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Yahya's Yap

Discussion of Malaysian, Australian & NZ issues, particularly those related to politics, social issues and interethnic harmony.

Updated: 2018-03-08T06:52:53.164+10:00


Malaysia teetering toward full dictatorship


(image) Today, a journalist, a blogger and a prominent opposition politician were detained without trial under the notorious "Internal Security Act", a legacy of colonialism which is wielded by the government to silence critics when it cannot present evidence that an offense has been committed. They are:

Raja Petra bin Kamarudin - Blogger who is critical of the government, has been accused of allowing comments on his blog which are critical of Islam
Tan Hoon Cheng - Journalist who recently reported the comments of a low-level UMNO official who referred to Chinese Malaysians as "squatters"
Teresa Kok - Opposition politician who was rumored in the UMNO owned newspaper UTUSAN to have complained about the volume of the call to prayer in her local area

In addition, three newspapers ~ Suara Keadilan, Sin Chew Daily and The Sun ~ were also issued show cause letters by the Home Ministry today. These newspapers have covered recent stories about racial provocations by members of the ruling party.

This blogger believes that we will see more arrests over the next few days, and that these actions are designed to generate protests. Government instigators will ensure these become violent, giving the government the excuse to call in the armed forces and perhaps even declare a state of emergency. They have accused these figures of insulting Islam, an accusation designed to promote irrational nonsense and justify government oppression.

I am a regular reader of Raja Petra's blog and sometime contributor. I have read each of the articles the government has referred to in making this accusation, and there is simply no substance to the government's claims. This UMNO government has never cared about Islam, they only wish to manipulate the emotions of Muslims for their own ends. The fact that they can stir hatred between the races of Malaysia in the name of Islam - something Raja Petra has repeatedly criticised - and that they are doing so in the month of Ramadan, shows that it is they who are in rebellion against Allah. God is all-knowing, but it is my belief that among these UMNO politicians are munafiq who have no fear of Allah, so that they can use His religion to spread mischief and protect their own political positions.

I hope that there are backbenchers in UMNO who will realise, enough is enough, your leaders are dragging Malaysia into the toilet. This path leads to hell - international isolation and economic catastrophe. I beg you, in the interests of your nation, abandon the government and join with Pakatan Rakyat.

It is also time for the council of rulers to step in and refuse to allow the armed forces to be used against protestors. This will allow the people to rise up as MALAYSIANS and prevent this government from instigating violence and racial strife like their predecessors did in 1969. This is not the cold war, the world will not stand idly by and allow the government to kill their own people. It is up to you to show you deserve the people's trust and are not simply a meaningless institution that belongs in the past.

May Allah bring justice and democracy to Malaysia and put courage in the hearts of the people to stand up for justice and not allow themselves to be manipulated by those who love only power and fear nothing except losing it!

Ramadhan Mubarik 2008


Wishing all the readers of my blog the blessings of Ramadhan which the council of ulema have just announced will commence on the 1st September in Australia

Nurture or Nature?


As happens about this time in every Olympics, various pontificating journalists are raising the issue of why certain "races" appear to dominate certain Olympic events.

Such an argument always questionable because it does science in reverse - it starts of with an established pattern of success and then attributes it to various causes. I'm particularly skeptical that genetics explain why white people dominate events such as swimming or field events. All of these - compared with sprint running for instance - require specialist training in technique from quite a young age, something usually more available to middle-class youth from developed nations. We saw an Australian win the Pole-vault - how many working class black kids in the US, let alone those in Ethiopia have the chance to receive the training in technique he has got? Similarly, swimming is starting to see athletes from Japan and South Korea coming through - are we supposed to believe that it is a coincidence that these nations are among the wealthiest non-European based nations in the world? Or will we invent some new genetic theory that these "races" are better at swimming? The physical shape of champion swimmers is not very typical of most white people either - those huge shoulders (especially among women) are clearly a result of years of swimming up and down heated pools and targeted weight-training and body conditioning.

I personally found it pathetic the way certain journalists kept going on about how Nick Willis' (NZ) bronze medal in the 1500m was somehow remarkable because he was not an East African. He was even quoted as saying he was "representing the Western world against the Africans". I felt proud of his achievement given NZ's history in the event and my country of birth but I would feel a lot less ambivalent about it if he would just shut his mouth. Let's look at the facts:

The fastest 1500m time in 2007: Alan Webb (US) - a white guy
2004 Olympic champion over 800m: Yuriy Borzakovskiy (Russia) - a white guy
Winning time from Rashid Ramzi (not an East African - born in Morocco and with fairly white skin anyway) 3:32.94: At this pace, Seb Coe, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram and even our own John Walker would have been competitive - all ran faster at various stages of their career.

There may well be a case that in short-distance sprinting events, people descended from West Africans have a born advantage. But perhaps environmental factors - lack of swimming pools and specialist coaches, a generation of white, western kids spending too much time sitting on their butts playing computer games and being driven everywhere rather than running miles just to get to school - are far more plausible explanations for certain "races" domination of olympic events.

A high stakes game in Malaysian politics


I think enough has been written on the internet and elsewhere about the recent accusations against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. But, now living in Australia, I have been embarrassed how many people are aware of what has happened to DSAI over here. Why am I embarrassed by this? Well as a Muslim and married to a Malay, I have always tried to hold Malaysia up as, well not perfect, but certainly on the way to being a first class society. The recent elections and the Prime Minister's initial acceptance of them with apparent good grace was a credit to the maturity of the Malaysian nation and a sign that its democratic functions had come along way since 1969, when a similar election result led to riots, recently claimed to have been seeded by elements of the UMNO leadership. It's harder to make that case when the primary news story about Malaysia is about a man who has a serious chance of bringing a change of government by peaceful means being charged with such a bizarre offense.The charge is so strange for several reasons. Firstly, the charge amounts to anal rape - sodomy without consent. Does anyone actually believe that someone like Anwar, who has clearly shown himself to be tenacious and driven towards taking the highest office in the land, would be silly enough to forcibly sodomize someone in a condo in KL, just when he was on the brink of a political comeback? If he were indeed homosexual, don't you think as a good looking bloke with plenty of money he would be able to find consensual partners, perhaps in Singapore or Western countries which he can easily visit? Of course I don't want to say that rapists never act stupidly, or imply that many do not enjoy the power they feel through sexually imposing themselves on others, but it certainly makes the case less credible given the history of the thing. What about the size difference between alleged perpetrator (60 year old man of short stature and known health problems) and alleged victim (23 year old man, tall and healthy)?Ordinarily I would say that any allegation of rape should be investigated and I don't believe that Islamic rules of needing 4 witnesses to verify the act should preclude this given the alleged sex was forcible and not consensual. But it stinks to high heaven that the alleged victim apparently visited DPM Najib, a man who many Malaysians believe to have ordered a murder(Altantuya Shaariibu, for which his former associate is now on trial) just a few days before making the allegations. The fact that senior politicians have been involved in publicly commenting about the case is also suspicious. The fact that the police report hasn't been made available to Anwar's lawyers is also hard to understand.I have come to the conclusion that the government will eventually tell the police to drop the charges against Anwar before the issue comes to trial. They will say that they have insufficient evidence to prosecute him although (they will say) there was strong evidence suggesting his involvement. They will do so because any conviction would be perceived as implausible and tainted, and would make Anwar a matyr and convince many Malaysians that the only way to change things is by drastic means. So why are they doing this then?The government knows that it has lost the votes of many of the educated people who live in the urban areas. It knows that most Chinese and Indians couldn't give a damn whether the future PM is gay, and that many urban, educated Malays don't believe the charges and would rather have a PM who is accussed of being gay than one who is alleged to have used the police to murder a former lover, in any case. I believe this is all about winning back the traditional Malay heartland - those who don't read blogs, or English newspapers, and who are dependent on Berita Harian, Utusan or Metro for their source of information. They want to throw enough mud so that Anwar will not be able to form a coalition with a Malay majority - something which he needs to do to remove them from office[...]

