Saturday, April 30, 2011

سكت دهراً

For Catholics (I'm not sure if this holds true for other churches) the word of the pope is the word of God, and in so having this creedal basis they tend to look for similar structures in other religions such as Islam. Always trying to find the ONE who speaks for God, which is why the whole mufti debate in Australia was so misunderstood. Muslims saw Hilali as one scholar, he makes mistakes like everyone else. While for Australians he was the MUFTI, which they understood as the highest scholarly authority for Islam in Australia. Many even questioned the sanity and intelect of Muslims for blindingly following this figure.

The same applies in the wider global context. Old islamic institutions such as Al Azhar or Medina or Mecca are of course holy, but they by no means who exclusivity to interpreting Islam. Many islamophobes site this wierdo scholar or that scholar who have crazy opinions, and pose them as speaking for all Muslims just because they're from one institution.

Why am I talking about this ? Because I just read the Friday sermon for Shaikh AbdulRahman AlSudais (famous for his recitation).

The Sermon goes deeply into the importance of staying united and following and obeying the Jama3a (which means the group)

He goes on to eloquently and poetically cite opinion after opinion and verse after verse and hadith after hadith espousing the importance of sticking the the jama3a because that's who Allah swt is with. 

One such Hadith states :

فيمَا يَرْويه أبوهريرَة رضي الله عنه : (مَن خرَج عَنِ الطَّاعَة وفارَقَ الجَمَاعَة فَمَاتَ، مَاتَ ميتَةً جاهِلية، ومَن قاتَل تَحْتَ رَايَةٍ عُمِّـيَّة، يَغْضَب لِعَصَبِيَّة، أو يَدْعو إلى عَصَبيَّة أو يَنْصُر عصَبِيَّة فَقُتِل فَقِتْلَتُه جَاهِليَّة، ) أخرجه مسلم وغيره

Roughly translated: Abu Huraira narrates the Prophet pbuh having said "Whoever so ceases to obey and leaves the fold of the majority (jama3a) and dies, he will have died a dead of Ignorance. 
Whoever so fights for an ethnicity or a nationalism and dies, he will have died a death of Ignorance...." 
Collected by Muslim and

All those meanings are true and all the verses and the other sources are also very true and authentic, and in other circumstances any one would have agreed with them wholeheartedly.  However the timing chosen to remind us of our religious duty to stay with the jama3a is what irks me and many many others who would have heard this sermon.

This sermon comes in a me when young and old Saudis are unhappy with the way Saudi Arabia is being run. Mismanagement, cronyism, vast contrasts in all levels of government and society, I could go on.

I heard sermons such as this in other countries like Iraq, Egypt and others. All roughly the same. All start with verses and opinions and tightly worded reminders that if we want to be good muslims who have to stay with the Jama3a, we have to follow the Wali (leader). We have to make bay3a (allegance) and if we don't then we are basically kuffar (infidels).

I Don't know if anyone in mosques actually believes that. I don't know if there are those who hear it and out of a naive effort to be a good muslim keep on putting on with all the oppression and injustice happening to them and others around them every hour.

Fact: ALL Arab countries are being run undemocratically by elites who have not earned the right to rule. Puppet rules for puppet governments.
Fact: ALL Arab countries have an incredibly sophisticated system of intelligence, police and security apparatus to keep any dissent in control. Thousands languish in jails as bad as Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib
Fact: No Arab Country is run according to the Sharia or any form of justice secular or otherise.

Fact: Arab countries are very very very very very rich, of minerals, of agriculture, they are placed so strategically they can run world trade. This is not happening because most of that wealth goes to the 5% ruling elite and multinational western companies.

It is the natural, logical, RELIGIOUS duty then of every person is the Arab World to seek to change this oppressive vampire regime with one that actually represents the majority and where the wealth of the country is enjoyed by the populace. Change it how ? Peacefully of course, Mr ASIO man !

One method of keeping the populace downtrodden and happy with their minuscule share is by dealing them drugs. In the form of television shows and music and sports that keep them busy.
There is also the age old Opium of the masses, religion.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling Islam Itself a drug. I do believe that any religion can be used as a drug. This is one case. There is even a term in arabic for those who peddle in this trade = وعاض السلاطين which I will translate as Yes Men. 

There is an old joke About Hosni Mobarak (before his stepping down that is).

Husni was visiting the Queen of England, and asked how she was able to know if David Cameron was a good PM, she said easy "I just told him this quiz, IF a person is your father's child but not your brother, who is he?"
Hosni was intrigued "and what did he say?" The queen says "He said David Cameron ! he got the right answer, and that's how I knew he was a good PM"

Hosni goes back to Egypt and asks his cabinet the same question and the don't know. Then he asks his mufti "Mufti, who is the child of your father and is not your brother?", the mufti says, Ya rayys if you want, I can draft you a fatwa and that person can be whoever you want him to be"

Hosni says "No you idiot ! It's David Cameron!"

