Monday, January 04, 2016
Muslim leaders including the Grand Mufti of Australia back fatwa against Islamic State
They're panicking about a backlash. Other Islamic states -- particularly Saudi Arabia -- are also brutal. Why no condemnation of them?
Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country operating under Sharia law, whips rape VICTIMS and only gives them pardons if there's a major international outcry. Saudi Arabia also amputates the hands of thieves. Pakistan, another Muslim country, executes atheists under its notorious blasphemy laws. The Iranian "Happy Video" dancers were sentenced to 91 lashes and prison time for recording their video. In Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Afghanistan homosexuality is an executable offense.
Australia's leading imams have backed a fatwa against the Islamic State terrorist group, warning that any support for the group contradicts Islamic teachings.
In a New Year message to the nation's Muslim community, the Grand Mufti of Australia together with prominent imams from NSW and Victoria have given their religious opinions and urged congregations, particularly the youth, to listen to their religious leaders.
The Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, who is the leading representative of Australia's Sunni Islamic scholars, said "most Islamic Legal Circles and Fatwa Boards have condemned ISIS, declaring that Islam is innocent of all these barbaric actions despite ISIS using the term Islamic in its name. The term 'Islamic State' has been usurped by ISIS," he said, using one of several acronyms for IS.
"We stand with all organisations that have condemned ISIS and declared innocence from its inhumane actions.
"Locally we would like to bring to the attention of our youth, and those who lead them, that ISIS is a trick designed to prey on youth, either by their being killed or locked up in prison. We doubt the origins of ISIS because since it was established it has not done one thing for the benefit of Islam and Muslims. Rather its actions and barbaric acts have been against the way of God," he said.
"Therefore we warn our youth regarding the deceitful propaganda that ISIS uses through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We remind our youth in Australia that social media and the medium of the internet cannot be a trusted means regarding religious knowledge."
Dr Mohamed's comments come as Muslim leaders around the world, including 70,000 clerics in India, have issued a fatwa against terrorist groups including ISIS and after the Australian National Imams Consultative Forum released a document, Australian Muslim perspective on some key contemporary concerns, addressing religious issues raised by IS's activities and recruitment.
The document examines dozens of issues from citizenship in Australia and Islam, to jihad, and makes statements backed by more than 20 Australian imams against slavery, suicide, and foreign fighting. It bluntly states that the so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, as proclaimed by IS is not legitimate and therefore Australian Muslims have no obligation to follow its dictates.
Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, of the Board of Imams in Victoria, also had a New Year message for the community, saying that violent extremism is neither religious nor Islamic.
"We condemn and deplore ISIS's violent propaganda that is perpetrated against innocent civilians in the name of Islam as the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'Harm is neither inflicted nor tolerated in Islam.'"
He said that "ISIS is trying to justify 'violence against innocent civilians' by interpreting texts of the Koran and hadiths, statements of Muhammad 'cherry-picked and out of context' to suit their violent actions. Majority of the leading scholars and Islamic organisations have vehemently denounced ISIS for its illegitimate and misleading propaganda."
Sheikh Yahya Safi, the imam at Australia's biggest mosque in Lakemba, said: "I stand with the Islamic scholars from around the world who have condemned the actions of ISIS that contradict the teachings of Islam and I have stressed this on many occasions, especially in my Friday sermons."
Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilali, the former grand mufti of Australia, has also warned that IS is like a trap that had tricked people and countries.
"Joining them is a type of madness that does not concord with the teachings of any religion. I warn the Muslim youths from all over the world against joining ISIS or supporting them in any way," Sheikh Hilali said.
"Joining such a group or supporting it contradicts the Islamic teachings 100 per cent, because this group is clear in breach of the Islamic teachings."
Liberal party election strategist Lynton Crosby has been awarded a knighthood in the United Kingdom
The British Left have a hide to criticize this. They have promoted some pretty dubious characters. I have in mind the amazingly "controversial" Keith Vaz. He has not yet made it into the House of Lords but Tony Blair appointed him to the Privy Council -- so he is now a "Right Honourable"
Nicknamed the Wizard of Oz, Mr Crosby has been knighted for "political service", after running the election campaign for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
He was among 1,926 people honoured in the New Year list.
Hailing from South Australia, Mr Crosby was the federal director of the Liberals until 2002, playing a key role in John Howard's four election victories.
He also had success with campaign of London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Known for his aggressive approach to political strategy, Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable once referred to Mr Crosby as "an Australia rottweiler".
Controversy over knighthoods as political rewards
British Labour's shadow home secretary Andy Burnham called Mr Crosby's knighthood "outrageous".
Mr Burnham said it was "the clearest evidence yet that the Tories think they can get away with whatever they like".
Another Labour MP, Graham Jones, said it was a sign of cronyism. "The honours system is supposed to recognise dedicated public service, not simply be a vehicle to reward Tory cronies and donors," Mr Jones said. "David Cameron should take care not to undermine the integrity of the system."
