Shariah-compliant swimming in Geert Wilders' world


It was perhaps the greatest line ever in a spy flick. Austen Powers (Mike Myers) stands shoulder to shoulder with his father (Michael Caine), facing the villainous Goldmember (Myers). The father takes the lead: 'There are only two things I can't stand in this world: people who are intolerant of other people's cultures ... and the Dutch!'

Which in a way sums up the sentiments of a certain Dutch MP now visiting our shores. Geert Wilders will have us believe he doesn't hate Muslims. He insists he isn't opposed to multiculturalism. He just doesn't like cultural relativism. In his eyes, the religious culture of one quarter of humanity is inferior and incompatible with freedom.

As Wilders stated at his recent Melbourne Press Conference: 'I call on all the Muslims in the world to leave Islam for Christianity or atheism or whatever they want. This will be good for them and also for our free society.'

Leave Islam? What exactly does he mean? Is there a single room called Islam with a single revolving door above which is an exit sign? If one wanted to leave Islam, what steps should one take to be accepted by Wilders and his followers? What should one do to make Wilders feel safe from impending Islamic takeover?

And just what on earth are these Muslim types doing differently to everyone else now?

Let's see. They send their kids to their own schools. As we all know, no other religious congregation insists on doing the same as this 8–10 per cent of Muslim parents. How many Catholics do you know who send their kids to Catholic schools? It's unheard of. But for these Muslims, it's all about passing on their supremacist ideology.

Look at my parents, so insistent that I grow up with Islamic values that they spent thousands of dollars sending me to St Andrews Cathedral School. (It's true that the school chaplain sometimes told us kids that the prophecy of the '666' in the Book of Revelation referred to the Pope, but you know how some Sydney Anglicans are.)

Also, these Muslims don't follow our laws. They want to impose on us their own Sharia law.

I have witnessed this myself. Have you heard of Sharia-compliant swimming? Come down to my local pool in South Eastern Melbourne where I share the 'slow' lap lane with other serious swimmers.

We are a motley crew of different shapes and sizes and colours. One bearded bloke wraps a white turban around his head, which in some people's eyes might make him the most Sharia-compliant of us. No doubt that would horrify the other turbaned blokes down at his Sikh temple.

Anyway, the other day we were swimming in the lane when some young lads started swimming across us. One even swam under me. I immediately stopped. He had passed and joined his group of scoundrels at the other end of the pool. They were giggling and speaking to each other in Dari.

So exactly who are the Sharia-compliant swimmers? Is it the bloke with the wet turban? Is it the Malaysian-Chinese lady who covers her hair with a rubber hijab? Or is it those nasty children of Islamic asylum seekers who want to set off a chlorinated civilisational war?

In a few weeks, these kids will join other Hazara Australians for a massive festival to celebrate Naurooz. Should Wilders and his friends be afraid of the local council sponsoring the event? Is this creeping Sharia, in the form of a new year's celebration dating back to pre-Islamic Zoroastrian times, evidence of an impending takeover?

I hope Wilders goes on a tour of Indonesia, once a colony of his country and the largest Muslim-majority state on earth. He can visit the ancient Hindu temple in Jogjakarta and watch Muslim dancers perform a traditional opera based on the ancient Hindu epic tale of the Ramayana. He can drink and dance at any one of Jakarta's jazz clubs. He can also visit Interfidei, an activist group that stands up for the rights of religious minorities.

Yes, there are strange and extreme elements in this old Dutch colonial possession. But at election time, the wackos don't often do terribly well. Indonesia's thriving democracy has room for everyone.

And indeed there is much more to the Netherlands than Mr Wilders. Just ask Dutch voters, who in the 2012 elections delivered his Freedom Party a massive blow. They currently hold only 15 out of 150 seats. Yes, it is still 10 per cent. But it seems around 90 per cent aren't buying Wilders' message of fear and loathing.

And it seems hardly any Australians are either. On that note, I'd better go for a swim. 

Irfan Yusuf headshotIrfan Yusuf is a Sydney based lawyer and blogger

Topic tags: Irfan Yusuf, Geert Wilders, Muslims, Islam, intolerance



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Existing comments

If Indonesia has room for everyone then why are the Ahmadis killed by the Sunnis and Australian tourists killed in nightclubs in Bali?

