Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Shut down the sheiks who incite violence by Muslims
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me -- Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984
The Protestant pastor who, for being an outspoken critic of Hitler, spent the final seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps
That history often repeats itself imperfectly shouldn’t discourage us from learning from the past. Martin Niemoller’s lesson about political apathy, first delivered in Europe’s postwar years, has ramifications in the 21st century.
Islamist terrorists, under different names, from al-Qa’ida to Hezbollah to Islamic State and others, came for the Jews first. Then they came for the Americans on 9/11, then the British people on buses and walking along London streets.
Then other Islamist terrorists, using different names but infused with a similar religious ideology, came for prepubescent Nigerian schoolgirls. Others came to murder Yazidi boys and men; they came for the Yazidi girls too, selling and raping them.
They came for the gays in Syria and Iraq, tossing them off rooftops. They gunned down iconoclastic French cartoonists in Paris, young Parisians in a nightclub too, others in a restaurant, a cafe. French policemen were slaughtered on the street. Men advocating the same Islamist terrorist cause came for customers in a Sydney cafe, a Sydney police worker.
Then, on Sunday at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, they came for the gays, murdering 49 people. They will come for others, too. Every Western country is on high alert to prevent further murder at the hands of Islamic terrorists. It’s not that we are saying nothing. We say plenty each time Islamic terrorists strike. But too few say what’s needed. And that leads to the challenge raised by Niemoller: does silence equal complicity when it allows evil to continue?
Three fundamental failures rooted in politics, law and culture have led the West to a dangerous inflexion point in relation to the way we use words in the terrorism space. Politically, we fail to discuss the critical issue of the relationship between Islam and terrorism. Legally, we have laws that fail to prosecute those who incite murderous violence. Culturally, we have created a system of competitive victimhood, where people vie for victimhood status, become infantilised by a bevy of laws and concomitant social diktats about what can and cannot be said.
There is a direct relationship between each of these societal failures. The explosion of feelings-based claims, legal or otherwise, distracts us from confronting those who incite others to violence and, most critically, it fuels a modern veneration of victimhood that stifles critical debates about the values and future of Western liberal democracies.
US President Barack Obama has come to symbolise the political failure. Time and again, he has shied away from even mentioning the root cause of modern terrorism: radical Islamic ideology. This week, Obama confected outrage over this analysis of his presidency. He built a straw man that he could easily tear down. “Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we really use that phrase (radical Islam) we’re going to turn this thing around’,” he said as he criticised the term as just a talking point.
Except that Obama hasn’t managed to talk about this talking point. Not once this week has he engaged on the great challenge facing the West: the relationship between Islam and terrorism. If the leader of the free world cannot speak honestly about this, who can?
Refreshingly, in July last year British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “It’s dangerous to deny the link with Islam because when you do that you neuter the important voices challenging the religious basis which terrorists use for their own warped purposes.”
Alas, one good speech is not a conversation. In Australia, Malcolm Turnbull begrudgingly manages to mention “radical Islamists” and there the real conversation stops before it’s even started.
The departure of Sheik Farrokh Sekaleshfar from Australia on Tuesday night raises questions for us to consider. Sekaleshfar came as a guest of the Imam Husain Islamic Centre in Sydney’s Earlwood. Sekaleshfar has previously said having the death penalty for homosexuals in Islamic societies “is nothing to be embarrassed about”.
He outlined those views in Orlando just weeks before gays were slaughtered in the Pulse nightclub. He told the ABC, “I am a follower of the Islamic faith” and, according to Islamic faith, gays can be put to death in certain circumstances.
According to the sheik, death is appropriate, indeed compassionate, to end the life of sinning homosexuals if they have sex in public. “You will sin less … we’ve saved you,” Sekaleshfar said.
The sheik has left Australia. He has been rightly condemned. The Turnbull government is reviewing visa processes. And now? Silence and a hope maybe that the sheik’s rapid exit from Australia will let sleeping dogs lie.
Yet uncomfortable and important questions remain not just unanswered but unasked. Do the members of the Imam Husain Islamic Centre, as followers of the Islamic faith, also accept the sheik’s views about death sometimes being an appropriate punishment for gays? What about members of the Islamic faith beyond this Islamic centre in Earlwood? Do they agree with Islam’s violent attitude towards homosexuals?
On Thursday evening at Kirribilli, the Prime Minister hosted senior Islamic leaders, including Sheik Shady Alsuleiman, president of the Australian National Imams Council, who has condemned gays for “spreading diseases” and delivering “evil outcomes to our society”. Among the guests was Hafez Kassem, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, who has said gays should be treated with medication; and Supreme Islamic Shia Council head Kamal Mousselmani, who defended Sekaleshfar’s right to believe that gays should be put to death. Just imagine the outrage from the Left if a Catholic leader had said such things.
