There’s nothing edgy about ‘honour killings’

I can’t believe this needs to be said, but the choices of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas suggests it does.

Uthman Badar, spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, will be speaking at the Festival on the topic “Honour killings are morally justified”.

How clever.

It has been many years since FODI has shown any desire to live up to its name. Their existences hinge on the flow of government grants, directly or indirectly through the units that make up the art establishment. It’s not here to disrupt the status quo. It is here because, as a Facebook friend snarked, “the whole idea of a Festival of Dangerous Ideas [is to be] some white–person wankery for inner–city latte drinkers to indulge themselves in a trip to the opera house and [provoke] the special feeling of belonging to that special part of society that attends ‘cultural’ events.

So whilst I am openly impressed that FODI has actually gone and proposed a dangerous idea in that context, as far as dangerous ideas go this is quite safe… which is what makes it so dangerous.

It is dangerous in the first instance because the material is justifying murder. Violence is generally accepted as dangerous.

For anyone who, say, might like to think of themselves as culturally enlightened, the barest of philosophical forays will lead you to the subjectivity of morality and/or its experience by the individual.

Armed with this, it is totally conceivable that people who commit what we call “honour killings” have reasons for doing so. It’s a scary rejoinder to the idea of monstrosity as other and seemingly perfect for a crowd seeking “danger”.

This makes it a safe bet. It’s destined to light up blogs like this, and papers and talkback tomorrow, and possibly the 6pm news from earlier this evening. Helen Dale – who has lit up the local media a few times, including this week – called the decision to give Badar a platform “the intellectual equivalent of streaking”, which is so right not just because it’s flashy, insubstantive, and guaranteed to get your eyeballs on the dangly bits, but also because it isn’t novel.

We know that attention will be paid because we have had these debates before. We have had these debates before because there are millions of people who believe murder is a prurient respond to the exercise of certain kinds of autonomy – but they’re other, safely ‘over there’, and the unbridled, uncritical acceptance of the other is how the worst sort of unthinking leftist gets their counter-cultural jollies.

It will be controversial. Why millions of people would hold values so far removed from our own always will be.

And thus we have Badar at FODI, surrounded by the latte elite, who have already started falling over themselves to demonstrate their open-mindedness by paying to listen to a man who fronts the national arm of an organisation that opposes the close-mindedness of a Western liberalism that would go back to stoning women if the culture wasn’t so close-minded.

If an open-mind is worth keeping on this issue this is still not a justification for FODI’s decision. The point of keeping an open mind is to think, judge, and close it eventually. If it never closes it is no great feat of mind, but the simple abrogation of critical thought. FODI is, by choosing to give this violent idea a platform, abrogating that responsibility in the name of whoring themselves out for attention. This is not an act without consequences; what we say in public sends a powerful message about (are you ready for this?) what is is acceptable to say and do in public.

They’re not concerned about that, nor are they actually concerned about whether we should kill slutty sluts for slutting. They’re concerned about how they can leverage Uthman Badar and the Hizb ut-Tahrir brand and the white guilt that creates the cultural relativism that baby leftists are injected with when they submit their first protest poster for assessment, in service of painting the Festival and it’s supporters as open-minded, critically engaged and edgy, and getting the attention that gets them paid. With taxpayer dollars.

If open engagement is what we desire there’s an endless supply of literature on the subject that could be privately consumed. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Hizb ut-Tahrir wants.

That is what I find the most dangerous – it’s lovely to have organisations like FODI that self-consciously hike their skirts and whore their stages in the pretence of glorying in liberalism while trying to undermine it. These ideas don’t deserve to be paraded on a platform as flimsy as amusement. There is no honour in giving a microphone to a man who doesn’t want to give the microphone back, when he will use it to promote a ban on microphones.

FODI sets its own agenda. They made a considered choice to offer the stage to a lobbyist for Islamototalitarianism to promote the murder of (mostly) women.

If FODI wants to truly be provocative, there are orthodoxies far better challenged than the secular, liberal, individualist democracy that permits people – including women – to pursue the free thought that allows them to consider and reject the killing women who exercise autonomy could be totally sweet.