Rodney | 21 February 2013  

"Indonesia's thriving democracy has room for everyone." Really? Then why are Christian churches in Idonesia routinely attacked with molotov cocktails, and burnt down? Why did Human Rights Watch find that there were double the number of acts of religious intolerance (264) than in 2007, and that Christians have been forced out of church buildings, been subjected to Sharia law in some parts of the country, and faced bomb threats from radical militants? Just google christian persecution and Indonesia for a small sample of the appalling deeds by a few "wackos". So this is what "room for everyone" means in a "moderate" muslim country? And it's Geert Wilders who is the epitome of loathing intolerance? Where does he advocate burning down mosques and planting bombs in Muslim settlements in Holland?

HH | 21 February 2013  

What on earth does that comment mean Rodney? Are you trying to suggest that Indonesia, or countries with a Muslim majority, have a monopoly on murder or ideologically motivated violence? Have you forgotten Northern Ireland, or Sri Lanka, or the US, or Norway, or, for that matter, Cronulla?

Ginger Meggs | 21 February 2013  

Gert Wilders is calling attention to the fact that homosexuals are being persecuted in western capitals due to the increasing number of Muslims. Yet he is the one who is decried as an intolerant fascist! If Muslims were as tolerant as Irfan Yusuf makes out, then why are there self appointed Sharia patrols in areas of London? They go out and harass gays, women who are not dressed according to their code of modesty and people who dare to have a drink. Jews in some Scandanvian countries are being driven out due to intimiation by Muslims. The great multi-cultural dream does not seem to be working out. Mr and Mr Right with their adopted or IVF suppplied children won't necessarily be accepted by the Mr Muslim living next door with his four brides. It may be, as Gilders is warning, some aspects of liberal western culture are incompatible with Islamic culture. Do we stand up for our way or buckle to theirs?

MJ | 21 February 2013  

Re Rodney's comment, execution of the perpetrators of the Bali bombing is the clearest sign that killing people in nightclubs is a major crime, unacceptable to the State, the Courts and the great majority of Indonesian Muslims. However, light sentences for those who killed the Ahmadis suggests to non-Muslims that violent intolerance of people of different sects is inherent and acceptable in Islam. Mutual killing of Sunni and Shi'a in countries from Iraq to Afghanistan and the persecution and killing of Sufis in Mali and Pakistan ensure that the majority of victims of Islamic terror are Muslim people. And Islam, as a world religion with much in its faith and history deserving of respect, comes to be despised because of the violent ardour of its own fundamentalists. Geert Wilders and other anti-Islam campaigners are only the vocal fringe of the anti-Islam attitude which has spread widely throughout the non-Muslim world since the early 1970s. Without a universally recognised central authority like the Vatican or a widely accepted cooperative council like the WCC, Islam has no central authority who can stop the violence and oversee development of peaceful recognition among the different sects. Only Muslims can fix these Muslim problems. However we non-Muslims can assist by not throwing petrol on the fire a la Wilders and the Q Society. We can start by reserving our criticism for the militant groups instead of casting it over all Islam and all Muslim people.

Ian Fraser | 21 February 2013  

Indonesia Constitution is Secular called UUD1945. For decades Islamic Hard liners want to change to Sharia Law. Look at what happened once Suharto left office. - Church bombing (Did Christians go outside and burn Mosque afterwards ???????) - Civil registry for marriage based on Sharia Law (Many muslim doesn't want to use civil registry based on UUD1945) - Sharia Bank and Finances (Why not use conventional bank) - Sharia School - Sharia State (Aceh, Cianjur) - Halal Food (Other than Muslim must pay EXTRA TAX to Islamic council for Halal Food Label) - During Ramadan, every day at 4am people use drums on the street to wake up others for morning breakfast, I am not Muslim so I want to have good sleep. Respect others. Those are dual standards in Indonesia because ISLAM doesn't respect others using UUD1945 constitution. ISLAM is Political Movement, not simply religion. Using "Freedom of Religion" in Australian Constitution they try to implemen Sharia Law in Australia.

