Saturday, February 17, 2007

Limit Muslim migration, Australia warned

Good that somebody dares to say the obvious

Life can become untenable when the Muslim population of a non-Muslim country reaches about 10 per cent, as shown by France, a Jewish expert on Islam says. The Australian Jewish News yesterday quoted Raphael Israeli as saying Australia should cap Muslim immigration or risk being swamped by Indonesians. Professor Israeli told the Herald that was a misunderstanding. But he said: "When the Muslim population gets to a critical mass you have problems. That is a general rule, so if it applies everywhere it applies in Australia."

Professor Israeli, an expert on Islamic history from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has been brought to Australia by the Shalom Institute of the University of NSW. The Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council is co-hosting many of his activities. He said Muslim immigrants had a reputation for manipulating the values of Western countries, taking advantage of their hospitality and tolerance. "Greeks or Italians or Jews don't use violence. There is no Italian or Jewish Hilaly [a reference to the controversial cleric Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly of Lakemba mosque]. Why?"

Professor Israeli said that when the Muslim population increased, so did the risk of violence. "Where there are large Muslim populations who are prepared to use violence you are in trouble. If there is only 1 or 2 per cent they don't dare to do it - they don't have the backing of big communities. They know they are drowned in the environment of non-Muslims and are better behaved." In Australia, Muslims account for about 1.5 per cent of the population.

Professor Israeli said that in France, which has the highest proportion of Muslims in Europe at about 10 per cent, it was already too late. There were regions even the police were scared to enter, and militant Muslims were changing the country's political, economic and cultural fabric, and demanding anti-Semitic and anti-Israel policies. "French people say they are strangers in their own country. This is a point of no return. "If you are on a collision course, what can you do? You can't put them all in prison, and anyway they are not all violent. You can't send them all back. You are really in trouble. It's irreversible."

Professor Israeli said that in Australia a few imams had preached violence. "You should not let fundamentalist imams come here. Screen them 1000 times before they are admitted, and after they are admitted screen what they say in the mosque." He said some Muslims wanted to impose sharia (Islamic law) in their adopted countries, and when propaganda did not work they turned to intimidation.

Professor Israeli said his task was to describe, not prescribe. He also said his warning did not include immigrants, including Muslims, who simply wanted to improve their lot. As long as they respected the law and democracy, their numbers - Buddhist, Muslim or Jew - were immaterial. It became material when a group accepted violence. "The trains in London and Madrid were not blown up by Christians or Buddhists but by Muslims, so it is them we have to beware," he said.

Keysar Trad, of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said "Not only religious clerics need to be screened before entering Ausralia but also academics . this type of academic does nothing but create hatred, suspicion and division. We should review not only what the man has said but also those who have sponsored him, to see if they endorse those comments."


Leftist leader a cafeteria Christian

Is Kevin Rudd a serious Christian? Along with most observers, I've been prepared to take his professions of faith on trust. However, the more I read of what he's said to interviewers on the subject, the more I wonder.

Regular readers of this column will recall a bizarre remark he made in an ABC Radio Saturday Extra interview with Geraldine Doogue: "The starting point with Christianity is a theology of social justice." As I noted some weeks ago, orthodox Christianity's starting point is actually the Incarnation, God in human flesh. By comparison, social justice theology's concern with redistribution of wealth via taxes or industrial legislation is at best a second-order issue.

On the evidence of the Saturday Extra interview, the most charitable thing one could say about Rudd's take on Christianity is that it is partial. It owes less to the Apostles' Creed than to Keir Hardie, the Presbyterian activist who helped found the British Labour Party. Its focus is on this world, seen through a decidedly ideological prism.

Even more disturbing are Rudd's accounts of how he made the transition from cradle Catholic to his current affiliation, which Barney Zwartz, The Age's religious affairs correspondent, tells us is evangelically Anglican. In November 2005 he summarised matters for Peter Hartcher, for a feature article in the Fairfax press's Good Weekend. He alluded to his Catholic origins and his wife's Anglicanism and said of the marriage: "It's a unity ticket, but I never resigned from Rome."

