Monday, February 19, 2007

Muslim clerics push for flags to be flown on mosques

The Australian government's repeated insistence on assimilation bears some fruit:

Senior Muslim leaders have called for the Australian flag to be flown outside the nation's mosques as an expression of the Islamic community's "loyalty" and commitment to this country. Muslim clerics yesterday urged Australia's 300,000 Muslims to back the idea as a symbol of "integration" and pride. The former chairman of the Prime Minister's Muslim reference group, Ameer Ali, pushed the Australian Muslim community yesterday to adopt the flag. "Even in Muslim countries in the mosque they fly the national flag ... (such as) in Pakistan. If that can be done in a Muslim country why not in Australia?" Dr Ali said.

He said Muslims opposed to the flag being displayed outside mosques were religiously narrow-minded. "I think they are looking at it from a very narrow, religious angle," he said. Dr Ali said he spearheaded the initiative of displaying the flag outside Muslim schools owned by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils when he ran that organisation in 2002. He also ensured that students sang the national anthem during special functions. "We are Australian Muslims," he said. "And it (the flag) is a symbol of our national identity."

One of Australia's most respected female Muslim leaders, Aziza Abdel-Halim, said displaying a national flag outside mosques would not conflict with Islamic teachings. "Putting the Australian flag (outside mosques is) a good sign of integration, of being at one with everyone else in this country and our pride in being Australian," said Sister Abdel-Halim, also a former senior member of John Howard's Muslim advisory body. "I don't see anything at all that would contradict Islamic teachings in any way. It would be a nice gesture to have it, especially now that Muslims really need to underline the fact that they are loyal to this country."

Another respected imam, Amin Hady, said it would be especially important for the Australian flag to be flown outside mosques on special national occasions, such as Anzac Day and Australia Day. "That is to me a good idea to reaffirm the commitment of anyone living in this country, including the Muslims who are part of the population," the Indonesian imam said.

Islamic sources have told The Weekend Australian that the move to fly the flag was discussed by executive members of the Lebanese Muslim Association, one of the Islamic community's most prominent organisations. But the move, backed by several LMA board executives, to display the flag outside Lakemba Mosque, in Sydney's southwest, were staunchly opposed by some community members.

It is understood that the LMA's proposal came after a Muslim man tore down the Australian flag from the Lakemba office of the Mufti of Australia, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, last year and stomped on it to express his opposition to it. It is believed that Sheik Hilali - who recently labelled Westerners liars and oppressors and said Australia belonged more to Muslim immigrants who "paid for our passports" than Anglo-Saxon convicts - reprimanded the man before ordering him from the office, on the same premises as the mosque.

But Muslim leader Keysar Trad said last night some community members would consider the idea of displaying the flag as "politicising a place of worship". "I have no problem with the flag being at Muslim schools, but a place of worship is for all people to be equal and as such I believe places of worship should maintain the tradition of not raising the national flag," Mr Trad said. And prominent Sydney-based Islamic cleric, Khalil Shami, expressed fears yesterday that hoisting the flag outside mosques would lead to potential violence and further division within the community among factions opposed to the idea.


Single parents told to work

Almost a quarter of a million single parents will soon be forced back to work or face an eight-week halt to their welfare benefits. In one of the biggest welfare shake-ups in years, about 233,000 single mums and dads will need to find work after July 1, Federal Government figures reveal. They must find at least 15 hours work a week when their child turns seven. Previously, single parents could wait until their youngest child turned 16 before facing a work test. No one will be spared finding work unless they have children with disabilities, are studying, already working, looking for work or have five or more children.

The Parenting Payment changes will affect the estimated 600,000 children with no working parent. They will also affect the estimated 15,000 single mothers aged 15 to 20.

Workforce Participation Minister Sharman Stone said yesterday that there had never been a better time for people to re-enter the workforce and re-skill. "Welfare dependency is not a recipe for a life full of participation in Australian society," Dr Stone said. "Children growing up in a home without a breadwinner are five times more likely to end up welfare-dependent themselves."

Every fortnight, Centrelink pays single parents $512.10 and parents with partners $379.80 if their income and assets are below set levels. Under Centrelink rules, the Parenting Payment would be stopped for eight weeks if a recipient: Refused a suitable job offer; Left a job on a whim; Was dismissed for bad behaviour; Failed to turn up for a Work for the Dole scheme.

