Well done Google

September 18th, 2012 at 6:27 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Google rejected a request by the White House on Friday to reconsider its decision to keep online a controversial YouTube movie clip that has ignited anti-American protests in the Middle East.

The Internet company said it was censoring the video in India and Indonesia after blocking it on Wednesday in Egypt and Libya, where US embassies have been stormed by protesters enraged over depiction of the Prophet Mohammad as a fraud and philanderer.

Well done Google. Blocking it in countries where there is a legal order from the Government can be appropriate, but removing it entirely would be an act of censorship and deplorable appeasement.

The women only exhibition

August 30th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

If Lower Hutt’s Dowse Art Museum was a private institution, nobody could complain about it showing a work that only women were allowed to see.

However, the gallery is operated by Hutt City Council and paid for by ratepayers. As a publicly funded entity, it cannot justify staging exhibits from which half the public is excluded.

Personally I think it is all a publicity stunt from Dowse to get publicity. I can’t say I worry about not being able to see an exhibition I have no interest in seeing.

But the editorial is right. If you are a public institution, you can’t ban half the population from an exhibition.

Muslim women say burqa is affront to human dignity

July 21st, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Lincoln Tan at NZ Herald reports:

A Muslim women’s group is expected to tell a public forum tonight that the burqa is not a requirement in Islam and it is “an affront to human dignity” for women to be forced to wear it.

Excellent. Meaningful change should come from within.

The group’s founder, Zainah Anwar, said on its website: “I find the burqa really disturbing.

“There is enough literature to show that the face veil is not a requirement in Islam.

“In a conservative, patriarchal Muslim context, face veiling really symbolises women’s invisibility and inferior status.

“That a woman should not be seen and heard, and should she venture into the public space she must be as invisible as possible, is an affront to human dignity.”

It is also quite unfriendly. If you are looking for a location and want to ask someone for directions, you won’t be asking someone who won’t even show you their face.

Note I have absolutely no issue with head scarves – just those which cover the face so you only see eyes.

The view was supported by the head of Islamic studies at the University of Auckland, Zain Ali.

He said the burqa was more a cultural requirement than an Islamic one.

“The Islamic requirement is for modest dressing, but what has happened in many parts of the Muslim world is that the burqa has been accepted as a norm for that modest dressing,” Mr Ali said.

“But the burqa is almost dehumanising and it robs the personality and the ability of someone to express themselves.”

Again it is good to see the debate happening amongst the Muslim community.

However Malaysian businessman Zulkifli Hamzah, who is in Auckland to help set up a Muslim “Obedient Wives Club” branch, said followers of Islam understood “women and men are not equals”.

“Everything has a structure and for a Muslim, the man is seen as the leader of the family or household.

“If a woman is told to wear a burqa or hijab so she does not tempt other men, then she should obey.

Oh my God. thank goodness he is not a NZ citizen is all I can say.

“The issue is not whether it is a cultural law or religious law, it is the husband’s law.”

My advice to Kiwi men is to not try that line to settle marital arguments.

The club’s founders, Malaysian-based business group Global Ikhwan, support polygamy, and claim their moral attitude is in line with Islamic teachings for building strong families.

The club encourages women to submit to their husbands and meet all their sexual needs because it believes sexually fulfilled men are less likely to stray so marriages are less likely to break down.


The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand said it did not support the movement and that the club’s views were “interpretation of Islam to the extreme”.

They are, and that is why it is good more moderate views will challenge those extreme views.

The hijab debate

July 6th, 2011 at 10:12 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Two New Zealand Muslim women say they fear they will not get jobs because of their appearance.

Their comments come in the wake of two incidents in Auckland in which bus drivers took exception to Saudi Arabian women wearing veils that covered their faces.

I think we need to be careful not to confuse two forms of hijab here. There is the hijab which leaves the face viewable and the hijab which does not.

I would hope few people would discriminate against someone because they wear a head scarf.

But it is quite a different issue with someone who insisted on wearing a hijab that covered the face. Yes you would have great difficulty gaining employment and fitting into a workplace, if you cover your face up.

The student, who did not want to be named because she did not want to harm her job prospects, said she could not imagine how she would be accepted into a corporate environment in her hijab.

“I know I’m going to have a hard time just being in my veil and applying to a corporate role … I can’t wait to work but sometimes I’m worried how I’m going to fit into a corporate environment where I’m not wearing a miniskirt.”

The mini-skirt rich corporate environment is more myth than substance in my experience (except PR firms). I think most workplaces are tolerant of cultural and religious diversity – within reason.

Mrs Adam, who is half Fijian-Indian and wears a hijab which exposes her face, said in 30 years she had only had two negative experiences in Wellington that she could remember.

Good. That is two too many, but once every 15 years is not too bad.

Other friends who wore the niqab, which covered the face aside from the eyes, reported they had been told to “go home” and sworn at.

This was uncommon, she said. “Wellingtonians are extremely friendly and tolerant.

“Wearing the niqab is a little more disconcerting for people and I do recognise that, you see someone’s face, that’s reassuring.”

It is up to each person what they wear in public. If they wish to wear a face covering niqab then that is up to them. But don’t expect to get a job easily if you won’t show your face for a job interview. Most people place considerable reliance on being able to see who we talk to and work with.

She rejected claims made online at dompost.co.nz yesterday that Muslims who came to New Zealand should abide by the culture.

