RSS

Category Archives: Multicultural

Not Tehran

I took this a couple of days back in Chalmers Street Surry Hills and posted it on the photo blog.  The occasion: a group of Year 12 students hurrying to an HSC study day.

CIMG3605

I like the pic anyway, but thought it a nice follow-up to yesterday’s post here.

 

Sunday Floating Life photo 33 AND Friday poem 18

Is that confusing enough for you?

Peter Skrzynecki’s “Immigrants at Central Station, 1951” was the subject of my tuition session yesterday. The coachee is doing the ESL course in English. On my way I took some pictures of Central from the perspective of the speaker in the poem – as I read it anyway. (We read the poem carefully so he could see why I had chosen my angles.) Of course it isn’t 1951 any more, but I do vividly remember migrant camps, and Central Station in the 1950s. What follows the poem is a sketch commentary around that HSC topic de jour — “Belonging”.

CIMG3512

Immigrants at Central Station, 1951

It was sad to hear
The train’s whistle this morning
At the railway station.
All night it had rained.
The air was crowded
With a dampness that slowly
Sank into our thoughts –
But we ate it all:
The silence, the cold, the benevolence
Of empty streets.

Time waited anxiously with us
Behind upturned collars
And space hemmed us
Against each other
Like cattle bought for slaughter.

Families stood
With blankets and packed cases –
Keeping children by their sides,
Watching pigeons
That watched them.

But it was sad to hear
The train’s whistle so suddenly –
To the right of our shoulders
Like a word of command.
The signal at the platform’s end
Turned red and dropped
Like a guillotine –
Cutting us off from the space of eyesight

While time ran ahead
Along glistening tracks of steel.

Peter Skrzynecki’s “Immigrants at Central Station” describes a family who with other families has just arrived in Sydney from a migrant camp in western NSW. The poem is about the poet’s own family. As well as describing the scene, the poet tells us a lot about their feeling of not belonging in this new place and their fears about the future.

Their journey to Sydney had been through a night of rain, cutting them off from the landscape they were passing through, making them feel uncomfortable, and echoing their feelings

The air was crowded

With a dampness that slowly

Sank into our thoughts –

The families each huddle together not just for warmth but also because the only sense of belonging they have left is to the family and their few possessions represented by their luggage. In this city whose cold “benevolence” has controlled their lives for years now they feel anxious and lonely. They do not know anyone in those “empty streets”. They don’t even really know where they are going next, or what it will be like when they get there. They feel like “cattle bought for slaughter” or people about to face the guillotine. They have had very little choice in life up to now. But there is nothing they can do except to accept what they are given.

But we ate it all:

The silence, the cold, the benevolence

Of empty streets.

The whistle of the departing train which had left them at Central is a “sad” sound – the poet uses the word twice. The tracks back to where they came from are also tracks into their future. Like the steel of a guillotine blade the tracks are “glistening tracks of steel”. It could be though that the last image offers a little hope, as “glistening” does suggest light.

CIMG3514a

— Photos – Neil Whitfield 1 November 2009

 

Tags: ,

Politicking boats and people movement

Here we are in deja vu land again. I ranted about these matters frequently in the past, the main rant being Massaging the Asylum Seekers (2001 – 2007).

Now as then an increase in boat arrivals has prompted a range of responses, some of the foolish and atavistic, others paranoid, and some sensible. (The atavism comes to mind as I reread that brilliant expression of deep invasion anxiety, The Lord of the Rings.) Could the boat people include some terrorists trying to enter the country? Well, you can’t categorically say no, but it would seem more likely they would arrive by plane, or even more likely be born here or already in the country. Most people in boats enter into their risky and often expensive project in order to get away from situations of civil war and terrorism, after all.

Rather than rave again I think I’ll just say the recent enquiry into Christmas Island deserves to be implemented. Here it is: HREOC report on Christmas Island.

For current policy see Managing Australia’s Borders from the Department of Immigration. I do accept the need on political, social and environmental grounds for border management. I do not accept the hysteria the topic generates.

Back in 2007 I commented on my rant linked at the head of this post: “It seems likely that some of the worst aspects of those years will be corrected by the Rudd government. Already, the Pacific “Solution” has begun to be overturned.” I have not been entirely disappointed but we could do better.