But Dr Stone said there were checks and balances to the new system. "This is a very caring reform to help parents and their children have more choices in life," she said. Job-seekers would be required to find work only if it is less than 60 minutes from home, if child care is affordable, and where the job pays more than $50 over their fortnightly pension.If payments were stopped, Centrelink would still help out with essential items such as rent, food and medication, a spokeswoman for Dr Stone said.

Australia's single parents will be entering a buoyant labour market. The jobless rate is at a 30-year low of 4.5 per cent.


PM Howard targets Australia's Leftist "Mr Bet Each Way"

Shades of "flip-flop" John Kerry! The cartoon above portrays Labor Party leader Rudd talking to his environment spokesman -- former anti-American rock singer Peter Garrett, who has now backed down on lots of what he once claimed to believe in. His former band was called "Midnight Oil"

DESPITE an embarrassing week, John Howard's tactic to nail Kevin Rudd is clear - he will depict Rudd as a political chameleon without conviction, being all things to all people.

Rudd's genius has been to project as a fresh and positive new leader playing both sides of most issues. But this has a limited shelf life.

The Government's big three - Howard, Peter Costello and Alexander Downer - are desperate to expose Rudd's dual messages. They have a growing body of evidence to help them. Consider the list: Rudd campaigns as a climate change believer who won't hurt the coal industry; as an opponent of Howard's industrial laws who will look after small business; and as the champion of withdrawing forces from Iraq who upholds the US alliance.

Downer tightened the chameleon noose around Rudd at the close of the parliamentary week. "His position, as usual, is every position," he said of Rudd's Iraq policy. "If you want troops in Iraq, yes, he can deliver that; if you don't, yes, he can deliver that. If you support the Americans, yes, he can do that. If you support the insurgents and the terrorists and so on, yes, he can deliver that as well. This country deserves an Opposition Leader with a bit of strength, a bit of commitment."

Downer and Howard only work in lockstep on political tactics. The latest Newspoll shows not only Rudd's high satisfaction rating, at 60 per cent, but also his very low dissatisfaction, at only 15 per cent. Rudd's success is that he doesn't offend. The goodwill factor is huge. Howard's tactic is to force Rudd into hard choices and, if Rudd remains elusive, then to depict him as weak and without conviction. The problem for Howard is that Rudd can second-guess these tactics. He knows what is happening.

The message from the first fortnight of parliament is that Rudd, the most formidable Labor leader Howard has faced since 1996, will be very difficult to dismantle.


Victorian schools declare themselves 'war toy free zones'

Toy soldiers, model war planes and wrestling figurines have been banned in schools across the state in a politically correct crackdown. Primary schools and kindergartens have declared themselves "war toy free zones" and outlawed traditional toys and playground games that have even a tenuous link to war.

All schools contacted by the Sunday Herald Sun said they had a policy banning war toys. Principals said schools feared they could be sued by litigious parents if they allowed plastic weapons and war toys in the school ground. "The litigation is so rife you don't risk it," said Clifton Hill primary school head Geoffrey Warren. "It can take a bit of fun out of things. But there's such a wide range of views among parents and you don't please all the people all the time, let me tell you."

Children at primary schools and kindergartens are also forbidden from playing "war-like games" such as cowboys and indians and poison ball. "Obviously parents are going to be disappointed their children are losing the opportunity to do what children have always done," said Parents Victoria president Gail McHardy. "I think there would be much stronger parental support for a ban on video games at school." At one Melbourne kindergarten, children who bring in wrestling figurines are told to put them back in their bags until they get home.

Former RSL president Bruce Ruxton said the social engineers behind the ban on traditional childhood fun were misguided. "They think it's evil," he said. You won't stop kids doing that. It's a political correctness of some type, but misguided."

Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Greg said the war toy ban had no logical basis. "There is no evidence playing with toy soldiers or wrestling figurines in any way, shape or form has negative effects on the child's psychological development," he said. "I'm happy to embrace new research and see it filter down into policy. But really, show me the evidence."

The Government yesterday distanced itself from the toy bans. "It is up to the school community to determine what type of toy is acceptable at their school," said a spokesman for Education Minister John Lenders.


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