Put your money where your mouth is

Glenn Druery writes: Re. “Why Fairfax vastly overestimates micro-parties’ chances in Victoria” (yesterday). Charles Richardson, I’ll bet you a fine bottle of red on the upper house result in Victoria — i.e. four minor parties (minimum) will be elected!

I might even ask Barry for red wine advice …

Our dangerous ignorance of Islam

James Burke writes: Re. “Plastic sword the least of ASIO’s bungles in ‘terror raid'” (yesterday). Jeff Sparrow is right to condemn “the profound inadequacy of the discussion of Islam in Australia”. It’s one of the greatest collective failures of journalism in history. If we were into the 14th year of World War II, every correspondent could be expected to have a basic understanding of Nazi history and ideology, and plenty would be experts. Every sports hack and agony aunt would be able to tell a Japanese uniform from a Soviet, and to which side each belonged.

Not so in our ongoing conflict(s) with Wahhabi crazies. It’s rare to absorb a report on Islam, Islamic sectarianism, or the extent of violent radicalism in Australia, and have any confidence the reporter possesses more than superficial knowledge of their subject.

Worse than “extremist” and “moderate” is the weasel word “Islamist”. It’s dangerously confusing to the general public, and so broad it can be used to describe Shi’a Iran (as Netanyahu did last week). If we were fighting, say, Mormon fanatics, would we call them “Christianists”?

As a contribution to better understanding, we might need a Crikey Clarifier: “What is Wahhabism? And why do most media refuse to name it?” (Both answers may involve the phrase “Saudi Arabia”.)

Air travel screenings don’t make us feel safer

Beryce Nelson writes: Re. “Do you trust the Yanks with your fingerprints?” (yesterday). Some years ago I had a similar experience whilst flying to Canada. It was the middle of the night when we landed in Hawaii for refueling. We were all marched off the plane into a holding hall. The whole place was closed down for the night except for the US immigration service. They didn’t ask if they could fingerprint and retina-scan us — they just did it. When I arrived in Canada I found that they had taken my RESMED medical equipment from the plane and were holding onto it. Air Canada, who were terrific, intervened and the equipment was delivered to my friend’s home two days later with damage to some of the contents. Air Canada paid for the replacements. They were kindness itself and full of apologies about the behaviour of the US which they said was quite a common occurence. Another man on the same flight had his suitcase slashed open in Hawaii because it was locked and they could not open it to check the contents. Air Canada also promised to pay for  a new suitcase for that passenger. None of it made me feel any safer — quite the contrary.