Likening the two main Australian denominations to Labor Party factions was jocular enough to deter Hartcher from further probing. But Julia Baird, in a Sunday Profile on ABC Radio in March 2006, referred to the Good Weekend piece and asked: "Can you clear this up for us: what actually happened?" Rudd replied: "Well, having just voted for RU-486, maybe they will resign for me. I'm not sure. Well, no, I've never sought formally to separate myself from the Catholic Church because I married an Anglican and I just have a very simple view that families that pray together stay together, usually. And I've got to say that the big thing for me is that denominationalism means virtually nothing to me."

In the Baird interview he also described the year he spent in Sydney between school and university: "I knocked around a lot of churches and got to know a lot of people and discovered that Christianity was wider than Roman Catholicism and there were a whole lot of other Christian traditions to talk to and think about and so through that process I came to an adult view of faith."

Adopting your wife's denomination because "families that pray together stay together" can easily be defended on pragmatic grounds. But is it really what you'd expect of someone who took an intelligent interest in his faith? Of course, unlike the Labor Party, you can't just send in your ticket and resign, but there are various courses of action, including regular attendance at Protestant worship, that effectively exclude you from membership of the Catholic Church. What are we to make of a change of allegiance with no renunciation of a previous, profoundly different affiliation?

Technically the segue to Anglicanism is a fairly simple matter, because Canterbury recognises the validity of Roman baptism and confirmation. For ex-Anglicans, becoming a Catholic still involves a second confirmation. It used to mean conditional re-baptism as well, though these days the validity of the other baptismal rite is accepted. Reception into either church after confirmation in the other was once a very solemn event indeed, and is now treated with increasing formality - after a latitudinarian phase - by Catholic clergy. For Rudd in the early 1980s, joining his wife's congregation as a communicant member would have been an effortless business.

The ease of that transition is in marked contrast to the anguish felt by many throughout most of the past century who were involved in mixed marriages. Rome once insisted without exception on the children of such marriages being brought up as Catholics and, often enough, Protestant grandparents would threaten to disinherit everyone concerned if they were. Even those struggles were trivial by comparison with the earlier sacrifices of people on both sides, who endured beggary, torture and martyrdom for the sake of their faith.

Of course no one wants to go back to the sectarian hostilities of the recent past, let alone the Reformation. The reason why I mention them is to reinforce the point that there are persisting, intractable differences on weighty matters of principle that divide Anglicans and Catholics. Rudd can flatter himself that knocking about with other Christians has given him "an adult view of faith". But isn't his line that "denominationalism means virtually nothing to me" the sign of a theologically undernourished faith, one with no distinguishing characteristics? While we know he's read some of Bonhoeffer, where does he stand on the fundamentals?

For example, evangelical Anglicans regard a communion service as a memorial of the Last Supper, a symbolic community meal. Catholics believe the mass is a propitiatory sacrifice, where the transubstantiated body and blood of Christ are offered up on the altar in a re-enactment of Calvary. It is hardly possible to overstate the difference between the two approaches or the understandings of the role of the church and the kinds of spirituality to which they give rise.

Evangelical Anglicans tend to a Calvinist view of the Bible as the layman's chief guide and ultimate source of religious authority. Catholic theology regards the Bible as a collection of books the early church chose and canonised, which Rome alone has the power to interpret definitively. It also places vastly greater weight on tradition as a source of authority.

Another great gulf relates to the question of the paramount power - and, in some circumstances, infallibility - asserted by the papacy. Some 40 years ago, when evangelical influence was in a relative decline and Canterbury's Archbishop Michael Ramsay visited Rome in the spring of 1966, it briefly seemed possible that Anglicans might one day see their way clear to accepting the pope as "first among equals" and that papal infallibility might be so narrowly defined that it ceased to be an obstacle. Those halcyon days have long since passed.

In the era when a reunion between Rome and Canterbury was widely anticipated, it was fashionable in some circles to trivialise the divisions between them and even in trendy circles to encourage occasional inter-denominational communion, especially at weddings and funerals. It's a practice that has been officially discouraged by the local Catholic hierarchy since at least 1998, when George Pell as archbishop of Melbourne created headlines by telling Jeff Kennett privately, and other non-Catholic mourners during the ceremony, not to come to communion at Bob Santamaria's funeral. But before then the clerical laxity of the times may, perhaps, have allowed even the evangelical Rudd to imagine he could continue to have a foot in both camps.