So it's always been known that there have been men of religion who used it to justify different things.

This of course has cause many to turn away from religion itself. who can blame them ? When you live in a country that hemorrhages money on cars and chocolates and expensive European holidays with african sex slaves while you're driving a taxi because you can't find a job with your university degree.

I just want to say also that not all scholars living in the Arab world are of this categories. There are brilliant men who have served the community and continue serving with blood sweat and tears. The majority of scholars are God fearing men of principle who would not sell themselves out.

I also of course respect the shaikh Sudais and wish him all the best and wish and pray that he is not a Yes Man to anyone.

Wallahu A3lam

I may be barking up a completely wrong tree, if you think so, please comment and let me know your thoughts.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interview with Dr Hamza Mousa

Dr Hamza Mousa, Egyptian doctor, activist, blogger and writer. Goes to to Libya at the end of revolution and travels throughout the cities of Bengazi, Zawia and Mesrata, dodging death and saving lives. This is his interview.

Arabic only, sorry

Courtesy, Fairfield Sydney. 

Villawood Update

I try to visit Villawood every now and then. Just see the guys and lift their spirits. Despite the article you read in yesterday's The Australian (I don't mean a specific one) or what heard 2UE tell you this morning. It's a small minority of desperate people who took part in the riot. The majority of the assylum seekers didn't take part and yet are still getting all the punishment and all the hate Australia can muster to throw at them.

We sat together eating chips and drinking Mountain Due, what are the people saying about us ? I tell them it's mostly anger. People are wondering why you'd do such destructive acts to the country that took you in ?

One of the men, a quiet soft spoken man, speaks; It's not us, it's some 20 people who couldn't take it any more, and that was for a reason also, is anybody asking why they did those they did ?

What can I say ?

I speak to another man, a burmese. He asks for an urdo/english dictionary. I promise to get him one. He looks so hopeless. Almost in tears, another friend tells me later. The world is changing around them and they're rotting in cells like criminals. They're not though, that's what kills me.

Visit your local detention center. Make a sad man (or woman) feel happy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

People I know are burning the roof

This is an update of my limited exposure to the assylum seekers I first met in christmas island back in april of 2010.

Two of those guys are in villawood now, one of them is an amazing person. He is iranian and doesn't speak much english but he was more than able to express himself through dance. When we would have our ' party night' (part of ALIV's schedule of activities) he would dance like crazy to any type of music. He was a pretty sweet guy to chill out with. Quiet, usually smiles and wanted to work in underwater metal welding.
He was screaming from the top of a burning roof two days ago. Reduced to an angry desperate token refugee to be condemned by some stupid white men

The second person I met for the first time this past monday. Another man I usually visit gave me a name 'melad' and mentioned that he 'melad' doesn't know anyone and doesn't have any visitors therefore.
We spent a quiet monday afternoon, the weather was warm and pleasant. His friend asked me what it was like on the outside. He was just quietly contemplating the year he'd spent locked up like an animal for being born in the wrong country with the wrong skin colour.
Now he spends his days on a roof being labelled a crazy violent rioter.

I pray for them. I hope they can leave this house of madness. I hope chris bowen or tony abbot would spend a week in those conditions to see what horrors they're subjecting others to.

End of rant
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.8

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday Night Live podcast 15th April 2011 +UPDATE

It's taken me a while to get some control over my video processing, finally I have this 12 minute video snippet of the show. Which I am calling Friday Night Live.


To what extent should we engage in the democratic process ? Confronting that long discussed issue: Muslims and voting in Australia.

Uthman Badr, spokesman for HezbuTahrir Sydney, and Abdulah Zayied, Ex President and Shura Member for FAMSY Sydney, will be discussing those and other issues pertaining to Muslims and the democratic process in Australia.

Below is the podcast for the show, we are updating the website so this will be where my podcasts live for the time being.

Please let me know your thoughts when you've listened to it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stories from iraq

Sometimes we'd be sitting with the family chatting over tea and baqlawa and my dad or grand dad or uncle would tell a story about a place I used to call home which is becoming more and more alien to me while I still yearned for it all the same. This is one of those stories.