FODI has the right to offer the PR flak for totalitarian organisation a space on its platform, and its secular “cultural establishment” type audience is mature enough to consider the idea without accepting it (the way the Murdoch-media-swilling general publicans apparently cannot, no doubt). Minds aren’t likely to slip out from under the warm, prosperous blanket of liberalism for the rock hard reality of whatever backwards logic makes it okay to kill for a contorted derivative of honour. 

The day the Premier resigned

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has been found to have received a $3,000 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange as a gift, which he failed to declare, and failed to admit to ICAC, conveniently suffering from memory failure, and has accordingly resigned this morning.

Before all thoughts move to who will move on up into the top spot, our anti-lockout friends at I’m Not The Problem Barry – No Lockouts NSW have been taking advantage of this scintillating story to have a bit of a laugh. The full gallery is here, but some of my favourites are below!








Why liberals should oppose same-sex marriage

197515_108482069234461_1417439_nWith such a provocative title, many people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate shall likely be upset, but there should be no apologies for stating the facts, writes Michael Smyth

People have made the comment that Marriage is not exclusively a religious institution, but while this may be technically correct, it is a highly disingenuous statement.  A friend of mine has pointed out that in the old Roman Republic, the State presided over ceremonies, but what he failed to point out – possibly out of genuine ignorance of history and the institution of the Cursus Honorum – is that the ceremonial head of the republic (or in modern political parlance, paramount leader) was an official known as the Pontifex Maximus.  This Pontifex was head of all of the religions within the Roman Republic/Empire, and as such, when Constantine the Great converted to Christianity, Christianity was included in those religions which he presided over as Pontifex Maximus.  This demonstrates that the State only authorised marriages permitted under those religions, not to mention the fact that Roman Law only recognised marriages between male and female Roman citizens.


[NB It is important to distinguish and recognise the differences between same-sex unions and marriages, with the formality of the institution of the latter as contrasted to the former, which lacked de jure formality or recognition]. 

If you look eastward to India, the system was different from the Roman model, but under the caste system the military rulers had to submit themselves to the religious authorities, i.e. the Brahmin caste.  The rulers had no authority without the blessing of the Brahmin's, and if they lost the Brahmin's support they would have no kingdom. Even recently, a homosexual aristocrat has been outed by his mother and disinherited from his title.

If you look at China, you see the system of the "Middle Kingdom" was that presided over by the "Son of Heaven", meaning that he was the religious leader of the nation as well as political potentate.  In reality, every ancient civilisation that existed had no concept of a separation between religious and secular affairs.  The King was also a priest, or in the cases above, subservient to the religious establishment. 

It is intellectually dishonest to claim that marriage is a State-based institution, when ancient polities were so tightly interwoven with religion it was almost impossible to distinguish between the two. 

Interestingly enough, and this will pique the attention and interest of post-modern Secularists who can't stand Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter) – it was Jesus of Nazareth, whose revolutionary statement of "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God", laid the basis of the idea of the separation of "Church and State". 

Despite the teachings of Christ, the Church that rose to propagate the faith was co-opted into the apparatus of the Roman Empire (after having been persecuted for centuries), as one of the religions of the Empire.  It was only after the Reformation, and the subsequent Enlightenment, that Christians started to take heed of the words "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God".

The State was thus separated from the government, but the religious liberties were guaranteed, except in Jacobin France, where aristocrats and clergy were murdered by the thousands during the Reign of Terror, and the State assumed responsibilities for marriage.  When religion was restored in France, civil marriages remained.

In the United Kingdom, the separation of Church and State was a bit more tenuous, given that the Sovereign was also Governor of the Church in England (as well as Scotland and Ireland), but laws were put in place to effectively sever the ties between the Church and State, and to protect the rights of those other minorities who did not share the official faith of the United Kingdom.

Here is a point that both liberals and progressives forget: in the Islamic world, there has never been a separation of Islam from the State.  The head of state (usually a Sultan, Emir, or other Prince) has also been a de facto spiritual leader, and in the Ottoman Empire the Emperor was both Sultan *and* Caliph (i.e. Successor to the Prophet Mohammed) – no separation of Religion there.  Nor was there anywhere else, for that matter.

Liberals, with all of their good intentions, point out that we should extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.  Let's take all of the religious arguments out of the equation, because this debate should not revolve around religion.  Let us consider, however, the precedent of marriage, and why secular states have not hitherto considered same-sex marriage. 