Cardinal Pell: a scapegoat at the altar of progressivism
Australians concerned about freedom of religion in this country would be well advised to look beyond the present and likely future debate over same-sex marriage.
Already, what was until recently the traditional view, that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, is being presented as offensive at best and discriminatory at worst by some who advocate what they term marriage equality.
It is not only many believers who hold the traditional view about marriage. However, it is possible that the Catholic Church and some other Christian denominations, plus adherents of Hinduism and Islam, will be targeted for their attitudes on this issue by government tribunals and the like in the future. The first instance is already manifesting itself in Tasmania with respect to the Catholic Church.
For an example of how current government-funded institutions regard religion, attention should be given to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The royal commission has done good work in revealing the extent of mainly historical cases of child sexual abuse in churches and secular and government institutions up until relatively recent times.
Evidence before the royal commission indicates that sexual abuse was at a high level in the Catholic Church until about two decades ago, particularly in Victoria in the archdiocese of Melbourne and the diocese of Ballarat in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.
The Catholic Church has never been a democracy. Each archdiocese or diocese is ruled by an archbishop or bishop respectively who reports directly to the Pope in Rome.
Evidence given to the royal commission and the Victorian parliamentary inquiry demonstrates that Frank Little (archbishop of Melbourne from 1974 to 1996) and Ronald Mulkearns (bishop of Ballarat from 1971 to 1997) knew of instances of pedophilia in their areas of responsibility but covered them up.
George Pell was the first archbishop or bishop to act against child sexual abuse when he set up the Melbourne Response in 1996, just three months after being appointed archbishop of Melbourne. This was the first time Pell had been in charge of an archdiocese or diocese.
Even so, Pell has very much been the target of the royal commission. It could be that such an expensive and longstanding organisation wants a high-profile target. And Pell is one of the best known Australians. Moreover, the cardinal has an international reputation and is the third most senior figure in the Vatican.
Pell already has appeared before the royal commission twice, once in person and once by video link from Rome. He also appeared in person at the Victorian parliamentary inquiry.
It has been known for some time that Pell has a heart condition. Yet on December 11 royal commission chairman Peter McClellan dismissed the cardinal’s request to give evidence via video link from Rome. This despite the fact Pell had a doctor’s certificate stating he was unfit to undertake long-distance air travel and that other witnesses, resident in Australia, had given evidence by video link.
Clearly the royal commission wants Pell in the witness box, even though such a personal appearance is most unlikely to change his evidence.
In the hearings last month, many of the high-profile claims about what Pell allegedly was told concerning child sex abuse between two and four decades ago collapsed under cross-examination from the cardinal’s lawyers.
It may be that the royal commission has a secondary agenda — namely, by focusing on the conservative Pell, it hopes to influence the Catholic Church to move to a less theologically conservative mindset.
Two case studies illustrate the point.
On August 24 last year, the royal commission interviewed Geoffrey Robinson. The retired bishop is a progressive and a critic of Pell. Despite anticipation in the media, he said little about Pell except that he and many of his colleagues disliked the cardinal. But Robinson declared that, in the late 1980s, he regarded Mulkearns as “one of the more forward-looking bishops”.
Towards the end of his testimony, Robinson criticised “obligatory celibacy” for priests and what he termed the “creeping infallibility” of the Pope. Much to the apparent satisfaction of counsel assisting, Gail Furness SC.
Last month, John Walshe, the parish priest of Mentone in Melbourne, was called to the witness stand for several hours across two days. This followed his decision to make a statement supporting Pell’s recall of a phone conversation with child sex abuse victim David Ridsdale.
Counsel assisting, Angus Stewart SC, accused Walshe of having “fabricated” evidence because of his friendship with Pell. It was never suggested that any witnesses critical of Pell might be guilty of fabricating evidence because of their enmity towards the cardinal.
Before this exchange, Stewart put it to Walshe that he had “similar viewpoints on theological questions” to that of Pell, including “a conservative theology of priesthood and sexual morality”. McClellan later intervened to imply that there should be a “greater role” for “women in the church”. Later still, McClellan did not intervene when counsel for one of the victims raised issues such as married priests and even the Latin mass. None of this is directly related to clerical child sexual abuse.
The church in Victoria is divided into the archdiocese of Melbourne plus the dioceses of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst (based at Bendigo). The members of the hierarchy who most frequently turned a blind eye to the crimes of their priests were Little and Mulkearns in Melbourne and Ballarat respectively. Neither was a theological conservative. On the available evidence there was much less child sexual abuse in Sale and Sandhurst, where there was a conservative tradition.
It has been reported subsequently on the ABC and in Fairfax Media that, when a young priest, Walshe was found by church authorities to have had an improper sexual relationship with an 18-year-old seminarian. This was a serious indiscretion but not a crime. However, neither news organisation has covered the recent revelation in The Australian that one of Pell’s most high-profile accusers is a convicted pedophile.