My dad wanted to buy a photocopy machine back in the 1980s iraq so he had to apply for special permission from the government security department.
[ at this point I asked him why he didn't just go to the electronic store to just buy one, I realized this was a silly question when he laughed at it. I guess in a dictatorship with a strong all enveloping security apparatus you can't just buy a photocopy machine]

So he went up and down and all around trying to get the right paperwork and speak to the right people, it was a pain going though the lines of corruption and failed bureaucracy. He decided to try and get in touch with a friend of his who was the assistant manager of the state security office [ I don't know why he didn't go to him in the first place ]
Now this was in itself a mission, going through assistants and secretaries but finally he arrived at the man's office and was greeted by the old friend. They sat down making small talk and remembering the old times when a man in fatigues came in and spoke to the assistant director, sir the prisoner is not confessing. Mr assistant director excused himself from my dad and called the"prisoner" to come in so he couldspeak to him personally.
When the prisoner came in he was sat down on a chair (this is all happening in front of my dad by the way). Why was this msn in prison ? What was it he was refusing to confess to ? Who knows

Assistant director: why won't you confess, we know you did it
Prisoner: sure I swear it wasn't me !

Suddenly SLAP, SLAP SLAP !!! The assistant director was engaging in... Torture? Beatings ? I don't know what it was but my dad got a massive jump because he wasnt expecting this. In a bit of panic he figured his friend must have overlooked him and sort of walked out and never returned to his ' friend' again.

My dad never did get to buy that photocopy machine after all
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.8

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Visit your local boat person, but don't force feed them any bibles.

I don't know if I told you before, but I actually went to Xmas Island at one point with a charity organization called ALIV for one month back in April. Oh wait, I actually wrote about it.
Well yeah, it was an amazing experience, It helped me to engage with people on a personal level, and for once in my life it lifted this cursed shia/sunni divide that's hovering over my head all the time. I was just visiting people. It was awesome.

That was a year ago, since then I thought all or at least most of the assylum seekers there would eventually get their humanitarian refugee visa or returned to their home countries.

Through the ALIV network it turns out that some of them are still languishing in detention centers around Australia. Some in Curtin, some in Darwin, others in Villawood etc...

Well I also found out Villawood is actually 10 minutes drive from Fairfield. So I went there with Abs, the Robin to my Batman, to visit the guys we knew from CI (ALIV speak for Xmas Island).

It was great to see the guys again, sad and great. They were happy to see us as well. Some of them were smiley and kept brave faces on. Others could not and we could see the depression on their faces as they told us they'd been in detention for at least a year (in months and days). They'd also tell us about others who'd committed suicide, which for me as a Muslim is devastating.

In any case, I enjoyed talking to them again and just trying to alleviate their moods. The fact they were so much closer meant I could actually visit them regularly. Some of the other CI Volunteers were already visiting every weekend. It was also great catching up with them. CI Volunteers are amazing people.

One of the Iraqi guys I met with was feeling especially down, he was an artist and would sketch all those images of dried cut down trees, it was sad to see. He was stressing about his next interview. He couldn't speak english so the only person he could speak to was us or Egyptian Evangelical christians.

Now I don't mind people of other religions of course, but it was upsetting to me when he was telling me that those guys would visit all the arabs for the sole purpose of trying to convert them to Christianity, which is as F'ed up a thing as you can do. I mean why would you go to people to desperate distressed people to bash them with bibles ? It was exploitative and wicked. I mean you can preach whatever religion you like to anyone NOT in a detention center. There are people who hold bibles and stand on fruit boxes and preach all day and all night at the City, and that's cool because if you don't want to listen to him, you can just walk away. But to play such dirty tactics as visiting people stuck in a detention center is retarded. I'm sorry, it is.
He was upset because they weren't just trying to convert him, they were insulting Islam in the process. There must be some law or something that stops them from doing that. I'll have to check with someone. I should actually approach them next time I see them.

I could actually some of the Iranians now wearing gold cross necklaces. I mean it is their choice in the end, but is it really a game of numbers that you stoop to such low tactics to "gain" more numbers for your team ?

In any case, If you are reading this and you live somewhere where there is a detention center. Do yourself a visit. Go visit the people there. They don't have to be the same culture or religion as you. Just desperate human beings in need for contact from the outside. You may think your visit would not change anything, you would be surprised. One visit even would make such a difference for them and for you.

What's that you say ? They shouldn't be here because they're queue jumpers ? OK let's say they are. They are still human beings with families and livelihoods and certain death if they are sent back home. If you visit them you wouldn't be changing any political process, especially not Labor or Libs policies.

contact me or ALIV if you want to know how to visit within Australia.


Monday, April 04, 2011

House Resolution 3969

This is a bit of a follow up on the previous post regarding the visit of Farah Pandith to sydney.

Since I'm an avid train traveller these days I'm finding more time to read. The book I've started reading today is"weapons of mass deception" by Rampton and Stauber. An immediately fascinating book that a of this moment (having reached page 11) I'm hooked.

TtttI'll quote from this book one passage that sheds some light os Pandith's visit and its american-media-spin-esque feel.

