Feb 17, 2017

The Australian declares war on Yassmin Abdel-Magied, misses the point again

For some reason, Caroline Overington, in her attacks on Yassmin Abdel-Magied in The Australian, cannot seem to understand this whole idea of soft diplomacy.

Irfan Yusuf — Lawyer, author and commentator

Irfan Yusuf

Lawyer, author and commentator

In 2008, I went to an event at Gleebooks, an independent bookshop in Sydney's inner west. The British Council and High Commission was putting on a do for a visiting author of conservative bent. The book was, in parts, entertaining but also included some rather sexist material. (Toward the end of the book, the author wrote about a female friend of his and made specific mention of the size of her posterior growing larger since the last time he saw her.) Still, that didn't stop the British taxpayer from forking out some dosh, just as they would do for any author or performer or artist whose work suits their soft diplomacy interests. In the case of the present author, perhaps the book suited some "deradicalisation of young Muslims" purpose.

DFAT and Australian embassies do the same. As with all activities of DFAT, it all comes out of our pocket. Soft diplomacy, soft power, person-to-person contact, whatever you wish to call it. Australian artists and writers visit various places to collaborate with other articles via a host of programs  run by universities as well as DFAT sections such as the Australia Indonesia Institute. Now I am no sycophant of Indonesia, especially when it comes to the  treatment of Christian politicians like Ahok. But I learned a hell of a lot about the religious cultures and civil society organisations of our closest Muslim-majority neighbour when I visited Indonesia on a DFAT-funded junket in January 2006. As did the five other Australians who joined me.

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10 thoughts on “The Australian declares war on Yassmin Abdel-Magied, misses the point again

  1. mike westerman

    Irfan you mistakenly conclude that Overington is able to observe and learn, rather than blandly, superficially, repetitively, boringly reproduce her master’s drivel.

  2. zut alors

    This piece is pure common sense. Although I am mildly surprised that Guthrie hasn’t wedged some ABC underling into offering an apology for having a guest on Q&A who has actually set foot in the Middle East for a speaking tour (under the ingenious guise of DFAT no less).

    Can’t wait to see ‘Kirralie whatserface from the Q Society’ on the panel. Stay tuned, viewers.

  3. Janno

    Thanks Irfan, good to see your laid back sense again. Has anyone offered you a regular writing gig? Or does real life call?

  4. Dog's Breakfast

    Thanks Irfan, balanced, erudite, calm, everything we don’t get from The Australian.

    You have to remember that The Australian is a confected outrage machine.

    1. leon knight

      A work colleague gave me a copy of today’s Oz to share the NK assassination story (I wouldn’t part with my money for such a garbage Paper) but glancing at the Overingtton article made me feel sick so I immediately gave up reading…..I need some large format newspaper to prevent weeds growing through the river pebbles around the pool but I won’t use this one in case the crap leaches out into the pool water.

      1. zut alors

        Leon, you will find The Oz is unmatched for lining the cat’s litter box or the cocky’s cage.

  5. Will

    I doubt DFAT using taxpayer dollars to send a Muslim woman in the person of Abdel-Magied to the Middle East achieves anything better or worse than its simple purpose of signaling that Australia isn’t, as a matter of form, anti-Muslim. To ascribe ‘soft diplomacy’ content to that display of form though, when Abdel-Mageid own left liberal identity politics is so obviously irrelevant to a Middle East riven by sectarian religious wars overlaid by resurgent regional imperial rivalries, is maybe a little on the generous side. She’s clever, but pets often are.

    Nevertheless, this article reminds us of the astonishing hypocrisy of the right in castigating those who demand that live animal exports to Muslim countries cease (at least until verifiable decent butchering practices are instituted). Shouldn’t refusing to feed the enemy Muslim masses be a first order priority for these supposed arch-patriots? Or does the fact that live animal exports to Muslim countries generates income for Australian pastoralists makes it okay, in the same way that AWB continuing to sell wheat to Saddam Hussein’s regime after our declaring war and forbidden such trade was ignored by the right, rather than condemned as treasonous?

    1. Lesley Graham

      Sorry Will, but I think your observation of Abdel-Magied being a pet, is mean.
      Yes whether we like it or not Australia contributed a great deal to the mess that the middle east is now, if Howard hadn’t been such a “buddy” of George W, Iraq, Syria, Israel & Yemen, (apart from Saudi Arabia) wouldn’t be in the mess they are in now. Whether we like it or not we were part of US led wrecking crew, that created chaos in the middle east. I think that having soft diplomatic visits especially for young minds is crucial, education is the most important way of counteracting age old treatment of girls, it is the only way that girls & women get out of the poverty cycle, and are able to make meaningful contributions to their families & their worlds. Whether Australia likes it or not the likes of Abdel-Magied are our future, those of her ilk are showing the ill informed that change is inevitable, and that they need to find a way of dealing with it. Constant change is part of our world, writers like Irfan are our guides.

  6. AR

    The usual obfuscation from Irfan, though Shakira hasn’t, yet, added her obscurantist look-over-there!
    As for “Overington may ask herself why Abdel-Magied, her family, … refuse to live in any of these places.” – I would like Yassmin to answer that question given her taqiya about Islam being the most feminist religion.

  7. AR

    PS Irfan – “These (ME?) nations also need to feel secure that not all Australian kids are ready to join Islamic State. ” is a puzzle.
    Please explain what that has to do with the price of fish in any known universe.

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