Belmont Club


‘Just how broken a bureaucracy is,’ someone told me once, ‘can be gauged from how quickly can they take a trivial problem and turn it into an intractable one.’ Walk up to an agency with a cure for cancer and they will throw every obstacle in your path because they don’t have enough bureaucrats trained to regulate the new technology.  So when the Australian Labor government was criticized for letting in too many undesirable migrants from the Middle East the predictable result was the denial of asylum to two Egyptians seeking to avoid a fatwa for converting to Christianity. It all makes sense in a twisted kind of way.

With elections scheduled for August 21, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been locked in war of words with conservative opposition leader Tony Abbot over asylum policy.  “Asylum seeking” is Australia’s equivalent of the Arizona border problem. It’s the Third Rail of Australian politics.  Sixty four percent of Australians want asylum seekers arriving by boat to be returned and made to apply through normal channels. Even ethnic leaders want the maritime human trafficking problem stopped.

a Somali scholar told the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] that some extremists from Somalia and other countries are trying to enter Australia by infiltrating the immigration system. The warning came from Islamic scholar Dr Herse Hilole, who is a leader in the Somali community in Australia. He said that rather than going back to countries like Somalia to train with militant groups, extremists were trying to enter Australia via boats from Malaysia and Indonesia.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighted one reasons why voters are angry: crime.  Gangs now rampage through King’s Cross. The SMH writes: “they call themselves MBM – the Muslim Brotherhood Movement – a gang of 600 men who boast they are the toughest and best young street fighters of Middle Eastern descent in Sydney.”

Even hardened private security guards have expressed concern to police about the indiscriminate “punch and run” tactics of MBM members who, in the past two weeks, have arrived in large numbers at city nightclub venues and who walk the streets in intimidating mobs. But the objectives of MBM – its emblem features two crossed pistols and a hand grenade – and its leadership remain unclear to officers of both the Organized Crime and Gang Squad and Middle Eastern Organized Crime Squad.

But if the police are baffled, the nature of the game is obvious to their rivals: the BFL and the Asesinoz. It is to create a street empire compounded of crimes, drugs, prostitutes and radical ideology. And that’s worth fighting for. “Police say BFL – with a logo featuring crossed machine-guns – is not dissimilar to MBM in its extremist views.” And then there’s Asesinoz. Shake them all together and you’ve got a group that fills a valuable niche in the economy,  ‘willing to do crimes that Australians won’t do’. Police describe Asesinoz, comprising teenagers of Middle Eastern decent, as “tough kids” who use the video-sharing website YouTube to promote Islamic extremism and anti-Australian actions such as flag burning.

It’s no wonder that the voting on August 21st will hinge in part on which party is perceived to be tougher about who to let into the country. The solution to this problem is obvious and straightforward to any bureaucrat. Just deny asylum to two Egyptians who are running for their lives from a fatwa in Egypt. Mr. El-Gohary and his 15 year old daughter made two mistakes. The first was converting to Christianity. The LA Times blog describes his efforts to get the Egyptian government to recognize his Baptismal ceritificate, which unfortunately did not have a crossed machine-gun logo on it. It reads like Monty Python sketch except that it ends with a fatwa.

In the eyes of Egypt, Maher El Gohary is not a Christian. An administrative court has ruled that the convert cannot be issued identity papers as a Christian … El Gohary, who converted to Christianity in 1973, has been living with Muslim identity papers. But he claims that persecution over the years prompted him to demand the right to officially change his religion. …

In his mission to obtain such a right, El Gohary provided the court with documents stating that he was baptized by the Orthodox Church in Cyprus in 2005, as well as by the Shebin Al Qanater archbishop in Qalyoub, a governorate in Egypt.

The administrative court ruled that both documents were ‘legally invalid’ because the Cypriot certificates were written in Greek and did not include any “clear evidence” that El Gohary was actually baptized.

The problem as you might have guessed, is that the Egyptian bureaucracies have got an ID system which they want to protect. The BBC explains why IDs are again causing a such a ruckus, for a reason outwardly different from Arizona, but really the same. The IDs are about politics and in this case they are a way of maintaining the Muslim majority dominance in Egypt and thus may on no account be undermined.

At the Arabic Human Rights Information Network, I met Gamal Eid, a lawyer fighting a similar case on behalf of another religious convert.

He believes that if Mr Gohary’s case is successful, it could have far-reaching consequences.

“Many people in their ID are Muslim, or Christian, or Jewish – but they believe different things,” he says.

“Many of them are afraid to convert officially. If that door opens – huge numbers of people will try to convert from Muslim to Christian. The law gives them this right.”

