Monday, April 06, 2009

British cartoon strip aimed at under-12s depicts Christian boy as Islamaphobe thug

A Government-funded charity was at the centre of a row last night after a magazine it publishes for children appeared to depict Christians as Islamaphobes who regard Muslims as terrorists. In a cartoon strip, a boy wearing a large cross around his neck is shown telling a friend that a smiling Muslim girl in a veil looks like a terrorist. He later confronts her and shouts: ‘Hey, whatever your name is, what are you hiding under your turban?’

She replies that the garment is called a hijab and it is part of her religion, ‘like that cross you wear’. The girl is then shown standing up for another boy, who is being bullied, and her behaviour is contrasted with that of the boy wearing the cross.

The cartoon story, entitled Standing Up For What You Believe In, appears in the latest issue of Klic!, a quarterly magazine aimed at children in care aged from eight to 12. Published by the Who Cares? Trust, a charity set up in 1992, it is described on the cover as ‘the best ever mag for kids in care’ and is widely distributed by town halls. The charity received £100,000 from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, headed by Ed Balls, in both 2007 and 2008, and £80,000 this year.

Although the cartoon does not specifically refer to the boy’s religion, it has angered Christian groups and MPs who fear it sends out the wrong message. Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, said: ‘What about Christian children in care who received this magazine? How will they feel to see themselves mocked as narrow-minded Islamaphobes? ‘It is a clumsy caricature, symptomatic of a culture which says it is OK to bully Christians in the name of diversity.’

Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, said: ‘I think it is very unfortunate that the lad who is pointing the finger is wearing a cross. 'You can hardly imagine anyone producing a magazine in which the roles were reversed and it was the Muslim girl who was behaving badly.’

Gary Streeter, the Tory MP for South West Devon, said the religious parody was ‘unacceptable’, adding: ‘If it is being done with public money, it should be investigated and the magazine withdrawn.’

But Who Cares? Trust chief executive Natasha Finlayson said she had no intention of withdrawing it, describing the cross as ‘bling’ rather than a religious symbol. She said the charity had received a complaint but did not agree the cartoon was derogatory towards Christians. ‘I am a Christian myself, so when a woman called us, I went back and looked at the comic strip from her point of view,’ Ms Finlayson said. ‘I am sorry that she is upset but I don’t share her view. When I saw the cartoon, I didn’t think of that character being a Christian because I saw the cross as ‘bling’, as jewellery. ‘To me it is a cartoon about bullying rather than discrimination or religion.’


Harvard business school examines its navel

Will they recognize their complete ethical meltdown? Unlikely

HARVARD Business School, stung by criticism that it has not prepared alumni to cope with the economic meltdown, will dissect its performance using a practice it employs to examine corporations in crisis.

A taskforce, created in November at the direction of the dean, Jay Light, is writing a case study to scrutinise whether the school is failing to teach students to understand and manage risk in the current environment, said Paul Healy, the co-chairman of the panel.

The case study method is the technique Harvard uses to analyse decision-making by executives during times of duress. Harvard Business School's 219 professors will tackle the case at a May 27 meeting and may use the discussion to propose curriculum changes. "We'll put them in the students' seats," Healy, a professor of business administration, said.

While officials at the business schools of Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have developed classes and projects to address the causes of the crisis, Harvard is using the collapse as an opportunity for self-reflection. The professors will ponder how the school's reputation has been tarnished, and may debate articles critical of the institution and its graduates who helped trigger the financial crisis, Healy said.

Harvard's alumni include Stanley O'Neal and John Thain, the former chief executive officers of Merrill Lynch who presided over the company's decline; Rick Wagoner, the ousted chief of General Motors; and Christopher Cox, the former chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. "I'm sure the brand is damaged, at some level," Healy said. "People that I know well tell me to my face, 'You guys have some culpability,' and I think that's fair. It's a good time for us to reflect and think about what the right things are for us to be doing."

Professors may spend half a day meeting in groups of about 90, said Healy, who added the plans were not final. The last time the school overhauled its curriculum was in 2004, when it introduced a required ethics course after the 2001 Enron accounting fraud.

In 2007, even before the financial crisis, Stanford Graduate School of Business introduced a curriculum designed to develop critical thinking about leadership in small classes, replacing lectures.

The new series of seminars at the school help "students discover and defend their values", Dean Robert Joss said in an article for Stanford Business magazine's next issue. Classes include "Understanding Cheating," which looks at why people make unethical decisions.

At the MIT Sloan School of Management, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, students were taught to weigh the effects of their actions on society, not just on investors, said JoAnne Yates, the deputy dean. "We would like our students, when they graduate, to understand not just quantitative instruments but how they fit into the whole world around finance," she said. "We don't want them all to think it is games with numbers."

