September 4th 2010

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Labor's federal election debacle

EDITORIAL: A new deal for rural Australia?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Can the independents agree on a policy agenda?

QUARANTINE: WTO rules in favour of NZ apples

NATIONAL SECURITY: Significance of Abu Bakar Bashir's arrest

CHINA I: Beijing's bid to turn the South China Sea into a Chinese lake

CHINA II: Do China's upheavals herald liberalisation?

ISLAM: What the West must demand of Muslims

NATIONAL MARRIAGE DAY: Why we need a renewed culture of natural marriage

OPINION: Choosing sex, the next great leap in selfish parenting

CHILDHOOD: Children at risk from internet pornography

EDUCATION: Seeking truth in the electronic age

POLITICAL FUNDING: Secular left's cynical use of religion

Population debate (letter)

Annual abortion tally (letter)

Why handicap language with political correctness? (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Financial recovery falters / Digital device over-use may cause brain fatigue / Young people not maturing to adulthood / US withdrawal from Iraq

BOOK REVIEW: BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas

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What the West must demand of Muslims

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, September 4, 2010
The tragedy of two more deaths among our soldiers in Afghanistan, together with news of the retrograde steps of the Karzai Government in regard to blasphemy laws and women's rights compels me to question whether Western governments really understand the political dimensions of Islam.

Western democracies are amply justified in battling in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and stop the export of terrorism, but they need to be aware of the roots of these two evils.

Our politicians seem unaware that a civil war is raging within the Muslim religion - a war which has erupted periodically ever since the death of the religion's founder Mohammed. It concerns disputes about who was supposed to be his legitimate successor.

This war is in a particularly violent phase at the moment, and, although there is much concern about terrorism inflicted on non-Muslims, the fact is that Muslim terrorists are killing far more Muslims than adherents of other religions, e.g., the bomb that exploded recently in a mosque in Pakistan.

Currently, the adherents of the "religion of peace" (Muslims) seem unable to live in peace with their Russian Orthodox or atheist neighbours in Chechnya, with Protestant evangelicals in Nigeria, with Jews in Palestine, with Hindus in Kashmir, with Buddhists in Thailand, with Catholics in the Philippines or with each other in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Furthermore, in Afghanistan, the killings are not just collateral damage of innocent civilians as occurs with other terrorist groups, but is targeted specifically at those Muslims who show signs of "progress", i.e., in areas where girls are going to school, or where there are dedicated medical teams of Western doctors.

In flood-stricken Pakistan the fanatical Taliban, with the charm for which they are noted, have recommended that the victims refuse foreign aid.

The misogyny and stultifying backward thinking come from the political dimensions of Islam, and the least that the West should demand from the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan is that they abandon their "blasphemy laws" and, in the case of Afghanistan, ensure equal rights for women in the civil, political and domestic spheres.

In Pakistan the blasphemy laws are used by Muslims who might have a dispute with a Christian neighbour, or, more commonly, by Muslims who covet their neighbour's property or his daughters. The accusation is made that the Christian blasphemed against Allah or his prophet Mohammed, or tore up a page from the Koran. The Christian is then arrested, jailed for months and has a tough time proving his innocence.

The Catholic bishops of Pakistan and other Church leaders have been asking for years for elimination of the blasphemy laws which just provide an excuse for Muslims to bully and torment the adherents of minority faiths.

The "apostasy" laws also need to be eliminated. Why should a Muslim who changes his religion or abandons Islam, be condemned to death? Why don't the imams and so-called "moderate" Muslims living in Western democracies speak out against such outrages? They demand freedom of worship for themselves and take full advantage of our human rights protections, but do nothing about the persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries, including ex-Muslims courageous enough to have converted from Islam to Christianity.

Several recent incidents have impelled me to write that Western governments should make some human rights demands of the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan in return for the Western military aid these regimes need to survive.

Time magazine recently ran a cover-story on a young woman who had her nose and ears cut off because she ran away from a brutal husband. The Taliban was blamed, but it is not at all clear whether this was done by the Taliban or by supporters of her husband.

Another incident involved a Muslim living in New Jersey, USA, who decapitated his wife following her seeking a divorce. He was a wealthy professional and his crime was not caused by Western imperialism or insensitivity towards minorities.

In Iran the hapless Sakineh Ashtiani waits to be stoned to death or hanged on spurious charges of adultery.

And then there was the awful incident in Saudi Arabia where the police stopped girls escaping from a fire in a school dormitory because they were not suitably dressed. ... Possibly the girls thought full hijabs were not suitable attire for attempting to escape from a fire?

We need less appeasing words from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, on how Sharia law should operate parallel to British jurisprudence, and we need moderate Muslims to understand that the incitements to violent reprisals come from their own scriptures.

If these moderates don't seek an enlightenment and new interpretations, Islam will be taken over even more by jihadists, who will kill the moderates in greater numbers - as they are doing now - than they kill "Zionists, Crusaders and infidels".

Babette Francis has lived in Muslim-majority provinces in India before the partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan.

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