 

Sunday Floating Life photo 31

Here’s one for spring. This is yesterday. Today is rather different.

sat18oct 009

 
 

Tanveer Ahmed’s interesting insight

sundaystpeters 012

Above is a typical Sunday scene at Sydney’s Central Station, and a typical 21st century Sydney group.

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald Australian Muslim psychiatry registrar Tanveer Ahmed offers some thoughts I find worth noting on current demographic and educational issues.

… Members of the Great Public Schools, in particular, foster what sections of the establishment in many former British colonies do – being ”more English than the English”. The sight of children of Chinese or Indian backgrounds taking part in a regatta, singing hymns or baking scones for the tea break of a school cricket match was common.

But increasingly in Sydney, the schools with the narrowest social and ethnic student bodies are the selective public schools.

Much has been said about the dominance of students from Asian backgrounds in gaining entry to these schools. Statistics from the Department of Education last year suggest that close to two-thirds of students in fully selective schools such as James Ruse Agricultural High School are from such backgrounds. Census figures from 2006 back that up, and indicate the figure is much lower – closer to a quarter – in private and non-selective government schools.

But of more interest are the increasing complaints I hear from Asian parents that selective schools are too Asian.

This may reflect the reluctance of other parents to speak their minds for fear of being branded racist or a trend of aspiration among immigrant groups when they begin to mimic the tastes of the establishment, like taking up golf or developing a taste for fine wine.

Recently I had a patient of Korean background who was due to sit the selective schools test. He developed a phobic disorder, refusing to leave his room for days on end. It resembled a description of a similar disorder rife among adolescents in Japan…

 

About last night

You may have guessed from the previous post that Sirdan took me to the Opera House last night to see Aida.

aida_rev

Excellent it was too. The Pharaoh was played by David Parkin, winner of Operatunity Oz at age 27. Rosario La Spina was extremely good in the role of Radames. Claire Rutter played Aida, and Elizabeth Campbell was Amneris. I was taken by Warwick Fyfe as the King of Ethiopia.

It was often said that it would be impossible to mount Aida at the Opera House as the interior was so compromised when the bureaucrats took over the project mid-stream – a situation that apparently is to be corrected. We ended up with a shoe box instead of a grand opera stage, you see, as the planned concert hall morphed in a moment of bean counting into the Opera Theatre it was never intended to be. Nonetheless, Graeme Murphy has done the impossible with his usual flair, and even if large parts of the cast occasionally sang from somewhere off stage in the mass spectacles the result was spectacular still. There may even be a plus: the “smaller” moments were thereby highlighted. Come to think of it, I’m not sure a cast of thousands and live elephants pissing all over the place would really have added much.

On the way I was distracted…

night 021

As we left an old SBHS colleague Dallas Watts joined us. Turns out he was in Aida. Amazingly quick change back into civvies!

 

Sunday is music day 24: Click go the shears…

… or perhaps “Quick go the shears…”

Yes, that is SO Australian. But it tells of time past rather more than time present, and is more true of 1909, even 1959, than of 2009. All things must pass, as the article I linked to above in The Australian notes.

THEY are becoming icons of a passing era. As sheep numbers continue to plummet, so do the carloads of shearers crisscrossing the backblocks in search of work.

In Western Australia, where some of the big remote stations could carry up to 60,000 head of sheep in their heyday, the harsh realities of modern life are threatening to turn our most romantic profession into nothing more than a curiosity…

In 1971, there were 155 million sheep across the nation, propping up the long-held notion that the country had made its luck off the sheep’s back. Today, there are fewer than 70 million, and that number has been dropping annually by anywhere between 5 and 8 per cent over the past decade. That trend is not expected to change…

Here is another rendition, in its own way a marker of how this country is changing.

Well, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube…

 

My latest very odd article published

Here it is.

042

You folks probably don’t remember when Glebe was one of the “City of Villages” and Clover Moore, our Lord Mayor, had this capsule buried. Yes, the narrow spit of Glebe was once a peninsula! (Sorry we squibbed so badly on climate change, people.)

