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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, August 05, 2005

The new face of Islam

Watching last night's ABC 7.30 Report and hearing the deluded rantings of Algerian-born Melbourne man Abdul Nacer Benbrika, it was hard not to despair although it was an easy target for the ABC.

We are increasingly being given a very negative, black and white view of Islam. The UK magazine New Statesman offers a cover story this week on the changing face of Islam and argues that the West fundamentally misunderstands the situation. For example, while travelling in Pakistan, journalist Ziauddin Sardar realised that the greatest threat didn't come from madrassas but from the military government, warmly embraced by the West, especially Britain, America and Australia.

Throughout the Muslim world, progressive politics is rearing its head.

17 Comments:

Blogger Comical_Ali said...

"We are increasingly being given a very negative, black and white view of Islam. "

But, of Judiasm and the Jewish community we are increasinly getting the "right view"...especially from you who advocates that Jews are bigoted, racist and hostile.

To reinforce your view, Jewish community leaders, unlike Islamic ones, only have to open their mouths in order to condemn themsleves and their entire communities. On the other hand, the blatant racist tripe that comes out of Muslim communities is regretabble, not representative and only serves to give us a "black and white view." And the one who tries to start a back lash against one community, speaks out on behalf of another -- whose leaders happen to be blatantly racist, homophobic, embracing 12th century values.

nice going mate.

Friday, August 05, 2005 11:59:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

It must be so conforting to see through the world through a 'with us or against us' perspective...
havn't you got somewhere to go? like starting you own blog? guess it's much easier to sprout from the comfort of your space, no responsibility.
The internet was made for gutless souls like you....

Friday, August 05, 2005 12:09:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

better get rid of your comments section.

Friday, August 05, 2005 12:17:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Or find worthwhile contributors who have the guts to actually reveal themselves, their position, their background, but agenda etc, but no, you're right, stay in the shadows. Most of your type do...

Friday, August 05, 2005 12:30:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Of course, it's perfectly OK for the Dreamboat's guuuurrrrlfriend to blog anonymously and not reveal her name or position or background, or for other semi-anonymous lefties with embarassing jobs to keep quiet about it...only right-wingers nee to justify themselves in Ant-land!

Friday, August 05, 2005 12:40:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

fine, ill chane my name to "dirty_ tricycle_option" in order to reveal my "name and background."

hows that for bravey...but only if the person in question is in agreement with you. Its always fun to be around people who continually agree with you. keeps the ego alive and kicking.

When you've got nothing to debate with, attack the person and not the argument.

Friday, August 05, 2005 12:49:00 pm  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

I listened the 7.30 Report, and was struck by how much Abdul Nacer Benbrika reminded me born-again bible bashers who tell me I'm going to hell. The same themes seem to show up in all religions.

I was pleasantly surprised at how John Howard stepped in in the interview afterward and was extremely balanced in his views.

On an aside point, Comical Ali, I have just finished reading Loewenstein's chapter in Not Happy John and felt it was quite balanced in talking about Jews. Is there something in particular you would like to recommend that suggests otherwise? I suppose I ask this partly because I am Chinese and yet have very strong feelings about the Chinese Government's human rights violations. And I was wondering when it stops being advocacy and starts being perceived by others as a negative view.

Friday, August 05, 2005 2:00:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

describing Jews as bigotted and racist is one. Singling out "Jewish lobbying" and turning it into some kind of conspiracy is yet anothor. comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany - a constant theme of Chomsky and Finkelstien, spouted by a couple of people here and a view which Antony no doubt embraces - is just another which goes beyond legitmate criticism to downright offenisve bigotry. or how about denying Israel's right to exist...need I go on?

As for Abdul Nacer Benbrika - when born again bible bashers start to preach jihad against "non-believers" and murder people in subways and buses...you might just have a point.

Friday, August 05, 2005 2:19:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Great article by Hanif Kureishi in The Guardian people might be interested in reading: http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,2763,1542252,00.html.

Friday, August 05, 2005 8:26:00 pm  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

Comical Ali, I will start on the issue of the jihadists first. I will agree with you that in the post-9/11 climate, most of the terrorists that the world is currently experiencing are Muslim. But perhaps in the past there have also been many terrorists of other religious groups? The IRA are one example.

