Travel and Terrorism

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First, I offer a big apology to my fans, for not having posted for such a long time. In inadequate recompense I give you this link to a brilliant article by Waleed Aly in the Sydney Morning Herald. Waleed is a writer and broadcaster, and one of the most thoughtful and articulate blokes in Australia today.

The article is about Brexit, which makes me stroppier than almost anything outside the Middle East. But I’ve written so much and so often about Brexit, and none of it seems to have touched the hearts and minds of the decision-makers who matter, so now I’m going to push other people’s views and analysis with which I agree. Certainly Waleed expresses what I think better than I can.

But all that has nothing to do with either travel or terrorism. I’m in the UK at the moment, having travelled from Adelaide via Dubai – not my favourite transit hub, I have to say. On the way I was moved to compose the following limerick, which I throw to you, my readers, much as a rock star might throw an item of clothing into the audience…

While waiting in airport queues,
Then taking off watch, belt and shoes,
I imagine Osama
Bin Laden (the charmer)
Laughing – he didn’t lose!

Top up . . .

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I did find myself composing another song about Enid Blyton, but sought distraction before it could be perfected. Then, while cycling home from the gym, I passed a petrol station and started involuntarily singing to an old hymn tune:

Top up, top up for Jesus
With ninety-five octane –
It may not be a dollar
Twenty-eight again . . .

Thankfully (you may say) lyrical inspiration gave way to a serious thought. People raised in the Christian tradition are often shocked by the violence that seems to be condoned in the Old Testament and the Koran. “How good it is,” they think to themselves, “that Jesus replaced that jealous, vindictive, racist Yahweh with a loving god, arranged in three neatly-fitting pieces. And what a pity it is that Mohammed conjured up that narrow-minded Allah, obsessed with rigid rules and slaughter.”

In fact all three of the Abrahamic faiths are pretty nasty if looked at closely. A Jew or a Muslim might listen to “Stand up, stand up for Jesus …” or “Onward Christian soldiers…” and look around in alarm for an approaching horde “with the cross of Jesus going on before!”

And how should Muslims react when a representative of a heavily-armed predominantly Christian nation talks of embarking upon a ‘crusade’?

Oh, for a Fat Controller!

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Rev Wilbert Awdry

Have you have read any of the Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s books about Thomas the Tank Engine and his rail-bound colleagues you will understand the allusion to the Fat Controller. It has nothing to do with weight loss and everything to do with our need for an overlord (or indeed an overlady).

In these stories the units of anthropomorphic rolling stock, with their personalities, their strengths and their weaknesses, often make a mess of things. But the Fat Controller (aka Sir Topham Hatt) always appears on the final page to praise the good, admonish the naughty and put things right. It’s the perfect way to end the day before snuggling beneath the bedclothes.

“Oh no!” I hear you say. “Not another post about Brexit!”

Sorry, but yes. The UK Government, Opposition and Parliament are in turmoil. The long-suffering people are dismayed. Many long to be dis-Mayed. They want a Fat Controller to step into the story and mend their fractured universe.

HM The Queen

The only candidates with sufficient moral authority are Joanna Lumley and the Queen. My preference would be the Queen. With an unwritten constitution, her power is limited only by what her people believe it to be and want it to be. I would love it if she turned up at Parliament one day, unannounced, and said something along the lines of “For God’s sake, you people, grow up! Isn’t it blindingly obvious that this whole Brexit thing isn’t working? What’s more it’s tearing my kingdom apart and it just won’t do. Stop it. Now. Tell those people in Brussels that you’re going to have another think about it and we’ll email them when we’re good and ready. OK? Good. Carry on.”

 

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.

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.

Australian Liberals

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Here’s a letter I wrote to my MP, who happens also to be a Minister in Australia’s Liberal-led Commonwealth Government. I have just received a stock answer.

Dear Christopher,

As one of your constituents and a Liberal voter since I came to Australia in 1978, I have to tell you of my growing disenchantment with your party, to the point where I feel I can no longer vote for it.

I would like you personally to remain in Parliament and on the front bench, whether in government or in opposition, but the ongoing factional civil war and our new PM’s antics have me in despair. First there was the lump of coal in Parliament, now we’ve had the abandonment of the NEG, the refusal to take a stand on climate change, the description of the country’s most iconic building as a ‘billboard’ and – the last straw for me – the news that Mr Morrison is considering moving our Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem!

I know we have to trot submissively at President Trump’s heels to some extent, to keep our place under the USA’s nuclear umbrella, but to kowtow to a rogue state whose disregard for humanitarian principles and international law matches Russia’s or China’s, and to take sides against some of the most oppressed and dispossessed people in the world… well, words fail me.

And is it really only a device to curry favour with the 13% of Wentworth voters who are Jewish, as I heard on Radio National this morning? Is our foreign policy being driven by short-term electoral gaming? If so, I’d rather give Penny Wong a go.

I don’t usually send off an email while I’m still angry; I prefer to wait, re-read and edit. But not this time. I suspect my anger will only grow, so I might as well shoot this off now.

With good wishes to you, if not to your party or its present leader…

John Standingford
Linden Park
https://StroppyGit.com
16/10/18

Explanatory notes:

In February 2017 Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into Parliament as a prop for a speech promoting the continued mining and burning of coal in spite of its alleged contribution to climate change.

NEG was the National Energy Guarantee, the closest thing to an energy policy that Australia has had for many years. It resulted from hard negotiations between parties that put energy prices ahead of decarbonisation and vice versa, Federal and State Governments, industry and consumers. Scott Morrison dumped it as soon as he became Prime Minister.

Wentworth is the constituency where Malcolm Turnbull, the deposed PM, had a 17% majority. The Liberal-led ruling coalition had a 1-seat parliamentary majority and was desperate to retain the seat after Turnbull’s resignation. They lost it to an independent. Coincidentally a TV serial called Wentworth is running at the moment. It’s set in a women’s prison and shows brutality almost on a par with what’s going on in the Liberal Party.

Penny Wong is the Shadow Foreign Minister – fair-minded, level-headed and popular.

Delicious Lucy Turnbull

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Emmanuel Macron came to Australia with a pretty meaty agenda. He has been described as the de facto Leader of the Free World, with some justification. The media covered his visit and his picture was on every front page, but the journalists chose to focus on the French President’s unusual use of the word ‘delicious’, applying it to the Australian Prime Minister’s wife Lucy.

Emmanuel Macron and Malcolm Turnbull in Australia, 2018

Perhaps it was a quaintly framed compliment, perhaps he mis-spoke. After all, he was doing us the courtesy of addressing us in our own language instead of relying on an interpreter. Whatever the case, allowing this one word to dominate the news trivialises an important occasion and demeans a man who deserves our respect.