Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Australia

August 2, 2010

From Quadrant on-line

On the awkwardness of the Muslim debate

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, high profile international critic of Islam and author of the best seller Infidel, and a new book Nomad, has been stirring the pot in Australia recently, raising the tenor of debate on the ‘Muslim problem”. Interviewed several times in the media, she gave talks in both Melbourne and Sydney.

Her thinking on Islamic issues has been derived from her extraordinary life. Hirsi Ali was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, fled to Holland as a refugee to escape a forced marriage, and is now working at the American Enterprise Institute. Her story is both moving and inspiring. On the way, she became a member of the Dutch Parliament and collaborated with the filmmaker Theo van Gogh on a film, ‘Submission’, about misogyny within Islam. Van Gogh was subsequently murdered by an Islamic extremist. Since then, Hirsi Ali has been under constant threat, and now has a permanent bodyguard. Her books explain the cruelty and violence that are a part and parcel of Islamic cultures, and within them she develops a brilliantly coherent criticism of Islam and its growing threat to the West.

Unsurprisingly, in this brief visit, Hirsi Ali raised considerable ire from the Left commentariat on several fronts. She has notably offended the feminists, the cultural relativists, the immigration bleeding hearts and human rights activists, and the politically correct for being a dangerous, “right wing think-tank” racist. The interviewers in her appearances on the ABC have treated her with a mixture of respect and nervousness with a dash of indignation, at her full frontal challenges to their orthodoxy on Islamic matters. A comment from one ABC listener is indicative of the confused mindset, when she accused Hiris Ali of having the “gaze of the colonizer, with an insensitivity and absence of empathy for people, specially women”.

Hirsi Ali tackles the mantra, “we’ve got to respect their culture” head on. The problem, she points out is that respect is hard to reconcile with forced marriages, honour killings, female genital mutilation, the forced veiling of women, and of course the killing of homosexuals. Clearly, she dismisses the post-modernist notion that all cultures are equal. “It’s individual human beings who are equal”.

Fending off her critics who then say that our society is flawed––another saw of the Left––she promptly explains that “Western flaws, the white man’s flaws, his sexism, his racism, his prejudices have been criticised and radically changed. Men of colour, not just Muslim men, but Chinese, Indians, “men of colour are excused from that same critical scrutiny of cultures, their customs, their habits, their religious principles”. This is the essence of her criticism of multiculturalism too.

On the question of “moderate Islam”, the sanctuary question of the bien-pensant, Hirsi Ali is clear about distinguishing Islam as an ideology from Muslims themselves. Most Muslims, she claims from research, know very little about what’s in the Koran. They only know that “you’ve got to obey the Koran and what the Prophet Mohammed said. Increasingly, agents of radical Islam take advantage of that.” Having a religious dimension is one thing. What she is concerned about are the political and social dimensions; Sharia law, the concept of jihad and the social laws that govern the relationship between men and women.

If you think, like every interviewer on the ABC, that moderate states like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey are good examples of moderation, Hirsi Ali is quick to counter that, more and more, Indonesians are succumbing to the propaganda, mostly financed by countries like Saudi Arabia and spread by the Islamist Brotherhood in Egypt. “Everywhere Sharia is getting a hold, you see the same violations of human rights, including terrorist acts and intolerance to Christian minorities.”‘

On accusations of racism, Hirsi Ali is very blunt. When a questioner at her talk in Melbourne suggested she was providing fuel for racism and was a bigot, it was the one moment when strong passion broke through the surface of her usually calm and patient demeanour. It is worth quoting in full:

I answer that by pointing out that Islam is not a race, it is a belief system. If you look at people who identify themselves as Muslims, you see they are made up of very many different races. Because it is a belief system, the accusation of racism simply does not apply. When you look at the social and political aspects of Islam, you find bigotry. The position of men and women in Islam is different. That is bigotry. Homosexuals are treated as sick people and killed. That is bigotry. When Sharia is established, that is bigotry. Black people in Islam are treated as slaves, and slavery is condoned. That is bigotry. It is really ridiculous to defy a political system of bigotry by telling people you are bigoted. I am sorry. I’m not bigoted. Islam is bigoted. The message for 1.57 million people is to emancipate themselves not from the past imperialism of the white man, but from the bigotry that is embedded in Islam.

Hirsi Ali also has some pretty blunt ideas about Australian immigration that I suspect a majority of us would agree with. She believes that the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention is completely outdated, as at that time there were only one million refugees. Today there are 40 million. We all would concede that Australia cannot take all 40 million in, so the concept of compassion is not enough now and it’s not practical anymore.