One of the things that has occured to me over the years is that perhaps different groups fight in different ways. You know, the whole "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" argument. I also think that put a combatant in uniform and give them bulldozers and humvees, and they all of a sudden appear much more legitimate when their victims (often non-combatants) and their motives are the same.

With regards to Christians, I mean, I don't think Christianity is a violent religion. Yet, I have to say that I felt unsettled when I went to an ANZAC day dawn service for the first time this year. Have you been to one before, Ali? A standard part of the ceremony talks about smiting pagans in God's name. Being a (Buddhist) pagan, plus an Oriental, I felt unsettled and uncomfortable. Perhaps at this stage, these ceremonies are only ritualistic. But these are the ceremonies that all our service men and women go through each year. It is not "jihad against "non-believers"", but it is smiting the pagans instead.

I will comment more on Lowenstein later... lunch beckons.

Saturday, August 06, 2005 12:25:00 pm  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

Okay. Comical Ali, I'm back from lunch with some reflections on Loewenstein. :)

I would first like to start with a disclaimer. My active interest in the Israel Palestine issue only started a few years ago when I was asked to re-design an AusAID-funded Violence Against Women project in the Gaza strip. It had to be re-designed as the second intifada had caused unanticipated problems with the project's implementation.

Because the project had a large advocacy component, I started reading a bit about governance in the OPT, and also the status of women. It was all very sobering. But shortly before my re-design mission was scheduled, there were many bombings, and the Gaza was in lock-down. I ended up doing the re-deisgn via many phone calls and emails. The one thing that struck me though is that the situation in Gaza was unsustainable. Something needs to change, and it looks like the change is heading in the right direction for now.

But back to Loewenstein. I also don't really know Loewenstein from a bar of soap. But I have read his chapter in Not Happy John about the Jewish lobby in Australia. And I did think it seemed fairly sensible. I mean, he writes from a certain perspective but (rightly) declares his position. I think it is universally acknowledged that there is a strong Jewish lobby in the US. I think even the Jewish lobby there acknowledges this. Is the issue that you don't think there is one in Australia?

Also, I think there are many Jews that are anti-Zionist. In fact, aren't there whole sects of Judaism that firmly belive that Zion is not a physical location, but instead is something more spiritual or a community? I am not sure what Loewenstein's position is, whether it is co-existence or that all Jews should leave the Middle East and Israel be dissolved. Do you have a position on this, Comical Ali?

Saturday, August 06, 2005 12:53:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

Vasco,
to your credit you are the only one here who is civil and is only trying to attack or dismantle the argument and not the person. For that I salute you.

I dont buy the "one mans freedom, fighter is another man's terrorist" argument. Anyone who purposly and cold bloodly murders innocent civilians is a terrorist regardless of the motive. full stop.

So far I'm still looking for evidence showing that the Israeli government is like Hamas and conducts indiscriminate genocide anbd ethnic cleansing...given that the Palestinian population is the fastest growing in the Middle East
and given the Arab terrorist rehtoric to throw every single Jew into the sea and the fact that 99% of their attacks are purley aimed at civilians only - the ethnic cleansing/genocide label doesnt seem to add up in regards to Israeli government policy. There certainly have been Jewish terrorists - Goldstein was one and the recent 19 year old nut case was another - these were cold blooded terorists...not "militants" or "freedom fighters" but TERRORISTS.

As for the IRA and others - the IRA was not seeking to convert the entire world to "Catholicism." It was not seeking to implement its own version of the Sharia. Therefore there was room for some negotiation and their motives were not purley based on religion.

Moral relatavisim doesnt really seem to fit -- because Bible belting christians, fanatical Irish catholics, extremist Hindus and Jews are not blowing up trains in Madrid, buses in London or ploughing airlines into buildings in New York. They are not actviley selling racist hate books in Melbourne or Sydney or have their preachers say that women who get raped deserve it. They dont go by a doctrine which saids you have to kill if someone refuses to convert to you're faith.