Schools needed to consider how they teach and whether students could learn decision-making based on intuition and not only numbers, said Louis Lataif, the dean of the Boston University School of Management and a 1964 graduate of Harvard Business School.

"There's a certain self-consciousness now that we may be part of the problem," Lataif said. "There's a lot more to education than learning how to read balance sheets. Maybe a piece of what's missing is not another course in ethics but the ability to think beyond the data and take action based on good instincts."

Harvard business degrees are now "scarlet letters of shame", wrote Philip Delves Broughton, a 2006 graduate of the school, in a March column in the Sunday Times of London. "Time after time and scandal after scandal, it seems that a school that graduates just 900 students a year finds itself in the thick of it."

Harvard Business School, founded 101 years ago, has more than 200 faculty members and almost 1800 students seeking master's degrees in business administration.

Under O'Neal, who graduated in 1978, Merrill Lynch lost more than $US30 billion before its takeover by Bank of America. Thain, O'Neal's successor who graduated in 1979, was ousted after spending $US1.2 million to renovate his office. General Motors has fallen more than 90 per cent in New York trading from its peak during the tenure of Wagoner, a 1977 Harvard Business School graduate who was forced to resign on March 29 under pressure from the President, Barack Obama.

Cox headed the SEC from 2005 until January this year, as the agency failed under his watch to investigate Bernard Madoff's fraud. Cox graduated from Harvard in 1977.

While the school may bear a measure of responsibility for the graduates' decisions, "there's plenty of blame to spread around", said Carl Kester, the deputy dean of academic affairs.


Fathers getting more recognition

Comment from Australia

It was once widely assumed that children were better off with their mothers, especially after divorce. In part, that was because mothers did most of the child-rearing. They got pregnant, gave birth and did most of the heavy lifting - nappy changes, toilet-training and school pick-ups - as the children got older.

The role played by fathers, for many years, was assumed to be mainly financial: he was the breadwinner and often the person who provided the discipline.

Things have changed. This week, The Australian reported on an extraordinary Family Court decision - in the sense that it was completely out of the ordinary - to remove two children who had been living with their mother in Tasmania since their parents separated in 2005 and send them to live with their father and his girlfriend in Melbourne. There was no suggestion of physical abuse or neglect in the case known as Irish and Michelle (2009).

The facts are this: The couple separated in 2005; the father met a woman and moved to Melbourne to be with her in 2006; his children (a daughter, then aged six, and a son, then four) stayed with their mother in a Tasmanian country town. The mother - known in court documents as Ms Michelle - reorganised her working day so she could spend more time with the children. She had a limited income (less than $500 a week) but the father didn't earn much more (he works as a firefighter and makes about $50,000 a year, minus child support for two children).

The mother has a house with a front garden and a back yard for the children to play, and they live next door to their grandparents, who help out. Her father is a well-known, successful Tasmanian businessman.

The children's father - known in court documents as Mr Irish - works shifts: four days on, four days off, and often through the night. He has always had access to his children, but recently the change-overs had become difficult. He would turn up in Tasmania to take the children for holidays, and they would say: "I don't want to go" or "I don't have to go". On one occasion, witnessed by a child psychologist, the girl tried to climb out of his car window rather than go with him for a weekend. The father believed his relationship with the children was being eroded, that his daughter, now nine, was becoming estranged from him, and that their mother was responsible for these problems. He took the case to the Family Court and, to the utter shock and devastation of the mother, who has been the primary carer of the children all their lives, he won.

Justice Robert Benjamin accepted the court-appointed lawyer's evidence that "both children have consistently maintained that they wish to continue living with their mother".

"They have a close and intimate relationship with the mother and want to be with her," the psychologist said. "They identify their mother as their primary emotional support. As much as the children enjoy spending time with their father, both the children verbalised that they become distressed and miss their mother when they are separated from her."

But he also believed that the girl, in particular, did not understand how important it would be, in later life, to have a relationship with her father.

He said the child, known as B, was becoming emotionally estranged from her father and "either suffered, or was at risk of suffering, serious psychological damage if not psychiatric damage" if the mother didn't encourage her to have a relationship with her father.

There was nothing in the judgment to suggest the mother had denigrated the father, only that she hadn't encouraged a good relationship between the children and their father. The girl told her court counsellor that she didn't like that her father had left the family and now had a new girlfriend, whom she didn't like either.

