Sunday, October 30, 2011

Update from Villawood, October 29

I visited Villawood yesterday. It was a nice sunny day, I had fun.

There are some things I constantly have to remind myself when I'm putting away all my valuables and walking through the airport like metal scanning machine.

1- This is not a jail. Which leads to a second realization; those people did not do anything wrong.

This is actually a jail. There are criminals in Villawood who are from overseas. Their last few weeks or months they're kept in Villawood before being deported to their home countries.
Why on earth would this stupid government keep criminals with Asylum seekers ? They are not the same! They should not be treated like criminals. The very fact they're kept in detention FOR YEARS goes against the UN conversions on refugees of which Australia is a signatory.  It's wrong if you don't know the plight of these people, and it's evil if you know them. If you visit them week in and week out. When you grow, get married, have kids, get a job, buy a house. And they're just there ! just waiting for a visa or a security check or just some paper work slowed down by Political sensibilities.

2- What is a good day in Villawood ? It was a beautiful day, my friend (who I'll call Ali) is not ever allowed to forget that he's being kept in this detention center like an animal. He used to remember the exact number of days he's been in detention. Now he doesn't care to count any more. He sleeps for 10-15 hours at a time and stays away for 30 hours after. It doesn't matter, It's not like he's going anywhere.
Imagine being stuck in a bus stop for an extra 20 minutes, or at an airport for 10 hours, how lost do you feel? image 2 years of this. Those guys don't know how much longer they're going to stay caged like this. It could be another 10 days or 10 years. At some point it ceases to matter for them.

I really hope Chris Bowen or Julia can come see the desperation and the breaking down of innocent human beings that they're the cause of. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MILIBAND: Gaza represents ultimate failure of politics

This article was sent to me by Australians for Palestine. An amazing organization with a wealth or resources and op eds about Palestine and Zionism in the middle East, Australia and the world.

