Grand Mufti Costello kindly shares his insights into Islam again

There’s no doubt there are problems with dysfunctionality in some of the organisations that seek to publicly represent Australia’s Muslims. This can be a problem when public comment is sought about the nature of Islam. Fortunately a solution is at hand – no longer do Australia’s Muslims need to worry about who is best to speak to the media and the public on their behalf to explain the real nature of modern Islam. Peter Costello is clearly the man for the job.

This weekend, he has kindly sacrificed his time to spread his message of peace and understanding, this time to the conservative fundamentalist Australian Christian Lobby – the perfect place to provide advice to the global Muslim community. Mr Costello’s willingness to tirelessly explain – time after time after time – the real nature of Islam and provide advice and guidance to Muslims must be acknowledged. When you add in the regular helpful contributions by a variety of other experts in the Liberal Party government, Australia’s Muslims can be comfortable in the knowledge there is always a leading public figure able to explain Islam to the general community. The Liberal government even have articulate women like Bronwyn Bishop, Danna Vale and Sophie Mirabella, always keen to add their personal insights into Islam.

With Mufti Costello and a whole range of aspiring imams in the Liberal Party government and amongst conservative Christians, we don’t really need to hear from Muslim Australians at all. As Irfan Yusuf describes it in this piece, they “tell Muslims who and what they are and then demand they take responsibility for things beyond their control.” Quite a generous approach really, to save Muslims the trouble of having to speak for themselves (or the rest of us having to listen to them).

ADDITION: The Australian newspaper has a range of pieces today giving various assessments about Islam and Muslims – none of them from Muslims. Paul Kelly has a piece arguing that “the Catholic church has highlighted Islam’s linkage of religion with violence.” There is another piece by Dr Mark Durie, an Anglican vicar, giving various opinions on what Muslims must do, as well as providing various examples of why Christianity is better than Islam. There is also a piece by Matt Price profiling a 30 year old Australian Muslim named Mustapha Kari-Ali. Price describes him as “brave, engaged and inclined to speak uncommon good sense” and “perhaps the Muslim equivalent of Noel Pearson.” Irfan Yusuf provides an interesting view about this article on his blog.

Like & share:


  1. Hi Ken, glad to be in occasional agreement with you :)

    Off topic reply:

    No, on the linking thing, no effort involved. I hold down a full time job (although shiftworker, on 3 days off now and may appear to have lots of spare time, but I’m working 12 hr shifts when you’re catching zzz’s) and have sporadic time on net, depending on computer availability (kids and life) and chores.

    It might seem time consuming, but I note, you had said in another thread that you don’t know how to link, it is so easy with the auto blogger software that drives Andrew’s blog (and I’m certainly no computer savvy person, if I can do it, any novice can).

    You can do a search (google or others) and just right click and copy on the address that you go to for the article you want to cite, then paste that address into the comments box and you’re done – it’s automatically converted when you submit comment thanks to the software.

    There, now you know how easy it all is!

    I think the reason Andrew’s blog is so popular and different for a pollie is, he allows us to have (pretty much) uncensored commentary, even if he may disagree with the views expressed.

    Can you imagine talking to John Howard, Kim Beazley, or any other Senator as you do to Andrew or other guests (commenters) here- or those pollies allowing the discussion to unravel and provoke as it does here (it’s like you’ve been invited into Andrew’s house for drinks and dinner) without being thrown out.

    Of course Andrew gets to keep in touch with community views and speak to people that he would not get to meet in his usual day (just like he stopped off at the pub on the way home from work or came home to find us all there!)

    My shout.

  2. an embryo is not a baby, however tiny.

    Except that it is.

    Catholics… are not entitled to fund $60 million of taxpayer’s money to anti abortion groups (under the guise of pregnancy counselling and offering of choice)

    Why not?

    who refuse to refer women for terminations and falsely claim that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.

    How do you know they are false claims?

    I beg your pardon, but Catholics *are* entitled to do all of these things if we live in a democracy. Otherwise, you are saying your morality is better than ours.

    Catholics in public office are not entitled to have individual religious morality prevail over majority public opinion and stifle debate on controversial issues (abortion, RU486 and stem cells)

    Rubbish! You would have someone go against their own conscience, merely because you disagree with them. Who is stifling which debate?