The lack of balance in the media’s reporting of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church reflects the fact many journalists detest Pell’s conservatism. There are disturbing signs that a similar disposition is evident in the royal commission, which runs the risk of breaching the division between church and state.
Lake Eyre begins filling with water after Queensland outback gets monsoon rains
Recent rainfall in S.W. Queensland and South Australia's far north has started to fill Lake Eyre, turning dry and dusty plains green with vegetation.
The Bureau of Meteorology has flood watch alerts in place for the north-east pastoral district, with a number of roads closed, including parts of the Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks.
Kalamurina has recorded 182.8 millimetres of rain, Mt Dare 63 millimetres and Oodnadatta 23.8 millimetres over the past few days.
The Birdsville Track from the South Australian border to Mungeranie, Mungeranie to Kalamurina, the Birdsville Inside Track, Marree to Muloorina, Strzelecki Track from Innamincka to Merty Merty, Mount Hopeless to Lyndhurst, Innamincka to Nappa Merrie and Cordillo Downs Road to Arrabury turn off to SA/Qld border tracks are closed due to rain.
Sections of the Oodnadatta Track, between Hamilton and Oodnadatta, Mt Dare and Hamilton, Oodnadatta and Coober Pedy, and William Creek and Marree are also closed to all vehicles.
William Creek pilot Trevor Wright said the rain had started to bring Lake Eyre to life. "Lake Eyre is looking fantastic at the present time," he said. "It's got a very good covering of water on it from that rain we had, that depression that came down from the Northern Territory. "There are quite a few smaller creeks flowing into it on the east side and also from the Anna Creek side as well."
Mr Wright said it had been several years since he had seen so much greenery in the region.
"The whole area, it's not brown and red anymore, it's just green with saltbush and vegetation growing. Quite a lot of the clay pans and swamps are starting to fill up with water," he said.
"It's very unusual to see this amount of green at this time of year — it's usually burning."
The rain has been well received by pastoralists and has tourism operators hopeful for a busy season. "It's starting to put some colour back into it for people who want to see something that's pretty unique in the middle of summer," Mr Wright said. "It's a great chance, providing they take the right precautions, to come up and have a look around the area.
"Out in the Simpson Desert I would say over the next week or so the greening up of that will be incredible."
However, Mr Wright said the rain highlighted the need for improved telecommunications across the region, with search and rescue missions often hindered by failing satellite systems.
"I think some of the resources from the Federal and State Government should be looking at rural and remote areas to upgrade the telecommunication services, especially out this way," he said.
"If we do get follow-up rain, I think it will be a reasonable tourist season in 2016, and one of the high priorities there is communications for people coming in from interstate and overseas."
Qld.: More reductions in solar panel handouts planned
HUNDREDS of thousands of homeowners with solar panels would lose the generous feed-in tariff if they install energy-storing batteries, under a proposal by Energex.
In a submission to the Queensland Productivity Commission electricity pricing inquiry, the state-owned power distributor calls for the law to be changed to strip customers’ eligibility for the 44¢/kWh tariff if they fit Battery Energy Storage Systems.
The Palaszczuk Government says battery storage was not envisaged when the solar bonus scheme was introduced. But it was not ruling the proposal in or out at this stage and would consider it along with other recommendations after the commission released its report in mid-February.
Queensland has almost 400,000 homes with PV panels. Stripping eligibility to the 44¢ rate would affect about 265,000 households.
Energex argues the increased ability to keep large amounts of power for release back into the network would give those solar householders on the top rate an unfair advantage which was never intended by the bonus scheme.
Ergon does not call for eligibility to be removed in its submission, but argues that generous government rebates and feed-in tariffs have shifted the mindset of many customers from an environmental motivation to seeking a financial return.
But solar owners are furious. Brisbane resident John Sheehan, who has been the local co-ordinator for Solar Citizens, said the proposal unfairly penalised individuals and undermined the State Government’s own target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
He said such a move would discourage people from installing batteries until the bonus scheme ended 12 years from now.
“Energex’s action in proposing to block 170,000 homes from installing batteries conflicts with their rhetoric about price signals and reducing peak loads. It’s hypocritical and a bit childish really.’’
Mr Sheehan speculated that the distributor was concerned that batteries would reduce evening peak demand — and reduce the amount power companies could charge under planned demand-based tariffs.
The 44c/kWh feed-in tariff, brought in by Labor in 2008 as an incentive to encourage homeowners to fit photo voltaic systems, has helped make Queensland the solar capital of Australia.
The rate was reduced to 8c/KWh for new customers in 2012 by the incoming LNP government, which shut it down in 2014. Home-owners in southeast Queensland now have to negotiate a rate with their individual energy retailer, while regional customers get 6.348c/kWh.
But those on the 44c level continue to receive it.