OPINION: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
The tsunami of bias
, February 26, 2005
Christopher Booker's analysis of the BBC's anti-American bias (Notebook, Daily Telegraph (London), January 9, 2005) highlights the unfair criticisms levelled at the US, no matter what it does.
Not the least is the label "stingy" imposed by Mr Jan Egeland, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, because the US had initially donated "only" $15 million towards the Tsunami emergency.
That amount was quickly increased to $350 million as the scope of the disaster unfolded, and it doesn't include the vast sums raised by private donors, including ordinary families who organised street "bake sales" to raise money for tsunami relief.
What goes on in the mind of Mr Egeland and other UN bureaucrats who are so quick to aim their barbs at the US? Has he even noticed the US helicopters flying in and out of Aceh loaded with food and medicine for places which other planes and ships could not reach?
The "stingy" United States pays 20 per cent of the entire UN budget. Out of every five dollars of Mr Egeland's salary, US taxpayers pay one.To the rescue
I remember from my childhood in India that, whenever there was a flood or famine, it was USAID that came to the rescue - American planes with food, tents and medicine were quick to arrive.
I suspect that the criticism of the US is part of a general attitude by utopians who unconsciously hold Christians - and countries with a Christian ethos - to a higher standard than is expected of non-Christians.
This attitude was very evident in the finding by the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal that two Christian pastors were guilty of religious vilification in a case brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria.
The finding is particularly unfortunate because a public examination of Muslim sharia
law is essential in the context of our own legal systems, and the VCAT decision is likely to dampen, if not freeze, debate.
While I respect the prayer life of Muslims and their opposition (in general) to abortion, I do not admire sharia
law which can be brutal and inconsistent with fundamental principles of human rights.
What is not generally realised is that Islamic sharia
is not substantially different from the Mosaic criminal code in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Both require the stoning of adulterers, blasphemers and those who lead others away from the faith, although for adultery, Hebrew law required the death of both parties, not just the woman.
Leviticus and Deuteronomy are part, not only of the Jewish tradition, but also of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible.
What caused the changes in Christendom was the New Testament - the teachings of Jesus. It may not be politically correct to say this, but the primary reason the law code in the Torah is no longer followed is simple: from the late 300s AD through the 1900s, Jews lived entirely under the dominion of Christian rulers who forbad the enforcement of Hebraic criminal laws.
While the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD, thereby destroying the entire Hebraic system of animal sacrifice, it was Christianity that weaned Jews away from the sharia
-like aspects of the Hebraic law.
From AD 391 Christian government fundamentally changed Jewish legal practices. No one talks about this, but it is the case.
It is of course commonplace to point to the hundreds of Christians throughout history who have launched barbarities similar to those sanctioned by the criminal law codes of Islam, the Old Testament or the Torah.
However, only the Christian faith has been powerful enough to stop those who launched such barbarities.
Whether Christian, Jew, Muslim or communist-atheist, the only law that forces each human being to respect the dignity of every other is Christian law.
law can still be cruel, if it has not yet been brought into conjunction with respect for human dignity, that is owing to the fact that Christinaity has not influenced Islam as it did Judaism.
I am not suggesting a new Christian empire - although the British empire in India did end suttee
(the Hindu burning of widows on their husband's funeral pyres) and Untouchability - but a full and free discussion of religion and religious differences, including quotations from the Koran, the Torah, the Vedas and the Old and New Testaments, is important in a country such as Australia with so many immigrants from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds.
This is the very type of debate that the Victorian Government's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act is stifling, and this is intolerable in a democracy.
Having won their victory, the Islamic Council of Victoria - and those "enlightened" members of other denominations who supported its legal action against the Catch the Fire Ministries
pastors - need to turn their attention to the issues of polygamy in Muslim countries, and the "honour" killings of female relatives.
They need also to explain why, in many Islamic countries, conversion to Christianity is regarded as "apostasy", punishable by death.
Treating "apostasy" from the Muslim religion and laws against "proselytising" by Christians as part of the criminal code in Islamic countries is even more stifling to free religious debate than our local Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
Many of our Muslim immigrants have fled to Australia precisely because of the injustices inherent in the application of sharia
law. It is ironic that the Islamic Council of Victoria has used Victorian legislation to impose some of the same restrictions on freedom of speech on Australian Christians, and surely the Bracks Government has kicked an "own goal" in giving them the opportunity to do so.
The United States has formed a core group of countries with India, Japan and Australia to co-ordinate long-term rehabilitation in the tsunami-affected areas, and it deserves to be commended for its leadership role.
How different was the attitude of Iran when confronted by a devastating earthquake in Bam some years ago: Iran stated it would accept assistance from all countries, including that "Great Satan", the United States, but would not accept help from Israel.
That is, it preferred to let some of its citizens die than accept humanitarian assistance from a Jewish nation. This is the kind of pathology which the Islamic Council of Victoria should be tackling rather than taking to court Christian pastors who analyse the Koran.