A colourful place, the old Glebe. Work took me there from Wollongong in 1977 to Alexandra Road – no water views then. Heard of the Bodyline Tour? I lived opposite George Borwick, the cricket umpire in Sydney back in the 1930s and heard a lot about that from him, and about life in Glebe going back forty or fifty years. Next door: Jorge Campano, a Spanish guitarist so good that when he practised I just turned off everything and listened. Then neighbor John Waterford, a former prisoner in Changi and on the Burma Railway, with no hatred for the Japanese. He and his family opened my eyes to politics. I met famous Labor politician Peter Baldwin through them later on. Glebe politics has always been colourful.

Lots was happening: the Church of England’s old lands (or “glebe”) which go right back to the First Fleet chaplain Richard Johnson had been turned into a landmark public housing restoration where they preserved the buildings instead of building more tower blocks. Gough Whitlam did that. Great, but governments change and the project, while still there, has passed to other hands. There was a first too: Elsie, the Women’s Refuge, which had dramas including at least one shooting episode.

I was back again in 1981. After a while circumstances took me to a kind of doss-house close to Harold Park, a bay in your time I believe. They used to have the trots there in those days. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But then the Gadigal could have told you that Glebe was once fifteen kilometres inland compared to what it was in my day, and not on the edge of Sydney Harbour at all.

I sure met colourful in that doss-house. The stoned artist who kept painting the same painting on the same canvas. The schizophrenic Aboriginal woman who ended up making a lot of sense really. She was a member of the Stolen Generation. The retired burglar with whom I wandered back alleys at times, amazed by his powers of observation. The Catholic priest who was a friend of Redfern’s Ted Kennedy. The writer who invited me to become a cocaine import drop box. (I said no.) Real Peter Corris territory!

So many memories…

I didn’t really put this in the time capsule…

You can find it in the South Sydney Herald.

Or read it on PDF right here: SSH_SEP09.

 

Tags:

Second Rugby League post in 24 hours!

Very uncharacteristic!

But first the local good news: the South Sydney Rabbitohs beat the premiership favourites 41-6 on Saturday. Sirdan was pleased.

Now the news with wider import: Hazem el Masri’s final day for the Canterbury Bulldogs.

After yesterday's game

After yesterday's game

More pics at Zimbio.

We won’t talk about the Cronulla Sharks – out of sympathy with my grand-nephews who are very sad today.

 

Great player, example, Australian… and Muslim

One Daily Telegraph (our most right-wing daily) reader notes on hearing of Hazem El Mazri’s retiring from Rugby League:

I teach in China, Italy and the UK, and when my students start talking about who my sporting hero is, I always say, without hesitation… Hazem El Masri. Not the greatest player, probably the greatest goalkicker, but more importantly, one of the greatest men on or off the field. A tribute to real Muslims, immigrants, loyalty, discipline, family values and the Bulldogs. You are a legend Hazem El Masri, we will miss you!

It is fair to say such an opinion is pretty much universal here in Sydney. See for example El Masri’s army salutes its inspirational leader.

El Masri’s popularity isn’t restricted to the boys who, like him, have Muslim backgrounds. He appeals to them all. Helal is a Muslim boy, as is nine-year-old Adam Abdulwahab. Eight-year-old Andrei Bakhos and eight-year-old twins Michael and George Tabet are not Muslims, but it makes no difference. They all love El Masri.

Most of them have met the Bulldogs winger because he gives so much of his spare time to the community and they enjoy the way he kicks goals from everywhere and scores tries, but perhaps more importantly they can tell he is a good person.

“I hope he wins the comp this year,” Andrei said. “He deserves that. I follow the Bulldogs. My dad’s a member of the football club, so we go to all the home games. Hazem’s my favourite player. I play wing or fullback, but I want to be a winger when I grow up.”

In the Brisbane Courier-Mail Mike Colman writes:

… Some want him to enter politics.

When I told my wife that she said, “Well, he’s got my vote” and for my wife to say that about a rugby league player, much less a Bulldog, is saying something.

Hazem and his wife were so delightful it was hard not to feel uplifted by the experience.

One thing summed him up perfectly. After Fatty Vautin had urged league supporters to get along to ANZ Stadium this afternoon to “say thank you” for all the pleasure he had given them over the years, Hazem insisted on having the last word.

