“The Place Where We Are Right” by Yehuda Amichai I first blogged in August 2005. I read it aloud during a service around that time at South Sydney Uniting Church.
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
How sad I am then to read of the Reverend Fred Nile’s disgraceful exploits* at Camden. I can think of few less Christ-like things the man could have done, his ill-judged bigotry being exactly the same as the reflexive anti-Catholicism of his spiritual forbears, as ill-informed, applying to Muslims standards he would complain about if applied to him. Yes, I can understand the culture shock at Camden, and no, I am not going to be drawn into screaming about either bogans or racists. But Fred Nile has disgusted me, because he is in a church, the Uniting Church, which in general knows better than Fred that such pandering to fear, prejudice and ignorance is totally out of keeping both with the spirit of Christmas and the Holy Spirit of God.
To use your old-fashioned terminology, Fred, you sinned when you went to Camden, you sinned when you said what you did, you sinned big-time. You encouraged hate, not love, judgmentalism not forgiveness, sickness of the soul, not healing. If there is violence, then your conscience should condemn you because you will have been complicit. You may rationalise as you will on that, but before God that will stand.
Where in Sydney, Fred, would you allow an Islamic school? Anywhere? I suggest Seven Mile Beach and Gerroa would be a great place for one. What do you think?
Fred’s paranoia (along with that serial idiot Charlie Lynn) seems not to take into account that even religious schools in this state can be very closely monitored for what they teach and what they do. Yes, John Howard did make things easier for them and the Exclusive Brethren and such to have schools; I think that had something to do with “choice” and respecting parental values, didn’t it — oh, and hopefully votes, though that didn’t seem to work out. I am not so sure such schools are a totally brilliant idea socially, but they do under our law and under freedom of religion have a right to exist — even if they are Muslim. No different in that respect from a Jewish school, a Catholic school, or a crazy anti-evolutionist Christian school… They’d all better teach the same science courses as are laid down for all schools by the Board of Studies too, by the way, even if they put their own spin on them or supplement them with something else in religion classes…
Your future terrorist, Fred, has probably already been through a state school, or even a Catholic school, or for all we know through a fundamentalist Christian school. Meanwhile, whatever else may be said about Islamic schools, they have begun to make themselves apparent in the HSC results, haven’t they?
Islamic schools aren’t exactly a new idea in Sydney. The Malek Fahd Islamic school, for example, was established in 1989 in Greenacre near Bankstown in Sydney’s west with just 87 children. Now it has 1,700 students.
When the New South Wales HSC results were released yesterday, the school’s year 12 students came in ninth in the state.
Not that any of that is likely to convince many in Camden to support a new Islamic school there, if comments from some gathered outside last night’s meeting are any guide.
And to be fair to the folk at Camden:
Not everyone in Camden is against the school. But one young man says public support for it is being stifled by the council, which he says blocked his plans for a peaceful demonstration on the weekend.
“I basically just wanted to set up a store and talk about racial harmony in the area, considering the amount of unrest that we have at the moment,” he said.
“Basically, I was told, due to the issue of the Muslim school, that I wasn’t to go down at all, and if I was, I would be told to leave straight away and basically told that I shouldn’t be causing trouble within Camden.”
The young man asked not to be named for fear of retribution from others of the local community.
“There’s eight Catholic schools, there’s three Christian schools within the area, and if you’re talking about one Muslim school, I don’t see why there’s so much unrest. It’s quite confronting, really,” he said.
He says it’s possible the community anger will erupt into violence.
“If somebody stood up and said, ‘Look, pro-Muslims, let’s go for the Muslims,’ I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if something on a smaller basis of like the Cronulla riots erupted,” he said.
“Because people have so much emotional relation to this project, that, like I said, it is confronting and a little bit scary.”
If you really were any kind of a Christian at all, Fred, if there were even the slightest resemblance between you and Jesus Christ — in your handling of this matter at least, you would have been in there supporting young men like that instead of adding poison to an already poisoned atmosphere. I am truly sickened. I will certainly be raising the matter at church on Sunday…
There was far more true Christianity in tonight’s episode of East West 101, especially that beautiful baptism scene near the end with the Muslim cop sitting up the back, as true to life as my seeing Muslim (and Hindu, and Jewish, and atheist) youth in the congregation at St James Hyde Park earlier this year for Phil Day’s funeral.
I am yet to feel seriously threatened, I should add, by having lived within a hundred metres of so of a mosque for the past fifteen years…
* RIGHT SAID FRED…
This morning’s AM has Fred Nile’s pin-headed theology recorded for posterity:
MICHAEL VINCENT: But Reverend Fred Nile says he was not inciting fear nor encouraging any physical reactions to the project.
He spoke to media after the meeting and quoted from a passage in the Quran.
FRED NILE: “Christians say the Messiah is the son of God. That is the utterance of their mouths conforming with the unbelievers before them. God assail them, how they are perverted.”
So that means all the Aussies are celebrating Carols by Candlelight this week all over Australia, millions of Australians, are condemned by the Quran. And sincere Moslems are supposed to believe this book, the Quran, as the word of God. The word of their God, Allah.
REPORTER: Do you take everything that’s in the Bible literally?
FRED NILE: Many Moslems take this literally, more than they take, than we take the Bible. I believe the Bible’s the word of God, but Moslems have greater belief in the Quran than Christians have in the Bible. This is literally the word of God.
So Christians needn’t worry about this then:
Deuteronomy 21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
21:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
21:20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
21:21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Though apparently they should take literally what Leviticus says on matters Fred trots out every Mardi Gras…
The more Fred says the deeper the hole!
The Friday Australian poem is on break until after Christmas.