The situation was not the same as Westerners dressing modestly when they visited Muslim countries, as “to be uncovered is not a religious tenet for the person, therefore it’s easier to not do it”.

She misses the point. Certain countries impose their religious viewpoints on people through the law. NZ generally does not. If you stand up for your right to dress according to your religious values in NZ, you should stand up for the rights for non Muslims in other countries to not comply with Islamic dress codes.

The Top Gear burqa controversy

December 30th, 2010 at 10:50 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

The presenters of motoring show Top Gear have caused controversy after dressing in burqas while filming an episode in the Middle East.

Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond disguised themselves as women in a Christmas show filmed in Syria.

The Boxing Day episode, broadcast in Britain, featured the hosts driving across the Middle East to trace the path of the Three Wise Men.

However, Muslims in Britain said the show mocked their religion.

Islamic activist Anjem Choudary told the Daily Mail the burqa was a “symbol of our religion and people should not make jokes about it in any way”.

Bzzzt. Wrong answer. No religion should be so intolerent that its adherents demand no jokes be made about it.

Personally the show sounds hilarious, and it would have been equally funny if they had dressed up as Orthodox Jews and driven through Israel. Guess there would be less complaints.

What the US Embassy was interested in

December 28th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve found the Wikileaks cables fascinating, as it shows us what the US Embassy was interested in, and reporting on.

In some areas, they have done an analysis which is superior to anything I have read in the local media.

This cable analyses the Kiwi Muslim community, and looks at whether they are heading for integration or insulation.

New Zealand’s small but active Muslim community points to a member of parliament, regular appearances on national television by community leaders, ready access to the Prime Minister and her cabinet, and joint statements with Jewish organizations as hallmarks of movement into the political mainstream. But a recent influx of Arab and African immigrants is creating tensions within New Zealand’s traditionally South Asian Muslim population. This changing ethnic makeup is causing some disagreement over members’ identity and assimilation, as well as concerns about preventing terrorist groups and Wahhabi ideology from gaining a toehold here. The community also faces other challenges )from hate crimes to job discrimination ) as it deals with its continued growth.

They correctly highlight the tensions between the traditional sources of Muslims – South Asia, and more recent migration from the Middle East and Africa. We have seen this play otu in just the last week with battles over the main Auckland mosque.

The Embassy also looks at the Wahhabi faction of Islam, and the internal politics within NZ:

In a meeting with ConOff, XXX2, president of [REDACTED], said FIANZ is essentially a Sunni establishment. X said Shias do not feel represented by the national organization. Although X claimed there are no tensions between FIANZ and the Shia community, X criticized FIANZ for not doing enough to educate New Zealanders about Islam.


Contrary to assertions by XXX1 (see ref A) that there are no extremists in New Zealand, XXX3 told Conoff that Wahhabi groups have “overtly tried to influence New Zealand’s Muslim society.” XXX3 said [REDACTED] has sponsored speakers from Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al Haramain. XXX3 claimed these two groups receive Saudi money for their activities. [REDACTED]’s alleged drift towards or tolerance of Wahhabi ideology made it difficult for Shias and even some Sunnis to stay with the group, and so XXX3 and other disaffected members left to form [REDACTED].

And a warning:

Reftel A showed that the first large wave of Muslim immigrants from the 1960s through the 1980s had no choice but to interact with their non-Muslim neighbors, and was thus quickly initiated into traditional New Zealand life. They were largely English-speaking, educated service providers whose language abilities and job skills dovetailed with Kiwi society. However, since the 1990s, immigrants with limited language and educational backgrounds have come into an already established Muslim community with mosques, Halal meat butchers, and government services available in their native language. If not carefully managed, this could lead to the kind of insulation seen in some Muslim populations in Europe that can potentially serve as a breeding ground for homegrown extremists. While we don’t see extremism taking hold here yet, our GNZ counterparts and many Muslim leaders recognize the ingredients are there.

But the Embassy also followed domestic politics closely – not just the national race, but even electorate contests, as seen in this cable about the Auckland Central race in 2008:

The National Party is making a serious play for Auckland Central, an electorate that has been in nearly uninterrupted Labour control for almost a century. That a 28-year-old virtual unknown has a serious chance of ousting a Labour stalwart demonstrates just how vulnerable the Labour Party is in this election cycle.

That was their summary. And they profile the electorate:

The electorate is dominated by well-educated young adults. It has the lowest proportions of children and pensioners of any electorate in the country, but the highest proportion of people in their twenties. It is the third-wealthiest electorate in the country, but is socially liberal. It ranks last of all New Zealand electorates in the percentage of inhabitants identifying themselves as Christian, and first among those who ascribe to no religion at all. It has the country’s lowest share of married residents, but highest share of partners in non-marriage relationships. It has a higher ratio of single people than any other electorate.

And in this cable they look at the Chinese vote in NZ:

New Zealand’s Chinese can be divided between those with deep roots in the country and more recent arrivals. Members of the first group trace their ancestry to the market gardeners and Otago gold miners that arrived in New Zealand as far back as the mid-19th century. Their forebears suffered overt racism and often toiled in poverty on the margins of society.

4. (SBU) Members of this group to this day often keep a low political profile. While many enjoy a standard of living their grandparents could not have dreamed of, they often stay loyal to the Labour Party. They remember Labour as the social welfare party that was most ready to help the working class and as the most racially tolerant party. This loyalty is weakening as Chinese Kiwis grow wealthier and as the National Party leaves race-baiting in its past.

