December 3rd 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: HIGHER EDUCATION: Top university accused of elitism

EDITORIAL: Trade talks: smoke and mirrors

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Workplace changes set to change societal fabric

SCHOOLS: Vouchers for schools - giving parents choice

PRIMARY PRODUCTION: Advantages of single-desk for Australian wheat

SUGAR DEREGULATION: Beattie to abolish single selling-desk

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Working women and pensions / One hand washes another: European-style / Those were the days, my friend / The burning Bush

ABORTION PILL: Part of the disease, not part of the cure

OPINION: The difficult dilemma of Australia's Muslims

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Why North Korea got one more chance

CULTURE AND SOCIETY: Great Russian writers on the riddle of humanity

CINEMA: Three Australian films fall flat: The Proposition, Jewboy and Little Fish

BOOKS: The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge, by Nic Dunlop

BOOKS: Victoria Cross: Australia's Finest and the Battles They Fought, by Anthony Staunton

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The difficult dilemma of Australia's Muslims

by Mark Braham

News Weekly, December 3, 2005
The public are constantly reassured that most Australian Muslims abhor and oppose terrorism. So Mark Braham asks: what is stopping these Muslims from being more vocal against it?

Towards the end of 1968, the 1967 Arab-Israeli war fresh in our minds, I had talks with two old friends at the University of Sydney, Colin McLaurin, head of the Department of Semitic Studies and a prominent Anglican, and Father Roger Pryke, Catholic chaplain to the university.

About this time I had been friendly with a Muslim intellectual, Muhammad al-Mahdi.

He, together with a John Muhammad Webster, had called on me in my capacity as a member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' sub-committee dealing with the proposal of the state government to introduce "teaching about Christianity" as part of the social studies syllabus in the state primary schools.

This was proposed in the "Wetherell Report", and both the Jewish and Muslim communities were opposed to it.

Today, having seen the result of the lack of religious teaching (and teachers) in the state schools, I deeply regret my, albeit minor, role in opposition. Today, I would vote for it together with daily prayers.

Webster introduced himself as a native of Brixton, a London suburb close to where I had lived as a child, and of course his name rang a bell when he confessed that he had been prominent in the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.

He said that in those days he had been anti-Semitic, and in fact had declined the Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley's offer to become his second-in-command, because he questioned the "sincerity" of his anti-Semitism and believed he was using it simply for political purposes.

However, he assured me, his views about Jews had changed.

Following that meeting, and a further meeting with al-Mahdi, who had agreed to meet with the Jewish sub-committee at the Great Synagogue, I invited him to become the Muslim representative on a group Father Pryke, Colin McLaurin and myself were forming.

He agreed, and the "Sons of Abraham" came into being.

In due course, after a few meetings, the ABC television program This Day Tonight learned of our existence, and we were invited to appear, which of course we did.

This marked the end of the "Sons of Abraham"; we lost our Muslim.

I had one more meeting with al-Mahdi, and he explained that he was under pressure from "the greybeards" and I assumed, when he disappeared so far as we were concerned, that he had been warned not to associate with us infidels.

I found out, however, that he was living in a unit in Rose Bay, NSW, and decided to call on him. The door was opened by a woman, of European appearance, who gave me the sort of look, when I asked for Muhammad, that she might have given a rabbi collecting for Israel.

I should explain that Muhammad in fact had an English mother and a Muslim father, and his wife was probably a convert. I have not seen or heard of Muhammad to this day.

This incident doubtless explains why the letters pages are not filled with angry letters from Muslims who view with fear and disgust the murder of innocent Christians, Jews - and Muslims - by the terrorists.

The real villains, moreover, are not the demented murder-suicide-bombers, but the terrorist leaders, mostly well educated at western universities.

This explains why the Muslim informant of the Australian police and intelligence is now in fear of his life and under police protection.

If a Christian or Jew carried out murder-suicide-bomber action, the letters pages of the western press would be filled with the outraged letters of their co-religionists, as would the Jewish and Christian press worldwide.

What should concern us - not so much in Australia, where our Muslims are certainly not a despised underclass as in France - is a future in which the terrorists achieve "successes" like 9/11 or the July London bombings.

If the response is a refusal to face the reality that a section of the Muslim world has declared war on Western civilisation - as a large number of our intellectuals, academics and journalists have done - this could undermine the eminently sane security program agreed between the Government and the Opposition, notwithstanding handfuls of slightly Greenish-looking members of both parties.

Weakness towards terrorism

Weakness on the part of the democracies, as is evident in much of Europe, will simply ensure more successes for the terrorists. Such a result indeed occurred in the 1930, when Hitler's successes reversed the popular vote against him at the last free German election in 1932.

The new generation of disaffected, unemployed, angry Muslims in France, Germany, Holland and other European will flock to the colours of the terrorists.

Even Britain is threatened as the Queen becomes a target and the publicised alleged murder of Princess Diana and her Muslim fiancé is widely believed in the UK to have been plotted by British intelligence.

Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

  • Mark Braham was a British Army officer during World War II, after which he migrated to Australia. An orthodox Jew, he is author of Stronger than Fiction: Jews and Christians Are Natural Allies (London: Minerva Press, 1999).

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