Indo Boy in Sydney | 22 February 2013  

Indonesia a thriving democracy? Crikey! Didn't understand what the rest of this post was about either!

john frawley | 22 February 2013  

The problem with cultural relativism like moral relativism and all relativistic positions which have become mainstream is that they naively think all cultures operate from this same worldview. If we could all hold hands and sing kum-bah-ya the warm fuzzies will surface and we will have world peace. The collective relativist movement reminds me of the wishful thinking of Neville Chamberlain. Can we grow up and get beyond the ‘vibrant cultural expressions of national dance’. The thing is that deep down not even multicultural theorists believe in cultural relativism beyond enjoying a diversity of food. Does anyone want to celebrate the Taliban’s ban on female education and the Hindu’s live burning of widows (stopped by the white male Euro centric colonial imperialists) as an expression of their rich cultural tapestry? The problem is relativists have no way of drawing a line in the sand as seen by hundreds of honour killings being ignored by Scotland Yard. Now cultural relativism is actually treating cultures differently under the law. I thought we were all the same. How is that a recipe for a harmonious society? Why are the Hazari’s wanting to get out of Afghanistan? Because of the discrimination and violence of the main ethic groups. Relativism will continue to deny reality, shut out debate as offence, continue to dumb us down and send us deeper into this Orwellian nightmare where not only is black white, but we all must celebrate the black. We will wake up too late, deceived by our infantile and baseless warm fuzzies expecting every other culture and minority to adopt the stupidity of relativism. The evidence is already around with the absolute intolerance of the advocates of tolerance.

Steve | 22 February 2013  

As I understand it Geert Wilders points out the incompatibility of Islam with democracy. He has nothing against individual Muslims but he takes issue with Islam itself. I know ex-Muslims under threat of death for having converted to Christianity. They say it is because Islam states that apostates must be killed. This is anti-democratic. I think Geert Wilders has a point. Australia should not sacrifice its precious freedoms and mutli ethnic society for an Islamic view which does not tolerate conversion out of Islam. There are many Shristian refugees from Islamic countries in Australia who are relieved to have escaped the rigid Islamic systems they lived under. Long live the precious freedoms of Australia - its freedoms and the Islamic view are at opposite poles. How right Geert Wilders is to point out the threat Islam poses.

Skye | 22 February 2013  

I'm currently reading a biography of the South African writer J M Coetzee (J M Coetzee:A life in writing by J C Kannemeyer). Coetzee's first novels had quite some difficulty being published and passing censorship, despite their brilliance, due to the apartheid regime at the time (early 1970s). Times are improving, slowly, in South Africa. It takes a resolute stand against oppression and supremacist ideologies to make progress for equality. Take it easy against the Sydney Anglicans, Irfan, their schools offer a pretty good education. :) And keep swimming!

Pam | 22 February 2013  

Thanks for a great piece of writing.

mick white | 22 February 2013  

Geert Wilder is right to concerned about islam when Dutch filmaker Theo Van Gogh was killed by a Muslim for making a documentary about domestic violence which was critical of Islam. To quote geert Wilders, The Australian < Monday: "I always make a distinction between Muslims and Islam.. Most muslims are moderate, but people who reject Islam's violent and intolerant commandments are not practising ""moderate Islam"- they are not practising islam at all"

Catherine | 22 February 2013  

I agree with several people on Geert Wilders. He is certainly not advocating fighting the Muslims. If you remember the way van Gogh was killed, in a country which was so very tolerant of others, you can understand why the Dutch turned against them. And it happened in Holland, their own country. There are tolerant Muslims also, but I would be careful that some of them may fool you. The recent Canadian case of a father, mother (and son!), killing their 3 daughters because they wanted to live and marry Canadian boys, was horrible. However, the neighborhood saw them as polite, law abiding, friendly, etc. And they got caught and tried. They still said they had done nothing wrong. There's something wrong with these people. Too much "machismo"? Islam is a political religion, with their factions included.In Christianity we are taught to feel guilty, to repent,etc. It's the feeling guilty that has stuck with me for so long, it's incredible. Perhaps, Muslims could do some some feelings of guilt? Geert Wilders is speaking out and he should be heard.