The 70% of Chinese who arrived in New Zealand after 1991 make up the second group.

So a 30/70 split between those with traditional loyalties to Labour and those who are more heterogenous in their voting.

Huo nonetheless remains Labour’s most important Chinese candidate. Despite not getting the nod to run in Botany, Huo was given a far higher place on the party list than Tawa. Indeed, Huo placed higher on the list than a number of veteran Labour MPs. In a meeting with the CG, Huo’s lack of partisan passion was notable. While paying lip service to Labour policies, his remarks suggested he was drawn into politics not to support a particular ideology, but because the Chinese community’s voice “was not being heard.”

A fascinating insight into the Labour MP.

Huo argued that National’s Wong “does not connect well” with most Chinese New Zealanders because she’s from Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese rather than Mandarin. …

Also, like Huo, Wang told the CG that Wong is “not Chinese enough” and that Botany’s Chinese would prefer a Mandarin speaker like himself to a Cantonese speaker like Wong.

The importance of language!

A rare extremist in NZ

December 18th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Michael Field in the Dom Post reports:

Muslims at New Zealand’s largest mosque claim its Pakistani imam taught jihad or holy war and preached on the need for men to make as many babies as they could with burqa-wearing women.

Muslims involved claim imam or mufti Abdul Qadir Siddiquei preached jihad against members of Islamic sects he did not approve of and ran a madrasa or school for boys on jihad at the mosque.

New Zealand is very fortunate that the NZ Muslim community has generally avoided the extremists that Europe (and even Australia) has.

This iman sounds like he is very much one of thopse hate filled extremists. What is pleasing, is that it is other members of the Muslim community who have take action against him. The moderates are the best solution to the extremists.

The allegations of preaching jihad and of the madrasa emerged in speeches and pamphlets as around 200 Muslims gathered in thewomen’s room at Auckland’s Jamia Musjid Al-Mustafa mosque on Thursday night.

Police intervened amid tense scenes as members fronted up to each other and at times wrestled and abused one another.

The extremist claims were based on four YouTube video recordings of speeches that are now removed from the website.

The mosque, which has more than a 1000 followers, has united various Sunni sects and Pakistani and Indo-Fijian Muslims, who combined to pay for the building.

Also known as the South Auckland Islamic Centre, it is the most influential mainstream mosque in New Zealand and Fiji.

However, many followers now refuse to attend there and one leading member, Abdul Abbas Karim, originally of Fiji, confirmed he had yesterday filed a police claim of assault and threatening to kill against members following Thursday’s meeting.

Disputes should not involve death threats.

Mufti Siddiquei had applied for New Zealand residency, supported by the mosque, though that support had been withdrawn and he now has to leave the country.


The Times Square Bomber

October 6th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Pakistani immigrant who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison by a judge who said she hopes he spends time behind bars thinking “carefully about whether the Quran wants you to kill lots of people.”

A defiant Faisal Shahzad smirked as he was given a mandatory life term that, under federal sentencing rules, will keep him behind bars until he dies.

“If I’m given 1,000 lives I will sacrifice them all for the life of Allah,” he said at the start of a statement that lasted several minutes.

Worth reflecting that if he was in NZ, he would have only got a maximum 14 year sentence for attempted murder and be eligible for parole in five years.

Shahzad, a 31-year-old former budget analyst from Connecticut who was born in Pakistan, responded that the “Quran gives us the right to defend. And that’s all I’m doing.”

This is the scary thing. This was not some young impressionable teenager, or an unemployed school dropout with no future. He had a good education and good job, and then decided that his interpretation of his religion means he must kill people.

He added: “We do not accept your democracy or your freedom because we already have Sharia law and freedom.”

I guess the desire for Sharia law and its version of freedom is why there are so few female Islamist terrorists.

Apology demanded for jokes

September 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports that a London borough is warning against mother-in-law jokes as they are “offensively sexist” and ageist.

Sigh. They should watch Southpark, if they really want to see offensive humour.

and back home, the Dom Post reports:

Islamic community leaders have written to Prime Minister John Key demanding Building Minister Maurice Williamson apologise for jokes he made about Muslims.

The Federation of Islamic Associations New Zealand sent the letter more than a week ago but has yet to receive a response. At the time Mr Key played down the jokes, saying Mr Williamson was known for his humour.

President Anwar Ghani said New Zealand Muslims were “very upset” about the intolerant remarks and were happy the federation was raising it officially.

I’ve often praised the Federation, for their moderate leadership. I think they play a constructive role in NZ society.

But on this issue, I think they are being rather too precious. Let us look at the two jokes Maurice told.

The first was a weather joke about how it was sunni in the morning, and shiite in the afternoon.  Now the joke is very lame, but it certainly can’t be offensive. It is merely a play on how two well known sub-sets of Islam sound.

The second was a joke aimed at both Kiwis and Muslims, saying Kiwis get stoned and committ adultery and Muslims commit adultery and then get stoned.

Now I well accept that many Muslims may have found that joke distasteful. But why? Because, there is a degree of truth to it. In Iran, a woman is facing death by stoning for adultery – underIslamic sharia law.

What is truly offensive is that Iran is planning to do this. Not that on the other side of the world, a joke was made about it.  Should not the anger be directed at Iran for bring Islam into disrespute by such barbaric practices?

Has the NZ Federation of Islamic Associations written to the Iranian Government urging them not to stone the woman to death? Wouldn’t that be far more productive than shooting the messenger?

