SEVEN MYTHS ABOUT CHINA AND ITS HISTORY

By | China, Geopolitics, History, Opinion pieces for the press, Taiwan | No Comments

This Article is from The Australian March 2018 We are on the cusp of serious debates about the implications for Australia and the whole Asia Pacific world of the vast increase in Chinese wealth and power this century, not least with the repudiation of political reforms by Xi Jinping and his assumption of indefinite and all but absolute power. In order for those debates to be conducted intelligently and productively, it is vital that we think about China in a clear-headed manner. Unfortunately, the field at present is cluttered with myths about China, sedulously propagated by the Chinese Communist Party,…

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JAMES PACKER GAMBLED AND LOST

By | China, Opinion pieces for the press | No Comments

  There is a scene towards the end of Kostantinos Gavros’s 1982 film, Missing, in which a hard-edged US military officer tells Ed Horman, played by Jack Lemmon, ‘Suppose I went up to your town and started messing around with the Mafia and I wind up dead in the East River and my wife or my father complains to the police because they didn’t protect me. They really wouldn’t have much of a case, would they? You play with fire, you get burned.’ James Packer, gambling tycoon, played with fire in China and has just been burned. Eighteen of his…

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MOCKERY OF ISLAM CANNOT BE FORBIDDEN

By | Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Religion | No Comments

  Last Monday, British journalist and broadcaster Douglas Murray, author of the satirical pamphlet Islamophilia, blogged that far from being something that should be frowned upon, mockery of Islam is a much needed antidote to its excessive severity and overweening claims to be taken seriously. He has a point that merits, dare I say it, serious thought. His remark was all the more notable because it was made in response to the assertion by Mohammed Shafiq that ‘our faith is not to be mocked’. Shafiq heads a body called the Ramadhan Foundation, in Manchester, has spoken out against extremism and…

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WE MUST CHAMPION APOSTASY FROM ISLAM

By | Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Religion, Terrorism | No Comments

  About six weeks ago, in a televised address during Ramadan, the leading Muslim cleric in Egypt, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar University in Cairo, who is hailed as one of the leading ‘moderate’ teachers in the Islamic world, denounced apostasy from Islam as ‘grand treason’. He stated categorically: ‘Those learned in Islam and the imams of the four schools of jurisprudence consider apostasy a crime and agree that the apostate must either renounce his apostasy or else be killed.’ This prominent cleric has been a critic of ISIS, of Salafist radicals and of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was…

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ERDOGAN’S CRACKDOWN IS DEEPLY DISTURBING

By | Geopolitics, Human Rights, Opinion pieces for the press, Turkey | No Comments

There is something deeply disturbing about the direction in which Recip Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party are taking Turkey. Writing in this newspaper last week, John Lyons compared the sweeping purges to McCarthyism in the United States, in the 1950s. That was altogether the wrong analogy. The scale and arbitrariness of what is happening are, rather, akin to Hitler’s state of emergency after the Reichstag fire in 1933, or Stalin’s reaction to the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934, than to the United States in the 1950s. There is also an analogy with the Islamist revolution in…

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VOLTAIRE WOULD HAVE BEEN HOUNDED FOR HIS MAHOMET

By | Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Religion, Terrorism | No Comments

On 23 July, Waleed Aly will be presented with the Voltaire Award for free speech from Liberty Victoria. It would be rather charming were he to give a speech on that occasion reflecting on Voltaire’s play Mahomet, which depicted Islam as based on false miracles, personal ambition and ruthless fanaticism. Aly has for some time been the go to person for commentary on Islam and avoiding what is widely dubbed ‘Islamophobia’. It is safe to say he does not share Voltaire’s assessment of Islam. Yet Voltaire remains a figure for our time and free speech on the subject of Islam…

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BRING THE COOK REPORT OUT FROM THE WILDERNESS OF MIRRORS

By | Defence, Intelligence, Opinion pieces for the press | No Comments

  Last Saturday’s Inquirer story about Paul Dibb’s annoyance at the innuendo that has swirled around him for decades and that security investigations into his bona fides were held at all was both fascinating and important. He was cleared by all investigations, he reveals, including the 1994 Cook Report. This is news. I have called for years for the release of the Cook Report precisely so that we can finally be clear where suspicions were confirmed and where they were dispelled and, in each case, on what grounds. Dibb’s important story is another illustration of why we need the Cook…

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 IRANIAN AMBITIONS IN ARABIA PRE-DATE MOHAMMED

By | History, Islam, Middle East, Opinion pieces for the press | No Comments

  The growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia – already at war by proxy in Syria and Yemen – need to be better understood by those making Western security policy. We are too easily distracted by the obvious and too little inclined to think deeper and longer about what is going on. The struggle between Persians and Arabs dates back a very long way and it has had outcomes in the past that may offer clues about what might unfold in the Middle East in the years ahead. Certainly, this is a clash between a Sunni Arab power and…

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LET’S INDEED HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT ISLAM

By | History, Islam, Opinion pieces for the press | No Comments

  Last Friday in these pages, Waleed Aly excoriated both Tony Abbott and that embarrassing buffoon running rogue in the US Republican primaries, Donald Trump. He deplored their ignorance about Islam and the muddle entailed in the conservative Catholic Tony Abbott calling for a Reformation and revolution within Islam. But then he added that ‘this isn’t really a conversation about Islam’; it’s about a dubious brand of ‘arch conservative’ populist politics. Very well, then. Let’s actually have the conversation about Islam that we have to have. Let’s begin with Waleed’s striking observation that ‘Islam’s own version of the Reformation already…

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 DUNCAN’S DILEMMAS HIGHLIGHT THE REAL PROBLEM

By | Intelligence, Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Terrorism | No Comments

Perhaps the story of the past week has been controversy over the Director General of ASIO, Duncan Lewis, publicly rebuking a number of politicians and urging that they curb their outspokenness regarding Islam. Lewis had made two crucial points: that intemperate criticism of Islam risked inflaming Muslim opinion, making ASIO’s job harder; and that it was ‘blasphemous, to the extent that I can comment on someone else’s religion’ to suggest that Islamist terrorism springs from Islam itself. It is, surely, rather unusual for the head of the security service to rebuke senior politicians for their remarks; but that a man…

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