“It’s not really about people saying thank you to me,” he said, “it’s about me saying thank you to them for all the support they’ve given me.”

The label doesn’t matter – league player, Bulldog, Muslim, human – it comes down to one thing: He’s one great role model.

Football great Steve Mortimer has this to say:

“It’s an absolute privilege to be mentioned in the same sentence as Hazem El Masri,” Mortimer said.

“For me, rugby league is the greatest game of all and it just seems with all the hardships we’ve been through, Hazem has been a shining light his entire career.

“He’s a silent hero, an unsung hero, who has played the most number of games for the Bulldogs and been a wonderful servant for rugby league.

“With his religion and his faith, he’s just an absolute role model not only as a player on the football field, but as an Australian citizen as well.

“I’m proud to say I know him.

“He’s a very humble man and an absolute star.”

And again: Man of God whose greatest deeds are done off the pitch.

There will be many fine things said about Hazem by footballers, coachers, pundits and the Premier in the coming weeks, but you get the feeling it all washes over the kid from Tripoli who made Sydney his home at age 10.

He’s playing for are the kids in blonde-brick apartment blocks around Bankstown and Punchbowl, the ones who attract police attention quicker than an Everlast hoodie.

Very few people can claim to have made a real impact on their community. But when tensions between Lebanese and Anglo Sydneysiders spilled into the streets during the Cronulla riots, it was Hazem who played the crucial role in bringing his community back from the brink. Unlike some Muslim clerics who should have known better, Hazem spoke the language of respect and not revenge. With hindsight, we all recognise things could have been so much worse without people like him.

When Hazem El Magic runs out on Sunday, we’ll honour a footballer, peacemaker, teacher and philanthropist.

And here he was on Stateline in 2004:

Here at Holroyd High School in Sydney’s west — a school with a large number of students who are refugees — he’s come to draw the winning raffle for a school fundraiser.

But his visit is more than just a celebrity appearance.

In this discussion with the school football team the conversation soon turns to one of the boy’s experience of being discriminated against for being Lebanese and Muslim.

HAZEM EL MASRI: The whole community suffers because of a small minority, you know, and what upsets you sometimes is that the culture and the religion and all of that doesn’t promote such a thing but we end up copping a fair bit against it.

I always say to people, “The best way to go about it is let your actions do the talking.”

You know, around the footy and that and a lot of the guys know anything happens outside I don’t get teased about it or I don’t — because they know the type of person I am, the lifestyle I’m living.

I’m trying to lead by example and show them that’s how it’s done, basically.

Hazam El Mazri and his family

Hazam El Mazri and his family

Sydney has been fortunate in having this man, his wife Arwa, and their family in our midst. From the man himself:

Kerry Stewart: How about Hazem el Masri.

Boys: Yes, he’s footy, best kicker in the world.

Kerry Stewart: Is he impressive, do you think?

Boys: Yes, yes.

Kerry Stewart: Why?

Mohammed Nurjaman: Because if you can get religion into the way of his other play, like he’s the only Muslim in the NRL, and he’s a good player, and he’s not there to show them that he’s Muslim, he shows that he plays good football.

Kerry Stewart: But I think he brings his religion to the game.

Boy: He brings religion to the game, yes.

Mohammed Nurjaman: You never see him in punch-ups. Yes, he always keeps it to himself. That’s what Muslims learn from their religion.

Hazem el Masri: Well look, I didn’t choose to be a role model. To me, I don’t like to sort of call that as a role model, I prefer to just to go out there and let my actions do the talking. I try to live a wholesome lifestyle. Early on, I had to take that stance of making sure this is what I’m about you know, the fasting, the praying, the eating Halal food for example, not drinking alcohol, the temptation of ladies, you name it, I try to have fun as well but everything within the limits. I love socialising with my friends and I love going out and I love spending time with my family and all that. But at the end of the day I’m my own person, I try to as you say, set the right example for these kids and hope that they can follow the same footsteps. And it’s a matter of as well, because all the misleading coverage and the generalising out there especially of the Muslim and the Lebanese community, that I’ve taken that stance to show everyone pretty much, that we’re not all the same, everybody’s got their bad and good in them….