Given the advent of radical Islam … liberal democrat countries like Australia should establish a new relationship with immigrants. Who is good for our country and who is going to contribute to Australia? In exchange, we’ll provide them with the opportunity to live in a peaceful, prosperous society where they can build a life for themselves. If they say no to that, then I think it would be justified to say such a person cannot stay and will not be a part of this society and can be returned. That is more honest, it’s more practical and it becomes a two-way contribution.

Hirsi Ali, in her conversion to Western values is a breath of fresh air. She appears to understand the value of democracy and free debate better than most commentators in the media. In response to Kerry O’Brien accusing her of being a traumatised “reactionary” in an interview three years ago, she is eloquent.

In the first place, I use the tools that we are supposed to use in a democracy which is non-violent means to argue my assertions and views. Next, I don’t see what is reactionary about saying, “Let’s respect life as an end in itself, liberty as an end in itself and the equality of men and women.”

Yes, let us use the tools we are supposed to use in a democracy. Let us stop the ad hominum arguments of racism and Islamophobia. Hirsi Ali contrasts the reaction of Christianity to insults and criticisms, citing Richard Dawkins’ attacks, with the Muslims reaction of violence and hatred when they are criticised.

The last word goes to Hirsi Ali from ABC Lateline last week:

All cultures are flawed, but if we want to aspire to a society, whether it’s on a national level or on the global level of individual rights and the respect for human rights, then we have to criticise these other cultures just as much as the white man’s culture was criticised. That’s good for them.


Too good to be true.

Hirsi Ali has been in Australia barely two weeks and the Equal Opportunity Division of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has comes to the same view; that vilification of Muslims does not fall within the anti discrimination Act.

Muslims ‘do not share common racial, national or ethnic origins’ and are therefore not an ethno-religious group such as the definition embraces. In so ruling, we follow the decisions, commencing with Khan, that are listed above at [44]. We are unaware of any recent authority to the contrary. It follows that any statements broadcast by the Respondents that generated negative feelings towards Muslims generally, or any group of Muslims, on the ground of their being Muslims could not amount to unlawful racial vilification.

How the Left hate Ayaan Hirsi Ali

July 18, 2010

Hilary McPhee’s prejudice confirmed

It’s a little late, and sad, that the Left, in the guise of a silly review by Hilary McPhee, should be ringing the lepers bell for Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s already sold out talk in Melbourne later this month.

Hilary McPhee is one of our commentariat who blamed John Howard for the brutal killing of innocent Australians in Bali by Islamic terrorists.  So it comes as no surprise that, in the guise of a book review of the remarkable autobiography Infidel and the latest reflection, Nomad, to mark Hirsi Ali’s visit to Melbourne, she attacks with barely disguised contempt the brave woman who would know more than Hilary could ever dream of about the vile aspects of Islam that make millions of women’s lives nightmares and turn Islamic extremists into fanatical murderers.

What does Hilary think? Well, she thinks Hirsi Ali’s books “aren’t much good”, that they are “disturbing and delusional”, a “gift to those of us who like our prejudices confirmed” — speaking for yourself Hilary? — and that they fail to give us “a more complex and sympathetic picture of the Muslim world”.

She feels the books fail to remind us “that more than 50 countries from Indonesia to Iran through Africa and the Middle East have Muslim majorities and vastly different cultures and histories”. McPhee is clearly oblivious to the progressive and systematic radicalization and cultural colonization of these “diverse” countries by Middle Eastern fundamentalists in the last few decades.

Hilary complains that “a perspective on the role played by poverty, illiteracy and rural conservatism is missing”. Well, Hilary McPhee has lived in the Middle East. Where is her analysis of the role Islamic cultural values play in creating poverty, illiteracy and rural conservatism? But I imagine economics is not one of her strong points.

Of the outstanding book Infidel, she seems to be complaining cynically that it “came at the right time and sold hugely”. Isn’t this the dream of any book publisher? To know exactly what most irks McPhee would be hard to determine. Hirsi Ali criticises multiculturalism, Western feminists, Germaine Greer and Tariz Ramadan. But to top her sins off, Ayaan Hirsi Ali “accepted a job with the ultra-conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, which had provided much of the rationale for military intervention in Iraq and for rebuilding the image of Israel in the world through a conservative alliance with America”. Oh, dear.

But McPhee is generous in her sympathy for Hirsi Ali’s plight. She finishes her irritation in a final sentence: “I can’t help but fear for her.”

Age editorial correct !

June 16, 2010

The Age reflects agendas of journalists

In a previous post I quoted an Age editorial where they boasted that “quality newspapers offer their readers an implicit assurance with every story they publish: that their selection and presentation of news does not reflect the personal or corporate agendas of journalists, editors or proprietors.”