There is one mildly unfortunate part of the joke – it suggests Kiwis and Muslims are two seperate groups, and of course they are not. There are many proud Kiwi Muslims. But it was a joke, not a speech. Like billboards, you can’t always be precise in a limited space, and the wording is sort of necessary for the joke.Maybe it would have been better as a joke about Australians and Iranians?

But please let us not turn our MPs into drones who are too scared to have a sense of humour.

It is good to be able to laugh at yourself. Compare these two responses to cartoons.

The response to the Danish cartoons featuring Mohammod, was death threats, violent protests, burnings etc.

Th Iranian President then decided to launch a cartoon competition about the Holocaust. He hoped it would show the West is hypocritical. But he was disappointed. Rather than try to stop his cartoon competition, scores and scores of Israeli and Jewish cartoonists entered it. A brilliant response, which totally undermined what the Iranian President tried to do.

What to do if someone burns 200 Korans?

September 9th, 2010 at 3:11 pm by David Farrar

Appropriate Responses

  1. Burn 200 bibles
  2. Ignore the rantings of a church with only 50 members, of which only 20 are taking part, who only want publicity
  3. Peaceful protest
  4. Condemnation by other religious figures
  5. Do nothing

Inappropriate Responses

  1. Jihad
  2. Turning the media stunt of a dozen demented nutters into the biggest global news story on the planet
  3. Blaming the US Government
  4. Idiot news presenters asking whether the Government will stop the event
  5. Making Koran (or bible) burning a criminal offence
  6. Any threats of violence
  7. Having the UN Secretary-General call the proposed burning “intolerable”

I note that the pastor, Terry Jones, has also said he plans to burn a copy of the Talmud. I doubt that will generate 0.1% of the stories that buring a Koran does.

Lunch with Daniel Pipes

August 25th, 2010 at 3:27 pm by David Farrar

Just returned from the Wellington Club where myself and around eight journalists had lunch with Daniel Pipes, who has authored more than a dozen books on the Middle East or Islam. The Israeli Ambassador kindly hosted the lunch.

Daniel spoke on five broad topics, and we had a lively Q+A. I’ll go through them, off memory.

Iraq & Afghanistan

Pipes was very pessimistic for both countries, and said that the aim of transforming the countries into modern democratic states has and will fail. Worse, he believes they won’t even achieve the status of “a decent place to live”.

What makes his view of significance, if he was a supporter of the invasions of both countries. So he is saying, that the US has failed and will fail.

I asked whether the US were too ambitious trying to turn Iraq into a post-war Germany or Japan, and whether they would have been better to basically shoot Saddam, and the next ten in the line of succession, tell No 11 that he is now in charge, that he should leave the Kurds alone, and bring in some elections and basically pull out, leaving the infrastructure, the Baath party, the army etc intact.

Pipes basically agreed, and said that has been his long held position – that the US should have found a strongman, who was more palatable than Saddam, and left him in charge. It would not have achieved a secular liberal democracy, but it might achieve the country becoming a semi-decent place to live.

US Policy

Pipes made a strong case that in terms of foreign policy, there is very little difference between Bush and Obama. Obama at one stage had more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than under Bush. Also Obama has approved 50 attacks from unmanned drones, compared to 38 under the entire Bush presidency.

Obama’s outreach to Islamic states, with his Cairo speech did result in a more favourable impression of the US at the time. But a year later, the views of the US in the Islamic world have shrunk back to what they were under Bush.


Pipes thinks there is no doubt Iran is developing nuclear weapon – and that in fact it is a logical thing for Iran to do, as it makes you a military power, but in a far cheaper fashion than an increase in conventional forces.

He decried both the Bush and Obama strategy on Iran on the basis he has yet to work out what either of them is.

Pipes believes the threat of a nuclear armed Iran, under its current leadership, is so dangerous, that a military strike will be necessary.

I actually pushed back against this, on the basis that most Iranians want to get rid of their President, and an attack on their nuclear facilities is the one thing which will make his popularity soar, and guarantee the hardliners keep control for at least a generation.

Pipes said that he does think that Iran is the one country where the Islamic leadership is under real threat, and if left alone they are likely to be removed from power in the future. However he still regards the danger in the interim of an Islamic Iran with nuclear weapons to be so great, that he still thinks a strike is needed – but accepts the consequences will be a massive increase in terrorism etc.

Israel & Palestine

Pipes is a pessimist on a diplomatic solution. He asserts that you only have diplomatic solutions after the war is over, not as a way to stop a war. Until one side “wins” diplomacy will not work.

His preferred course of action is to try and increase the proportion of Palestinians who accept Israel has a right to exist from 20% to over 50%. He says only when a majority of Palestinians accept they will not succeed with their desire to destroy Israel, will a diplomatic solution have any chance of working.

Islam and Europe

Pipes says the growing Islamic population in Europe is partly due to the indigenous populations not producing enough children to maintain population, and partly the desire of people in Islamic countries to move to places with a better standard of living.

He says that there are three possible paths ahead:

  1. Europe muddles through with peaceful co-existence. He says that he sees no evidence at all that this is the likely scenario.
  2. Over time Europe becomes more “Islamised” with Islam as the dominant religion in Europe, and wide-spread sharia law – even some Islamic states in Europe.
  3. A massive back-lash from the indigenous Europeans, with neo-fascist and even fascist parties gaining support across the Europe.