Canterbury decided in 1992 to proceed with the ordination of women as priests, an innovation categorically disallowed by John Paul II. This precluded any possibility of reunion and served to re-emphasise other irreconcilable differences over issues of faith and order. Notable among them is the present pope's ruling that the historic bull Apostolicae Curae (1896) declaring Anglican ordinations null and void was itself an infallible pronouncement. Another element is the fragmentation and impending collapse of global Anglicanism as an entity. Where once high church Anglo-Catholics were often doctrinally quite close to Roman Catholics, those Anglicans who rejected female ordination on principle have mostly crossed the Rubicon, leaving a more emphatically Protestant church behind them.

Practically anyone who'd regularly read newspapers over the past 25 years would be broadly aware of the state of relations between Rome and Canterbury. Churchgoing Anglicans, and people with an evangelical allegiance especially, could hardly help but be acutely aware of the turn of events. For nearly a decade in Australia it's been official: Protestants aren't welcome to communion at Catholic altars. It's always been obvious that you couldn't in good conscience be both a Freemason and a papal knight.

If the Leader of the Opposition wants to pursue the Catholic vote - something the ALP has taken for granted far too long - he's perfectly entitled to do so. However he can't pretend that sometimes, when it suits him, deep down he's still a member of the tribe. Rudd likes to accuse the Howard ministry of hypocrisy, in selectively accepting praise from the Salvos for a tough stance on drugs while dismissing the Anglican primate out of hand for criticising them over Iraq or industrial relations. On account of this alleged cherry-picking, he calls the Government "cafeteria Christians", but it's a charge to which he himself seems at least as vulnerable.


Police thugs in Victoria

An attempt to protect the fat Lesbian affirmative-action appointee who is presiding over a meltdown

A political storm erupted last night over a police hunt for the names of officers critical of Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon. Liberal MP Bernie Finn accused senior police of contempt of Parliament for setting "bully boys" on to him. Mr Finn said an ethical standards officer demanded a meeting with him after he quoted several police emails in Parliament this week, including one that described Ms Nixon as "a disgrace". He said Det-Sgt Trevor King wanted to meet him at 10am today to find out who wrote the emails.

The meeting was suddenly cancelled yesterday after the Herald Sun raised questions with the Chief Commissioner's office. Ms Nixon's staff said the meeting "had been set up in error". But Mr Finn said he rejected the excuse. "You can't can set up a meeting and demand a specific time by mistake," he said.

Det Sgt King also left a message for Mr Finn late yesterday stating he "no longer sees it is necessary to meet with him". Mr Finn said the ESD officer had been particularly interested in an email titled "(F)at beanbag". "He wanted me to tell him who it was from," Mr Finn said. He said the police investigator had stepped over the line in his bid to track down the author of the email.

The Upper House MP said he was seeking advice about laying contempt of Parliament charges. "My view is that this is attempting to heavy a Member of Parliament and may well constitute contempt of Parliament," he said. "I don't like her (Christine Nixon) and she doesn't like me, but is that any reason for her to send the bully boys after me."

The storm erupted on Tuesday when Mr Finn made a speech highly critical of Ms Nixon. He quoted from emails that were sent to him by serving and former police officers after an earlier speech in which he said she should be sacked. One email, from a serving detective-sergeant in the metropolitan area, said: "Never in my career (25 years of operational policing including stints at the homicide squad and armed offenders squad) have I seen morale at such a low ebb. "It is due entirely to the fact that an inexperienced academic was appointed to the top job." Another email read: "She has destroyed the morale of all members and is a disgrace."

Mr Finn said he was contacted by three retired superintendents who wrote: "The Victoria Police is being managed -- not commanded -- by Snow White with the Marx Brothers supporting her." A member of staff at Mr Finn's electorate office in Sunshine said Det-Sgt King tried to trick her into revealing the author of one email. "He tried to get me to give him a name, and said Bernie wouldn't mind," Christina Culliver said last night.