    They are not entitled to misrepresent the truth and parade deliberate lies to the public on controversial issues (SCNT and RU486)

    No they aren’t, but where have they done this?

    If Tony Abbott has lied, then that is wrong. But my point is, why should his discussions with a Catholic Cardinal be an issue at all?

    I don’t have to prove my (or anyone’s) morality is superior to the church’s – our morality is none of the church’s business.

    But you do have to prove it to me if you want to shove your morality down *my* throat.

    You should worship truth and honesty, something sadly lacking in the Catholic debate (emotional rhetoric) on women’s issues

    I worship Him who *is* truth. Seems to me that every time secularists hear something they don’t like, they accuse Catholics of lying.

    Your basic argument is that Catholics can hold public office, but not behave like Catholics.

    So much for “tolerance, respect, diversity blah blah blah.”

  3. Have just got back to this post after a couple of days and confess to respect for John Tracey’s
    honest comments.
    But want to really compliment Deborah. She is a stand out contributor to this site ( amazing how often women salvage blog threads ).
    Have come to the conclusion that at least one of several individuals convincingly refuted by Deborah; “whipping boy” Bartlett himself, can only be joking, being mischeivious in his protracted, facile and obstinate defences of the perverse EB.
    EB are not “whipping boys”. They are surreptitious, dangerous cranks whose antics, although going back many years, also include several gratuitous very recent interventions in different parts of Australia and off-shore.
    Too much more Humour from Andrew and I may start to beleive he actually belives his nonsense, as to the EB, and thus be forced to recommence a search for a more rational politician to represent my interests in parliament.

  4. Andrew, “Yes, there’s been allegations against the EB, and they should be investigated by appropraite authorities. Most of the allegations have been around for years and none of them seemed to draw public campaigns of outrage until they started attacking political opponents”

    If those allegations have abounded for years:

    – why have the general public not heard about it before now?
    -why have there been no investigations by the authorities as yet?

    Louise #101, There you go, didn’t take too long before all reason and logic is gone.

    No point even discussing these issues with someone so blinded by faith and religious dogma – there’s no acceptance by you of anything other than what your faith based agenda allows.

    You, Louise are entitled to your own morality, no-one else’s.

    So don’t try to argue for governmental legislation which will seek to deny the majority of other Australians (the 80% who do not share your views on abortion etc), their right to a Minister for Health, who makes decisions based on medicine and science, not faith.

  5. Being a practicing Catholic, I would like to comment on the issues raised by Louise.

    Tony Abbot’s Catholicism is quite draconian, and he should not be imposing his own narrowly defined ‘values’ onto women and onto Australia.

    There’s no point arguing over whether an embryo is a baby or not. Everyone has their own perspective. But there are many Catholic women who have had abortions. At the end of the day, Catholic or any Australian women will not allow men of any persusasion to decide their fate, particularly men who would deny them an abortion, and then demonise them for being a single mother.

    The Catholic Church withdrew their (paid) services to Centrelink, citing the ‘immorality’ of Liberal Government Welfare to Work Legislation.

    This is the type of Catholicism that I identify with; a Catholicism that criticises governments on socially unjust policy.

  6. … and, I imagine this withdrawal of social support and demonising of single mothers will, ironically, lead to increased abortions.

  7. Donna, the fact that you are a practising Catholic and can still manage a progressive and rational, grounded in reality, religious faith, is inspiring.

    Catholic women like you are to be commended and for that, I respect your values, faith and belief, despite our differences.

    Why are women like you not being made archbishops, you’d be bringing in the customers!

  8. aw shucks, thanks for the kind words Paul, I have to say that I agree with you in that the EB are not just a harmless, eccentric little sect with unorthodox beliefs.

    They appear to be quite sinister and dangerous, if the allegations against them are proved to be true. The ex sect members’stories on the other thread seem to support those allegations too.

    Suffer the little children! (and the women).

  9. Deborah,

    We’re an odd bunch, full of idiosyncrasies (geez, I hope that’s how you spell it). Take what we like and discard the rest.

    I’m not a particularly religious person by the way. It’s more a cultural practice, and something I continue for my daughter’s sake.

    But Catholics (put Tony Abbot aside) tend to be a socially aware bunch.