A vigorous discussion on this topic. Canada was held up as one of the few Western countries which has managed Muslim immigration, which has not been radical Islamists. I suggested that NZ has also been successful at having Muslim immigrants, with almost no radicalisation here.

Pipes suggestion for keeping it that way, is that one should not discriminate against Muslims who wish to migrate here, but that one should absolutely discriminate against Islamists.

He said many people do not get the difference between Islam/Muslims and Islamism/Islamists. He says Islam is a religion like Judaism, Christianity etc. Islamism is a political belief like communism, zionism, fascism.

Was a very interesting 90 minute lunch and discussion, even if somewhat depressing in terms of the outlook for key conflicts, and for Europe. Barry Soper commented that it made him glad to live in New Zealand – for which I have to agree.

What a good idea

August 12th, 2010 at 4:37 pm by David Farrar

Readers may have seen some stories on the controversy in New York, after planning permission was given for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero in Manhattan.

I tend to think the choice of location is insensitive and stupid, but that is no reason to deny planning permission. Like Andrew Sullivan, I like this proposed response:

Fox News’ Mr Gutfeld proposes building a gay bar right next to the Cordoba Initiative complex in downtown Manhattan. Fantastic idea. That’s exactly the right response to an expression of religious freedom: the expression of freedom for gay people as well.

A stroke of genius. A gay bar next to the mosque. The very arguments in favour of the right for the mosque to be in an location that will offend some, have to be also deployed in favour of allowing a gay bar next door – even though that will offend many at the mosque.

Pros and cons of banning the burqa

August 11th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The burqa debate is fairly absent in NZ, because apart from anything else they are so rare.

My recent visit to London was the first in around three years, so you sometimes see changes as a snapshot, rather than bit by bit. There were tow major changes I noticed.

The first was the huge growth in eastern European waitresses – mainly Polish. They seem to have become to London, what Mexicans are to the US. Interestingly this invasion has not met much resistance – well not from male Londoners 🙂

The second was the explosion in burqas. Three years ago, and I wouldn’t see one most days. Certainly would see many Muslims and many head scarves, but few burqas. This time, I was seeing oh probably 20 a day.

What reminded me of this, was this article by Australian Professor Mirko Bagaric in the Herald. He argues against a ban, unless one can link it to oppression:

Burqas should be banned only if the women who wear them do so out of a sense of compulsion.

The stock-in-trade reasons that are given for banning the burqa are demonstrably flawed and are often no more than thinly veiled anti-Muslim rants.

There are no proven cases in Australia (or New Zealand) of criminals using burqas as disguises. Hence it is nonsense to challenge burqas on security grounds.

Facial expressions are important but not essential for meaningful communication. Books, the rise of talk-back radio and email conclusively demonstrate that you don’t need to be staring at someone to understand them.

The fact that some people find the burqa jarring or confronting is not in doubt. But what is beyond doubt is that personal liberty and the right to engage in self-regarding conduct trumps the overly sensitive dispositions of individuals who disagree with the fashion choices of others.

I was against banning gang patches, so I’m certainly not into burqa banning.

However Professor Bagaric continues:

Paternalism is ugly, but uglier still is oppression – under any guise, whether it is religion or culture. Indeed, many Muslim women might say that it is their choice to wear the burqa but this is only the start of the inquiry.

As the Australian High Court noted in the recent decision of The Queen v Tang (the “slavery case”) consent can be consistent, even with slavery. People sometimes choose to sell themselves into slavery but that doesn’t mean that as a community we should tolerate the practice.

To get to the bottom of the burqa debate we need to understand what is driving the choices of the women under the burqa. If their choice turns out to be fully free and informed, society has no basis for imposing its whims on their dress code.

The circumstantial evidence, however, points to oppression as being at least one factor that influences women to wear a burqa.

Any extreme form of human conduct needs to be analysed closely. It is counter-intuitive to think that any free person would chose to erect a physical screen between themselves and the outside world.

The nature of the human condition is to pursue and engage in social contact and intercourse. It enriches life and recent studies show that it is even conducive to longevity.

Secondly, it is telling that 100 per cent of the people wearing burqas are women and that these women all come from a culture that has been shown to represses women.


The proper bounds of liberty were identified about 150 years ago by British philosopher John Stuart Mill.

He said: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

Ostensibly, Muslim women choose to wear the burqa. Unless empirically founded evidence is obtained to show that this choice is less then fully free, we need to respect their decisions.

At this stage, the bigger threat to our social cohesion is not the burqa but the calls to ditch it. Once the overblown sensitivities of others start constituting a basis for curtailing our freedoms, liberty in many forms will be lost.

Hear hear.

Southpark Censorship

April 25th, 2010 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

Once again Comedy Central has censored Southpark. Four years ago they banned the show from being able to show from showing a harmless depiction of Muhammad (was just him giving someone a fish) in their Cartoon Wars episodes.

The episodes were about appeasing people who threaten violence is wrong, but it didn’t work. This time in episode 201 Comedy Central have even refused to allow the name of Muhammad, after the Southpark creators cunningly discussed him onside a bear costume.

This has nothing to do with religious tolerance. Comedy Central have allowed the show to show Jesus Christ defecating on an American flag. Their decisions are purely appeasement in the face of threatened violence from extremists. The sad thing is they don’t realise that what they do, encourages the extremists. It shows threatening violence wins.