Nathalie | 22 February 2013  

The problem with Suharto is that everyone got used to the idea that the state would deal with the issues. I work in Indonesia with Muslims and I can only say how gracious, welcoming and warm they are. They abhor what is said and done in the name of Islam. But I think they they don't know what to do about it. In the past, the state kept the extremists quelled but now that it is a democracy, and one where the corrupt practices and legacies of the Suharto regime still have a major impact, they seem helpless. There are bright signs: the recent election of Joko as Governor of Jakarta, along with his ethnic Chinese running mate; the increasing high profile corruption cases brought to court via the KPK (Anti Corruption Commission). These provide hope that the views of the vast majority of Indonesians will prevail. The only significant concern from my perspective is the growing influence of Wahabism being funded by Saudi Arabia. If you want to attack a country for its appalling and twisted use of Islam as a means of suppression, that should be your target, not Indonesia.

ErikH | 22 February 2013  

First up, it was long contended in countries like Britian and the US that Catholicism and democracy were incompatible, that Catholics could not serve both the Pope and democracy and that therefore Catholics should either be excluded or have their religious practices restricted. Sounds familiar. Further, what we now call Indonesia was ruled (and ruled harshly)by the Dutch for centuries and like most post-colonial societies was then ruled by a succesion of dictatorships. It takes a long time to develop democratic traditions (see history of Western Europe) and Indonesia is a long way from getting there with corrupt police and politicians who manipulate intolerance for their own gain. But I would contend that the majority of Indonesian muslims are tolerant and that they see real democracy as the best way to eliminate the corruption and police brutality that bedevils their daily lives. Australia has a valuable role to play in assisting the development of this democratising process, a little knowledge and patience will help.

chris g | 22 February 2013  

My problem is that I don't understand the point of Irfan's article. All those questions, all that defence of Indonesia as paradise. And the swimming. What is that about?

Frank | 22 February 2013  

"Australia should not sacrifice its precious freedoms and mutli ethnic society for an Islamic view which does not tolerate conversion out of Islam." And that sentiment can apply to the intolerance of so many loud, so-called, Christians who insist we all have to comply with their world view, here in Australia. Our PM seems very happy to bow to every single demand made on her by the Christian Lobby, at the expense of at least 25% of the population. Time for Australia to start down the path of total separation between church and state.

janice wallace | 22 February 2013  

Geert Wilders is right to insist on the superiority of the Judeo-Christian culture of western states and the need to maintain that culture as the font of their legal political framework. In the end, there's no such thing as "separation of church and state", since if it is pushed rigorously to its conclusion it is nevertheless forced to call on some sort of worldview to function at all. Thus, a "secular" state can mouth all sorts of high-sounding paeons to human rights, but unless those claims are interpreted according to a specific religion, fundamental world view, they will remain freely spinning cogs, doing no work. "Every innocent human has the inalienable right to life". But is a foetus a human? Well, that depends on your particular view. So you have to appeal to a particular religion, or metaphysical theory, to fill this formula with content. To say "Oh, just let the majority decide" is no way out: for it is to declare that rights can not be considered inalienable, but are subject to the will of the majority - and so to impose a particular philosophical viewpoint (majoritarian relativism), thus exposing the impossibilty of "separation of church and state" at that point. The only way out of this relativist maze is to acknowledge that one viewpoint is in fact superior, and deserves priority. And if we join the dots as to where the overwhelming number of boat people and refugees are headed, it's not hard to tell that most people agree, even if unconsciously, with the “intolerant” Geert Wilders, that Christianity is the key to devising the most humane forms of civilization.

HH | 22 February 2013  

Prejudice and intolerance exist in every race, religion and society. Geert Wilders just happens to be a public face of the "christian" side of that prejudice and intolerance.