We knew that it was their idea of a joke, but the very next day we had the proof. Yesterday they ran a news report, not opinion, on a debate that took place in Melbourne on racism, between Professor Robert Manne and Hanifa Deen for the affirmative, and Professor Bob Birrell and Dr Tanveer Ahmed for the negative.

The article, written by Paul Millar, was headed Country ‘drifting back to racism’. A strange heading for a debate with two sides whose subject was to determine whether or not Australian had escaped its racist past. However, The Age never lets facts get in the way of story. Looking closely at the article, almost all of it was taken up with Hanifa Deen’s presentation for the affirmative. In a total of 470 words, Professor Birrell was given only 42 words, or barely nine percent of the report. Not another word from the negative.

In a follow-up editorial today, we learn that the debate was an IQ2 event, sponsored by The Age. We also learn that the audience voted in favour of the proposition, 71 per cent to 20 per cent. The editorial suggested that maybe it was because of the difficulty of  “satisfying the opposite contention”. But is it not as feasible that the vast majority of the audience were Age readers and thus ill-informed because The Age coverage of issues never satisfies the opposite contention.

Ground breaking television

May 31, 2010

Hearing is believing. A new sensation on the ABC

I don’t know if I should appologise to Tony Jones. After accusing him of having a biased show just yesterday, in the selection of both the  panel and audience, I listened last night to Maxime McKew being jeered and ridiculed by the studio audience. In addition, any mention of Kevin Rudd’s inadequacies was met either with laughter or very enthusiastic applause. This was ground breaking television, and certainly never heard before on QandA.

My conclusion is that either the audience was chosen, just for once, to largely reflected Autralian opinion — in which case their reactions are unsurprising — or, if indeed it were the usual QandA, ABC-branch-stacked audience, then one can only conclude that Kevin Rudd is really, really in deep trouble. One can hope it were the latter, in which case, I am really so sorry, Mr Jones.

ABC fails its charter

May 29, 2010

ABC does not tollerate attacks on its friends

A warm thank you to the Australian Conservative for its support. This excellent blog has been a consistent testimony to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s failure to uphold its charter on balance and bias.

In effect, the question of balance in the ABC has been a long standing issue. I remember helping to organize a national conference for the Institute of Public Affairs ten years ago, Their ABC or Our ABC? in Sydney on ABC bias. In a predictable defence of the ABC, and as a direct reaction to this conference, Stuart Littlemore on Media Watch displayed a classic example of jackboot journalism designed to silence critics.”

It would appear that precious little has changed over that time. Neither 12 years of the Howard government, nor the placing of three conservatives on the ABC Board, nor the complaints of impotent ministers in parliament, nor the constant public admonition of Kerry O’Brien or Tony Jones in the press for their selective and unfair questioning of people with whom they disagree, has changed anything much. Nor has the documented, transparently differential treatment both the 7.30 Report and Lateline routinely give to sceptics of climate change made a difference. Let me not get started on Robyn William’s Science Show. Tony Jones’ QandA discussion panel — biased in audience and in panel — has very recently been thouroughly analysed for balance in an excellent article, This ‘adventure in democracy’ is unfair and unbalanced by John Styles in The Spectator. QandA remains steadfastly biased in audience and panel.

The most striking thing in all of this is the lack of shame, or embarrassment, or accountability of any ABC presenters. The reality is that, unlike governments which are ultimately accountable to the electorate, the capture of institutions is impervious to democratic action. Top down change is ineffectual, and bottom up change irrelevant, as the ABC is not market driven. The ABC “collective” know it. As a result, they can simply ignore criticism, and display an indifference and cynical contempt to taxpayers.

The only exception to this rule is Phillip Adams on Radio National’s LNL [Left ‘n’ Left] who has openly admitted that his programme is an antidote to the Right wing shock jocks on commercial radio. This is such an accepted idea that the ABC itself boasts of Michael Duffy on Counterpoint as “the Right wing Phillip Adams”.

To finish on a clear, and one would have thought, non-controversial point. I have always found that Labor voters, generally speaking, find the ABC to be fair and balanced, and that Liberal voters, generally speaking, find the ABC often unfair and often unbalanced, or at best, very lumpy. I don’t know about you, but if that observation is largely plausible, then that to me would appear to be a quod erat demonstrandum.

Is the ABC changing its tune?

May 27, 2010

A lesson in environmental optimism for Mark Colvin

Mark Colvin got some sharp lessons in optimism in a stunning interview with Matt Ridley, author of a new book, The Rational Optimist.

Beautifully, handled, Ridley demolishes the implicit pessimism in every one Colvin’s questions. Are some in the ABC starting to wake up?