In similar news, Reuters reports:

A Dutch court has acquitted a Muslim group of inciting hatred with a cartoon that questions the Holocaust, in the latest case to provoke debate about freedom of speech in the Netherlands.

The Arab European League (AEL), which published the cartoon on its website, was cleared of insulting Jews because it was not aiming to dispute the Holocaust but to highlight perceived double standards in free speech.

And that is the right ruling,

The AEL cartoon shows two men, beneath an ‘Auschwitz’ sign and beside several bodies, saying the victims might not have been Jewish but the target was six million – the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The AEL said the cartoon was part of a campaign it launched in 2006 to show “the double morals of the West during the Danish cartoon affair.” The image came with a disclaimer on the website saying the AEL did not support the views of the cartoon.

Except the AEL have been proven wrong about the double morals. No one has been killed, or even threatened over their Holocaust cartoon. There have been no burning of flags or storming of embassies.

The mad President of Iran tried to make a similar claim a few years ago by hosting a Holocaust cartoon competition. To his great dismay dozens of Jewish cartoonists submitted entries, rather than protest against it.

The best response to censorship is this:

After Comedy Central cut a portion of a South Park episode following a death threat from a radical Muslim group, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris wanted to counter the fear. She has declared May 20th “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

“As a cartoonist I just felt so much passion about what had happened I wanted to kind of counter Comedy Central’s message they sent about feeling afraid,” Norris said.

Norris has asked other artists to submit drawings of any religious figure to be posted as part of Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH) on May 20th.

On her website Norris explains this is not meant to disrespect any religion, but rather meant to protect people’s right to express themselves.

The best way to stop the Islamic extremists threatening violence unless you censor, is if the response to their threats is to triple and quadruple the number of outlets who show the cartoon.

It should be a point of principle for every media outlet in the free world, to show such images, to show that threats will not work.

Blame Women

April 21st, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

Wow something else to blame Britney Spears for.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon on Friday.

“There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”

To spare Hong Kong from destruction, we need to hope Cactus Kate converts to Islam.

Does he have a point?

February 6th, 2010 at 10:33 am by David Farrar

The Daily Beast interviews Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.

What did the 76-year-old Mr. Soyinka—who divides his time between the U.S. and Nigeria—make of his country’s placement on a watch-list of states deemed to be incubators of Islamist terrorism? “That was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction by the Americans. The man did not get radicalized in Nigeria. It happened in England, where he went to university.

As did the 7/7 bombers.

“England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence.

And remember this is a Nigerian, who has opposed apartheid in South Africa and the military rulers of his homeland.

Our conversation turned to Nigeria, where ferocious killings had just occurred in the central city of Jos, with Muslims slaughtering Christians, and vice-versa. Mr. Soyinka, here, began to brood: “A virus has attacked the world of sense and sensibility, and it has spread to Nigeria, where it has taken on a sanguinary dimension. Roaming hordes of killers are entering homes and dragging out people of other faiths and hacking them to death. In my youth, you heard, side-by-side, the church bells ringing and the beautiful, sonorous call to prayer of the muezzin. But now, it’s a disease. One doesn’t really know how to handle it.”

In other words, it was not always that way.

The day before, in his lecture on The Road, Mr. Soyinka earned a burst of applause with his own, ingenious solution: “I think this is where our rocket engineers and astronauts can come to our rescue. We should assemble all those who are pure and cannot abide other faiths, put them all in rockets, and fire them into space.” In our own conversation, he offered—almost apologetically—a more prosaic solution: “Education. And rigorous punishment for those who feel, not ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ but ‘I’m right, you’re dead.'”

I think such sentiments will get a lot of virtual applause also.

In Mr. Soyinka’s view, the origins of the current phase of the world’s religious strife—including all of the bloodshed in Nigeria—lie with Ayatollah Khomeini and his fatwa against Salman Rushdie, in 1989. “It all began when he assumed the power of life and death over the life of a writer. This was a watershed between doctrinaire aggression and physical aggression. There was an escalation. The assumption of power over life and death then passed to every single inconsequential Muslim in the world—as if someone had given them a new stature.

“Al Qaeda is the descendent of this phenomenon.

While it is not quite as simple as this, I think he is close to the mark. The world should have reacted to the fatwa against Rushdie with strength – sanctions if necessary. The EU should have said it is unacceptable for a Government to declare a death sentence over a non citizen due to a book they wrote, and that until it is rescinded, there will be no trade with Iran because you do not trade with barbarians.

More recently the world missed another opportunity with the Danish cartoons. The correct response to the death threats should have been not appeasement, but every newspaper in the western world publishing the cartoons.

Muslims speaking out against terrorism

January 11th, 2010 at 1:17 pm by David Farrar

A nice initiative in Canada:

Twenty imams have issued a “fatwa” against any Muslim who would attempt to commit an act of terrorism in Canada or the United States.

Syed Soharwardy, an imam at the Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, who organized the initiative, said yesterday that any attack by foreign elements should also be considered a direct affront to the 10 million Muslims who call either Canada or the United States home.

“We want Muslims around the world who would dare to commit terrorism on our soil to know that we stand together with all Canadians and Americans.

Since the threats against Salman Rushdie several years ago, most people think of fatwas as death threats. But in fact, the imam notes, the vast majority of fatwas are condemnations or even non-binding directives that are meant to teach fellow Muslims the proper religious response to a given situation.

He said many Muslims he has spoken to say their lives have grown miserable and have suffered societal backlash because of the perceived association between violence and Islam.