Patrick O'Connell | 22 February 2013  

Why does Wilders need 24 police protection?

kev | 22 February 2013  

It is good to see ErikH's realistic comment about Indonesia, based on direct observation from living in the country and working with the people. The two steps forward, one step back struggle for democracy following the Suharto decades is well-known to all who follow the Indonesian news media and spend at least some time working in the country. I fully support his comments on Wahabism as a sect of Islam which deserves strong criticism. The 'Arabisation' of Indonesia is the greatest threat to the traditional pluralism of most of Indonesia. While many in the nation adopt the Western dress, personal names and mores of our globalised world, an increasing number (but still a minority) adopt the dress, grooming and rigidity of Saudi Arabia. And yet a smaller minority again adopt the extreme narrowness of the puritanical and brutally harsh attitudes of Wahabism. During the Suharto period, many Australian activists and much of our press attacked the whole nation for the human rights abuses of the Suharto government. Even liberal thinkers in Indonesia leapt to the defence of their country against the scatter-gun criticism from their southern neighbour. Let us not make the same mistake now, disparaging all of Indonesian Islam because of the brutality of their few Wahabi radicals.

Ian Fraser | 22 February 2013  

Islam is promoted in Indonesia at the expense of all other faiths. Christians ARE persecuted in Indonesia as well Mr Yusuf knows. What would Australia be like when it reaches the hoped-for tipping point - say more than 50% muslim. Does Mr Yusuf think there would still be no sign of creeping sharia on the horizon then?

Hamid | 22 February 2013  

I want to ask why we are not alowed to have Christmas plays or celebrate special Christian days in a Christian country but Moslems can celebrate their feasts at schools and we call it multiculturalism. No, it isn't, it's bowing down to a select group who shout the loudest.

Michael | 22 February 2013  

You can always find examples of democracies and religions defying their own doctrines... If America is a democracy with a bill of human rights why does it have the ability to detain its' citizens indefinitely without trial? American constitutional freedoms are infringed upon in the name of the greater good ( but it doesn't mean they're not a democracy or a relatively free nation). If Christianity is a peaceful religion then why the shootings in Norway, why the troubles in Ireland, why did christians come to Australia and do terrible things to the first people of this country, why the crusades, why Iraq, why the trouble with pedophilia? I'm not saying Christianity isn't a religion of peace and love, but all people interpret scriptures to suit their personal agenda (usually with positive results). There are plenty of good/bad Christians/Muslims, but most religious scriptures preach love - with occasional smiting, retaliation and sacrifice.. I haven't heard Wilders talk about the content of the Quran, only that he doesn't "hate muslims" but rather Islam, and doesn't want them coming to his country... I think he just opens his mouth but doesn't really understand the intricacies of the subject he's discussing...

Paul | 22 February 2013  

It's all about our useful of language and how our relativism (ie as expressed through the English language) favours Anglo/western society.... Why is that a "radical Islamic extremist" is perceived negatively - a villainous terrorist? Whereas a "radical Christian extremist" would be seen as a pacifist or self-denying, self-sacrificing martyr? (not that I've heard of anyone being dubbed a radical Christian recently, or even deserving the title, for that matter).

AURELIUS | 23 February 2013  

Geert Wilders, in supposedly taking on creeping Islamicism in the Netherlands, a highly controversial and inflammatory topic, risks the danger of being regarded as an extremist himself. I note his most ardent political supporter in Australia is Senator Corey Bernardi, who, as a politician, seems a very good former oarsman. Writing off the extreme wing of critics of Islam and Islamicism (definitely not the same thing) in Australia and the West does not, necessarily, obviate the need for a Western debate on whether the followers of Madudi; Qutb or Hassan al Banna are a danger to civil society, both in the Muslim World and the West. Many knowledgeable Muslim critics of them, such as the late Gamal al Banna, brother of the aforesaid Hassan, think they are. Since I was in Indonesia in the 1970s I think the more extreme Muslims, quite contrary to the mainstream groups like Nahdlatul Uluma, have become far stronger and more dangerous there. The Bali bombings - on a Hindu majority island - by those from outside were exactly because they disliked foreigners having a Bintang beer and leading what they considered an evil Western lifestyle. Could the young Hazaras you mention, Shiite rather than Sunni, become radicalised by subversion from Iran, the country they looked to for support in Afghanistan? It is possible.

Edward F | 24 February 2013  

I think Wilders has a point. My wife took some disabled men to a pool in Brisbane and some Muslim women who had booked one lane vigorously tried to stop the men from using any part of the pool. Only because my wife stood up for the men's rights did it go no further. We need to be assertive in the face of such intolerance for the rights of others.

Frank S | 24 February 2013  

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