  10. Deborah, I believe people can disagree and still be decent people.

    In other words, when we are discussing moral issues, it’s very easy for any of us to say, X is right, and for others to hear this as, “Anyone who believes X is not right is a Bad Person.”

    I can only say that this is not what I think. I don’t think that anyone who disagrees with me is a Bad Person. I just disagree with you. Just so you know (and other readers too).

    I know this is all very off-topic now, so these will be my last comments on this thread.


    It seems that possibly you misunderstand my defence of Tony Abbott. I was merely defending his right to serve in public office and to act according to his conscience as a Catholic.

    I emphatically do not agree with many of the Liberal Party’s policies. Which means that on any number of issues, I disagree with Tony Abbott. I do not vote Liberal, for these sorts of reasons.

    As for single mothers – I believe these should receive every possible assistance from the gov’t.

    I’ll finish by saying that this is a blog combox and it’s a limited medium. None of us can do much more here than present a kind of one-dimensional sliver of ourselves. If these discussions were happening in real life, they would be difficult enough. Even with people we know well and love, these debates are difficult.

    Apologies for getting so off-track.

  11. Paul said: “EB are not “whipping boys”. They are surreptitious, dangerous cranks whose antics, although going back many years, also include several gratuitous very recent interventions in different parts of Australia and off-shore.
    Too much more Humour from Andrew and I may start to beleive he actually belives his nonsense, as to the EB, and thus be forced to recommence a search for a more rational politician to represent my interests in parliament. ”

    Ok thats gfreat – i know nothing of them and don’t want to, and can only thank whatver spirit you like that i wasn’t born inot them

    But the point the whipping boy Bartlett is defendiong and rightly is the rule of law and social beghaviuor that enables us to funciotn as a society even if somewhat dysfunctioanlly.

    The better questroin is asked by deborah (twice in a row i’m getting worried) – why hasn’t those charged with upholding the rules investigated them – maybe they have i don’t know.

    Whats your alternative Paul – get out the AK47’s. maybe George and john could nuke em – you might even support that?

    You see for every group you despise, there are other law abiding people out there, who despise grouops you might support.

    If theyve transgressed the rules they should be fearlessly dealt with, and if thats not happening thenn expose it – otehrwise the Bartlett defence is not only right but rational.

  12. Ken. I think that the EB have seriously transgressed the rules, which makes you wonder why the proposed parliamentary inquiry into their activities was voted down (by the Bartlett defence too).

    Wonder if political angling and give no aid or comfort to a competing party, were the prime objectives, rather than an investigation into alleged illegal activities.

    Maybe there are a lot of vested interests at stake here – it might become a snowball and we get to know about the freebies and perks enjoyed by all the religious and charitable bodies in Australia. Could get a lot of people, in powerful and privileged positions, very worried.

  13. which makes you wonder why the proposed parliamentary inquiry into their activities was voted down

    because, whatever rules you might think they have broken (as oppsed to generally being objectionable), it is better that it be investigated be an appropriate independent authority, rather than via a Senate inquiry which would have been clearly politicaly motivated.

    I agree that it would be worthwhile to fully investigate all the different types of tax breaks and other exemptions given to religious and charitable bodies in Australia. It’s something that I and other democrats have been calling for for some time. The rules regarding all this are less than clear and the overall costs vs benefits are simply not known.

    However, it would be unwise to approach such an examination from the point of view of what harm and/or benefit it might do toone’s ideoligical enemies. There are churches and charities across the political spectrum, and suggesting that the overall benefit favours the left or the right would be a brave call, as I doubt anyone has the resources to fully quantify it. (indeed the difficulty in quantifying the financial impact is one of the reasons to fully investigate it)

  14. Andrew, it would be good to know the financial burden to the taxpayer in supporting churches and charities. Just because it should be measured and known and justified in some way.

    Most of them are performing good deeds and in some cases, provide the essentials of survival to needy people. But the EB seem to be so exclusive that they do nothing but help themselves.

    It would be good to know (and you may) how organisations are considered to be religious and/or charities? What criteria?.

    Also, “it is better that it be investigated be an appropriate independent authority, rather than via a Senate inquiry…”

    What does it take? considering that allegations have been going around for years now and ex members have made complaints.

    – Is there an investigation in progress or even being seriously considered?
    -How does one get started? Can the Senate, a political party, MP or private citizen ask that an investigation be commenced, and have it referred to the appropriate authorities?

