Daily Archives: 2010-07-25 23:17:44 UTC

The right side of politics Down Under: Muslims good; atheists bad

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany BayNo sooner do we read of one Liberal Party’s candidate being dumped by his party leader for suggesting that there is no place for Muslims in the Australian parliament, than we read of another Liberal Party candidate attacking the “ungodly” Labor leader and PM for being an atheist — and getting away with it! (The Liberal Party in Australia, to oversimplify somewhat, correlates with the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US.)

So what’s the lesson here? It’s politically correct at election time to be seen as tolerant towards Muslims; but as for being an atheist. . . ? Who cares?

Actually I don’t mind this approach to criticism of atheists. Let it all hang out. Let everyone see where everyone stands. It’s no big deal. It’s kind of funny to have politicians get up and rave about Australia being built on Christian values and how they always expect a “godly” leader. Australia? Founded on convicts, lashings, prostitution, petty tyrants among the good ‘uns, rum rebellion, — oh, and an Anglican pastor to keep it all in check? What’s the ratio of church goers to non-practicing Christians and “others” in Australia?

I suspect the Liberal Party leader’s decision to ignore the atheist jibe was quite healthy and a “true blue” Aussie response. I’d hate to see political correctness go mad and send to the guillotine anyone who raves about not believing in god and decrying how a godless prime minister simply cannot be a “godly ruler” etc. All a bit of a laugh for most in the audience.

It is the season, however, to be prudent with respect to Muslims. Hate crimes and bigotry and all that are all too real — it goes without saying. (Whoever planted a bomb outside an atheist’s convention in Australia?)

It is still real enough for a Liberal candidate to be quoted as saying that just one Muslim in Parliament must be seen as a march towards the day when Parliament will be all-Muslim! But of course, the mere fact that the sight of one of them in the “wrong place” leaves him down the slippery slope into nightmares of a taliban takeover of Australia, does not mean he has anything against Muslims personally.

Which leaves me in a delicate position at times. When I was once arranging for a leading State Muslim to conduct a public presentation to a general audience, I found myself being offered a copy of the Koran. As a gesture of good-will I accepted it, but later I had the misfortune to read it. It left the taste in my mouth of being just as mind-controlling and fear and authority obsessed as the Jewish and Christian books, only more blunt and obvious about it. So there I was, finding myself in a situation where I was seeking to foster community tolerance among two religious groups, Christians and Muslims, yet ironically having no personal sympathy or time for either of them!

As far as their beliefs were concerned, I saw (still do see) both as potentially harmful psychologically to individuals who took them too seriously. When I see some humanist scholars advocate a humanism that embraces the religiously minded as well, I do feel some revulsion. What has the anti-intellectualism at the heart of Christianity and Islam (and Judaism) to do with humanistic values? Why on earth does “spirituality” or the sense of the poetic and mystery and awe of life have to be tied exclusively to religion of any kind? But I also find myself recoiling from a few of the anti-Muslim statements of some such as Harris and Hitchens. Sure I have no time for the Muslim religion either, but these authors do seem to be unable to tease out the geo-political issues from the more universal religious concepts.

So I decided to focus entirely on the project I had got myself mixed up with as an entirely “social enterprise”. Strictly a civil service.

We’ll probably be stuck with religion as long as we will be stuck with astrology, witchcraft and the occult. If one can’t beat them, the least one can do, I guess, is to support any endeavour that promotes mutual understanding and respect.

Australia Day - Muslim Style

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Redemption or Conquest: Zionist Yishuv plans for transfer of Palestinian Arabs in the British Mandate period

British Mandate of Palestine, 1920s. Created b...
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Yishuv refers to the Jewish community in Palestine. The British Mandate period was from 1922 to 1948.

This post continues from the same reference (Nur Masalha’s Expulsion of the Palestinians) as in my previous post, and looks at a Palestinian historian’s discussion of the fate of the Palestinian people as planned by the Zionist movement from “the beginning”. Some readers may accuse me of stirring up hatred against the Jews by posting this sort of research. I deny any such charge. The ill-feeling and tensions that have resulted from the events and attitudes described in this and in the previous post don’t have to be “stirred up”. But many people in the West certainly do need to be “waked up” to the other side of the story. Obscenely, one is often accused of “anti-semitism” for even daring to raise the Palestinian voice, or even any voice mildly critical of Zionist or Israeli state policies.

The world, and Palestinians and Israelis in particular, are living today with the legacy of the past. Justice, the precondition for peace, can only emerge after all the facts — from both parties — are laid out for all to see. Hiding one side’s story under the rocks of the desert will never extinguish injustice and hatred.  We have lauded Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and National Apologies in cases of other ethnic horror stories. They could never have happened unless both sides — especially that of the defeated — were fully aired.

The General Approach toward the Palestinians in the Mandatory Period

I had not realized until I read this section of Masalha’s account that the current practice of the Israeli government relying on third parties such as the US today (formerly Britain), and other Arab leaders, to facilitate discussions with (or without) Palestinian Arabs, originated in this period. Masalha’s explanation for this is:

At the root of this notion — that Palestinians did not have to be dealt with directly — was the denial of a distinct Palestinian identity or any semblance of Palestinian nationalism. This was unquestionably grounded in the dismissive attitude that had always attended anything relating to Palestinians or Palestinian culture. (p.17)

Population shifts and Arab protests

Jewish population in Palestine, 1917-1940:

  • 1917 = 10% of population; own 2% of the land.
  • 1931 = 17% of population
  • 1940 = 33% of population
  • (1948 Jews owned only 6% of the land — via purchase)

Growing Arab awareness of Zionist aims in Palestine, reinforced by Zionist calls for unrestricted Jewish immigration and unhindered transfer of Arab lands to exclusive Jewish control, triggered escalating protests and resistance that were eventually to culminate in the peasant-based great Arab Rebellion of 1936-39.

So two forces were beginning to collide:

  1. On the one hand it was increasingly clear that a Jewish state was an eventual likelihood (Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate offered real hope for this);
  2. but on the other hand it was becoming increasingly clear that the Palestinian Arab population were intent on keeping their land.

Predictable result: early 1920s saw the first indigenous demonstrations against Jewish immigration.

Problem

The Balfour Declaration had not only promised a national home for the Jews; it had also promised that the Palestinian Arabs would not lose any of their rights as a result. read more »