But since 9/11, he added, it has become imperative for Muslims to vocally condemn violence — even though they have no personal responsibility for those acts.

Muslims who live in this country should also stop fighting the battles that they left behind when they came to live here, he added.

“We are Canadian now. This is where our energy should be directed.”

Again what refreshing common sense.

Good integration in NZ

January 9th, 2010 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

Muslim integration in Europe has been pretty much a disaster in many countries, but in New Zealand we are doing well:

Muslim teenagers in New Zealand adapt well to life in New Zealand, a Victoria University study has found.

The study, carried out on 180 Muslim teens, by the Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, measured their psychological and social well-being by examining life satisfaction, psychological conditions, school adjustment and behavioural issues, Professor Colleen Ward said.

The study, carried out as part of a 13-country survey of well-being and identity, drew on data from previous studies carried out in New Zealand, on other groups of teens, as comparison.

The findings revealed Muslim youth demonstrated more positive outcomes on all indicators than their Maori and Pakeha peers, Prof Ward said.

The combination of strong family support, religion and New Zealand’s relatively tolerant atmosphere helped the Muslim 13- to 19-year-olds keep well, she said.

Though the students identified themselves as New Zealanders and the ethnic group they were from, their strongest identification was with being a Muslim, the researchers found. …

The cultural environment of New Zealand allowed people to integrate, keeping their culture and ethnic groups, rather than assimilating them and forcing them to abandon the culture they came from, as in some other countries, she said.

I’m not sure what other countries they are talking about, but in most of Europe the problem hasn’t been assimilation, but an unwillingness to integrate at all. However in the US, they are much better with integration.

Attempted assassination of Danish cartoonist

January 4th, 2010 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Danish police said yesterday that a Somalian caught breaking into the home of a cartoonist whose work sparked riots across the Muslim world five years ago was a would-be assassin with links to al Qaeda.

The 28-year-old had an axe and a knife when he was shot and wounded by police on Saturday after cartoonist Kurt Westergaard heard windows being broken and pressed a panic alarm at his house in Aarhus.

News of the attack on Westergaard, 74, who was with his 5-year-old granddaughter at the time, shocked many in Denmark who had believed the country’s brush with Islamist extremism was consigned to the past.

I’ve been planning to blog on this for a couple of days. What is significant is that it no longer looks like some madman acting alone, but that the cartoonist was marked for death by al Qaeda or an associated group.

Hopefully this will wake up some of the appeasers. Some on the left (not all) think that the extreme Islamists will be happy if the US leaves Iraq and Afghanistan and a Palestinian State is formed. Others advocate Israel should be destroyed/moved, as no peace is possible with it there.

This attempted assassination is a good reminder that there are a significant number of extreme Islamists who want nothing less than their religion enforced on the entire world, and they will kill any who refuse to submit.

The extremists are a small sub-set of all Islamists, and an even smaller sub-set of all Muslims. But they do exist, they will (sadly) never go away, and there is no appeasing of them.

Direct Democracy

December 1st, 2009 at 9:29 am by David Farrar

This story from Switzerland is a prime example of why direct democracy, rather than representative democracy, can be a bad idea.

Switzerland became the first country in Europe today to vote to curb the religious practices of Muslims when a referendum banning the construction of minarets on mosques was backed by a solid majority.

The surprise result, banning minarets in a country that has only four mosques with minarets and no major problems with Islamist militancy, stunned the Swiss establishment …

This is simply a horrendous decision. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, and should not be at the whim of referenda.

The campaign to ban minarets was described by the country’s justice minister as a “proxy war” for drumming up conflict between ethnic Swiss and Muslim immigrants. But the ban was supported by a majority of 57.5%, 20 percentage points more than predicted in opinion polls in the run-up to the vote.

This is interesting in that many back the ban, but did not want to admit to it. The advantage of parliamentary votes is they are public and people have to stand by their vote.

There are problems in Europe with Islamic extremism and non-integration. But the solution is not to ban minarets on mosques, targeting an entire religion.

Kiwi Muslims

October 24th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

It’s possible to be Kiwi, Muslim and an All Black fan, says MICHAEL FOX, but it’s not always an easy road.

Young Muslims in New Zealand have impressed their elders by integrating well through adopting a laid-back Kiwi attitude, supporting the All Blacks and embracing the local culture.

And integration over isolation is the key, in my opinion. Integration does not mean assimilation where everyone is the same, in some Borg like collective. The diversity of races, cultures and religions in New Zealand is a great thing, with integration and tolerance for others being the key.

As Muslims gather in Auckland this weekend for their first national convention, they will be reflecting on why young followers have avoided problems such as violent crime associated with disenfranchised youth in other countries.

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Anwar-ul Ghani called the convention a hui.

“Our community is now getting quite a reasonable size and really once in a year we need to start to have a hui like this to reflect on things and get the grassroots involved.

“We need to strengthen our Islamic belief and way of life and yet identify ourselves as Kiwi Muslims.”

Even just little things such as calling their convention a hui, is quite cool – it is reflecting that Kiwi side.

There are now almost 50,000 Muslims in New Zealand.

Dr Ghani says young Muslims are leading the way in integration. He believes they are “Kiwianised”, with as much interest in New Zealand’s popular culture as their own.

He says this is in marked contrast with European countries where youths have felt like outsiders and rebelledthrough crime, riots and terrorism.

