ISIS Brides and Babies

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There are thousands of them: foreign women who married Daesh (aka IS, ISIL or ISIS) men and who are now sitting in refugee camps, in many cases with their children.  Some are alleged to have attacked other refugees whose behaviour does not conform to Daesh norms, and even to have set firs to those people’s tents.

Mother and Child in a Kurdish-run Camp

Their home countries are reluctant to take them back, for understandable reasons. It’s hard to believe the claims that they were too young to know what they were getting into, or were taken in by the propaganda about the creation of a perfect Islamic state and somehow missed the bits about murder, torture, rape and slavery.

The case of Shamima Begum has hit the headlines in the UK, whence she fled at the age of 15 to join Daesh. Her Dutch husband survived the fighting and has renounced Daesh. Shamima wants to go home with her baby. The UK doesn’t want either of them. It’s a similar story with Australia Zehra Duman. An estimated 9,000 are nationals of the Russian Federation (mainly Chechnya) and other former Soviet Republics.

My view is pretty simple. These people, however wicked, deluded or gullible they may have been, are citizens of countries which have laws, institutions and financial resources far beyond those of the Kurds and others who are holding them. It’s our responsibility to receive them back, subject the adults to due legal process, and care for the children in such a way that they will grow up sane, productive and law-abiding. This will not be cheap, but it will surely be cheaper than letting stateless extremists and their hapless offspring roam the world working mischief.

I just checked, and Australia still has a law dealing with treason. It is contained in Chapter 5 of the Criminal Code. The penalty for intentionally assisting, by any means whatever, another country or organisation [my emphasis] that is engaged in hostilities against the Australian Defence Force is life imprisonment.

The law is specifically framed to include terrorist organisations. One would hope that the phrase “by any means whatever” is broad enough to encompass making one’s way into a war zone to marry an enemy combatant and bear his children, who will be educated in extremism and brought up to be Daesh’s foot soldiers – and martyrs if they’re lucky.

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Lacrosse and the Liberals

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I like our MP and I hope he retains his seat at the next election. But this flyer, found yesterday in our letterbox, appals me. On the back it explains that Burnside Lacrosse Club has received a grant of A$154,000 from the Federal Government to upgrade their changing rooms.

What the hell is the Federal Government doing funding local sports clubs?!!

I want to know when we’re going to have an energy policy; radical measures to combat climate change; effective law enforcement in the finance sector; and a defence capability to deter a big aggressive neighbour.

Meanwhile the lacrossers of Burnside can change in the comfort of their own homes and travel to/from the ground in their gear.

A Published Poet!

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It’s a little sad, really. I must disown the sobriquet ‘possibly the most inspiring unpublished poet of his generation’. Why? I have just had a romantic sonnet published in an anthology of love stories.

The book’s called ‘Love Story: Volume I’ and you can click on the cover design alongside to start the process of buying it – if you want it delivered in Australia, that is. It’s only A$19.99 and the profits all go to charity. The perfect Valentine’s Day gift!

Brexit and Other Civil Wars

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It’s a truism that civil wars are the most brutal. I think that’s because the losers have nowhere else to go, so the war has to continue until one side surrenders or is destroyed.

This is what we see now in the UK: the fight between Remainers and Brexiteers is in effect a civil war. This is why Theresa May’s attempts to find a compromise are doomed to fail. One side has to win, the other lose. Compromise, which the British are supposed to be so good at, is a non-starter.

Personally, I hope the Remainers win. This can happen only with another vote: a People’s Vote, since it cannot be called a referendum. There are two good reasons for a People’s Vote:

  • The great majority of people who voted in 2016, on both sides, had no notion of what disentangling the UK from the EU would involve and cost.
  • No-one voted for the dissolution of the United Kingdom, which would almost certainly follow a hard Brexit. Scotland would have ample grounds for another independence referendum, and the only way to avoid a ‘hard border’ with the Republic of Ireland would be to relinquish Northern Ireland.

I’m glad the Queen has seen fit to comment. Addressing the Women’s Institute she called on all sides to search for common ground – without actually mentioning Brexit of course. The nearest thing to common ground might be “We’re not ready for this, it’s tearing our country apart, let’s call the whole thing off for now and have another vote in ten years’ time.”

Theresa May, having nailed her ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ colours to the mast, would have to be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. The British are famously fond of glorious failures: Boadicea’s rebellion, the retreat from Dunkirk and the Charge of the Light Brigade to name but a few. So history will be kind to her. She charged the guns heroically, sabre glinting in the setting sun, and for that she will be admired.