MATT RIDLELY: The number of people at increased water stress in the next 85 years is going to be less than the number of people at decreased water stress. That comes from peer reviewed articles written by IPCC scientists and so I think …

MARK COLVIN: It’s got to be small comfort for the people whose dams are drying up in large cities though hasn’t it?

MATT RIDLEY: It’s going to be good comfort for people who are finding increased water supplies. You know climate always had changed, always will change. The evidence suggests that we are actually going to see higher crop yields, slightly higher rain fall, no major change in storms, no significant change in, well, a very slow change in sea level, no huge damage to habitats.

There is much more in the full interview. I encourage readers to look at the transcript and listen to the complete interview. I know it comes as a shock to see such in-length optimism about the environment and global warming from our ABC.

Homophily and the ABC ‘echo-chamber’

May 27, 2010

ot calling Pot Black

The ABC Radio National programme “Future Tense” with Antony Funnell gives us an insight into the ABC’s lack of insight into its own bias. I cannot detect a trace of irony.

Many social researchers believe that most of us are naturally inclined toward those we agree with, or those who seem a lot like us in other ways.

In other words, that we naturally search out and associate with people who echo our own thoughts and beliefs. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’, as they say.

We like to imagine that we’re open to different points of view and that we mix with a variety of people, that we expose ourselves to a range of voices. But is that really what happens …

A guest on the programme, Ethan Zuckerman, from Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society explains the term, “homophily’.

It’s a term that applies to almost without exception to the tendency of  people “to form close friendships with people who they have a lot in common with”.

… homophily can make you sort of dumb, actually. If everybody around you has the same background that you have, you probably have a less rich information network. You’re probably not casting as wide a net for solutions and for different perspectives than you would if you had a more diverse group.

But we seem to be finding ways to choose the topics we’re interested in, the perspectives we’re interested in, and perhaps are not getting the full value of that incredible diversity of information.

… if people on the left only listen to voices on the left, people on the right only listen to voices on the right, then we actually become more polarised. It’s actually much harder to have a political debate because we’re all much more confident in our views, we’re all a bit more extreme in our view.

There is one difference. Certainly those on the left indeed do listen to the ABC. But so do those on the right. After all, they pay their taxes too. So who, by default, is more open and exposed to a range of ideas?


May 25, 2010


[Thanks to RR for the idea]

ABC Shock

May 22, 2010

ABC says adaption to climate change can bring “joy”

Geraldine Doogue on the ABC RN’s Saturday Extra has a reputation for interviews with fuzzy left of centre commentators, whether sociologists, philosophers, environmentalists or global warming alarmists.

Yesterday, she spoke to Professor Glenn Albrech, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University. The professor specializes in carefully crafted eco-jargon research topics like “the ethics of feral buffalo control”, “the geographies and bioethics of the thoroughbred horse industry” and, wait for it, “relevant transdisciplinarity in the domain of sustainability”, all the better, one takes it, to mine the rich ore-body of tax payer dollars through the Australian Research Council.

In our brave new therapeutic society, the good professor has come up with a new syndrome, “Solastalgia”, the topic of Geraldine’s interview. Solastalgia is a form of “human distress related to the lived experience of negatively perceived environmental change.”

But help is at hand. If, for instance, you adapt to change — yes, you heard it first on the ABC — you have a solution. If I understood the interview correctly, for example, your garden can, due to climate change, be replanted with drought resistant sustainable plants. Hey presto, “through desire and planning … a garden can adapt to new conditions”, and with “great joy” we can “turn distress to advantage”. This according to the good professor, is an example of “solaphilia”.

Australian children these days have a more straightforward way of dealing with change. They will simply tell you to “suck it up”.

Further to integration

May 17, 2010

Some are more successful than others. Well yes….

I am not at all sure how these figures of net household wealth listed by religious affiliation would translate to Australia, but this study from Britain’s official “National Equality Panel” reported by the indefatigable Theodore Dalrymple in the City Journal is suggestive of a principle at least. With this caveat — Australia is a different kind of host country, the ethnic makeup and origin of the immigrant groups is different, as are their employment opportunities — it is nevertheless worth noting Dalrymple’s general principle.

The figures were as follows (I convert into American dollars):

Muslim: $68,000

None: $224,000

Hindu: $337,000

Christian: $361,000

Sikh: $371,000

Jewish: $684,000

Overall, the figures demonstrate that, in an open society, cultural attitudes and characteristics are of enormous importance with regard to a group’s prospects in that society. Of course, it is no easy matter to change cultural characteristics that are not propitious for economic and social ascent; but the first step, surely, is to destroy the illusion that salvation lies in the hands of political and bureaucratic entrepreneurs whose only effect is to make society sclerotic and thereby transform class into caste.

[Thanks to reader Stone the Crows]


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