  15. Andrew, Deb has single handedly “done” you and your allies like a dog’s dinner!
    You, Ken and the like, keep trying to defend fifth columnists who are the local equivalent of the reactionaries who have taken over certain Islamic states.
    There will be NO democracy, if the Hard-Right Fundies get their way.
    The fact is, that in US Bible-belt states they have succeeded in getting Darwin banned from Biology and kneecapped contraception and abortion programmes internationally: as a beginning. They are fundamentally opposed to the tenets of secular democracy, including rational thought and debate as against the rule of force and dogma. They see this life as irrelevant, irrelevant to a desire to see all focus on miserable guilt and “sin” fixation, against an unproven contention relating to “eternal life”.
    They see alternative mainstream lifestyles as “decadent” and antithetical to the ascendency of a reinstalled Medievalist Theocracy ( in the case of Opus Dei ).
    They have covertly influenced world affairs through politicians like Bush and Pinochet, through power manipulation rather than debate and persuasion. Now a ridiculous and utterly aggressive “war of civilisations” is waged. This unequal and brutal “war” is impelled by precisely the willfully and hypocritically suppressed and denied baser instincts REAL Christians would seek to acknowledge and eradicate from within themselves. The insticts of ego, greed and powerlust inflicted on a hapless world have seen huge numbers of people murdered( as in recent Lebanon ) and $trillions wasted
    ( Stiglitz, 2006 ), that could have been spent on helping the global poor- a much more “Christian” notion some here would accept?
    Because of the crankery of the religious right, totalitarian-oriented governments have been installed in the US and here which consequently attacked the very bases of justice, as the example of David Hicks.
    And contrary to certain contentions, the interventions are not ended; only beginning!

  16. Hang on a tick… I must have missed something.
    When did this group EB???? take over the world? I’ve never even heard of them before the other week.
    How many members are there? 1? 2? 10? 20? 100? 200?

  17. Paul Walter – Do you have any evidence linking the Exclusive Brethren with the political activities of conservative southern US protestantism?

  18. Feral, just spent time in a detailed reply, but machine ‘blew it” when I tried to correct word content.
    Did not claim direct links with Falwell or Pentecostals or Jimmy Swaggart etc. Am observing and relating concerning a trend revelatory of behaviours I find incredibly suspicious and antagonistic to what I would regard as a Christian spirit. I alluded to my “theological”, if you like, reasons, for this feeling in earlier threads.
    Take your point about citations (sigh).

    God and the New Zealand 2005 election:

    “Then, in the United States elections, a group of Exclusive Brethren spent more than US$500,000 on newspaper advertisements supporting President Bush and Florida Republican Senate candidate Mel Martinez, known for opposing gay marriage and hate crimes legislation, and involvement in the Republican strategy for turning Terry Schiavo’s fifteen-year coma into a ‘great political issue’.

    In July this year, advertisements and a direct mail campaign warned Canadians against supporting gay marriage, in the name of a group called CCP, or Concerned Canadian Parents. The letters and advertisements gave the address of a post box the group had stopped paying for three months earlier.”

  20. Thanks Paul. I was just a little concerned that I could hear the sound of long bow being drawn…

    From what I know of the groups that have a very literal view of the Bible, I would expect the Exclusive Brethren to very much keep to themselves. Strict adherence to the letter of the Law has such primacy that they would avoid collaborating with other fundamentalist groups for fear of compromising their beliefs. Hence I am reluctant to see them as part of some broader fundamentalist push.

    On this occasion I disagree with you and Deborah. Parliamentary inquiries into sects, cults and minority faiths usually end up badly. There was a very murky case in NSW in the late 80s-early 90s where there was a major intervention by the state welfare agency (Children of God perhaps? ken – do you remember this one?) Likewise, the Dunstan govt’s moves against Scientology were ultimately dismissed by the courts.

    As far as I can see, the accusations against the Exclusive Brethren can be dealt with by existing laws. These are matters for the police, the Electoral Commission and the welfare agencies. If govt agencies find it hard to obtain evidence, then provide more resources and give priority to the investigations. Parliamentary inquiries are best reserved for cases where the usual avenues cannot work, or for cases where there is a substantial involvement with politics and the public service.

