I Will Tell My Story #3: Free In A Madrassah But Not In Victoria

GHF - PP

In the past year, I have lived in three very different places.

First, there was almost three weeks as a non-paying guest receiving asylum in an Indonesian Pondok Pesantren (madrassah). This learning institution gave me asylum under Islamic law after I explained to them my reasons that I went to Indonesia to renounce Australian citizenship under Indonesian law. My long standing commitment to studying the 99 Islamic names of God, asmaulhusna, from a western perspective is probably the biggest reason that I received this rare privilege. Or perhaps I should call it a rare recognition of my fundamental human rights.

Then in the second week of August last year, I was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in an Immigration Detention Centre in Indonesia for three months.

Thirdly, after being deported to Australia against my will, I have been living in Premier Daniel Andrews’ Police State Of Victoria.

 

What follows is a comparison of life in these three places.

 

In the Pondok (madrassah) I had the most freedom, and was in the most democratic and civilised environment of all three places. The Islamic lifestyle is one of clean living and devotion to God. The People talked softly and modestly and were always friendly.

I could come and go whenever I liked, and on the rare occasions, when a door was locked but I wanted to enter, someone would invariably unlock it for me.

The religious tolerance was extraordinary. In an institution dedicated to the very devout Islamic practice, I was totally accepted even though I was not a Muslim and not engaging in all Islamic rituals. This is because Islamic people in Indonesia have a very widespread and deep tolerance for their own principle La Ikraha Fiddin. (There is no compulsion in religion.)

I learnt a lot among those students about good calm living and made a little film about the liberation and enrichment which can be gained by prayer.

The Islamic environment was democratic because all the people there had freely consented to be there and were proud to be there. In any democratic organisation governing by the consent of the governed is essential.

 

The immigration detention centre was obviously very different. I was there because immigration officials believed I had broken Indonesian law. I disagreed with them and still do. The head of the madrassah and the very devout mayor of the large city in which it was located both agreed that from the religious point of view I had the right to seek “aman” (meaning safety) in Indonesia.

I was not in the detention centre by consent but my basic needs were met. There were lots of great people there. I got enough exercise and the food was nutritious and I was always delivered three meals a day. The ventilation of my cell was great. It was never too hot or too cold. I had all the sterile drinking water and washing water and toiletries  I needed. I received the medical care I needed.

I was able to communicate with a senior guy in America’s National Coalition For Men who wrote a letter to the head of the Detention Centre explaining why he thought my actions were justified. For two months I was able to engage online in artistic collaborations with Australians of which I remain proud.

There was a good balance between privacy and social interaction.

I also became much more accurate at kicking a soccer ball.

 

Compared to those two Indonesian places Daniel Andrews’ Victoria just doesn’t measure up. In this sad state all of the worst traditions of Terra Nullius are fully maintained. (It has to be said that there are a few great people here who have ensured that my experience here these last 8 and a half months has not been as bad as I feared it would be.)

This is a state where too many people live in fear.

Thats not surprising. If anyone was silly enough to go and sit on a park bench here in Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, that person would risk being fined $1,600.

Widespread fear now means that the economy is being trashed to fight a disease which is well under control by global standards.

Daniel Andrews has had the most draconian lockdown laws in Australia but this severity has given him the least success in getting the sort of community effort going where a virus can be controlled.

Freedom works, Daniel Andrews. Your Police State tactics don’t.

Democracy dies when the governing political party uses scandalous branch stacking the way it’s been used in Daniel Andrews’ branch of the Australian Labor Party and that party stays in power.

Being civilised is impossible when the government treats outdoor activities like golf and fishing in wide open spaces as dangerous.

Australian Rules Football is sometimes said to be the religion of  Melbourne. AFL footy was born in Victoria and none of the best clubs are playing here anymore. The grand final appears more likely to be played in Brisbane or Perth than in its normal home of Melbourne.

 

For any government in the world, getting the balance right between the economy and the Corona-virus pandemic is going to be hard.