But Benjamin made the decision to move the children with amendments to the Family Law Act in mind. These amendments, colloquially known as the "shared parenting" provisions, were introduced by the Howard government in 2006. They say that children "have the right to know and be cared for by both parents, regardless of whether their parents are married, separated, have never been married or have never lived together".

Children also have a "right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents".

The case of Irish and Michelle suggests that mothers must now encourage their children to have a good relationship with the father; they must facilitate access; and they aren't allowed to talk down the father. If they do, the children will be removed from their full-time care.

Wayne Butler, president of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia, established in 2002 by fathers frustrated at the perceived bias of the Family Court, says the decision "has given us hope. There's a feeling now that if you want a substantial amount of contact with your children, you should wait and go to the Family Court because there is a good chance you'll get it. We strongly believe that children need a relationship with their father. There's a whole change in society's view of a father and that's being reflected in the Family Court."

That view isn't being encouraged by Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant, who told The Australian yesterday that Irish and Michelle shouldn't be read "as a marker for anything". "I've read the judgment closely and it seems to me that the judge took into account what the experts said, which is that the children, especially the girl, were at risk of psychological harm if they stayed with their mother. Some people won't agree with the decision." She noted that the mother could appeal within 30 days. Bryant promotes a view of the court as bias-free and transparent. She authorised the release of data on court orders made since the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parenting) Act came into force. The data isn't comparative - that is, it doesn't say whether fathers are now likelier to get access than they were before the amendments - but the Shared Parenting Council's Jim Carter says the data is nevertheless "encouraging for fathers and their children" because it shows that fathers are likelier to get substantial access to their children if they go to the Family Court than if they negotiate directly with their former wives.

"The situation since 2006 is that 17 per cent of fathers were granted primary care of their children and another 15 per cent were granted equal parenting time," Carter says. "That's a total of 32 per cent of fathers in litigated cases (getting substantial access)."

Mothers still get the bulk of the orders in their favour - 60 per cent get primary care of their children - but the Shared Parenting Council suggests that fathers who want "substantial access" to their children after divorce go to court because there is a reasonable chance they'll get it.

At a Senate estimates hearing on February 23, Family First senator Steve Fielding asked the chief executive of the Family Court, Richard Foster, about the amendments and he, too, was told there had been "a change in the orders that impact specifically on fathers".

Bryant says the data shows that fathers were given residence (or full-time custody) of the children in 19 per cent of litigated cases in 1999-2000, compared with 17 per cent of cases after 2006, "so that's actually gone down".

"We can speculate as to why. I think what's happened is that, rightly or wrongly, there was a prevailing view that orders were likely to favour mothers, and fathers would only litigate when they thought they had a good case," Bryant says. "It's possible that view has changed, so more (men) might litigate."

The number of orders for shared parenting is certainly up, from 6 per cent to 15 per cent, which means fathers get at least equal access in 32 per cent of the cases.

Women's groups are worried about the perceived new direction of the court. An online petition, started last month, has gathered 2300 signatures, and a coalition of women's groups will host rallies in all states next month, to highlight the plight of women whose children have been killed by their ex-partners on access visits. Victims of crime will speak, wearing red hoods over their faces, to circumvent laws that make it a crime to identify any party to a Family Court matter. Organiser Barbara Biggs says: "Our speakers have children who were killed after bad Family Court decisions. Some of them are very well known, with the cases all over the media already, but they can't be identified because that's a breach of the Family Law Act."

On publishing the Irish and Michelle story, The Australian received many calls from fathers who intend to try the Family Court system again. One such father, who hasn't seen his 12-year-old girl for two years, despite there being a Family Court order for access in place, says: "I'm supposed to see her this Easter but the orders were made in her absence. (The mother) doesn't show up for court. She doesn't acknowledge the orders. She has changed her telephone number so she can't be reached."

The couple separated when the child was five. "For a few years after that, I got good access. That changed when I got remarried. It dwindled away to nothing. When I read that case (Irish and Michelle) I thought: 'That's exactly what happened to me.' My daughter started to say: 'I don't want to see you' and 'I hate you', and of course that's not the case. We had a good relationship. I would try to speak to her on the phone and maybe I'd get her when her mother was in the shower, but she'd say: 'I can't talk to you. I've got to go."'

At the other extreme are women such as Kelly, a mother and a lawyer from Queensland, who was amazed when the court ordered a 50-50 custody arrangement with her ex-partner even though he'd been convicted of assaulting her.

"The lawyers kept saying: 'It has to be 50-50,"' she says. "He assaulted me when I was holding (the baby), but they say that's not the same as assaulting the baby, so the court says he isn't hurting the child. They said I had no choice under the new laws to hand the baby over one week on, one week off."