Freedom from tyrants, both foreign and domestic


On the 31st of August, 2007, Malaysia celebrated 50 years of independence from British rule. The British ruled Malaysia for their own benefit, exploiting local inhabitants - Malays, Chinese and Indians - to make Britain wealthy. When they left, the hero of independence Tunku Abdul Rahman became Prime Minister under a constitution which promised Westminster style democracy. It promised that while the Malays, the Monarchies and Islam would be protected, all citizens would be citizens of a new, democratic nation.Westminster democracy has at its core that the people are entitled to choose those who govern them in free and fair elections. This means not only that elections be held, but that the parliament elected should be broadly representative of the votes taken in the election. People must also be free to vote for who they wish without risking penalties to do so. Another assumption is that all parties will have access to and be treated equally by the media.Malaysia's democracy has become plainly deficient in each of these respects, despite the fact that elections are held every 4-5 years.1) The composition of parliament should be representative of the votes cast at the election. This is demonstrably not the case in the Dewan Rakyat (Malaysia's lower house of parliament), which consists of 219 seats. 198 of these (90.4%) are controlled by the government, effectively rendering Malaysia a one-party state until the next election is held. This is despite the government only winning 63.9% of the vote. When one considers the individual parties that make up the government, the unrepresentativeness becomes even more obvious. UMNO (the party of the Prime Minister) won just 35.9% of the vote - yet controls half of the seats in parliament (49.8%). PAS, the opposition party that won the largest number of votes (15.2%), has just 7 seats in parliament (3.2%). Both these parties have mainly Malay Muslim supporters. Looking at the two parties mainly voted for by Chinese, the government's coalition partner MCA won 15.5% of the vote (about the same as PAS) but won 31 seats (14.2% of the parliament, while the opposition DAP won 9.9% of the vote but has just 12 seats in the parliament. The multi-ethnic but mainly supported by Malays opposition PKR won 8.9% of the votes but just 1 seat in the parliament. By contrast the government coalition partner MIC won just 3.2% of the vote, but holds 9 seats in parliament, more than PAS who nearly 5x as many Malaysian's voted for.This means for every seat in parliament the following number of Malaysians voted for them:GOVERNMENT PARTIESUMNO - 22,782 votersMCA - 34,652 votersMIC - 24,616 votersOPPOSITION PARTIESDAP - 57,278 votersPAS - 150,211 votersPKR - 617,518 voters(Any errors in calculations are typos - source figures speak for themselves. They show that UMNO and the MIC are greatly overrepresented in the parliament according to the support they actually received in the elections. The MCA, and the opposition parties who are in fact voted for by more than 1/3 of Malaysians - even in a landslide election like 2004 - are grossly underrepresented. Chinese who vote for the MCA, and even more so the DAP are treated unfairly by getting less representation that their votes deserve. However, clearly the people most cheated in Malaysia's parliament are the 1.7 million (mainly) Malays who voted for either PAS or PKR, who got just 8 seats for their votes compared with 109 for the 2.4 million (mainly) Malays who voted for UMNO. This is despite the claims that UMNO makes that is stands up for the interests of Malays - in fact, it cheats them of fair and honest representation more than anyone else.Among the reasons for this state of affairs, the most important is the drawing up of electoral boundaries is done so that Malays in UMNO voting areas have electorates with much smaller numbers of voters that those in PAS voting areas. Urban areas which vote f[...]

Kevin 07?


(image) Ok, I'll admit my prediction about the Aus Federal election below is looking pretty shaky, given the good showing so far in the polls by Kevin Rudd and co. However, there are signs in the last 2 newspolls that things are tightening up - and 53% 2PP is nowhere near enough to feel comfortable.

For those wondering what 2PP means Australia's voting system allows voters to allocate preferences so that you give every candidate a number from 1,2,3 and so on depending on who is your preference. Candidates with low numbers of votes (usually minor parties and independents) are eliminated and people's preferences among the 2 highest candidates are considered, so the most important thing is which of the two major parties (Liberal or Labor) rank higher.

The reason 53% is not enough to feel comfortable is due to the fact that the overall election is not won by the party with the most votes, but by the party that wins the most seats. Generally, people already in parliament have an advantage because the voters know them. Since the seats that need to change hands for a change of government are obviously held by the government, this gives the incumbent government an advantage. It means for instance, that Labor might win 51% of the 2PP vote across the nation but because of a handful of really popular local MPs might still not get enough seats to form a majority in parliament. If the next newspoll shows things getting closer still, things will really start to get interesting.

Having said this, returning to my post below, Labors TV ad about interest rates IS very clever - it uses the same theme that Howard has used against Labor to point out that Howard's own record on interest rates is not that flash. You can watch it here. It's certainly better than simply reminding people interest rates are going up now without damaging Howard's counter that under Labor, interest rates would be even higher, which appeared to be the earlier approach taken. Of course, one might ask why this clever approach was not adopted three, six or even nine years ago to stop the Labor=higher interest rates mantra becoming such folk-wisdom.

I'm not prepared to withdraw my prediction yet though. I still feel Howard may hang on by one or two seats, even if he loses the popular vote. And if he does, it will be because the criteria on which voters decide returns to his perennial point of advantage, the economy. An interest rate rise might not hurt his chances at all. If Labor is to win, it must reverse the trend in newspoll and carry momentum into polling day.

A world in (Rugby) Union?