 

Daniel Andrews and his political party proved to me in 2016 and 2017 that they don’t respect people like me or our rights or needs.

Nothing has changed.

Compared with being in Victoria, life in the Pondok in Indonesia was very very good.

I miss you, Gus.

Geoff Fox 23rd July 2020, Melbourne, Victoria, Terra Nullius

(“Gus” is an affectionate honorific title frequently used to address Islamic leaders in the Indonesian island of Java.)

I love Pancasila

In my country of birth, Australia, love and praise of God are scorned; people are cruel to each other and think that it is normal; many Australians are patriots but patriotism does not often bring Australian people together; it more commonly gives them reasons to fight each other; the freedom of speech essential to consultative government is being eroded all the time in Australia; and social justice is absolutely impossible if you are a 62 year old white male like me.

But in Indonesia loving and praising God gives me plenty of friends.

People in Indonesia are normally kind and friendly. The civilised humanity is real.

My flesh tingles when I hear the Indonesian national anthem. It is one of the most uplifting songs I know of.

In Indonesia I have met and spoken with three presidents. In Australia, I was arrested by the police for trying to communicate with my local government.

Pancasila, strong religion and the glorious open spirit of the Indonesian people protects the human right to a decent life and to social justice better than the Australia I know where far too many people live in misery and fear.

Geoff Fox, Maribyrnong, The Police State Of Victoria, Australia

1st June, Hari Lahir Pancasila, 2019

Tony Abbottt’s Tragic Mistake – Is this a Lesson for ScoMo?

Today is my last day as a Registered Midwife in Australia. Cutbacks in services to mothers and a personally debilitating attack on my human rights from within the ALP in Maribyrnong have combined to deprive me of this livelihood.

I am proud of the unique knowledge midwifery has given me of what women, men and children need.

Today my midiwfery registration expires. So this is my last chance to put on record as a midwife that I know of no other politician in Australia’s history who stood up for what Australian mothers really need as well as opposition leader Tony Abbott did with his courageous policy of a Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme funded by taxing big companies. At that time, as I recall, whenever I googled “ALP breast feeding policy”, I came up with policy relating to feeding lots for cattle.

Postponing the implementation of his truly great PPL scheme to the third year of his government’s three year term was a tragic mistake.

By the time that third year arrived, relentless attacks on his alleged misogyny had eaten up the massive political capital he had in his first year.

So feminist and conservative attacks on Mr Abbott’s proposed PPL contributed to Australian mums losing a great chance to get a huge part of the support they need to increase their chances of breast feeding longer.

There is a lesson here for reelected Prime Minister Scott Morrison: he should not wait till the third year of the normal parliamentary term to do things for which he has a clear mandate now.

Freedom of Speech.

Freedom of Religion.

We need both these fundamental rights protected now.

In his maiden speech to parliament in 2008, ScoMo said “Australia is not a secular country — it is a free country.” With passing time these wise words are less clearly true.

Good on you, ScoMo, for saving Australia’s national government from the human rights catastrophe of Maribyrnong Bill.

Please protect our freedoms soon.

Geoff Fox, Maribyrnong, May 31, 2019

Christian Israel Folau’s Faith and Freedom Of Speech

Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have threatened to terminate the contract of a star player as a result of his passionate defense of conservative sexual morality in one meme.

This is the text of that meme from Christian footballer Israel Folau:

“WARNING

Drunks

Homosexuals

Adulterers

Liars

Fornicators

Thieves

Atheists

Idolaters

HELL

AWAITS YOU

REPENT !

ONLY JESUS SAVES”

These are very strong words. But much of the online response focusses on this meme as if the only thing in it is an attack on gay people.  Folau is also very hard on people with drinking problems AND on people who lead liberated sex lives AND on atheists AND on people who idolize things which Israel Folau doesn’t idolize.

I believe it is reasonable to say, as Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has done this morning, that Folau’s words are “terribly insensitive.”

