quite properly, very well received. John Carlos’s visit reminded us of his defiant ‘black power’ salute, together with fellow black American Tommie Smith at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. It was captured in this famous photo:

Peter Norman (left) Tommie Smith (centre) and John Carlos (right).

When I recently re-blogged a Workers Liberty article about John Carlos and reproduced the photo, I made no mention of the white guy on the left. Like (I suspect) most people, I had no idea and no particular interest in who he was. In fact, I thought he looks a bit embarrassed and, with his back turned to Smith and Carlos, assumed he’s trying to keep his distance from them.

How wrong can you be?

It’s Peter Norman, the Australian silver-medallist in the 200-meter event won by Smith. Not only was he not trying to “keep his distance” – he’d been in on the gesture and, indeed, helped Smith and Carlos plan it. If you look closely at the picture you’ll see that although he isn’t saluting (presumably he thought that would be inappropriate for a white non-American), he’s wearing on his chest, the same round badge as Smith and Carlos. It was the badge of the anti-racist Olympic Project for Human Rights.

According to Kathy Marks in today’s Independent, “On their way to the podium, the two Americans had told Norman what they intended to do. He helped them plan the moment, suggesting they each don a black glove.”

Smith and Carlos suffered grieviously as a result of their protest: they both received death threats and Carlos’s life went into crisis, culminating in the suicide of his wife. But, eventually, both received official recognition and exoneration in their homeland and are now generally acknowledged as the heroes they are.

Not so Norman. To this day he remains shunned and reviled by the Australian sporting establishment. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics every then-living Australian Olympian was invited to take a lap of honour – except Norman. The US team, appalled by this snub, invited him to join them and treated him with the respect and honour he’d been denied by the Australian Olympic Committee.

Despite qualifying for both the 100- and 200- metre sprints, he was not selected for the 1972 Munich Olympics. He retired shortly after that and fell into depression and alcoholism.

Last night, the federal parliament of Australia (without the support of the Australian Olympic Committee) went some way to giving Norman a little justice: they formally apologised for the treatment he’d received and passed a motion recognising his “extraordinary athletic achievements.” The motion also acknowledges his bravery in supporting Smith and Carlos and his work in “furthering racial equality.”

Andrew Leigh, the Labour backbencher who proposed the motion, said this:

“In the simple act of wearing that badge, Peter Norman…showed us that the action of one person can make a difference. It’s a message that echoes down to us today. Whether refusing to tolerate a racist joke or befriending a new migrant, each of us can – and all of us should – be a Peter Norman in our own lives.”

Norman’s sister and  91-year old mother were present, but not the man himself. He died of a heart attack in 2006, aged 64.

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Graeme Bell: the father of Aussie jazz

June 17, 2012 at 12:00 am (Australia, good people, jazz, Jim D)

Graeme Emerson Bell Jazz pianist, bandleader and composer. Born Melbourne, September 7, 1914. Died Sydney, June 13, aged 97.

Here’s the obituary in the Brisbane Times.

Here’s an early Graeme Bell record, Bennie Moten’s ‘South’, recorded in 1948. It may not exactly swing, but it certainly stomps:

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Christmas Island refugee tragedy

December 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm (asylum, Australia, Human rights, immigration, iraq, Jim D)

Desperate flight: The boat had travelled from Indonesia with around 80 people on board. 50 are feared dead

Desperate: The boat  travelled from Indonesia with around 80 people on board. 50 feared dead

Next time you hear some asshole denouncing asylum seekers, remember this (and it applies to the UK as much as Australia): why would people risk their lives on unseaworthy boats, in the backs of unventilated trucks or the holds of planes,  to get out of hell-holes like Iraq and Afghanistan? Because they’re human beings who simply want half-way decent lives. The way advanced countries like the UK, France and Australia treat refugees is a disgrace. This tragedy should wake us all up. Yes, the people traffickers and gangmasters are out-and-out criminals. But the policies of advanced, democratic governments are also to blame; the Australian government’s ‘hard line’  hostility to immigrants, for instance:

The fact that there isn’t a welcome refugee policy…[makes] it  less likely that people on boats  are willing to contact  Australian authorities and to rendezvous [safely],” said Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Both victims and survivors saw the sea for the first time in their lives probably a week or so ago as they were mustered on some Indonesian beach to be loaded on board. The stories of these voyages are all much the same. The asylum seekers are terrified. They can’t swim. They retch the whole way, arriving dehydrated and exhausted – certainly in no shape to deal with the crisis they faced yesterday.

“Their cries for help woke people in the houses along the cliff. As they threw ropes and lifejackets they tried to signal the boat not to head for the rough waters of Flying Fish Cove. Smoke was pouring from the engine as the boat struck the rocks, rolled over and began to sink.