The Rugby World Cup has just begun, and the usual, predictable bleating about whether Rugby is really a "world game" has also begun, especially in Australia from Rugby League* fans and Football/soccer fans.Of course, if one compares the RWC to the football equivalent there is no comparison. Football is the number one sport in probably the majority of countries around the world, across all the continents other than Australia, North America and (obviously) Antarctica. Even in countries where their national team is abysmal (like where I currently live, Malaysia for example) interest in the game is immense. There's no disputing that if there is one "world game" - despite how annoying it is to admit to the tiresome missionaries at SBS (Australian TV network)- it has to be football. This doesn't make the game better of course, but that's a whole different issue.Rugby union, on the other hand, or just plain Rugby as it is known in most of the world, is also a 'world game' albeit on a much smaller scale. While it is a majority sport almost nowhere (NZ, Wales, and some Pacific Islands) it is known almost everywhere. Take Malaysia as an example, if you mention rugby everyone knows what it is, as many hi schools and all (I think) universities have a team. The name "All Blacks" is also well-known. Compare with Rugby League for instance, only those who have studied in Australia (and some in the UK and NZ) have the faintest idea what it is. Or even with cricket, which is seen as a colonial relic and only played by schools with British pedigrees.Another argument trotted out is that the minor nations that play rugby are not competitive. Well, you only have to consider how well the USA played against England or Georgia against Ireland to dispel that myth. True, there are fewer upset results than in the Soccer world cup but lets be realistic: many of those upsets are attributable to the low scoring nature of football which allows a single mistake by an established side to become a victory for a minor one. In the history of RWC (since 1987), four teams have won it. For all football's claims, only 7 nations have won the tournament (played since 1930), one of which (Uruguay) never looks like doing so again. While occasionally another teams (South Korea in 98) can fluke their way through a few rounds, you'd be a mug to bet on any teams outside the 6 winning it.In rugby, you have 8 teams which on their day are capable of beating the others (not in every wc but over time and without taking flukes into account like Norway beating Brazil a few years back in football). These are NZ, South Africa, Australia, England, France, Wales, Ireland, Argentina). The first five or these were considered before the tournament realistic hopes of winning it. From time to time Scotland, Samoa, Italy and Fiji can also beat any of these other teams except the first 3. Twelve competitive teams is considerably more than cricket, hockey or (snort) rugby league can dream about, without match fixing being involved anyway.The point is not to ridicule other sports but simply to point out that a Rugby World Cup deserves the name - apart from the issue of competitive teams, people around the world ARE interested in the game. In Malaysia, which is a weak rugby nation in terms of its national team's prospects even by Asian standards, there's enough interest to put ALL games live on pay TV and some on Free to Air. Cricket, by contrast, was only available on pay per view. Rugby League - well unless you live in two states in Australia, the northern part of England or some parts of NZ, you've probably never heard of it. Rugby may not be the number one sport virtually anywhere, but its world championship has fans in places you wouldn't expect.*For those who haven't heard of it, Rugby League is an offshoot of Rugby played by 13 player a side which arose in the days when Rugby was amateur. It's the number one winter sport [...]

Pauline whatsername


(image) Although rejected many times at the Australian ballot box, Pauline Hanson has announced she will run for the a Queensland senate ticket at the next federal election. She's even announced her 'hook' - a moratorium on Muslim immigration to Australia.

Of course we should bear in mind that Pauline is an equal opportunity bigot - at various times in her political career, she's targeted Asians, Aborigines, multinationals and even blamed the Americans for the September 11. Her latest spray at Muslims is unsurprising given the current global climate and her track record.

However, once again, along with demonstrating her political opportunism and bigotry, she's also highlighted he complete lack of sense. Firstly, banning Muslims is an idea that might appeal to some, but its completely impractical. I doubt very much if current Australian immigration forms even ask what your religion is - most official forms don't, except the census and even then its a voluntary question. Does she propose changing the forms, or perhaps identifying Muslims by their names or country of origin? Of course, that would allow Nik Adam (a Muslim) from Malaysia into the country but presumably Elie Yossef (Israeli activist) would be excluded. If its country of origin, perhaps Malaysian Chinese seeking entry into Australia might have a problem. Does she actually believe that any Muslim who really wanted to cause trouble in Australia would not lie on the form, or change their name before migrating ?

Fortunately, assuming that no one else will give her preferences (an Australian feature where if your first choice is not selected, their votes go into another candidate they have nominated), she has got little chance of breaking her duck and being elected (the only times she has actually been elected, it was in 1996 in a Liberal landslide where she was disendorsed but still appeared on the ballot paper as a Liberal).

Before some of our Asian or Arab friends start getting all outraged though, lets consider how many Asian or Arab countries allow immigrants to become citizens if they are not descended from Asian or Arab ancestors. Also consider that there are perhaps hundreds of people in UMNO who regard fifth generation Chinese Malaysians as 'immigrants'. I also have yet to hear Pauline, let alone any mainstream politician threaten to "bathe the sword in Muslim blood", as the current deputy prime minister of Malaysia once did (the bathing of course to be in Chinese blood).

Just because an idiot like Pauline makes these kind of idiotic comments, it doesn't mean that Australians are racist or Australia is a racist nation. However, I am waiting to hear John Howard's reaction - will he condemn the comments outright, or say he "understands and respects the sentiment but its impractical". How Australians react to John Howard at the next election if he dog-whistles to xenophobes once more will provide a better measure of whether Australia is a racist nation.

