Planned museum hopes to shed light on islam

AUSTRALIA’S first Islamic museum is to be built in Thornbury and will work to dispel stereotypes of the often misunderstood religious minority.

The project is spearheaded by a group of Melbourne Muslims, including prominent business figures Ahmed and Moustafa Fahour, and will seek to showcase the community’s cultural contribution in a mainstream museum setting.

Modelled on ventures such as the Chinese Museum, the Museo Italiano in Carlton and the Jewish Museum in St Kilda, the idea for a precinct emphasising heritage and art drawn from the more than 60 ethnicities who identify as Muslim here was developed by Macquarie banker Moustafa Fahour and his wife Maysaa.

“I am a very proud Australian Muslim,” says Moustafa Fahour, 29, one of eight children born to Lebanese migrant parents who settled in Melbourne in the 1960s.

Maysaa Fahour, 27, a teacher who has assumed the chairmanship of the board that will oversee the museum and raise funds for the construction, approached her brother-in-law, Australia Post chief Ahmed Fahour, at a family barbecue and he agreed to become the museum’s patron.

The venture has recently been granted charity status by the Australian Tax Office and has the personal endorsement of Victoria’s Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras.

Land has already been acquired at a Thornbury industrial site. While plans to refit the former factory will have to go through council approval processes, the Darebin Council had signalled that an Islamic museum would be welcome in the neighbourhood, Moustafa Fahour said.

The museum will include a permanent exhibition featuring basic information about Muslims’ religious beliefs provided in a digestible form to the public.

School groups are also expected to tour on a daily basis.

”As a mother, I love the NGV and Scienceworks and have my kids participate in knowledgeable activities. Nowhere was there something about Islam … It struck me as something to really strive for,” said Mrs Fahour, who settled here as a child-migrant from Lebanon.

Apart from a six-member board, which has been collaborating on the idea for about two years, an advisory committee includes SBS board member Hass Dellal, Immigration Museum manager Padmini Sebastian and ABC personality and politics lecturer Waleed Aly. Islamic art expert Phillip George is among the arts advisers.

At the 2006 census there were more than 340,000 Muslims in Australia, of whom 128,904 were born here.

( / 02.05.2011)

The Death of Bin Laden: Suspicions and Questions

It can be of no doubt that many around the world are relieved, some even ecstatic, by the death of Osama bin Laden. Reports from all over the world following US President Obama’s announcement that US military personnel had killed bin Laden show scenes of jubilation in America, Europe, and even expressions of relief from many Muslim organisations around the world. However, there are many unanswered questions and even details that can be drawn out and analysed following the killing of bin Laden.
Bin Laden and al-Qaeda have been the US governments scapegoats and raison d’être for a number of wars and even technically illegal drone attacks in areas like North Western Pakistan for a very long time now. Whenever something violent happens in the news, one can be certain that buzzwords and terms such as “terrorists”, “Islamists”, “Jihadists”, and “al-Qaeda” will be bandied about and sensationalised in the mainstream media before any significant evidence has even been provided, and without a real intellectual understanding of what these terms really define and mean. It has become very convenient for governments around the world to declare many threats posed to them as representative of elements of al-Qaeda. Witness the crazed despot, Muammar al-Gaddafi, who insisted that the recent uprisings in Libya are a result of al-Qaeda dosing impressionable young men with hallucinogens. Clearly, that is one extreme example, but it is not hard to find others all over the world.

The most pertinent question is this; has the US known about bin Laden’s whereabouts for a long time and done nothing because it served their interests to have an international bogeyman? If the above is true, then it is clear that bin Laden had outlived his usefulness.

What is instantly striking about this US operation is that bin Laden was purported to be living in a compound worth millions of dollars in the city of Abbottabad, north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad by some 100km. A CIA official was reported on Aljazeera as saying; “We were shocked by what we saw, an extraordinarily unique compound. It has 12-to-18-foot walls, topped with barbed wire; internal walls sectioned off different areas of the compound; access was restricted by two security gates”. In addition to all of this, it also had its own waste burning facility. If we compare bin Laden’s “hideout” with a previous fugitive hunted by the US, we can see instant oddities. When Saddam Hussein went on the run, he significantly changed his appearance, fled from place to place, and eventually was found hiding underground in what was dubbed a “spider hole”. Saddam, as we have been led to believe, was far less a wanted man than bin Laden, yet he went out of his way to travel discreetly and not stay in one place for too long. Bin Laden on the other hand lived in a fortified compound; hardly low profile. The waste disposal facility located inside would indicate that a large amount of people lived within, or at least transited through, this compound. The barbed wire walls and two security gates make this seem more like a military base than a hideout. How did the US find Saddam in an underground hole but could not find bin Laden in a suspicious complex? Also, surely bin Laden is not stupid enough to seek refuge in an eyesore like that unless he had some sort of assurances, and this leads to our next point.