"[congressmen] Lantos and Hyde sponsored House Resolution bill 3969 , also known as the Freedom Promotion Act of 2002, which instructed the US secretary of state [who today is ms Pandith's boss Hillary Clinton] to "make public diplomacy an integral component in the planning and execution of united states foreign policy" and to establish "fully capable multimedia programming and distribution capacity including satellite, internet and other services, and also including the capability to acquire and produce audio and video feeds and internet streaming to foreign news organisations"."

This is where ms Pandith is coming from, an arm of the pr campaign initiative to ' make the muslims like us' .

It still rings in my head when she was asked about the invasion of iraq and afghanistan, she had acknowledged a " military exercise"

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.8
EDIT: in regards to charlotte beers, the then under secretary of state for public diplomacy spoke at and was received by similar audience with eerily similar feedback to the one I and other members of sunday's audience gave "in january 2002, Beers spent 3 days in cairo, egypt talking about mending fences as part of her dialogue with islam campaign. She seemed to bed having a little trouble however, with the listening part of the dialogue equation. Egyptians who spike with her came away shaking their heads, the new york times reported, saying American officials do not appreciate that muslims feel picked on by the united stars, or how deep feelimngs run for the palestinian cause- or just how heavily history weighs here"

Interview with Yousef Reemawi

This is an interview I had with Yousef Reemawi. A Palestinian Melbourne based activist, lecturer and founder of ASPIRE.

This interview is in Arabic. Apologies for non Arabic speakers.

My podcast LIVES ! Interview with Antony Lowenstien !

Finally I was able to podcast my work. My most treasured interview is the first to get the podcasty treatment.

The show starts and ends in Arabic, however Mr Lowenstein does speak English.


Affinity's and Ms Farah Pandith

Yesterday (Sunday 4th April) I went to an event held by the Sydney based Affinity Intercultural Foundation, where they hosted a speech by Farah Anwar Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim communities in the USA.She apparently reports directly to the secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

She was a very elegant eloquent lady. She spoke in length at us about the dialogue and the engagement initiatives she is currently involved in the world over as delegated by the government. She acknowledged the youth led revolution which she termed the youth quake. She mentioned that the muslim youth of the world are quite sick of having the media or others define their role or their identity for them, so they're going out there and they're defining their own identity through electronic media and social development etc...

During the whole time she spoke, I was thinking, Palestine is still the issue, how is this pretty talk fest going to change that ? At the Q&A session she was actually asked that question. She gave a very smart, very fluffy answer about how they held a youth development workshop and how there was a young 17 year old Palestinian girl who was doing amazing work in community development and how she wanted to do more and how they were able to help her and give her the tools to do that. This of course completely sidelined the question.

Palestine still being the issue means there is 1.4 million people in Gaza kept in the world's largest open air prison by the world's most fearsome, most brutal army and government supported financially, militarily, and politically by the US every year. It doesn't matter how often you engaged in those token workshops and how often you throw roses our way and tell us how awesome we are. This is still going to be an issue.

Another issue is Iraq, another issue is Afghanistan, another issue is Libya and not Bahrain, and not Yemen, and not Syria.

Usually I don't like to ask questions, as a photographer I try to keep my eye on angles and faces. Yesterday however I was burning to confront her about the non-essence of her talk. She wasn't willing to acknowledge the fact that the US has no credibility. That was the US is most interested in is the interests of the US. Actually first Israel and then the US.  They don't try to help anyone unless there is some sort of benefit for them.

The fact that they're supporting the revolution doesn't mean that they want what's good for the middle east. They just realized that the revolution is a wave that can't be stopped. Which is why it was exploding in Egypt early on. Hillary Clinton herself came out and spoke about her friendship with Mubarak and how's he's a great leader, and accordingly changed her tone when it was clear there was no turning back and that a change was imminent.

So this is what this Representative Pandith was in essence talking at us about. Forget about all the direct and indirect policies that have contributed to the destruction and damage in so many places around the world. Whether it's due to religious other reasons.

I was not able to ask any questions, but I was very happy with the audience who all seemed to understand the farcical situation we were finding ourselves in. And the Q&A session, though it did not get any A's for the Q's that were asked, was actually quite interesting. The audience asked the right questions in terms of the "war on terror", in terms of the islamophobic campaign being waged in the US currently, about the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan under false pretenses etc...

I'm sort of coming to understand that maybe the reason Affinity hosted Representative Pandith and made available an intelligent sophisticated audience made up of community leaders, academics and thinkers was actually to bring to light the the gave Representative Pandith was trying to play.

Representative Pandith is a very intelligent learned person and she seemed passionate about her cause. Though her brilliant political manoeuvrings during the Q&A session where she was asked poignant questions and managed to speak for 5 minutes for each question without giving a single answer has given her away as the politician that she is. This is my opinion at least.

I would like to thank Affinity for providing us with this opportunity. Their work is invaluable to the Muslim community in Australia and I hope to see more of their work soon.

View photos  of the event here.