Why the ALP lost in 2007


Ok, perhaps the headline may be construed as a bit premature considering the Australian federal election date hasn't even been announced yet, and with Labor still miles ahead in the polls. But recent events have led me to conclude that the always difficult mountain that the ALP had to climb to win federally will now prove beyond them.First, self-declaration here, I have been involved in polling at a senior level for almost a decade. While this blog is written anonymously I suppose I speak as somewhat of an insider. For some time now, I have been warning anyone who will listen that the polls have been way to good for Labor. This is not the first time this has happened - in 2001 (before Tampa, Sept 11th admittedly) Labor was well in front, in 2004, people believed that Latham was making good progress towards the Lodge. While Howard can't rely on another world-wide terrorist event to save his bacon, this is not the real problem.It's not that the polls are inaccurate or poorly designed. Or that punters lie. Each of these may occur from time to time but I think that the reality is that people are saying they WOULD vote ALP in a HYPOTHETICAL election. And that is the crux of the matter - it's hypothetical. What they would actually do if they were in front of a ballot box in a real election is something else.The problem is that the criteria people are using to determine their vote in an opinion poll doesn't necessarily match what they will actually use in a real election. In the current situation, I think the reason Labor has been miles ahead is they have been 'voting' on issues such as IR & Kevin's fresh face, and perhaps the Iraq debacle. These are all issues where people prefer Labor's position or probably more accurately, disagree with the Government's.In a real poll, economic performance is likely to feature much more strongly in voters minds. The public still rate the Coalition way ahead on managing the economy. If people decide their votes on this criteria, Howard will be re-elected.The real clincher for me was Labor's decision to run a TVC drawing attention to Howard's promise to keep interest rates low. This is an unbelievably naive move which demonstrates a lack of understanding of how voters think. Elections are won because the agenda people have when voting suits one side or the other. For instance, Clinton beat Bush snr (1992) because people voted on economic performance, which they believed Bush was screwing up. Howard beat Keating (1996) because people were voting on personality, which of course Howard didn't have but at least they didn't want to whack him with a baseball bat. Howard beat Beazley (2001) because people voted on border protection, terrorism and interest rates, all of which Labor was perceived as being soft on.John Howard would love nothing more than to fight this election on the economy, including interest rates. I would imagine he knows, unlike some senior people in the ALP apparently, that Labor can't win if the election is fought on interest rates. He may have broken his promise to keep interest rates at record lows, but all he has to do during an election is point at some graphs showing interest rates were twice what they are now under the last Labor government, and insinuate that were Labor to win, they would be up at those levels again. This is why I said to a colleague several months ago that it would actually be good for Howard if interest rates went up again before the election - it would drag the media agenda towards the economy, grounds where Labor has been trounced for 11 years politically by the Liberals.A recent poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday illustrates why Labor's strategy is electoral suicide:"When interest rates rose last week for the fifth successive time since the 2004 election, Mr Howard denied he had broken his promise to keep rates low an[...]

Censorship by another name...


From the New Straits Times today, an interview with Malaysian Federal Deputy Information Minister Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye

Q: What about laws to control Internet content?
A: The government has said it will not censor the Internet. However, this does not mean people can abuse it. There is no need for any form of censorship so long as the material does not contravene any civil or criminal laws, and moral and social values. The same applies to all other mediums of communication, not just the Internet.

The Minister was talking about the Malaysian government recent focus on blogs that are critical of the government, for example Raja Petra's as I referred to in an earlier post.

Lets look at the logic of the Minister's statement. The government under Former PM Tun Mahathir promised (no doubt in order to get foreign investment in his multimedia super corridor) that the government would not attempt to censor the internet. Largely, until this point, the government has kept this promise. In a country where there are laws preventing people questioning the constitution, in particular the Malay rights and those of the rulers, and where criticizing the existence, fairness of or even the efficacy of economic privileges extended to even already wealthy Malays on the basis of race is considered worthy of keris-waving and potentially arrest under the Internal Security Act, illegal is a pretty extensive term. This has meant the internet has become a haven for people to express what they really think without fear of reprisals. More importantly, criticism of government officials of the kind that would end the career of a mainstream journalist, the type one reads everyday in most of the world's newspapers, has become a major focus of Malaysian blogs. The inability to shut down dissent and to sweep high-level misdoings under the carpet has caused the government to look for ways to shut down the blogs without calling it censorship.

Just about everywhere in the world that censorship is used, the reason given for it would be nothing other than the argument that certain information may "contravene any civil or criminal laws, and moral and social values." For instance, pornography is restricted in many countries for just that reason, and no one calls the restrictions placed on it anything other than censorship.

In reality, current Malaysian politicians have found Tun Mahathir's promise very inconvenient, and probably wish he had never made it. The tame mainstream press which declined to report on their indiscretions may still be controlled, but they are increasingly aware that more and more Malaysians are discovering the truth about their politicians online. They will know that this is only going to get worse for them as internet penetration in Malaysia continues to grow. So this newspeak (thanks George Orwell) by the Minister is designed to fool people that they are adhering to Tun Mahathir's promise while in fact making it irrelevant by introducing censorship but calling it something else.

The thing is, I think the people will see through it. Eventually these politicians will realize they need to shape up their behavior, or ship out to retirement. Fooling the people is going to have to be done in more sophisticated ways from now on rather than just coercing the messenger to shut up.

Breastfeeding allowed anywhere?


In this article, NZ MP Ms Chadwick is said to be proposing a bill which will "allow breastfeeding anywhere".

In principle I agree with this. There's no way, for instance, that a breastfeeding mother should be expected to feed a baby sitting on a toilet. That's disgusting, I certainly would not want to have to eat my lunch on a public toilet, so why should a baby?

Many shopping centres offer mother's rooms - I'm not sure about NZ, but in Australia and in Malaysia they do. Of course, if you wish to visit a cafe that's in a block of shops on the side of the road they may not have this facility. If the baby wants to feed, as anyone who has kids knows, they need to be fed regardless.

Of course, there is a certain degree of public dignity which can be observed while breastfeeding. The reality is, men and in particular teenage boys will gawk if the breast is exposed, and many women feel uncomfortable being leered at. The fact the woman is nursing doesn't affect that, not all men are metrosexual snags after all. The same public decency standards apply to the woman who is not embarrased walking down the street topless, the difference is the degree of necessity and the baby's right to have a feed.

There are ways to feed of course without gratuitous exposure. For example, my wife used to drape a lightweight cloth nappy over her shoulder to avoid exposing the breast while nursing. Her preference would be in the car or an alcove to a road-side table. There are even specially built covers for this purpose, if you want to spend the money. When I mentioned this article to my wife, she surprised me with her opposition. She feels that some mothers are gratuitous, even though facilities are provided and there are ways and means of not exposing yourself some refuse to take them. She even mentioned the analogy of cows walking along munching grass while their calf is attached to their teats. But I'm not going there...

I think a distinction should also be made between an infant for whom milk is their only food, and older children. Obviously a three year old child who walks up to the mother and lifts her shirt to take a drink is not as 'necessary' an example of breastfeeding as the newborn. Whether a mother wants to breastfeed until that age is in my view entirely her own (and the child's) choice, however, it is clearly not as 'necessary' if the society's standards regard breast exposure as offensive.