But I think Folau’s meme can also reasonably be described more positively. Is it a clarion call to oppose excessive drinking which ruins many lives? Does it uphold a traditional sexual morality which has long been foundational to most family life? Does the meme’s condemnation of theft deserve support? Is upholding belief in God something which a modern secularizing nation like Australia needs? (Faith in God has been part of the bedrock of western civilization for almost all of the two millennia preceding this one.)

If the focus shifts to more positive ways of describing Folau’s Christian moral passion, his meme raises issues worthy of discussion not kneejerk condemnation.

Conservative Christian Folau names 8 types of people he believes are bound for hell. You could say that 12.5 % of this meme is an attack on homosexuals. Yet Folau is now being attacked by some people online as if the only thing he has done is to condemn gay people. He names these eight groups of people because he wants all of them (in the terms of his belief system) to be “saved.” He wants what he believes is the best for them. Even if he is wrong and being unfair, at least part of what is in his heart is compassion and love.

To get a broader and fairer picture of what Folau believes, here are some more quotes from him from the Player’s Voice website where he is called a “founding contributor”:

“I used to believe I was defined by my actions on the footy field, but I see now that’s not true.”

“…… my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be.”

“I will not compromise my faith in Jesus Christ, which is the cornerstone of every single thing in my life. People’s lives are not for me to judge. Only God can do that.”

“I have sinned many times in my life. I take responsibility for those sins and ask for forgiveness through repentance daily.”

“No man or woman is different from another – if you sin, which we all do, and do not repent and seek forgiveness, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

 “I believe when Jesus died on the cross for us, it gave us all the opportunity to accept and believe in Him if we wanted to. To enter the kingdom of Heaven, though, we must try our best to follow His teachings and, when we fall short, to seek His forgiveness.”

Are these the publicly expressed beliefs of a man we should condemn or of a man we should praise?

Bill Shorten’s response is to say, “There is no freedom to perpetuate hateful speech …….”  What right does a man aspiring to be Prime Minister of a western nation like Australia have to be so forgetful of our heritage that he suggests that passionate Christian morality is “hateful speech”? Two days before Holy Week.

A year ago, after Folau made another allegedly anti-gay comment online, one of his current bosses was quoted by New Zealand website newshub like this “The situation cooled after Rugby Australia’s CEO Raelene Castle said she was proud that he holds so strongly to his Christian beliefs.”

But a year later it looks likely that, for expressing his beliefs, his bosses will terminate his contract. The Rugby Australia Chief Executive yesterday released a joint statement with the New South Wales Rugby Union CEO with this conclusion: “In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”

Now, as a philosopher, I suggest that Rugby Australia (RA) and NSW Rugby Union consider the following principles for fairness as mitigating factors:

  1. Freedom Of Speech. Freedom of speech has to be robust for it to work. Sometimes that will be offensive and hurtful to some people. But robust freedom of speech is the foundation of genuine democracy. Being really good at a game is not a reason for taking away anyone’s fundamental civic rights.
  • 2. Freedom of Religion. Please look at the whole package of his religious beliefs before condemning Folau for one part of his beliefs as if that were the only thing he has said.
  • 3. Openness. It is better to discuss Folau’s beliefs and to include him in the discussion than to risk driving those beliefs underground by trying to ban their expression.
  • 4. Inclusivity. Excluding Folau from the sport in which he is a champion is the opposite of inclusivity.
  • 5. Consistency. A year ago the RA CEO praised Folau’s religious beliefs. Now part of one tweet gets Folau sacked? If RA were able to resolve a similar issue last year without punishment, why cant a lesser punishment, like a fine, be considered this year?
  • 6. Fairness and Public Health. Folau has taken a stand against the abuse of alcohol. Doesn’t that aspect of his meme deserve our support?

Is Israel Folau going to be metaphorically crucified as we enter the Holy Week of Easter because of his conservative moral passion in one meme? Or are we grown up enough in 2019 to discuss and try to consider everything that he has said?

Geoff Fox, Resident Of Maribyrnong

12th April, 2019