Yes, his wife wears the hijab — her choice, not his, as she saw it as marking the next step in her religion: she adopted it about a year after her marriage, very much her own choice for her own reasons. (That was in an excellent Good Weekend profile of El Masri in this Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald — not online.)

The man — and indeed the family — is a living, breathing rebuttal of all that paranoia out there about the Muslims in our midst.

Finally, read A Winger and a Prayer – Transcript from Australian Story 2007.

 

Norm, Ahmed, Shafana, Aunt Sarrinah, radicalisation and Australia

The first of the Things to look forward to is now done. It was the world premiere of Alana Valentine’s Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah and a revival of Alex Buzo’s 1969 classic Norm and Ahmed.

pakistanirestaurant shafana-0026-aunt-sarrinah-8low

Left: “Ahmed” takes “Norm” to a Pakistani Restaurant

Right: the opening scene of Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah

Pics from the Alex Buzo Company blog linked above.

Of her new play Alana Valentine writes:

I hope Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah will surprise audiences with its portrait of Afghani Muslim women, who are articulate, highly educated, deeply spiritual and enraged by the way Australian and global media paint them as oppressed, meek and silent. To be part of a project where Buzo’s theme and concerns might be reignited through a new work…is genuinely exciting. In effect, it allows the ‘conversation’ to move into a third dimension: not just Buzo speaking anew to the 21st Century, but Buzo reflected and responded to through the voice of a contemporary playwright. It’s a vision of Australian theatre as a historical continuum…

Alana’s plays are always grounded in in depth research and interviews with the groups she is representing; that depth came through in last night’s performance which both Sirdan and I found very thought-provoking. The issue is whether or not Shafana should wear hijab. She eventually decides she will, even if Aunt Sarrinah, whom she dearly loves, is somewhat appalled by that decision. The play takes us beyond our often mind-numbingly dreadful understanding (if that is the right word) of the issues Australian Muslim women face and that we face in our response to them. A valuable exercise well dramatised, if, I thought, just a bit slow off the mark at the beginning.

As for Norm and Ahmed I agree with the woman sitting next to me in the theatre: “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  Sirdan was born in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) but could well relate to Norm and Ahmed – for him it was, unlike for me, as new as Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah. He agreed that the contemporary relevance of this forty-year-old play was quite amazing.

A thoroughly good night out.

By coincidence, my mind still on Alana’s play especially, I read a truly excellent article in this morning’s Australian: From a human to a terrorist by Sally Neighbour.

… The perplexing question is: Why? How does a seemingly ordinary young man come to embrace violent extremism? Its corollary, the question that confounds counter-terrorism experts worldwide, is: how can we stop them?

The rapidly morphing nature of global terrorism demands an evolving response. Since 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida has diminished but its ideology has flourished, spawning hundreds of like-minded groups and cells across the world. US terrorism specialist Marc Sageman describes this new phenomenon as a "violent Islamist born-again social movement" straddling the globe. Its fragmented and anarchic nature makes it arguably a bigger threat than al-Qa’ida, according to Britain’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, unveiled in March this year. Unlike the once highly centralised al-Qa’ida, the new grassroots terrorism cannot be fought with border protection measures or military strikes, but must be tackled at its roots.

This reality has spawned a new buzzword in the anti-terrorism fraternity: counter-radicalisation. Its aim, in Sageman’s words, is to "stop the process of radicalisation before it reaches its violent end"…

Sageman, the pre-eminent expert on radicalisation theory, is a former CIA mujaheddin handler in Pakistan, now a psychologist and author of two books, Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad. After studying 165 jihadists, Sageman is adamant that terrorists are not born but made. There is no psychological profile of a terrorist and Sageman believes "root causes" such as socioeconomic deprivation are overrated. The most common factor in the making of a terrorist is alienation. Of the jihadists Sageman studied, he found that "a remarkable 78 per cent were cut off from their cultural and social origins". He concludes "this absence of connection is a necessary condition for a network of people to join the global jihad"…

Sageman adds they are not violent psychopaths but "generally idealistic young people seeking dreams of glory fighting for justice and fairness"…

Much better in its analysis that most of the rants you see. The dynamics of that alienation, though not in a form likely to lead to terrorism, are also seen in Alana Valentine’s play.