Solidarity with Raja Petra


One of the sites linked to by this page, on which some of my posts have been reposted, is Malaysia Today, run by Raja Petra Kamarudin. Raja Petra is an extremely well connected member of the Selangor Royal Family, and is of 1/2 Malay 1/2 European ancestry (like my own children, btw). He has been prominent in writing well-researched and documented articles which are deeply embarrassing for the Malaysian government (run by UMNO, a secular Malay political party). His articles have severely damaged the supposedly 'clean' PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, revealing his family and those connected to it, alleging they are stripping millions if not billions of the Malaysian people. One of Raja Petra's revelations was that of February this year, when he revealed the relationship between Jeanne Abdullah and the PM, something the mainstream media did not reveal until June, days before the wedding.In the last week Muhammad Muhammad Taib, a shifty character who got off a serious charge in Australia of importing large amounts of cash on a technicality, lodged a police report against Raja Petra, accusing him of running a site which insults the Agong (the Malaysian ruler) and Islam. Muhammad is UMNO's propaganda man. Raja Petra went to the police and made a statement refuting these allegations, explaining the Agong is a personal friend and asking them to show where he had insulted Islam when he is actually a practicing Muslim. Apparently, they were unable to do so, but pointed to comments posted on his blog, comments which Raja Petra alleges may have originated with UMNO 'plants' but which are certainly not presented as the views of Raja Petra himself. Over the weekend, the Malaysian newspapers carried the stories of several prominent Malaysian politicians, including the PM himself, repeating the allegations that Malaysia Today has insulted the Agong and Islam. This is clever politics, they know that the majority of Malaysians don't access the internet and will have no way of reading Raja Petra's real views, and will simply remember that he slandered the Agong and Islam, two of the most sensitive issues to Malays. The fact that they can't arrest him for these allegations is irrelevant, the mud will stick and then they will arrest him under the draconian Internal Security Act, which allows detention without trial for those accused of sedition.I am a regular reader of Raja Petra's blog and I know that his real 'crime' is to expose the schemes of the ruling capitalist elites, in a way that normal journalists would do in countries which have a free press. This is blatantly obvious to anyone who reads his blog. As bloggers we love our countries but don't respect borders when it comes to justice. There is no such thing as Asian values versus Western values when it comes to freedom of speech - Western regimes have been just as despotic in the past and in some areas - like the Dr Haneef case in Australia - continue to be tyrants today. Raja Petra is a hero and a protector of the dignity of the Agong, the Malays and Islam, all of which have been held up to ridicule by the actions of UMNO and like governments throughout the Muslim world. As a Muslim I would rather have Raja Petra stand up for my faith rather than a miscreant like Muhammad Muhammad Taib.I fully expect Raja Petra to be jailed under ISA, as I think he does too. Most Malaysians will not have access to the truth due to the lack of access to the internet and the fear of accessing controversial political sites such as Malaysia Today. The ruling party are now throwing mud they can't back up with facts, because they want to discredit him before they take action. It will be up to the bloggers of the world to remember and support this Malaysian Hero, the 'progressive prince' as he has been referred to,[...]

Why am I a believer in God?


In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are Signs for people with intelligence: those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: "Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire." (Qur'an, 3:190-191)

There's been a lot of news stories about aggressive atheists blaming religious belief for every evil in the world. In many cases, they seem to think that they are intellectually superior to the believers. I agree that there are many evil and despicable people who preach religion and blame God for their terrible behavior. However, it seems to me that it is more the believers, Muslim, Christian whatever who you see giving of their income for the poor, trying to spread literacy etc more than atheists. Some people see all the faults of the believers and do not acknowledge that secular ideologies such as nationalism, communism or eugenics have been just as destructive without many of the postive aspects which religion brings to the lives of its believers, and they in turn bring to their environment. So there should be some balance in these accusations.

Beyond all this however, my reason for belief is that I look at the world, from the stars, to the rain that falls, to the wondrously formed hands of my children and I see the work of a Great Artist. I don't just see random splodges of paint. I don't believe that God is only about love as some would say, He has also created this world as a test of the human soul. We see good and bad and all the shades of grey but still for me those Signs point to the One, the Creator and Originator.

For the atheist, they look at the same signs and they don't see what I see. I accept that, and leave it up to God to judge between me and them someday. But as Bob Dylan once said, "don't criticize what you can't understand" My observation is that atheists are not more charitable, more tolerant or even necessary more open-minded than believers. The next time I hear the juvenile "religion is the cause of all wars" or "the world would be a better place without religion", I challenge them to look at Hitler's Germany or Stalin's USSR and argue that those secular states were any better than even the worst religious ones.

Stupid beyond belief


I have been spending time in Malaysia lately, living near my wife's family. There are good and bad things about being here, the good mainly centering around the food (yum) and the cost of living (cheap), and the bad mainly about the inefficiencies of third-world infrastructure and mentality.As this blog makes clear, I am an Anglo-Celtic Muslim. I became a Muslim about 15 years ago - of my own volition, not because I wanted to get married to some Muslim chick. I met my wife several years after I became Muslim.It drives me nuts the attitude that some Malaysian Malays have to converts, in fact to Islam in general. They seem to think that there is something inherently Islamic about being a Malay, so that while those who convert in their eyes can never be 'real' Muslims, Malays who drink alcohol, gamble and in some cases even deny the existence of judgment and the hereafter are somehow considered truer Muslims.Part of the reason for this is the (obviously man-made) constitution of this country, which accords "Malays" special rights and privileges over others. Since no one wants to deny themselves these privileges, they will keep calling themselves Muslim no matter how unIslamic their beliefs or their behaviour are. Religion and ethnicity are conflated. The Malay status is tied to religious identification, as those who arrived in this country from India or Arab countries or whatever are regarded as "Malays" despite many not having a drop of archipelago blood in their veins - which makes the whole "we deserve privileges because we were here first" argument a bit ridiculous, frankly, but I digress. Independence shut the door on this forever though, as converting to Islam does not entitle one to alter their racial status, so a Chinese convert remains Chinese, unless he marries a Malay in which case the children will be Malays (not sure about this though). However, this is not widely understood, so that some Malays actually resent converts for crowding in on their space, and seem to think they have the right to doubt the sincerity of all converts, assuming that people convert for some kind of personal gain. So while a Malay can drink, gamble, take drugs etc even to the extent that these sins are widely known, people will never label them as kafir (infidel) or a munafiq (hypocrite). A convert on the other hand, must exhibit exemplary behaviour, dress as a Malay or better yet an Arab, punctuate their speech with lots of inshaAllahs etc and use an Arabic name or else be regarded as 'not a real Muslim'.I wish I could make these people understand, that converting to Islam is never easy, at least for those who do it sincerely - and they have no way of knowing whether the conversion was sincere or not. Even if someone did convert for marriage initially, he or she would have had to endure ostracization from their family to do so and possibly much more as well. If you observe a convert who pray five times a day, fasts Ramadan and pays Zakaat, he or she is much more of a Muslim that those who do not, regardless of the colour of the pussy they emerged into this world from (sorry about the crudeness, but I am sickened by this arrogant attitude of some racists). Trust me, I have never gained any material advantage from being a Muslim, quite the contrary - I had to sacrifice many of my friends who couldn't tolerate my new lifestyle, and miss out on many business opportunities because of not being able to accept clients who were selling alcohol or gambling, not being able to treat clients to drinks, and the general stigma attached to being a Muslim in this day and age. Talk to anyone who has worked with me in Australia who knows I am a Muslim and they will probably say how much more successful I [...]