How many Australians Muslims represented by these Islamic leaders support these homophobic and violent views? Cultural relativism doesn’t cut it here. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week, Muslim homophobia is institutionalised by Islamic law and homosexuality is criminalised in 40 out of 57 Muslim-majority countries.
Iran hangs men for being gay. Islamic State throws homosexuals off tall buildings. “Homophobia comes in many forms,” writes Hirsi Ali. “But none is more dangerous in our time than the Islamic version.”
If you advocate death for a group of people, you are inciting violence. That ought to be a crime. Even ardent defenders of free speech shouldn’t tolerate words that incite violence. Yet NSW, where so many terrorist attacks have happened and many more have been planned, has become an unfortunate template for the wretched legal and political failures to prevent those who knowingly and deliberately incite others to cause physical harm to people.
Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, enacted in 1989, prohibits those who incite violence towards others on the basis of race. There has not been a single prosecution, let alone a conviction. Not even when the spiritual leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ismail al-Wahwah, called for “jihad against the Jews”, when he called Jews a “cancerous tumour” that had to be “uprooted” and destroyed. His violent words were uploaded to YouTube, accessible to every young man with murder on his mind and hatred in his heart.
There have been empty political words and undelivered promises from NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton about keeping the state safe: the state’s Liberal government has done nothing so far to ensure this law is enforceable and enforced.
Meanwhile, laws at the federal level haul young students into court for using words that simply hurt the feelings of a woman who worked at the Queensland University of Technology.
We have not just lost all sense of proportion. We have lost sight of principle. Inciting violence should limit our right to speak freely. Hurting someone’s feelings should not. Our failure on both fronts is dangerous. Laws that protect hurt feelings have created a wider, informal but no less powerful muzzle on us, preventing us from having necessary conversations about Islam. The same strictures infantilise Muslims as too irrational or too vulnerable to discuss their own faith.
Islamophobia epithets are routinely thrown around to enforce what has become a deadly silence. If a few Australian Muslims won’t critique their religion, just as Christianity and Judaism have been challenged from within over hundreds of years, then, as Orlando shows, an internal problem for Islam becomes our problem. Islam’s homophobia, divined from scripture and most recently enunciated by Sekaleshfar, struck at young gay men and women dancing in the nightclub in Orlando. Who’s next? And when will someone finally speak up about what is at stake for Islam and the West?
Shorten’s jobs scheme dream won’t work
Here we go again — another jobs scheme dream. Take close to $260 million of taxpayers’ money, give a 140 per cent tax break to microbusinesses (with turnover less than $2m) that take on young workers, old workers or parents returning to work and, voila, 30,000 jobs are created annually.
Pull the other one, Bill Shorten. Couldn’t you have come up with something better than this for Labor’s big campaign launch?
We have experience with these sorts of wage subsidy programs going back more than 40 years. We know they don’t work, that they carry very high administration costs and that any apparent new jobs are offset by displaced workers. We also know they are gamed by employers.
So why would you bother? After all, most of the state governments have a raft of these useless policies. In Victoria, for example, we have the Back to Work program and the Youth Employment Scheme. The key driver of these schemes is the scope for the government to demonstrate that “something is being done” while keeping the rising number of bureaucrats busy.
So it is with federal Labor’s weekend thought-bubble, even though this new federal scheme would be tripping over state schemes that have the same targets. Labor is “all about people”, helping marginal workers into work, even if it is at the expense of other workers.
The thing that really cracks me up about these wage subsidy schemes — which are also supported by Coalition governments (just check out Scott Morrison’s doozy in the budget, the appalling titled Jobs PaTH) — is their implicit acknowledgment that the wages employers must pay to hire these workers are above market-clearing levels.
If this were not the case, employers would willingly take them without any taxpayer assistance.
The real policy lesson is that we need sufficient labour market flexibility to allow these (initially) low-productivity workers to contract into the labour market, rather than introduce another expensive and ineffective jobs program.
Tony Abbott for Defence Minister
Tony Abbott isn’t going anywhere. The former prime minister has been saying so for a while, and now it’s time for the new regime to get serious about what to do with him.
He wants to be the Defence Minister. He hasn’t said so in a public way but everybody knows it. He wants Senator Marise Payne’s position in a new Turnbull government.
The question for the new Prime Minister – presuming, as now looks likely, that the Turnbull government is returned – is whether to give it to him.
One problem that immediately needs to be overcome is the shortage of women on the Coalition frontbench. Yes, there are more women in Turnbull’s cabinet than there were in Abbott’s but they still aren’t there in the kind of numbers that would make a move on Payne’s position easy to explain away, especially not if Kelly O’Dwyer loses her seat to the Greens.
On the other hand, Abbott is the base. He represents rock-solid conservatism that lies at the heart of the Liberal Party. Without the base, the party does not survive.