I suggest you follow their work or subscribe to their email list

MILIBAND: Gaza represents the ultimate failure of politics


by David Miliband  -  The Guardian  -  12 October 2011
Government is all about statistics. But life is about people, and the disjunction between the two explains a lot about the cynicism and disaffection with politics. This is true for domestic policy, but also in international affairs, where the confusion and fatigue induced by distance is increased by the seemingly intractable nature of many of the problems.
The people who suffer are those who most need the attention of the world. This is notably true of the 1.5 million people crowded into the Gaza Strip, locked between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean sea.
The statistics say that 80% of the population are on UN food aid. The youth unemployment rate is 65%. The website of the United Nations office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs has a comprehensive database where you can see how many trucks, containing different kinds of supplies, have been allowed in by the Israeli authorities.
The situation of the people – or rather the fight about their situation – is periodically in the news, most recently when violence broke the otherwise reasonably effective ceasefire in August. But Gaza has become the land that time – and the wider international community – forgot.
It is for this reason that I took up the offer from Save the Children to visit the Gaza Strip. I had not been able to visit while in government for security reasons. Now I wanted to get a sense of life, not statistics. The purpose of the visit was not to meet politicians or decision-makers, but to get a glimpse, albeit brief, of life for the people.
And there is real life. Boys in western football shirts – mainly Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Restaurants overlooking the Mediterranean. Girls in white headscarves wherever you look coming back from school. Barbers, clothes shops, fruit stalls. And a good deal of traffic – with new cars smuggled in through tunnels underneath the Philadelphi route that runs along the Egyptian border.
But although life is real, it is traumatic and limited. We saw buildings – not just the former Hamas headquarters – still reduced to rubble. There are houses riddled with bullet holes. The electricity supply cuts out for up to eight hours a day. There are not enough schools or teachers, so there are classes of 50 or 60 and the school day is restricted to a few hours to allow for two or even three shifts.
The consequences of war are everywhere, nowhere more so than for those caught in the crossfire. We met the niece and son of a farmer caught in the “buffer zone” between the Israeli border and Gaza. She had lost an eye and he a hand to Israeli shells in the war of 2008-09.
Save the Children, obviously, is most concerned about the 53% of the Gaza population under 18. The statistics say 10% of children are “stunted” – so undernourished before the age of two that they never grow to their full potential.
We saw what Save the Children is trying to do about it, at a nutrition centre serving mothers and children in Gaza City. The needs are basic: promoting breastfeeding, health boosts for young children through food supplies, medical attention for mothers. But not all those who need help are coming to get it, so Save the Children funds outreach workers to go and encourage families to use the services.
There is remarkable work to create opportunity as well as prevent catastrophe. The Qattan Centre for the Child is a privately funded library, drama, computer and youth centre that would grace any British community. The director told me it was dedicated to a philosophy of “building people not buildings”. The centre is a true oasis.
The situation in Gaza represents the ultimate failure of politics. Nearly three years ago, after the Gaza war, the international community was preoccupied with opening up Gaza. Three years on, there is a stalemate – to match the wider stalemate in the wider search for a Palestinian state that can live alongside Israel.
The first responsibility is with Israel. The international call in the UN Gaza peace resolution, which Britain authored, on the Israeli government to open up the supply lines has been heeded only in small part. That is why the tunnels do such a roaring trade – which Hamas then taxes to fund its activities. So there is a real boomerang. In return, the Israeli government would retort that the parallel call in the resolution for the flow of arms into Gaza to be stopped has not been delivered. That’s true, too.
Yet the international pressure is muted. The focus has shifted. But the needs and the people have not moved on.
This is not a party political hit on the British government. The Department for International Development is the second biggest donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The prime minister spoke up about Gaza early in his term of office. There is room for a genuine cross-party drive to make sure that the children and adults of Gaza are not forgotten.
To make the situation even more infuriating, the status quo is actually irrational. It is not in anyone’s political interest. Israel doesn’t become safer, or Hamas or Fatah more popular.
One young mother at the nutrition centre told me that she was just completing her accountancy degree – but there was no work. Yusuf, nine, working on a computer at the Qattan centre, told me he wanted to be a pilot. These people are not a threat to peace in the Middle East. They are actually its hope. But for that they need a chance to shape their own future.
David Miliband is the former UK foreign secretary.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Interview with new Australian Mufti- pocast

So I finally managed to grab Mr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad for an hour to interview him about his new position as Australia's new Mufti.

What is a mufti you ask ? Well according to wiseGeek a mufti is an Islamic scholar who has the authority to issue legal opinions known as fatawa about fine points of Islamic law. The issue of Mufti has been a divisive and controvertial one over the last few years for a number of reasons.

Within the Muslim community there were a lot of questions over the authority of a person (Sheikh Taj Eldin Elhilali at the time) who knowns little about Australia outside of Lakemba. A large segment of the community did not recognize or acknowledge the role or authority of a mufti. Hardly anyone outside of Sydney had met or spoken the Sheikh Taj, who didn't speak English. Similarly the later Mufti Sheikh Fehmi was based in Melbourne and due to his age and health, he was not able to travel much outside of Melbourne and therefore access to him was limited by those outside Melbourne.

Within the wider Australian community there was largely very little knowledge about the role or position of the Mufti, referred to as the highest Islamic religious authority in Australia (and sometimes likened to a Pope for Australian Muslims) many controversies erupted over the position of the Mufti and the persons filling it. Not least of course because of some Muslim organizations publicly criticizing or rejecting the authority of the Mufti.

Well how exactly is a Mufti chosen ? What does he do ? and what can we as Australians and Muslims except from him ?

This interview lasted about an hour and I tried to ask the most pertinent question within the time I had. I hope It's been beneficial to my listeners.

I would greatly appreciate your feedback on this issue, as I will be conveying any concerns, questions or comments you may have on this issue to the Mufti.

If you have any questions for the mufti, you can also contact him directly at 

This interview was conducted at the QKradio studies in Fairfield Sydney.

Or you can download the podcast file here 

Finally there is a short video of some of the interview for your viewing pleasure