Hilali is a monster of our own making as well as the media's


Once again, Australia's Muslim community has been held up to ridicule courtesy of some ridiculous, offensive and above all unislamic comments from our supposed 'leader', Sheik Hilali.

In case you missed the myriad of news stories in all the newspapers and on all TV channels, Hilali's speech demonized Australian women, including Australian Muslims who do not conform to his cultural standard of modesty are (at least partially) responsible if they are raped. He is not the first to hold such offensive beliefs - they have been expressed by non-Muslims too in the past - however that doesn't in any way excuse them.

Transcript in English

The real problem with Hilali is that he is a cultural dinosaur who is completely out of touch with the realities of this society. It comes across as arrogant that Australia's so-called mufti, clearly not an unintelligent man, has never bothered to learn English well enough despite living in this country since 1982. How can one understand the society well enough to lead it if one doesn't speak the language?

It is long overdue for the conservative parts of the Muslim community in this country to stand aside and allow the more educated, savvy, Muslims to speak on behalf of the community. People like Waleed Aly for instance. A minimum criteria for senior religious leadership in this community should be fluency in both English and Arabic, and an ability to demonstrate some cultural intelligence.

During Ramadan I attended a Friday sermon delivered by Hilali. I have no idea what he said because he delivered a long speech in a foreign language, which looking around the mosque it was abundantly clear that at least 3/4 of the congregation had no idea what he was talking about. I felt he wasted my time - I have to sacrifice my income to attend Friday prayers and his long speech - much longer than the usual sermon was of no educational value to me or most of the other listeners. If I want to migrate to another country I would need to learn the language of its inhabitants. After 20 years - so should he.

These recent comments show why having a 'mufti' who is ignorant of the culture and the language of the country is fatally stupid for the Australian Muslim community. I have no doubt that some of his words probably were taken out of context and some of the reaction has been more hysterical than it would have been had the comments been made by others. For example, Pru Goward, how do you deport an Australian citizen? None of this diminishes the original inappropriateness or the sheer repugnance of the Sheik's rantings, however.

It should be crystal clear to even the most culturally insensitive community elder that the Muslim community shoots itself in the foot by appointing such a man as its leader. We shouldn't expect that people's words will not be taken out of context and used against them by their enemies - it is a fact of life and an unpleasant reality faced by anyone in the public eye. Aside from the Islamic offensiveness of his comments, having someone who is clearly so politically and culturally incompetent as the community's representative is not only offensive but masochistic too. Removing him from his post is essential and it must be done quickly.

Lee Kuan Yew's comments about Malaysia


Minister-Mentor (what ever than means) LKY of Singapore recently criticized Malaysia over racial issues, while musing about how a coup might be required in Singapore if the opposition ever won the elections there.

Perhaps Lee Kuan Yew is attempting to divert attention from the $2 billion US dollars his daughter-in-law has squandered of Singapore tax-payer money in Thailand?

Seriously though, his message has been the same for more than 40 years. Some young Chinese Malaysians believe that Malaysia would be a more prosperous place if Lee's ideas had been accepted all those years ago. The older, wiser heads know that you can't run a large sophisticated nation such as Malaysia in the way Lee's family business (Singapore) is run, and his policies doing nothing to alleviate ethnic disparities in wealth - largely but not entirely the result of colonial legacies - would have led to disharmony and possibly bloodshed.

Having said all this, none of this excuses the actions of irresponsible Malay politicians (such as some of those in UMNO youth) who pretend that there is any other realistic future for Malaysia in a China-centric region than a true meritocracy, not like Singapore but a genuinely democratic nation where people are assisted based on need and not on race.

In the meantime, Lee should shut up and concentrate on improving human rights and social justice in his own kingdom (and no, that is not a typo).

Playing fast and loose with democracy: The 2006 Queensland Election & the media


I have just returned from having voted in the Queensland State Election. For those who don't know, voting is compulsory in Australia. Those who advocate this claim that it is a responsibility of citizens to participate in their democracy by turning up and voting. Unfortunately, precious little is said about the need to first be informed before doing so, or the responsibility of the media to assist people to become informed.The media has an important role to play in democratic societies. They are supposed to provide citizens with the necessary information to make an informed choice between the candidates. Not to do so limits the average citizen to the partisan and trivial information presented in 30 second television commercials, most of which focus on belittling the opposition and trotting out slogans rather than meaningful presentation of policies. I know - I have been involved in the construction of these commercials and know that the most effective are those which are short on detail but big on slogans and trivial caricatures of the key players.Unfortunately, the media in Queensland - with the exception of blogs and the state-run ABC - have been utterly negligent in their coverage of this election campaign. The commercial networks have barely covered the election in the last week, being obsessed with the death of 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin, a remarkable man who hitherto was largely as ignored in this country as he was famous overseas. Yet his death initiated a media-fed outpouring of communal grief that dominated every major news broadcast. On virtually every night this week, election news was relegated to a few snippets after the first ad break, which all programmers know is where you put the news nobody gives a damn about. Although I felt sorry for Irwin's family and what is really their personal tragedy, I feel more sorry for the people of Queensland whose media decided that intense coverage of a celebrity death would rate much higher than informing people so they credibly choose who will make decisions for the next three years that will impact all their lives, such as whether they will have hospitals to go to when they're sick, how much tax they will pay and whether they will have a government which stands up for their rights as workers.Channel Nine - the highest rating news bulletin, was arguably the worst offender in pathetic election coverage. Yesterday, when they had promised to schedule the only debate held between the two leaders at 1pm, the overhang of a preliminary round in a foreign tennis tournament not even involving an Australian player was regarded as so important that the debate was not shown at the advertised time. To add insult to injury, a host of other programmes to inane to mention were considered so important that the debate was pushed back to the ridiculous time of MIDNIGHT, long after all but the most dedicated had gone to bed. As a commercial network, one understands - but doesn't condone - their obsession for ratings over any responsibility towards democracy. However, one also needs to consider that had Channel 9 not obtained the rights to this event, it may have been covered on time on the ABC. Furthermore, the Australian networks are protected from competition by Government regulation which allow them to become such lucrative cash-cows for their multi-millionaire owners such as James Packer, the aristocratic [what else do you call the third generation of millionaires] owner of Channel 9. If they're not prepared to act in the public interest then one questions why they should enjoy such protection.The final straw which obliterated the election from the l[...]