Abbott was on Ray Hadley’s radio program in Sydney this morning, talking about his future. Hadley asked him straight out what role he wanted to play in a Turnbull government, and Abbott wouldn’t say anything other than he was hoping to be re-elected as the member for Warringah.
That’s not all he wants. Abbott sees himself as the person who can represent blue-ribbon conservative values in a Cabinet led by a man who holds positions – both privately and publicly – at odds with the base.
Does Turnbull want Abbott in Cabinet? Of course not. He wants Abbott to go away. To retire from politics. To take one of the plums that has been dangled before him – a position in London, perhaps? – and leave Turnbull to govern as he sees fit for the next three years.
That’s not how politics works. Politics is a bit like war: you have to go in with the army you’ve got, and Abbott intends to be part of the team.
He is not going away. Therefore, Turnbull – who is unquestionably going to collect a few nicks and dings as he makes his way back to The Lodge - has to work with him.
Abbott would argue that the sensible thing would be to give him a ministry, and preferably the one he wants.
Hadley this morning suggested Aboriginal Affairs. Abbott was, after all, the leader who said he wanted to be Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, but he pushed that suggestion away.
Aboriginal reconciliation, Constitutional recognition – these are matters for the Prime Minister, he said.
So should Turnbull give him defence? You can’t see him doing so willingly, or generously. Not at all. How about pragmatically?
Turnbull is not at heart a pragmatist. He’s a deal maker, but that’s different. That’s about giving something in the expectation of receiving something in return.
Turnbull made plenty of promises to people on his side of politics in exchange for their support for the leadership. Payne was one of his supporters (as was Kelly O’Dwyer).
Abbott will not like it, but the odds are against this move. That said, readers, you are the base: what would you do? The Prime Minister probably needs to hear.
Triggs rejects Callinan offer to role in uni race case
Gillian Triggs has rebuffed an offer from former High Court judge Ian Callinan QC to investigate the Human Rights Commission’s handling of a vexed racial-hatred complaint against university students in Queensland.
Mr Callinan, who retired from Australia’s highest court in 2007, agreed to independently conduct the probe after being asked by the lawyer for a student from the Queensland University of Technology, Alex Wood.
Mr Wood is one of several students whose Facebook posts led to them being accused by university staffer Cindy Prior under the Racial Discrimination Act’s section 18C, which makes unlawful any act reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person because of their race. The students and QUT are being sued by Ms Prior for more than $250,000.
Ms Prior, who is indigenous, had turned white students including Mr Wood away from QUT’s indigenous-only Oodgeroo Unit in May 2013 after they had turned up to access computers not in use.
Students expressed annoyance at their ejection on social media and Mr Wood wrote on Facebook: “Just got kicked out of the unsigned indigenous computer room. QUT (is) stopping segregation with segregation.”
A recent formal complaint by the students that their rights were breached by the HRC’s conduct in mismanaging the case prompted Ms Triggs to ask a Sydney silk, Angus Stewart SC, to investigate. Mr Stewart’s role is being challenged by the students for reasons including his purported former ties as a student in the 1980s to the African National Congress in South Africa.
Mr Stewart, who is from South Africa, where he served as an acting judge, has rejected suggestions that any reasonable person would believe him to be biased.
Mr Wood’s lawyer, Michael Henry, also raised objections including that Mr Stewart had acted in Australia for “a number of well-resourced Aboriginal Land Corporations” Mr Wood believes are funding Ms Prior’s actions.
The HRC’s lawyer, John Howell, replied to Mr Henry on Friday: “The ‘concerns’ you raise about Mr Stewart are without foundation. They include a number of assertions about the supposed ideological views of both Mr Stewart and clients you say he has acted for. Any suggestion that he would not be impartial or capable of undertaking any inquiry and conciliation functions as a result of the matters discussed in your submission is rejected.”
Mr Howell said Ms Triggs “wishes if possible to avoid a (situation) that might lead to a deterioration in Mr Wood’s wellbeing. For that reason, she is prepared to consider making an alternate (appointment)”. The most accomplished on a short list of four proposed by Mr Wood’s lawyer was the former Howard government’s conservative High Court choice, Mr Callinan. However, Mr Howell said Ms Triggs was “not minded to” offer the role to any of the candidates on Mr Henry’s shortlist.
The alternative proposed by Ms Triggs is a senior lawyer, Rowena Orr QC, who had not previously performed work for the commission or its president.
Ms Prior says she has suffered “offence, embarrassment, humiliation and psychiatric injury” as well as fears for her safety due to the Facebook posts. Her complaint to the HRC alleging racial hatred in May 2014 was escalated to the Federal Court a year later in a process in which the students were not advised they faced serious racial hatred charges.
Ms Triggs has given the students until late this month to consider the alternative appointment of an investigator of their complaint. The Federal Circuit Court’s Michael Jarrett has reserved his decision on a bid by the students to have the case dismissed.
The legal costs in the case for parties including the university are estimated at more than $1 million.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here