Islamophobia is a fabrication

Comment from Australia

I've been considering a request from a post-graduate student who wants to do a thesis on Islamophobia in Australia. She writes: "I am researching the topic Islamophobia, and I am trying to prove whether Islamophobia is based on religion fear or cultural fear of Islam."

What about proving that Islamophobia exists at all? That would be the logical, ethical and scholarly starting point. But it appears the outcome has already been decided. This would fit the prevailing orthodoxy in academia that the default position for Muslims in Australia is victim. The jargon, "Islamophobia" is part of this ideological construct. Literally, it means fear of Muslims.

I reflected on all this while on holiday in Malaysia and the Maldives last week. This was my twelfth visit to Muslim societies because I do not "fear" Muslims and do not "fear" Islam. Yes, there is ample evidence that Australians have become uneasy about Muslims in general and hostile in specific cases, but this is about cause and effect. Consider the series of blows to the image of Muslims in just the past three weeks, where the everyday decency of the majority have been collaterally damaged by the antics of the few.

On March 8, the night of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, police say a group of about 100 young Muslim men, allegedly members of a loose gang called MBM - Muslim Brotherhood Movement - moved through the centre of the city intimidating, harassing and beating bystanders.

On March 15, Abdul Darwiche was murdered, shot to death in a shopping centre in the latest hyper-violence involving two warring Lebanese Muslim clans. Police later arrested Darwiche's brother, Michael, for driving around with a loaded pistol. A third brother, Adnan, appeared in the NSW Supreme Court three years ago to be sentenced for a double murder. He and his fellow accused, Nasaem El-Zeyat and Ramzi Aouad, laughed and joked, going out of their way to express their contempt for Australian law. After the three men were all given life sentences they shouted "God is great!" This was the same Adnan Darwiche who purchased rocket launchers stolen from the Australian Army, which have never been recovered.

Hundreds of mourners attended Abdul Darwiche's funeral at the Lakemba Mosque, where, within days, Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly was involved in yet another controversy. Channel Nine obtained a copy of a video surveillance tape which shows the former mufti of Australia kicking in a door, then returning soon after in the company of police. Apparently he called police over vandalism which he committed, blaming others who are engaged in a power struggle at the mosque. Sheik Hilaly has been embroiled repeatedly in controversy and provocation, making numerous inflammatory remarks about Australia and Australians.

A few days later, yet another rape sentence was handed down to one of the K brothers, three of whom, during their various trials for gang rape, claimed they were victims of an anti-Muslim conspiracy. Between them, four K brothers have been convicted of gang-raping five girls.

This sentencing followed closely on the conviction of seven Sydney schoolboys for the aggravated sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in a toilet block in Yagoona in 2007. According to police, the ring-leader was on his phone speaking in Arabic during the assaults and most or all of the boys are of Muslim background.

If this is so, these latest convictions produce a morbid tally of more than 30 young Muslim men involved in serious proven sexual assaults of non-Muslim girls in Sydney, involving the Skaf brothers, the K brothers, the E-M cousins, the Yagoona schoolboys and various others. Because sexual assault is the least reported crime (about 15 per cent of incidents are reported to police) this particular phenomenon was certainly much broader.

Finally, there has been fatal violence between bikie gangs, accompanied by news that there has been an infusion of young Muslim men into the bikie culture. There is now warring between new gangs and traditional Anglo criminal gangs for control of the drug and protection markets. Gang leaders named Mahmoud and Hassan and Ismail have been prominent. Gangs like MBM, Notorious and Asesinoz have flaunted their ethnicity. Overtly racist videos have been posted on YouTube, such as the message that "Asesinoz is now targeting Aussies", with an image of a vandalised Australian flag.

The events of the past week have been a variation on a theme police have been dealing with for years. It erupted spectacularly in 2005 when a self-styled "intifada" by armed Muslim men, travelling in convoys, staged numerous co-ordinated assaults across the eastern beach suburbs of Sydney. The attacks were in response to the most notorious case of anti-Muslim feeling in Australia, the Cronulla riot in December, 2005. The roots of this demonstration was the failure of the police, who for years had preferred to pretend the problem did not exist.

Given the abundant evidence of violent cause and fearful effect, involving a small percentage of antagonists, the general charge of Islamophobia is an ideological fabrication.

As for the criminal gangs, for more than 10 years I have argued that Australia needed anti-gang laws similar to the RICO laws (racketeering influenced corrupt organisations) used in the United States, which smashed the code of silence and solidarity by criminal gangs. Finally, the state Labor Government has begun to stir on this issue.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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