Australians fighting for other nations should be stripped of their Australian Citizenship


Tomorrow there will be a memorial service for the Australian citizen killed while participating in the Israeli's military actions on Lebanon. No doubt, Howard and Downer will be sending commiserations and commenting on the 'valour' of this soldier.

Meanwhile, another Australian citizen who was fighting for the internationally recognised government of another country sits in a cage in Gitmo, Cuba, as he has for the last 5 years. Howard has admitted he broke no Australian law, but is quite content to let him rot there without trial and with no hope of release.

I would like to see a bill introduced into our parliament to make it a condition of Australian citizenship that one doesn't join or assist any other foreign government to wage war. People who break this law in taking part in military operations which are not sanctioned by the Australian government on behalf of another nation should be stripped of their Australian citizenship. If they are killed waging war on behalf of another nation their death should be ignored by politicians and treated no differently from the death of any foreigner in a foreign conflict.

A life is a life, and it's sad when anyone dies. Frankly though, I care a lot more about the hundreds of civilians who have been killed by this round of military adventurism than I do about someone who leaves a peaceful life in a beautiful country such as Australia to wage war.

Mahathir's new enthusiasm for democracy


Although this blog is mostly concerned about Australian & NZ issues, I also follow with interest events in Malaysia, a country in which I used to live and still have much affection for.A recent big controversy there which has attracted some attention in the Australian media is the strident attacks by former PM Tun Mahathir (incidentally, pronounced MaHAthere not Mahateer as by most of the Aus media) on current PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (know as Pak Lah) . These criticisms, which border on the vitriolic, imply that the current regime has betrayed Mahathirs trust and legacy, and (much more seriously) that they have sold out the nation to Singapore by canceling the planned half-bridge (designed because of the Island republic's refusal to cooperate in a full-bridge to replace the aged causeway between Singapore and Johor Bahru). He has implied that figures associated with the government stood to gain from the proposed sale of sand to Singapore which was (according to him) offered as a sweetener to get Singapore to agree to build a full-bridge. Such criticisms are highly unusual in the Malaysian climate, not so much in their substance but in the way they have been covered in the mainstream media. While opposition figures are generally able to criticize the government, they are effectively restricted from publicising these criticisms in the mass-media. Mahathir's position as former PM creates a dilemma for the administration, as the traditional perspective of respecting one's elders conflicts with the usual prerogative to protect the government from such criticism.Although Mahathir's criticisms have been received much more attention than if they had been made by opposition figures such as Lim Kit Siang or Anwar Ibrahim, and Mahathir has not been charged, or incarcerated under the Internal Security Act (a colonial hangover which allows detention without trial on national security grounds), Mahathir has complained that the media have not covered his criticisms fairly. In a supreme irony, Mahathir - who tolerated little dissent when he was in power - has become a major advocate of freedom of the press and democracy.This situation is perplexing for those of us who believe in free speech and democratic values. For PAS (the Islamic opposition party), they are quite happy to overlook Mahathir's track record and probably welcome him should he choose to assist them (this remains a highly unlikely option). However, I don't believe the leopard has lost his spots. While the media in Malaysia definitely needs to grow up and politicians to realise they should be accountable to their constituents. I don't believe if Mahathir was back in power things would be any better. One wonders what his objective actually is, but my feeling is that it is much more likely to be the replacement of Pak Lah with a more amenable crony that the genuine transformation of Malaysia to a true democracy - something he more than any other sought to undermine when he held the reins of power. Accordingly, it would be better if the Malaysian public were to treat his rants as the outbursts of a somewhat senile and bitter great-uncle whose time and usefulness has past.The photo above, btw, is a reference to the nickname of Mahathir as Mahafiruan, or the great Pharaoh - as he was referred to during his time as quasi-democratic leader of Malaysia. Mahathir was responsible for many actions such as decreasing the independence of the Malaysian judiciary, locking up dissidents, including most famously his deputy Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomy and corruption, charges widely perceived as fa[...]

Support an act of self-determination for Australians!


(image) It's time for the good citizens of the world to call for an act of self-determination for the Australian people. For thirty years the indigenous people of Australia have suffered through a false act of free choice held in 1967, when the government of the Commonwealth of Australia invited White people to vote to compulsorily make the indigenous people of Australia citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The Australians have become a minority in their own land through goverment policies of trans-migration from other parts of the white world, supplanting the indigenous inhabitants with immigrants of an alien culture and religion. They followed practices of genocide, with driving the Australians from their land through policies such as terra nullis and stealing children from their families to be raised as domestic servants for the immigrants. Hundreds of thousands died as a result of the invasion. The Commonwealth of Australia continues to this day to rape the Australian people's landscape including mining resources such as uranium, iron ore and coal and send the bulk of the profits to major cities such as Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, with almost no benefits to the indigenous people. They continue to enforce foreign laws based on a foreign culture and religion, and treat these laws as superior to those of the indigenous Australians.

The Australians never consented to this policy and like all indigenous people are entitled by international law to an act of self-determination. Aboriginal Australia is not part of the
Commonwealth of Australia, never was a part of the Commonwealth of Australia and never will be a part of the Commonwealth of Australia.

This piece is intended to be satirical, in response to the mostly internet based advocacy by usually right-wing anti-multiculturalists for indepence in Papua. I am not an Aboriginal Australian and do not pretend to represent their views. I have no firm views myself on Papua as my knowledge of the topic is limited. However, I find it ironic that from a country where most of us are ethnically foreign some in Australia can be so ideological about the sheer outrageousness of a mainly ethnic Javanese government ruling ethnically different indigenous people and exploiting their land without providing them with their fair share. It seems to me that there is one standard of self-determination applied in one case and another we want to implement in our own country, which is far, far larger and even though we have a much smaller, richer population which is certainly far more foreign from our own indigenous people. I suspect that the right-wing advocacy of the Papuan cause has far more to do with irrational hatred for the Indonesians - something in plague proportions in this country - than genuine concern for Papuans.



(image) A shining example of the rearranging the deckchairs nature of the so-called 'war on terrorism' is the latest controversy over an attempt by so-called Islamic courts in Afghanistan to sentence someone to death for changing their religion. Fortunately the court released the man, but it goes to show how our faith has been surrendered to blind dogma without anyone asking whether it was conceiveable that our Prophet would force anyone to become or remain a Muslim when we follow a creed which enshrines religious freedom in its holy book. The following article should clear it up, but of course it won't for those who value traditions as more important than clearly stated verses in the source of law which God has promised to protect.

NZ in the Commonwealth Games


(image) There's no doubt that the games performance as a whole was disappointing. Questions need to be asked about the ability of some "stars" to perform under pressure - performing beyond one's ability used to be a hallmark of NZ athletes - no longer. It is concerning in comparison with Australians who seem to come from nowhere in just about every event.

