April 6th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Stem cell research: the way forward

The facts behind the 'people overboard' affair

Opinion: The banks' power over small business

STRAWS: Selective amnesia / Slow boat to China / Tower of Babel

TRADE: Sugar price collapse threatens future of canegrowers

MEDIA: Debating points

New Zealand faces winter of discontent

Manufacturing: an endangered species (letter)

Afghan specialities (letter)

The great water debate: facts and myths

COMMENT: Healthy disinterest no bad thing

UNITED STATES: Behind Washington's self-serving free trade rhetoric

Switzerland, Taiwan seek UN membership

HISTORY: Demons and Democrats: the story of the Labor Split

Books: JOHN GORTON: He Did It His Way, by Ian Hancock

MEDIA: Stem cells: what debate?

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Afghan specialities (letter)

by Mark Braham

News Weekly, April 6, 2002


Now that NT Local Government Minister John Ah Kit has called on Aborigines "to take control of their lives and improve their living conditions" (News Weekly, March 23) has the time arrived for it to be pointed out that multiculturalism should not imply that all cultures are equal nor can a civilised society accept them all in their entirety: e.g., that the quaint custom of eating with chopsticks is not to be equated with chopping off the hands of thieves?

Take, for example, the culture of Afghanistan. Old soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, British, Indian and Russian, will relate horror stories not exceeded by the Nazi-Soviet atrocities of World War II. Kipling got it right in his poem, "The Young British Soldier":

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
"And the women come out to cut up what remains
"Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
"An' go to your Gawd like a soldier."

The Afghan culture has produced just two industries which have made an impact on the world scene: one is the drug industry.

The other has a distinguished history going back to the early 19th century. In 1839, at the time of the first British invasion of Afghanistan, the homemade jazails, long-barrelled, smooth-bore muzzle loaders, were actually superior, and could shoot farther and truer, than the British muskets.

The culture of Afghanistan has been such that it was a natural choice of location for the HQ of al-Qaeda; on the other hand, it also implies a corollary that decent Afghans will do anything to shift to a country with a history of comparatively civilised culture, thus such should be treated as genuine politico-cultural refugees - after, of course, expert screening to detect would-be terrorists.

Mark Braham,
Rose Bay, NSW

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