Oh – and a footnote. I have always thought taking the French path and “outlawing” the hijab in Australia would be really stupid. Fortunately both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have not been tempted.

* Special thanks to Emma Buzo. 🙂

Update

See the The Australian Stage review.

[On Alana’s play] …This is a powerful night at theatre and a welcome, bold, essential addition to the culturally homogeneous theatre one can expect to see in some of the larger venues around town. I believe this to be an extraordinarily brave and bold double bill containing four very fine performers. Actors who embrace the challenge of new work, with new perspectives are worth their weight in effusive praise and I feel compelled to mention the spectacular performances by Camilla Ah Kin and Sheridan Harbridge who confront this subject with tenderness, fierceness and great compassion – to the extent that I felt stunned and broken by the time the lights dimmed.

 

Multicultural Surry Hills, and How to Kill a Toshiba

So I go downstairs to Elizabeth Street shops this morning: the Chinese corner shop, the Cambodian coffee shop, the mixed ethnic pharmacy, the Indian newsagent, the Indonesian grocery, and the Cambodian fish and chip shop – brother of the coffee shop. All Australian of course, 21st century style. Over the road it’s just about all Lebanese, except for another Chinese grocery and internet cafe and a Thai restaurant. Further towards Cleveland Street on my side there’s the Indonesian/Malaysian cafe/restaurant (jazz on Sundays), the allegedly bikie-owned backpacker place, the Lebanese Italian pizza joint, the Lebanese grocery and internet cafe, and the Lebanese restaurant. The Turkish mosque is just around the corner in Cleveland Street.

So I go into the Indonesian grocery and there is this preschooler – such a cutie – sitting up at the laptop and actually using it, his mother supervising. So computers can’t be hard, can they, if preschoolers can use them…

That puts my recently challenged geekdom in place.

Because, as you know from last week, I am guilty of Toshibacide. Thought I’d tell you more about how I did it.

Lovely machine it was too, a fetching shade of red, but at three years old starting to show its age. But we were happy. After all, who am I to complain about limited resources? That’s the story of my life. But it used to complain to me about some programs, particularly whenever I had a stint with Threatfire. It couldn’t quite cope, what with its 448 meg usable memory and all.

So I was being kind and updating a few drivers from DriverMax, which gets nice green things from WOT and McAfee Site Advisor. Unfortunately I hadn’t read this.

This crapware is really potential malware. They connect you without permission to an unregulated forum and if you are not an advanced user then you could easily download the wrong driver that could cause your computer to stop working or even worse a virus disguised as a driver.
The rating system is very suspicious and just because it shows hundreds of idiots (I sometimes suspect they may not even be users but malicious hackers) say they downloaded a driver from another so called user that uploaded what they claim to be an updated driver, doesn’t mean it is even an authorized nor appropriate driver for you device. The reports are also generated by these so called users so even if your drivers are up to date, if one person claims an update then it will deceive you into downloading whatever the file is. When they report hundreds of different drivers for one specific device then you really have to begin questioning what the hell they are doing.

Well, at first all was well. I downloaded some good updates. Then, oh my! (Perhaps Threatfire may have saved my poor Toshiba?) Down came this “driver” willy-nilly, no questions asked, which proceeded to disable the Antivirus, cut off all communication to the DVD drive and all USB ports, rearrange a few files, and – worst of all – deleted all the restore points before itself. Result, one very sick Toshiba. It still works in a limited way, but you can’t communicate with it, if you see what I mean, or even do a clean install and start again. Toshibacide.

Now on my ACER Extensa I have just installed Threatfire, and yesterday Malware Bytes. Why? Because yesterday Spybot Search and Destroy told me I had 12 instances of infection with a BHO Trojan. This trojan only invades Internet Explorer, and it may have become attached in one of those intervals when the computer was unprotected while I changed over to Avast! from McAfee (which came with the computer) and a series of other internet condoms. Certainly Vista didn’t send up any nagging popup about it, as it regularly does for quite innocent programs – even Microsoft programs sometimes.  Spybot could only fix seven of the twelve infections, but Malware Bytes disposed of the rest.