One thing that doesn't wash is the tired old "we're great for our population size" argument. First up, according to population, NZ should have walked away with around 17 gold medals if we were performing at the same level as the Australians. Secondly, we may only have 4 million people, but we have a far higher per capita GDP than most Commonwealth nations. The reality is we probably spend more on sport than many countries can afford to spend on healthcare. To compare NZ with Bangladesh or Botswana and say we're wonderful on a per head of population basis is ludicrous.

There were welcome exceptions to the weak performances though, importantly the outstanding performance of Nick Willis, the Rugby 7s and the Silver Ferns. Willis would have won that race even if Mottram had kept his footing, despite what the Australian commentators say - he has a much better PB and would have outkicked Mottram in what was a slow-paced race. Watching Willis cross the line was a revelation to those who grew up in the 70's and endured the lean years of the 80's and 90's. With someone of the calibre of Peter Snell suggesting that Olympic success is a possibility, it's an exciting time for NZ athletics.

The other thing which was redeeming was our performance in the team sports. Frankly, I would rather beat the Australians in our two biggest sports - Rugby for men and Netball for women that pick up some obscure success in rhythmic gymnastics for instance! The basketballers also performed to or beyond their ability, and the tall blacks silver in particular was an effort they can be proud of.

How much longer NZs independent foreign policy?


On a number of occasions since 1984, people with a NZ passport have been able to justifably be proud of the fact that their country has stood up and acted independently. Unlike Australia, which is still caught up in the 'yellow peril' phobia of a white island in the middle of an Asia/Pacific sea, NZ has had the balls to say no to the US where they deserved it. Examples include being nuclear free, not joining other US stooge countries like Palau and Micronesia in backing Israeli aggression in the UN general assembly against overwhelming world opinion, and most significantly not invading Iraq and creating the chaotic mess that country is now.

However, serious questions are being raised about the new leader of the opposition who is currently leading the polls in NZ. A financial ideologue who oversaw the radical economic policies of the early 90's , he belongs fairly and squarely in the old 'white' conservatism of NZs past, which may yet rear its head. He has at best obfuscated on the question of readmitting nuclear ships to NZ waters and backing George W Bush in his wars, at worst he is saying one thing to powerful people in the US and keeping mum to the NZ public. Of this we can be certain, he has no personal enthusiasm for the independent foreign policy NZ has charted over the past 20 years. If he wins the election, how long will it take before NZ is following Australia into the Middle-East and making unnecessary enemies for ourselves? Is NZ's security best served by identifying itself as a vocal 'me-tooist' for Rumsfeld & Cheney and therefore a neo-colonial outpost, or are we trying to develop a genuinely 'Pacific' culture? It will be interesting to see whether NZ will take the mature, independent path in this election and vote against Brash.

An unconditional condemnation but let's get one thing straight


The terrible events that occured in London deserve a swift expression of empathy for the victims and an equally swift condemnation of those who committed these acts. I have no hesitation in making either.

Having said that, let's get one thing straight. The cause of this attack is that extremist groups, arising out of non-democratic and non-politically permeable societies believe that as long as Western governments and Western companies continue to act in the middle east [and other parts of the developing world] in their 'national interest' even when this interest runs counter to any morality, Western or otherwise, they will never have the chance to shape their own societies. It's not because they want to 'change our way of life' or because they 'hate our freedoms. This mythology is the most dangerous fallicy in the world today. They certainly do not approve of many Western behaviours, but neither do they approve of some Mongolian or Brazilian behaviours. The reason those countries are not attacked is because they are not activily involved in interfering in Muslim countries, not are they perceived to be.

The first step in winning the war on terror will be to recognise one cannot win a war on terror. The American, British and Australian war of aggression on a country that had not attacked them and which did not pose any reasonable threat to them [Iraq] demostrates that the war on terror is a dangerous, open-ended catch-all that has done nothing but stir up a pandora's box of violence and extremism. The irony of all this is that this will be added to Sept 11th, the Bali bombings, & Madrid as the great examples of why the 'war on terrorism' needs to be fought. To put this in perspective, what happened in Britain is happening every other day in Iraq - people who are just as innocent are dying because of a hell created by our own governments overthrowing a stable if oppressive government which at least kept the water running. Neo-cons will say that Iraqis have freedom and this is the price they must pay - well cut the arrogance, it's not George Bush's kids who are paying the price it's ordinary Iraqis who have to live in shite and dirt-poor Americans who have to fight for your fundamentalist freedoms.

When Americans begin to consider whether it is in their national interest to give more foreign aid to Israel that they do to the entire African continent, or whether in might be a good idea to spend money educating their own poor people rather than employing them in a military that is more powerful and more expensive that the rest of the world's combined, perhaps the extremists will be starved of their oxygen. Instead of invading countries to create democracies, how about removing trade barriers from those that exist?

Those who committed Thursday's atrocities are not absolved in any way from their actions by these facts. However, perhaps we in the West should start realising that other people are suffering as well, their lives are just as important and as valuable as ours, and that George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard should be held accountable for not acting in our interests let alone in accordance with international or moral laws. Perhaps when we give Osama his lethal injection, George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld will be next in the queue.

Choudhary and stoning


NZ MP Ashraf Choudhary has got himself into a stink over some dumb comments on a NZ TV programme:

Here's the story:

Choudhary was asked whether the Muslim holy book, the Koran, is wrong to recommend that gays in certain circumstances be stoned to death.

He replied that "what the Koran says is correct", adding "in those societies, not here in New Zealand."

Well, apart from noting it was a pointless question from a journalist [is Choudhary, a list MP who voted for civil unions and abstained on legalizing prostitution really likely to let this affect his voting patterns, there must be a million more relevant questions to ask], Choudhary could have answered the question a lot more cleverly, by stating - truthfully - that the Quran DOESN'T say this. This has apparently been overlooked in the whole issue, with no-one bothering to say that, while some Muslims believe in stoning and perhaps one or two countries on earth actually practice it, it's NOT PRESCRIBED IN THE QURAN. The same can not be said about the Bible, however.

On another level, is it necessary that every single person in the parliament endorse in their personal beliefs what the majority considers acceptable? I'm sure that there are a lot of extreme personal opinions in there, from both right or left. Representative democracy surely means that all ideas should be represented in proportion. If only 1% of NZ believes smoking Marijuana should be part of their religion, there's nothing wrong with having a single MP who believes this. If 1% of NZ believes that NZ should be a theocratic Christian state, they should have 1% of MPs. Just because a person holds views which are not acceptable to the majority doesn't disqualify his or her right to hold them, or to be an MP. Democracy means that extremist views should not be translated into law because the majority doesn't accept them. I don't think it means that people should be vilified for holding them privately.