Same-sex marriages do not produce children, unless you want to adopt, and that is an entirely different discussion.  Same-sex marriages do not provide any material benefit to society as a whole.  Granted, they probably would not provide a material disadvantage either, but Marriage exists within the State to provide continuation of the State, not to allow people to make life-altering decisions on a whim. It is important to note, that even in societies that permitted or even encouraged homosexuality, the institution of marriage was always exclusively heterosexual, i.e. for the purpose of continuing society.

What is wrong with Civil Unions? There is nothing wrong with Civil Unions being extended to same-sex couples, especially since it would shore up the claim of the significant other in the event of death (and absence of a will).  In fact, de facto couples already have some legal standing when it comes to claiming property after only six months.  Marriage however, has been defined by both Religions and States as being "between a man and a woman" – until very recently, where that has been revised.

If other countries have revised it, why shouldn't we? Let's look at the countries or states where revision has occurred.  Religious ministers/priests have faced litigation for refusing to conduct ceremonies that go against the tenets of their religion. 

Massachusetts has had cases of ministers being sued, so there goes that religious liberty of being able to act consistently with their religion.  The Lutheran Church in Denmark is forced to find a priest to perform same-sex marriages, if the first priest refuses. More recently, a same-sex couple in the United Kingdom has threatened to sue the Church for refusing to marry them. What happened to religious liberty? Remember the second part of the quote, "Render unto God what belongs to God". 

There was a policy motion moved at the 2012 YLNP Convention, to grant all couples (regardless of orientation) the ability to have a civil union, but strip from the State all powers pertaining to "Marriage", thus returning it to the religious organisations.  At the time, I spoke in favour of this motion because I believed it to be a sensible accommodation not only of religious liberties, but also of those couples who wish to enjoy the functional benefits of being "married", without having to go to church/synagogue/mosque/temple.

There is also the fact that the existence of a Will establishes the intentions of the author of a Will. Freddie Mercury left a Will that bestowed his property in the United Kingdom and some money to his same-sex life partner, and the partner received everything that he was bequeathed. They didn’t require same-sex marriage, or even Civil Partnerships, to outline their wishes and legacies. People should have a Will, but I digress.

No liberal should ever support something that would crush the liberty/liberties of another.  What about the rights of the couple? No, marriage is not a right.  Marriage is a contract that you enter into, after serious consideration, under the auspices of the organisation offering marriage, and an imperative institution for the continuation of society.  But the State offers marriage.  Civil "Marriage", yes – it is essentially a Civil Union, regardless of the orientation of the couple. 

This debate seems to be over one crucial word.  For the Gay lobby to insist that religious organisations relinquish their rightful premium on marriage, and allow same-sex marriage (while refusing to settle for the legislatively equal "Civil Union") is selfish. 

Most people would be happy or indifferent if homosexuals could have civil unions, and the religious could retain marriage for themselves. You shouldn’t change the meaning of a word that has meant the same thing for over 5,000 years on a whim, especially not if the vast majority of nations and societies have retained the meaning.

Both sides could still have what they want, if only the Gay lobby would compromise, and for those readers who think it is only Christians standing in the way of same-sex marriage, think again. No religion has ever extended the institution of marriage to same-sex couples, even in societies that permit or encourage homosexuality.

Michael Smyth writes from Brisbane, Queensland


After what can be aptly described as the most self-destructive episode in the history of the Australian Labor Party – and yes, I say this even considering the splits of 1917, the 1930s, and 1950s – Labor is now electing its new parliamentary leader writes Michael Smyth  

However for the first time in its history it is allowing its rank-and-file members a direct vote. 50% of the vote will be comprised of the caucus, and the other 50% will be comprised of rank-and-file members. The reforms that led to this may be referred to as a parting shot at the ALP, or mischief, by a nihilistic Kevin Rudd, intent on making them pay for his humiliation at the hands of Julia Gillard.

This may also be cynically called for what it is; window dressing designed to shield the fact that the ALP rank-and-file do not have direct preselections, and are still beholden to the factions. It does provide the ALP with a rare chance to return to its roots and begin being a party that stands for something other than professional hacks with little or no real life experience outside a staffer’s office, or the union movement.