As for "powerful" Jewish lobbies in the US and here -- the "secret" Jewish lobby in America does not control the world's oil supply. So in that case it would make more sense to assume that Muslim/Arab lobby groups have more influence, especially over the State department. And not just the state deparment but also over influential powers and pro-ARab countries like France and China who are members of the Security Council.

Like any other enthnic or minority groups, Jews have every right to lobby in their own interests and shouldnt be singled out. To do otherwise is racist, bigotted and offensive.

Saturday, August 06, 2005 7:36:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

it should be noted that Antony and his idols Chomsky and Finkelstein, dont believe in Israel's right to exist.

This one factor exempts people like this from being legitmate critics of Israel.

Saturday, August 06, 2005 11:02:00 pm  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

Hey Comical Ali. Thanks for responding to my thoughts. I suppose I might start with a clarification. I don't see myself as wanting to "attack or dismantle the argument" either. I suppose my purpose of participating in these fora is to learn and to seek common ground. I am essentially an "on the ground" practitioner who has, of late, realised that I need to have more rigorous analysis of issues. Debate from both perspectives is valuable to me.

I agree that the Muslim terrorism situation is out of control. The sad thing is that I think it now risks turning pitting brother against brother as people in the same community can vary significantly in their views. Whilst I think the modus operandi is different, I think that some other religions have a lot to answer for in terms of taking innocent lives. I see the Catholic Church's stance on contraception (and subsequent impact on HIV transmission and population growth) as an example of this. That killing to is indescriminate and in far far far larger proportions than militant Islamic terror. But that is another whole argument and is off-track.

Regarding your thoughts on Jewish lobby and Israel, I would be very interested to know you thoughts on this. I clicked on your name hoping to come across some writing of yours, but didn't see anything. I now remember that Loewenstein had criticised you for not having a blog. But Comical Ali, I am genuinely interested in what you propose for Israel and OPT. As for me, I do not know enough to comment. I also personally feel that this has been a conflict that has been lengthened due to the participation of far too many overseas Jews and Muslims, and their respective supporters. I think it is more important that the primary stakeholders (ie., the actual residents of OPT and Israel) reach some conclusion.

Regarding Loewenstein, I think I will reserve judgment on him until I read his book. I suppose we will have a rather lively discussion of it here. *grin*.

Sunday, August 07, 2005 1:09:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

"I suppose I might start with a clarification. I don't see myself as wanting to "attack or dismantle the argumenteither."

Well, in that case I didnt give you enough credit then.
once again that only serves to reinforce my point of view that you are the only civil person here.

Yes, I agree the Catholic church and some other religions do have allot to answer for... but thats a different debate and not something that could be compared to what we are discussing here. In other words, it does not justify moral relativism - i.e comparing blowing people up in subways or killing people who dont convert to your faith to oppossition to contraception. Its like comparing apples to bananas.

With all do respect, thats moral relativism of the worst kind -- something which in this kind of enviroment is very dangerous.

I've already expressed my thoughts on the Jewish lobby and adaquetly explained why singling out the right of Jews to lobby out of other people's right to lobby is downright racist, discriminatory and offensive. As for Israel and the OPT, I unlike Antony believe in the national rights of both peoples.

He one the other hand doesnt - he wants to see one state destroyed. As a result no one can honestly take him seriously as a legitmate critic of Israel who only has to offer geniune "constructive criticism."

There are plenty of Jews and Israelis who do that...but none like Antony, or Chomsky and Finkelstein (the latter two are very big hits with Neo-Nazis/racist white supermacists and have contributed to Holocaust denial..especially Finkelstein). We call them "self-hating" Jews for a reason.


As for my identity and "writings" -unfortunatley I dont have any. I'm just an average joe.

Sunday, August 07, 2005 4:22:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

thats an average Joe who, like the majority of people who comment on blogs and forums (or even have blogs for that matter), has a right to his privacy.

Sunday, August 07, 2005 4:24:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Interesting. And good to see.

One thing, Comical Ali - I have heard "moral relativism" bandied about in the blogosphere for a while now. What the hell does it mean?

Monday, August 08, 2005 8:18:00 pm  

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