  21. I agree with Andreww that a Senate Inquiry is not the appropriate vehicle for investigation into the practices of the Exclusive Brethren – especially one that is based on the sect having worked against a specific political party during an election period.

    And I can imagine many people commenting here would be unhappy if the Liberals proposed a Senate inquiry into a Muslim sect on the grounds they were homophobic and misogynist, made their women wear headscarfs and shunned contact with the wider society.

    Using parliamentary privilege and processes to target your political enemies is objectionable and a misuse of the parliamentary process whether its the Liberals doing it or the Greens.

    A Senate inquiry initiated on that basis would pretty much reduce things down to an EB versus Greens ideological stoush which would allow this sect’s many insidious practices in business and in the broader community as well as within their own church to go unchallenged.

    I spent a fascinating two years living next door to an EB church with members of the church living on the other side and across the road – the church is at the end of a cul-de-sac. They were rude, aggressive and had absolutely no regard for the rights or property of others. As the chosen ones of their god they believed themselves to be above the laws the rest of us must live by.

    Personally I think – no I know – they are way more of a threat to the Australian way of life than the average olive skinned, non English speaking Muslim will ever be.

    But they have remained virtually unnoticed and un challenged because they are white, speak English and carry the ‘Christian’ moniker. Because of this – despite the fact they segregate themselves and that the women also wear very distinguishable head scarves – they are viewed as fitting into Australian society.

    I believe the opposite is true – they are as, if not more, extreme than any extreme Islam sect and would happily see the rest of us rot in hell.

  22. I think they’ve remained unnoticed because there are so few of them and they keep to themselves. There are no racial overtones there.

  23. Hi Ken, I’m sure that there’s lots of money being donated to our political parties by religious organisations.
    Don’t know how well they are disclosed though – eg. anonymous donations through funding entities.

    Then, there’s the opinion that John Howard, rather than being courted by, has actually been the one doing the courting of the religious right.

    A book called God Under Howard: The rise of the religious right in Australian Politics by Marion Maddox is thought to be extremely well researched and very telling on the creeping US style fundamental religious right influence in Australian politics (I think the fundies are well and truly, here and now). Maddox details The Lyons Forum a liberal christian right goup of the early 1990’s.

    Also here’s some info on beliefs etc. of the Exclusive Brethren.

    Feral, I agree the police, electoral, welfare and family court agencies should be doing the investigating – but why isn’t it being done? Is there a lack of will, rather than lack of evidence? They sure won’t find anything if they don’t go looking for it.

  24. Deborah, how do you know that there are no investigations being conducted? The lack of charges may indicate insufficient evidence, rather than a lack of investigative activity.

    And if the Greens lodged a formal complaint over the Exclusive Brethren’s activities during the election campaign, the Electoral Commission should have reported on it.

  25. Reading these last half a dozen posts or so, a couple of thoughts come to mind.
    Firstly, the EB have attracted attention at the moment not so much for their lifesyle, but because they appear to have intervened and in a unsavoury way in politics, in a way that most Muslims, Bhuddist, secular ( e.g.greens?) and Christian groups would not dream of doing.
    Spiritual beliefs usually inform people’s responses to the world they live in. Right across Parliament and throughout the community there are vast numbers of both rational yet “spiritually” motivated atheist, agnostic or religious people who would nevertheless not dream of getting their religion or ideology or philosophy a bad name by pulling the sort of stunts the EB have pulled. Besides, they are oriented by experience in a realistic way to their world.
    Most people in this very thread are consciously or unconsciously directed by their “spiritual” experiences, and that experience informs just about all of us to the extent that, as adults, we not contemplate, out of self-respect, smear campaigns ( “bearing false witness” ).
    Its not the EB right to participate that’s in question; it’s the manner in which this is happening and their seemong reluctance to be acountable for that. They are( shudder) behaving like politicians and journalists, for example, for heavens sake!
    BTW, elsewhere Quiggin has started up a thread indirectly related to ours, although more along the lines of the “religious right ” versus “science”. Not that there has been much movement there, most of the action seems here, just now.

  26. Feral, I don’t know if there are any, I haven’t seen much publicised in the media. I have seen articles about the possibility of investigations in NZ after the EB offensive there.

    I would have thought that if they had been investigated and exonerated, they (EB), or the Government, would have been quick to let the public know.