“It was too rough to launch rescue boats from the cove. Calls to dive-shop operators brought more lifejackets to throw over the cliff. But where, the islanders wondered, were the hundreds of lifejackets Immigration kept down at the wharf?”

Read more

And there’s background to this, in Australia’s hardline refugee policy, as today’s Independent points outWorkers Liberty of Australia has reported some background:

Australia’s shame: second asylum seeker suicide in two months

by Lynn Smith

An Iraqi asylum seeker, Ahmad, committed suicide at Villawood detention centre on Monday November 15.
Fellow detainees found the man hanging in a bathroom and took him down. It took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

Ahmad was 41 years old and had a wife and four children. He’d been in detention, on Christmas Island and in Villawood, for over a year.

He had been rejected twice under off-shore processing arrangements found to be invalid in a recent High Court decision.

“We’re shocked and very upset,” said one detainee, “People are crying. He knew about the High Court [decision] but there is no new policy.”

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said “a number of us visited Villawood on Sunday to let people know about the High Court decision which seemed to provide s small window of hope. But for some the wait is too long… they’ve given up”.

“Incidents of self harm are daily occurrences. There needs to be a full inquiry into Ahmad’s death and into mandatory detention itself: a system that’s literally killing people.

“In 2008 Labor declared detention was a last resort. But it’s the first and only resort for asylum seekers arriving by boat. There are people here who’ve been found to be refugees but are still waiting after 18 months. This is the second suicide in Villawood in just over two months” said Rintoul.

What the recent High Court decision on offshore processing means (not much)

On November 11 the High Court ruled in favour of  two asylum seekers who challenged the offshore processing system used to determine whether those who arrive by boat are given refugee status. While the decision is a slap in the face for the government, its legal effect is limited. It does not end offshore processing. It leaves excision and s46A of the Migration Act referring to “offshore entry persons” intact.

Federal Attorney General McClelland Robert has said that offshore processing will stay and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the result is “interesting” and applies to “some cases”.

Refugees and suicide

The following is an extract from the Australian Bureau of Statistics “Causes of Death” survey, 2008.

Refugees who are bereaved or have post-traumatic stress are at risk of suicide.

Factors that increase the risk of attempting suicide include physical illness, poorly managed mental or physical symptoms, disorientation, exhaustion, little social support, alcoholism, history of depression or current depression, history of suicide attempts and unresolved grief.

In many cases, suicidal ideation or the method of suicide by refugees is related to stressful events, especially torture experienced by them.

There is evidence that self-harm, suicide and suicide attempts may occur when an asylum seeker’s application of permanent protection has been rejected, and he/she is asked to return to his/her country of origin.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) found suicide attempts by asylum seekers in detention are not infrequent, with ‘numerous examples of detainees attempting suicide or serious self-harm’. The rates of self-harm were high for people in the 26-35 age range and predominantly men16.
The methods used by children to self-harm can be quite dramatic.

Yet most Australians are sympathetic towards refugees

Eight out of 10 people said they’d help a refugee settle into their community, according to the results of an Australian Red Cross survey published on 21 June 2010.

The survey of 1,000 people across Australia also found 67% agreed that refugees have made a positive contribution to society.

“The community empathises with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers,” said Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner. “Australians can relate, with 86% of people surveyed saying they too would flee to a safe country if they lived in a conflict zone and were under threat.

“Refugees and asylum seekers are very resilient. In spite of the extreme hardships and suffering they may have endured, they make a positive contribution to Australian society, economically and culturally.

“On this evidence there appears to be a disconnect between the strong sympathy of the Australian public and the unsympathetic nature of much of the public debate around asylum seekers and refugees,” Mr Tickner said.

Where do the unions stand on this major civil rights issue?

In a press release earlier this year the ACTU called for “politicians to stay calm on asylum seekers and maintain a humane approach”.

“Australia must not deviate from a refugee policy that is humanitarian, compassionate, and pays respect to international law” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“The Government is in talks with other countries about hosting regional processing centres. Unions are yet to be convinced this is appropriate…. Care must be taken to ensure Australia’s international obligations are not breached.

“Unions strongly reject any attempt to demonise asylum seekers for political gain,” said Kearney. “Migration – including the humanitarian and refugee program – has played a great role in Australia’s growth and prosperity and will continue to do so”.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said unions have long supported a rational and informed public debate about immigration, population and asylum seekers based on facts.

“Politicians have a responsibility not to inflame division or misrepresent the facts, and to show leadership to counter views that would demonise asylum seekers or abrogate Australia’s international obligations,” he said.

This stuff is long on “motherhood” statements but very short on specifics. The union movement itself has the responsibility to show a strong lead here and not cow down in front the racist right, as ALP politicians from Gillard down seem to be doing.

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