Peter Day, writing in the Spectator (only the cached copy is available) describes what happened next. The El-Goharys tried to migrate legally to Australia. That was the second mistake. Egyptians living in Sydney applied for refugee visa on El Gohary’s behalf. But according to Peter Day on July 21, Ian J. Simpson, the Principal Migration Officer at the Australian in Cairo replied that he was “not satisfied that there are compelling reasons for giving special consideration to granting you a visa, having regard to particular factors in the criteria … not met by you … the degree of persecution to which the applicant is subject in the applicant’s home country.” Denied. Not persecuted enough.

The immigration agent who lodged the Sydney application on Mr El-Gohary’s behalf is stunned. The agent points out that Egyptians who arrive by boat or plane in Australia claiming to be persecuted members of the Muslim Brotherhood (a powerful but technically illegal organisation in Egypt) are usually granted protection visas quickly, even in the absence of documentary … evidence supporting their claims.

The agent — who has represented members of the Muslim Brotherhood seeking refugee status in Australia — says ‘Mr El-Gohary is not a boat arrival, nor is he a person who comfortably arrived in Australia by plane and then applied for a protection visa. Mr El-Gohary is a person who trusted the Australian immigration system to forward his genuine and serious claims.’

Why was El-Gohary denied when the Muslim Brotherhood can waltz in the door? The answer: politics. What El-Gohary’s supporters fail to understand is that the game is played not by the stated rules but by the real ones. The real criterion is who can deliver the votes. Niall Ferguson during his trip through Australia said “dramatic changes are occurring in Australia’s population. Not talking about Muslim migration is damaging.” But not as damaging as losing the votes. And they’ve got the votes. A big wave of Islamic immigration into Australia has meant that that the Muslim Brotherhood crowd and not the El-Goharys are the force to reckon with at the ballot box. And therefore politicians have got to tread a fine line between the outraged Aussie Anglo voter and the crowd with the hand grenades and machine guns on their logos. Caught between Scylla and Charybdis, the man with the Greek baptismal certificate hasn’t got a chance.

Victor Davis Hanson described the same paradox in America. The political elite was pandering to a militant illegal immigration lobby yet desperately trying to mollify 70% of the population who wanted to control the borders. They were trying to square the circle and the result, as Hanson wrote,  was that “Americans are increasingly confused by the tone of the debate, in which self-appointed spokesmen for illegal aliens and indeed, on occasion, illegal aliens themselves seem so critical of policies embraced by 70% of the American populace of all classes and races that they so eagerly wish to join.” He might as well have been talking about Australia where the numbers are strikingly similar. The politicians have to persuade the base they are not selling out to attract the marginal voters, which of course they are, and they are often caught playing both ends against the middle.

And then there’s jobs. The bureaucratic kind. The political elites in both countries need a steady supply of hyphenated populations to provide sinecures for an army of activists, special pleaders and assorted faddists. What would they do with normal people? Messy multiculturalism a vast outdoor system of relief for the country classes. Hanson writes:

Take away a half-million person influx of illegal aliens of the Hispanic underclass, or take away a permanent group of largely Spanish-speaking, largely poor, and largely undereducated Mexican nationals, and within 30 years the vast majority of Mexican-Americans will assimilate in the pattern of other contemporary minority groups — and, in terms of education and compensation, achieve rough parity. Unfortunately, that would also mean that the argument for a Chicano-Latino Studies program (rather than, say, an Irish Studies program), for the self-identified Chicano journalist, or for any activist who sees his Hispanic heritage as essential rather than as incidental to his persona simply disappears. (We do not have a National Council of Das Volk; nor a self-identified “wise Greek” on the Supreme Court.)

In short, without the arrival of the illegal alien in massive numbers without education, capital, legality and English, the Hispanic activists and cultural elite have no reason to be, since soon there would be no disparity that can be blamed on oppression or racism — and thus no need for self-appointed collective representation. La Raza would have no raza when a Hilda Lopez marries Larry Smith and their daughter Linda Lopez Smith marries Billy Otomo and so on.

The double affliction under which Maher El-Gohary labors is he can’t be admitted because the voters are angry at the people who fatwa’d him — and he’s too ordinary. He doesn’t need special multicultural agencies to pander to him, a special Islamic council to speak for him; a police task force to monitor him or ethnic politicians to run in his name. A hard working, law abiding immigrant is bad news all around. Except at tax time. There are lots of hardworking immigrants; and there are many law abiding, decent Muslim immigrants from the Middle East. But for some reason they never drive the agenda. It is puzzling until you realize that “bureaucracies are different from you and me. They possess everything and want more, and it does something to them; it makes them see everything through the prism of an almost metastatic desire to expand. Where ordinary people see a solution, they see a problem. Where we cynical they are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born into the agency, it is very difficult to understand.” I wish I had written that. Scott Fitzgerald almost did.

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.– “The Rich Boy” (1926)

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