“I won’t say that it is not an issue [in New Zealand] but it is certainly less of an issue. We’re finding that the transition is reasonably smooth.”

I think in New Zealand we are remarkably blessed that the extremism and isolationist you get in the UK, much of Europe and even Australia is very rare here.

I think part of the credit goes to the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand themselves. While obviously I have different views on issues, they have always struck me as taking their leadership position responsibily. And the fact that they are led by an accountant with NZ Post, rather than a DVD distributing preacher, is helpful.

She said Muslims could remain strong in their faith while also identifying themselves as New Zealanders. “When people ask me where I’m from I don’t have any answer to them apart from New Zealand, although I don’t look like a typical Kiwi. I’m definitely Muslim and I’m definitely a New Zealander.”

Wellington’s Aneesa Adam, 27, who grew up in New Zealand with her Fiji Indian parents, said a clash between faith and Kiwi values occasionally posed problems. “As a teenager at times things were a little bit difficult, particularly with things like drinking. I basically had to choose who my friends were.”

Ms Adam didn’t wear a headscarf until she started university because she was self-conscious.

“As a teenager I was always too shy. As I got older it just became easier and I decided that I was ready to wear it.

“As soon as people see you wearing a scarf there’s immediately a barrier and an idea that they have about you. For younger people I think it’s harder, but as an adult it’s very easy and people are very good about it.”

She said Muslims could remain strong in their faith while also identifying themselves as New Zealanders. “When people ask me where I’m from I don’t have any answer to them apart from New Zealand, although I don’t look like a typical Kiwi. I’m definitely Muslim and I’m definitely a New Zealander.”

One of my favourite sayings is that the only thing I am intolerant of is intolerance. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical Kiwi, but I think diversity is a great thing.

Liquids on planes

September 9th, 2009 at 8:46 am by David Farrar

Like many I get frustrated at the airline rules over liquids on planes, having had to dispose of tubes of sunscreen and drink bottles etc.

But this story on the conviction in the UK of three British Muslims, reminds us why the rules came about:

Three British Muslims were convicted yesterday of plotting to commit “mass murder on an unimaginable scale” by blowing up transatlantic airliners in an attempt to kill thousands of people in the air and on the ground.

In a plot that changed rules on what passengers can carry on to planes, the terror cell, operating under guidance from jihadist overseers in Pakistan and inspired by al Qaeda, planned to simultaneously detonate liquid bombs disguised in soft drink bottles on board at least seven flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to North American cities, a court heard.

What shocked many is that most of the plotters were born in the United Kingdom. In fact three of them had only recently converted to Islam.

Thank goodness the security services were on the ball.

Headscarfs in Court

September 3rd, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A judge who barred a Muslim woman from entering a courthouse because she was wearing a headscarf has admitted he made a mistake.

Yasmeen Ali was attempting to enter Hastings District Court on Tuesday to support her brother Carlos Manuel Brooking, 22, who was appearing for sentencing on a charge of assault. …

Ms Ali, a 25-year-old mother-of-three, was asked by a court attendant to remove her headscarf on entering the courthouse. She refused and took a seat.

When she tried to re-enter court after the morning break, she was blocked.

Unless the court would also force a nun to remove her headdress, or a Sikh his turban, it is inappropriate to require a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf.

However it seems, this was not intentional with regard to a general ban.

Her brother had earlier been put into custody after refusing to remove a hat while sitting in court awaiting his sentencing, despite being requested to do so by Judge Rea.

Brooking apologised later in the dock and was sentenced to 125 hours’ community work for the assault.

Judicial communications adviser Neil Billington said the incident was the result of Judge Rea’s “mistaken assumption of what was occurring in the courtroom”.

“The judge required the removal of the woman because of her association with [her brother] who had just been removed.

“The judge had mistakenly assumed that her headgear was a demonstration of protest at the court.

“He did not require her removal because of any objection to the wearing of Muslim headgear. “

So in a way, it is a fuss about nothing. The Judge has made clear there is no general ban. It was a mistaken assumption based on the conduct of her brother.

Afghan law

April 6th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Life for women in Afghanistan is a lot better since the fall of the Taliban. It is not illegal for them to be educated now. But as the NZ Herald reports, there is still a long way to go:

In a copy of the law obtained by Reuters, Article 132 states “a wife is obliged to fulfil the sexual desires of her husband”. It also states that a husband should spend one night in every four with his wife, have sexual contact with her at least once every four months and that a woman has to wear make-up if her husband demands it.

Islamic sharia law is often the exact opposite of classical liberal beliefs. They have detailed laws and rules to govern every aspect of your life.

I did have to laugh though that the husband has to spend every fourth night with his wife, but only has to have sex with her once every four months. So what do you do on the other 29 out of 30 nights you are forced to be together? Play tiddliwinks?

Very sadly ironic

February 19th, 2009 at 10:36 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

ORCHARD PARK, New York – The crime drips with brutal irony: a woman decapitated, allegedly by her estranged husband, in the offices of the television network the couple founded with the hope of countering Muslim stereotypes.

Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan is accused of beheading his wife last week, days after she filed for divorce. Authorities have not discussed the role religion or culture might have played, but the slaying gave rise to speculation that it was the sort of “honor killing” more common in countries half a world away, including the couple’s native Pakistan.

Sadly stereotypes exist because there is usually an element of truth to them. The problem is when people apply a stereotype to all individuas in a group, rather than treat people as individuals.