So my geekdom has received a blow, and I am being extra careful with my new partner Extensa. It is also now totally backed up onto an external hard disk.

Don’t touch DriverMax with a barge pole. 😦

 

Yacqub Khayre and Holsworthy plot

Everyone in Australia will be aware of the plot uncovered recently in which it is alleged a small band of Somalis planned to attack the Holsworthy Barracks in South-West Sydney. (Note Jim Belshaw’s reservations in his post Australia’s dumb would be terrorists. Note too that the presumption of innocence applies to these men. There is no way we should allow terrorism to water down our own hard-won legal system.)

Given all that, its is well worth reading for humanity’s sake the admirable story Ibrahim Khayre and Somalia | Yacqub Khayre and Holsworthy plot | Selma Milovanovic in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

IBRAHIM KHAYRE wipes away tears and shakes his head.

To him, the story of his nephew, Yacqub Khayre, an accused terrorist, is one of a system that failed an intelligent boy.

It is a story that began in the chaos of war in Mogadishu in 1991, when Ibrahim, who was already living in Australia, brought three-year-old Yacqub and his family here from Somalia to save them.Yacqub grew up in Melbourne’s Gladstone Park and was schooled locally, before becoming friends with Lebanese boys who were a ‘‘bad influence’’.

This week it ended in the arrest of Yacqub, 21, who is alleged to have travelled to Somalia this year, where he attended a camp where ‘‘weapons and military training may have happened’’. At the same time, his co-accused allegedly sought a religious ruling to give the group, suspected members of jihadist sect al-Shabab, approval to attack the Holsworthy army base and a military target in Victoria.

Ibrahim Khayre is a law-abiding citizen who runs a coffee shop. He is not religious, looks after his family and otherwise keeps to himself. He migrated to Australia in 1985 and, in 1991, brought his brother, Yacqub’s father, to Australia along with the rest of the family…

In 2006, the police rang him, trying to track down Yacqub. ‘‘I said, ‘I don’t know where he is. You took him from my house. He could be sleeping with terrorists for all I know.’’’

He saw his nephew once, a year later, but the next time Ibrahim heard of Yacqub was on Tuesday, when a man showed him a newspaper front page in his coffee shop.

Ibrahim says the system let him down. ‘‘The state who said we want to help, they did not. They left him out in the cold. It’s the Government that tied our hands.’’

Ibrahim sits at home, plagued by insomnia, crying constantly. His tears flow as he utters the words he says he thought he would never say. He regrets bringing his family to Australia, even though it saved their lives.

Another issue in this case is the use of private unarmed guards at Australian military bases. I first noted this practice sometime in the 1980s at Victoria Barracks in Sydney and thought 1) they looked inappropriate compared with actual soldiers manning the gates and 2) what a silly way to save money. I see the government is going to review this absurd policy. I wonder too how sophisticated electronic and CCTV surveillance is around such bases. It strikes me they should be very sophisticated, but I somehow doubt they are. In the old days no-one would really have imagined a terrorist attack on such things, the worst scenario way back then being peace demonstrators who are not generally homicidal.

Thomas noted on Twitter that the story was carrying Melbourne-Sydney rivalry just a bit too far. 😉 He lives not far from Holsworthy, I should add, near enough to hear when they are practising with their artillery, as I also did as a kid growing up in Sutherland.

Addendum

isirmohamud_wideweb__470x3110

Could apply to this post too.

 

Sunday lunch had music too!

Remember I first mentioned The Batik Courtyard Cafe in April? Sirdan and I have been back several times and the food really is excellent – mainly Indonesian and Malaysian, but with other items too. One couple near us were having bacon, eggs and sausages! We went down the Indonesian track with something like this but with the addition of a VERY hot pickle garnish on the side that appeared to have dried fish bits in it. Great meal though, and a multicoloured ice desert with lychees and so on after.

BatikCourtyardCafe

The great thing though was the music: cool jazz played by a group that was mostly Indonesian, but with an Anglo lead guitarist and one Anglo singer – didn’t catch his name, but he was so good! Performs also at The Basement, a well-known Sydney jazz venue.

An amazing cross-cultural experience really. 🙂