Home-Grown Fruit and Stroppy 2019

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Nectarines

Today’s my birthday and therefore the day to announce the winner of this year’s Stroppy. But first I make will make another announcement: Mrs SG and I have harvested our nectarine crop! It amounted to 7.2kg after cutting off the rotten bits. St Bernard’s Market is selling yellow nectarines A$2.99/kg at the moment, giving our crop a retail value of A$21.50. Mrs SG wondered aloud whether that would cover the cost of watering the tree for a year.

I was reminded of an email circulated recently by my old friend Ron Allan. It was a picture of lots of tomatoes with the caption “Growing your own tomatoes is the best way to devote 3 months of your life to saving $2.17.” Well, Ron, even if that’s US$2.17, we did much better than that!

That curtain-raiser is little more than an excuse to display a colourful picture of our nectarines. Now to the main business. The winner of the 2019 Stroppy Award for Meaningless Drivel is … drumroll … the South Australian Academic Health Science and Translation Centre, for this passage from a report to the state government agency SA Health:

“What we can deduce from our work is that it is possible to generate a narrative around the experience of multiple stakeholders, going through a large-scale system change, in ways that both acknowledge the limitations of the data but support the emerging themes from the data, and from other (realist) literature reviews.”

A worthy winner! Thanks are due to Brad Crouch, the Advertiser’s Medical Reporter, who drew this to my attention.

Asylum for Apostates

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We just got the news that Rahal al-Qunun has been granted asylum in Canada. Indeed, the 18-year-old Saudi woman is already on her way to her new home.

Rahal al-Qunun

Most people applaud her courageous escape from an oppressive regime, under which the renunciation of Islam (apostasy) is punishable by death. One hopes that by her action she will embolden other women to rebel.

One can also feel sympathy for her family, who will surely be condemned for letting this happen while they were on holiday in Kuwait; and for Canadian authorities who will be responsible for protecting Rahal from vengeful attacks by Muslims who consider death a necessary punishment for apostasy.

How likely are such attacks? According to the Independent newspaper there are twelve Muslim-majority countries in which apostasy carries the death penalty. Scholars are divided over this issue. As often happens where religious belief is based on a very old book, texts can be cited to support any point of view; and because the Quran has been supplemented by a body of writings known as the Hadith (meaning ‘tradition’) Islam is especially vulnerable to this phenomenon.

Asia Bibi

But judging by the scale of violent outrage when Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in Pakistan, was acquitted of a charge of blasphemy against Islam, views that most non-Muslims would consider extreme are not necessarily rare. (Blasphemy is a capital offence in Pakistan, but apostasy is not.)

Given that a) most people in the world would rather live in Western Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand than in their own countries, and b) some of the nastiest countries to live in have Muslim-majority populations, should we not expect a blossoming of apostasy in the expectation that it will confer immediate refugee status and resettlement somewhere nice?

Muslim readers are especially welcome to comment on this post. I claim no theological expertise.

Broadband Down!

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Please imagine the following diary entries being ticker-taped like news flashes. That’ll make the story they tell seem more exciting . . .

Wed 19 Dec
No broadband connection, so no internet and no landline! Never mind, it’ll be back soon. Went to bed.

Thu 20 Dec
Still no internet. Spoke to iiNet call centre in South Africa. Diagnosis: NBN Co* has probably reassigned my connection to someone else – happens all the time. No need for technician visit. All will be well.

Sat 22 Dec
Text message received: “Will someone be at home on Monday between 0800 and 1200?”

Mon 24 Dec
NBN Co contractors come and notice a wire dangling from a pole, and coiled wire hanging from a pole on the other side of the road. Hmm, this calls for a specialist, can’t do it today. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is Christmas Day, sir!

Fri 28 Dec
NBN Co contractors come. Hmm, this will need a special attachment to the pole. That requires a special specialist, can’t do it today.

Wed 2 Dec
An middle-aged man with a weathered look turns up with his young assistant, bits of bent metal, pliers, a hacksaw and a ladder. A specialist. Unfazed by having an inquisitive onlooker he sets to work. Three hours later we’re back online.

Two other wires were down in the same street, so the current theory is that an over-sized vehicle, perhaps connected with a nearby building site, was driven along the street and simply chopped through them.

It occurs to me that with all our relativity and quantum mechanics, with all our light-fast hi-tech whizz-bang technology and machines that go ping!, making things work often comes down to having a bloke up a ladder who knows what he’s doing.

* NBN means Australia’s National Broadband Network, and NBN Co is the state-owned company that is building and operating it. But customers access the network through competing retailers.