    I saw this article

    on the ex member’s site but don’t know if any real action has been considered. The Libs have defended the sect whenever interviewed by the press.

    Also on the peebs site I saw a few references to a possible class action court case against the EB.

    I think that it will all just die down and be forgotten about soon. Although, I do hope that the next time Howard tries to publicly vilify Muslims, the opposition quickly brings up the EB to remind him of his own extremist connections.

  27. Deborah – thanks for the links. I had a quick look at the Electoral Commission’s site, but couldn’t find any references to the EB there. Most agencies normally conduct their investigations quietly, which can make it difficult to tell whether anything is happening.

    My guess is that the EB – like most small groups with Luddite tendencies – would prefer to avoid publicity, so I don’t expect to see any press releases from them.

    I agree with Yulia that a Senate Inquiry is undesirable. The EB may well be employing underhand political tactics, and may well have some very unpleasant people amongst their congregation, but the same could be said for a number of other organizations in our society. Singling out the EB for special attention seems unnecessary until conventional legal avenues have been shown to be inadequate, and is too reminiscent of McCarthyism for my comfort.

  28. Well in all the hot air Paul and the other “destroyers” of a sensivble argument – no one has actually comer up with what to do – whcih of course was the orgignal question.

    Everything said is probably true but proving the point, of how terrible the world is and how we are closing in on the end of civlised (in our world view that is of course) society is, is the game of schoolboy debating.

    Lets all link to anohter “new idea” political thread and display great concern – but do something. Perhasop this mornings news from “good ol US hicksville” can give you guys some inspiration.

  29. What to do?
    -Ban gun ownership in the US

    For EB, what is there?

    Consenting adults have free choice to be brainwashed and subservient. Hopefully with all the publicity, people will realise that EB is a loony sect and not a religion.

    We could ensure that government departments and other watchdog organisations do not allow undeserved legitimacy by turning a blind eye to activities. They need to enforce laws and punish non compliance under the existing rules and legislation to keep EB under control. An approach that does not bow to political pressure is necessary.

    The AEC is politicised too, remember:
    “The AEC still refuses to release its legal advice to date or the HPT trust deed, but is seeking new legal advice after revelations that it conducted no investigation into the trust, asked no questions of Tony Abbott” (SMH) re the ‘Australians for Honest Politics’ Trust/slush fund travesty a few years ago.

    My concern is mostly for the children, but we could:
    -check on EB schools (tax exempt) to ensure kids are getting the education that is mandated not EB controlled and censored and remove tax breaks if no compliance.
    -ensuring child protection by investigating complaints from public and concerned ex member parents.
    -Electoral Commission probe the issues of illegal electioneering practices and thuggish behaviour.
    -Police probe issues of money laundering and other alleged illegal practices.
    – enforce existing Family Law Court legislation and prosecute those who refuse to allow access to children.
    – remove tax exempt status if EB refuse to open up churches to public worship etc. (ensure compliance of rules governing tax exemption for religious bodies legislation).

    I don’t know how you stop political parties from catering to EB donations by changing legislation to suit ideology
    (Howard supplied non voting amendment and IR exemption) other than voting them out of power.

    Dunno Ken, what can a few people writing on a blog do?

  30. Thats the point I was making, Deborah, and that paul couldn’t seem to get. He even had the hide to accuse me of supporitn them,, talk about not reading other than what one wants to see.

    Theer aer people whose job it is to inspect curriculum, investigaet child abuse, and the ohter things that aer part of the “norms” or not “nomrs’ of our society.

    get stuck inot them if the job’s not being dopne.

    If we want to return to the law of the jungle and simply knock off thsoe we don’t like then at least say so and count to ten before turinign.

  31. Feral – re the Children of God matter you referred to above – this is a speech, under privelege on this. I had left by then, althouhg worked with some of the key players.

    Home » Hansard & Papers » Legislative Council » 10/11/1993 » Article 8 of 39

    NSW Legislative Council Hansard

  32. Thanks for the reference ken. I’ll check it out. My apologies: it didn’t occur to me until after I’d posted that it might be a sensitive issue for you, given your work.

  33. You said it in black and white Andrew!
    As one of my colleagues said:
    “they represent us, yet they don’t even know us” and unfortunately “they” includes Muslims too!

Comments are closed.