President Obama’s administration was keen to distance itself from any link between their operation and collusion with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). According to one US official, “An operation like this has the utmost operational security attached to it. No other country was informed, and a small circle of people within the United States new about it”. Considering that bin Laden’s compound has been shown to have been significantly brazen, and that according to Aljazeera it was not far from a Pakistani military academy, then it might be safe to conclude that Pakistan certainly was not informed by the US. Indeed, perhaps Pakistani ISI did the informing, as the CIA are apparently adept at finding targets to illegally send drones after but not good  or even competent enough to find a blatant compound and investigate via easily bribed Pakistani sources who are known for their corruption. It might be interesting to view US-Pakistani relations in the coming months to see if Pakistan gains anything. If relations improve, then it hints at ISI knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts and also that they were seemingly just waiting for the right indication from the US so that they could let the cat out of the bag. If relations degenerate, then it is a possibility that Pakistan intended to hold onto bin Laden to maybe bargain with the US, but were coerced by Washington into handing bin Laden over or else suffering consequences. As it stands, the Pakistani foreign minister has declared this operation a “great victory” while Obama has said that Pakistan needs to do more in the fight against terrorism which perhaps indicates Pakistan’s desire to ingratiate themselves with the US, but their overtures are receiving a lukewarm response at best.

Finally, the decision to kill bin Laden is interesting in itself. Although Washington has said that US forces tried to capture bin Laden but were forced to kill him after he resisted, this can probably be discounted as hogwash. US forces brought in combat helicopters and enough firepower to devastate the compound, as images show fires amidst the wreckage. Going back to Saddam, he was captured easily enough without significant infrastructure damage and reportedly via the use of gas to render him unconscious. Saddam was hiding in a rural farm where gas use can potentially be dissipated depending on wind conditions and relative density of the gas compared to the air. Could similar tactics not have been used for bin Laden? After all, he was in a compound that was enclosed by high walls which meant that the area could have been saturated with less risk. Perhaps he was killed to make sure that he was never able to divulge information. As is well known, bin Laden had a relationship with the CIA when they used to provide him with arms and expertise. The fact that the ISI appeared to have been hosting bin Laden – and also that it is difficult to believe that the CIA did not know this – perhaps indicates that his relationship with the US extended beyond what has been commonly reported. Saddam Hussein was put on a trial that can largely be considered a sham. Whenever he was about to reveal something interesting, audio and video would be cut under the weak excuse of Iraqi national security. As bin Laden is not a head of state like Saddam, this excuse cannot be recycled and he could potentially reveal many embarrassing details about US activities so therefore he had to be killed.

Did bin Laden outlive his usefulness because he was no longer really taken as a serious threat? After all, al-Qaeda is about as collected and organised as thin air, and do not operate from any known bases (evidently excluding bin Laden himself). Additionally, the new Arab revolutions show that many across the Arab world do not care about al-Qaeda’s ideological leadership, and instead cherish the idea of freedom and democracy. If Arabs appear to be more democratic in the public eye, demonising them and some of their leaders via scare-mongering and the threat of al-Qaeda becomes less credible and less workable. Saddam’s Iraq was accused of harbouring al-Qaeda, but it would have been difficult to believe that if Iraq had a leader who was considered to be democratically elected and who also engaged with other international democracies. Now, however, Obama can claim a major domestic political victory and will likely use it in his next election campaign. In terms of real gain, nothing has really been achieved with the death of bin Laden. As US military analyst Mark Kimmet said, bin Laden has not directly led al-Qaeda for many years and was more of a figurehead. This analysis is apt, though obvious, and shows that the “War on Terror” will likely continue unabated.

( / 02.05.2011)

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Outlines Political Ambitions

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest Islamic group, today announced that it will not enter a candidate in the presidential election but will contend for as many as half of the seats in parliament.

The group earlier said it would contend for only one-third of parliament’s 508 seats.

Mahmoud Mosri, head of the group’s newly formed Freedom and Justice party, told reporters today that they are open to Muslim, Christian, and women candidates because, as he said, it is “not a religious party, not a theocratic party.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is seen as one of the best-organized political parties in Egypt and its dominance has raised fears that political Islam will become a powerful force in Egyptian politics.

The formerly banned group is also believed to have played a leading role in the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Egypt’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for September.

( / 02.05.2011)

Israeli jets prepare in Iraq to strike Iran

Israeli F-15 fighter jets
Israeli jet fighters have reportedly conducted drills at a military base in Iraq in order to strike targets inside Iran.