For too long, many would say since the 1990s, the rank-and-file have been neglected, and that Labor had turned its back on its values after the 1996 federal election.  Some might even say that they did so at an earlier juncture, but whatever the case, the fact stands that the ALP is no longer a party of mass appeal, but a catch-all machine designed to win at all costs.

To promise whatever it needs to promise in order to win power, and then maintain it, without letting those promises get in the way of governing.  However, it seems that despite Rudd’s mischief, the bloodletting in the aftermath of the 2013 federal election has been relatively civilised.  

Rudd stepped down with a grace that was absent after his removal by Gillard, albeit after gloating that the ALP had not been utterly destroyed in a Coalition landslide. The men most likely to contest, duly put their hands up to nominate for the leadership.

What is relatively civilised about this is that neither of the men has attacked the other, although the same cannot be said about certain supporters of each nominee, both inside caucus and among the community at large.  Let’s look at each of the nominees for the ALP leadership.

Bill Shorten, a former Secretary of the AWU holds a BA/LLB, came to prominence during the Beaconsfield mine collapse and upon election to Parliament in 2007, was immediately appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services and subsequently pushed for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.  

In 2010, he urged Julia Gillard to replace Rudd as Prime Minister, and shortly after he was promoted to the Ministry, further cementing his power base within the caucus and the ALP at large.

Anthony Albanese, a former staffer to Tom Uren (a one-time deputy leader of the ALP), who holds an Economics degree from Sydney University, professed a devout commitment to progressivism in his maiden speech. He has enjoyed a gradual rise to prominence, eventually becoming Leader of the House after Labor’s victory in 2007.  

Due to his relentless attacks on Tony Abbott, and his admission in 2012 that he likes “… fighting Tories.  That’s what I do”, he became popular within the ALP as a headkicker.

There is plenty more written about these two nominees elsewhere online and in print, but what is important to note is that both of these nominees are strong performers, and whoever wins the leadership will probably provide a strong challenge to the Coalition government.  However, the dangers for each are as follows.

If Shorten is elected as Leader, he will have to overcome the perception that he is dishonest, untrustworthy, and – in the words of a Left-wing friend – “poison”.  If Albanese is elected as Leader, he could face the same relentless negativity that he directed towards Abbott, ironically while referring to Abbott as nothing but negative.

Shorten has the ALP establishment behind him, but Albanese has the rank-and-file backing him.  For this reason, some on the Right have dismissed Albanese as a credible leader for the ALP, but they forget that Abbott was also once dismissed as ever being a potential party leader. This was despite the fact he was appointed by John Howard as Leader of the House.  

Albanese and Abbott are, in a perverse way, similar in terms of their pugilism in regards to political opposition, and in a mature way, similar in terms of their passion and beliefs.  The differences between the two are about values first, ideology second.  Were they outside politics they’d probably be good friends, but politics is a battle of ideas that leaves no quarter in terms of its engagement.

Shorten is a machine man, lacking the passion to invigorate a demoralised and dysfunctional Labor Party, but he knows how to manipulate the media.  Albanese is a vulgar man, who prefers brawl to brainstorm, but he has a passion and genuine belief in his causes, and should be noted and respected as a credible threat to the prospective hegemony of the Centre-Right in Australia for the next decade.  

If Shorten wins, and in the first term that is highly unlikely, barring a Great Depression style event, he will be burned by defeat at the next federal election, and forced to step down.  If Albanese wins, however, he could end up going the same way as Beazley in 1998; winning the popular vote, but not enough seats in the House of Representatives.  

Who will win the contest for the leadership? The prize of which is to drink from Labor’s cup of sorrows, a poisoned chalice the likes of which are rarely seen in the democratic world. It must be noted that neither of the nominees should be underestimated, whoever wins.

For the Coalition to take for granted the idea that they have at least six years in power would be extremely unwise. Labor did that in 2007, and they failed to win the election in their own right in 2010. The following three years of minority government were amongst the most polarising in living memory and looked back on with bitterness by the majority of Australians.  

The next three years, for both Labor and the Coalition, must be years of healing, but the task for Labor is much greater, as they are yet to start.

Michael F Smyth writes from Brisbane, Queensland