LET THE GREAT DEBATE ON CLIMATE CONTINUE: Science must not become a slave to its own orthodoxies

An editorial in "The Australian" below:

There is every indication that rather than being over, the real debate over climate change is only now getting started. On the one hand, the Australian Labor Party is once again high-stepping away from its greener elements, promising that if elected, Labor would not pull the plug on Australia's $23 billion coal export industry and would be tolerant of new coal explorations - so long as high standards are met.

What exactly such standards will be is not yet entirely clear. But there are foreshadowings in the revelation that the NSW Government is forcing Centennial Coal to factor into its costs $109 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted when the coal from its proposed Anvil Hill mine is burned. This price, based on the rate proposed by the widely criticised Stern Review, would make the mine financially unviable.

But on the other hand there is a growing chorus of murmurs against the received orthodoxy of climate change - and especially the dogmatic attempts by some scientists and politicians to shut down debate. While the recent IPCC report was held up as the last word on the subject, many scientists have pointed out that the 90 per cent certainty ascribed to the report's findings is in scientific terms not very certain at all.

Meanwhile, more attention is being paid to other levers that may influence the weather. For example, at the Danish National Space Centre in 2005 an experiment successfully linked cosmic rays to the formation of clouds. The discovery was significant because it adds weight to the link between cyclical sunspot activity and the climate here on Earth. At the same time it provides a more satisfactory explanation for contradictory Antarctic temperature trends that cannot be explained by conventional greenhouse global warming models.

Whatever the ultimate validity of the Danish experiment, it is worth applauding the determined scepticism in the face of orthodoxy demonstrated by the scientists behind it. For while there are many valid reasons to cut unhealthy smog-creating carbon emissions, there are also many reasons to be sceptical about the near-religious fervour with which the simplistic carbon-equals-warming equation is too often defended.

It is profoundly unscientific to say the debate is over and that sceptics are not only wrong on the facts but morally unhinged - as demonstrated by the unsubtle and offensive epithet "denier". It was scepticism that led Copernicus to challenge contemporary orthodoxy and assert that the Earth is not the centre of the universe. Today's scepticism could well prove that man-made carbon emissions are not the sole, or even primary, driver of climate change - a conclusion radically unsettling to those who believe that humanity is a destroyer rather than an improver of the Earth.

The fact is that our climate is infinitely complex. The models climatologists use to predict the future are incredibly sophisticated, yet blunt instruments. Scientists can never account for all the variables involved - indeed, no one has successfully come up with a mathematical equation to describe the formation of a single cloud. And scientists are often woefully out of their depth in the real world.

History is littered with lives and regimes that were wrecked when science was allowed to drive policy with no thought to humanity. Tearing down the global carbon-based economy to - in theory - replace it at a later date with unproven and undeveloped technologies would be a similar folly. It is only by tempering science with economics and the market, which is the most efficient arbiter of humanity's wants and needs, that smart climate policy can be made. Thus the old bumper sticker's exhortation to "Think locally, act globally" becomes a practical guidepost: think locally, by preserving jobs and investing time and money in creating a new complementary export industry around clean coal technology. And think globally by exporting our clean-burning, high-energy content anthracite coal and the technologies to ameliorate the effects of power generation to countries such as China, allowing them to develop their economies, improving air quality along with the quality of life.

It will be interesting, decades from now, to look back on the climate change debate. There is every chance we will regard today's headlines with the same bemusement with which we view the apocalyptic predictions of Thomas Malthus or the Club of Rome. Bob Brown's economically illiterate calls to shut the export coal industry and Tim Flannery's attempt to use two scant years' worth of data to predict the demise of the Arctic ice cap already look silly.

And for all the disasters predicted at the extreme ends of the climate change models, the developing world is suffering daily disasters in the form of preventable disease that stem not from too much growth, but too little, and which cost millions of lives a year. Here it will be economic growth, not carbon restrictions, that ends the tragedy. To say there are "limits to growth", as the Club of Rome's old saw goes, is to say there are limits to human potential and imagination. By all means let us take care of the planet and work to cut carbon emissions. But in the process let us not kick the ladder of development out from under us and consign the world to the sort of misery predicted by the doomsayers.

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