A considerable number of Israeli warplanes were seen at al-Asad base in Iraq, reported a source close to prominent Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sader’s group.

The aircraft reportedly included F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, and KC-10 jet fighters.

The warplanes carried out their week-long exercises at nights, the same source added.

The drills were reportedly aimed at preparing to strike Iran’s air defense systems, disrupt Iran’s radars and attack targets deep inside Iran.

Iraqi officials had not been notified of the exercises, which were conducted in collaboration with the US military.

The United States maintains numerous bases in Iraq, and the Baghdad government is not involved in any of the military deployments taking place there.

( / 02.05.2011)

Official: Israeli troops block villagers from crops

TUBAS (Ma’an) — Israeli troops blocked villagers from collecting their crops in the area of Al-Malih village on Monday, a local official said.

The village council head, Aref Daraghmeh, told Ma’an that Israeli military vehicles barred villagers from accessing their land to collect their produce, and damaged a large quantity of crops in the area, which lies in the northern West Bank district of Tubas.

Daraghmeh said that crops had also been damaged by Israeli troops last year, and appealed to the Palestinian Authority to intervene and help the villagers.

( 02.05.2011)

An Irishman has been kidnapped

An Irish writer and activist, Patrick MacManus, has been kidnapped in Palestine by the Israelis without warrant or explanation, and his location is currently unknown.

Patrick is a veteran activist with experience in just about every corner of the globe where oppression exists. A native of Ireland, he was chairman of the Danish Anti-arpethied committee in the 80’s, and was a spokesperson for the group Rebellion, which was formed to oppose the EU’s “Anti-Terror Laws” and to support the FARC and the PFLP. In 2009, he was arrested by the Danish Political Police (yes, that’s their name) and charged with sending 10,000 euros to the FARC. The local Danish court acquitted him, saying that in context of the Israeli and Colombian regimes, resistance was legitimate.

The prosecution refused to relent, and took their cases to two higher courts. In 2010, After a four day trial that was drawn out over six months, Patrick was found guilty of aiding terrorism and sentenced to 6 months in prison. Had he not been over 60 years old and in ill health, the sentence could have been up to ten years. During the trial, veterans of the Danish Resistance during World War 2 protested in favor of Macmanus and his supporters hoisted resistance flags.

(It is important to note that the prosecutions 2 main witnesses were a member of Israeli intelligence and an American “security contractor”)

Upon his release, Patrick immediately went back to Palestine where he campaigned for his primary cause, that of the Palestinian people, and wrote extensively before his disappearance.

What set Patrick apart from other activists was not just the variety of places he helped, but his approach: he was a poet. He loved poetry, and saw it in resistance and risen masses. Of poets he wrote:

“The story of resistance is the story of defeat, of years and years silenced by the force of power….but poets find a way…of giving life to things that seemed to have gone. A world of word which seems far away, on themes and history which to power seems irrelevant in its oppression of the day. An then, on another day, it will all be said again, in voices clear and fearless”

He wrote a lot about the Kurdish poets of the 20th century (Kurdistan was another spot for him), particularly Abdul Gora. who helped define much of the Kurdish literary identity. Before his disappearance he was working on a compilation of poetry of resistance from around the world.

He also wrote extensively via a blog, (the newspapers of today’s revolutions) in which he talked about everything from the Japanese working class and the tsunami, to poets, to Palestine, and the history of his own homeland, Ireland. His articles were marked by a particular scholarliness and attention that is lacking in the works of many of his contemporaries. It is important to note that not once in any article was violence advocated over peaceful methods. Patrick believed firmly that oppression demanded resistance, but violence was always the last, but legitimate, resort.

His widespread activism (Palestine, Denmark, Kurdistan, Swaziland, Columbia, the Philippines, and South Africa to name the primary countries) would seem to give the impression that he was an internationalist whose own homeland was forgotten to him, but nothing is further from the truth. He loved Ireland deeply, traveled it extensively, and regretted that his commitments to Palestine prevented him from doing more. To this end he encouraged Irishman to be involved in the cause of their country. “He changed my life” one Irish American, now a well-accomplished activist, recalled. “He was like a mentor, he taught me to stand up and to speak out.”

Patrick’s life shows the impact one person can make Like a pebble thrown in water, each person’s life creates ripples that spread and expand. Patrick created many ripples in his life. It is only fitting that his concern is repaid with ours. We should be thankful that we are given the chance to create ripples that spread in the lives of others as he did.

What you can do:

-Contact the Israeli prison department and police and demand his release and an explanation.
-Pass the word around about his case.

His blog:
“9 Theses: the Right of Resistance”

(Facebook / 02.05.2011)