"A Coalition MP who lashed out at supermarkets selling halal meat* took 'arduous' taxpayer-funded overseas study tours to broaden his cultural understanding. Luke Simpkins argued he needed 'to visit the homelands of major non-English speaking communities' of his WA electorate to better understand their concerns. His trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2011 cost taxpayers $15,840 but he argued they were a success... Mr Simpkins said disputes in Macedonia were 'complex'." (Taxpayers pick up tab for jet set, Daniel Hurst & Jonathan Swan, Sydney Morning Herald, 8/10/13)
How interesting that the Herald should neglect to mention Simpkins' February 2012 trip to Israel - a journey that seems to have inspired several parliamentary fulminations against Iran.**
So, what exactly do we, the people - Simpkins' employers, actually - get for our generous funding of his wanderlust?
Well, here's a sample, an extract from his fulmination of 11 February 2013 in which he contends that Iran is bent on conquering the Middle East and imposing a "Shiah theocracy" on its Sunni Arab majority:
"Iran has a sense of entitlement as the dominator in the region, which leads to fears that they are willing to go to extreme measures in acquiring this domination. For too long, Iran has positioned itself as the victim and continues to claim ancient conflicts between Shiah and Sunni denominations and even between Persian and Arabic ethnicities as justification for violence and hatred. Shiah belief portrays itself as being the little fish in the Arabic Sunni pond. Iran believes it is its responsibilty to return to Persian dominance, as before the Arabisation of the region between the 7th and 14th centuries. So they view it as their right to spread the Shiah theocracy and to suppress the Sunni majority."
Now exactly where Simpkins gets this stuff & nonsense from is anyone's guess. Israel's foreign ministry perhaps? One thing's for sure, though, if he'd had a genuine interest in Iran or Shi'ism, for a mere fraction of that $15,840, he could've picked up a copy of Shi'ism: A Religion of Protest (2011) by Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, turned to pages 302-303, and meditated on the following:
"The appeal and significance of the Islamic Revolution [1977-1979] went far beyond Iran or Shi'ism and reached farthest into the heartland of the Arab and Muslim world. This Iranian revolution has never been called a 'Shi'i' revolution, always an 'Islamic' revolution, for not a single ideologue, militant or moderate, turbaned or tied, thought of himself as a Shi'i revolutionary before thinking of himself as a Muslim. It is imperative now to keep in mind that Shi'is have never considered themselves Shi'is who happened to be Muslims, but exactly the opposite, Muslims who happened to be Shi'is. Shi'ism for the Shi'is is a take on their Islam, not Islam a take on their Shi'ism. Undue emphasis is put on the distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Islam or any other religion. Every religious orthodoxy is a politically successful heterodoxy. The political logic of that medieval fact transcends any single world religion and has a larger claim on universality. What ultimately emerged as the Islamic Revolution in Iran was never branded a 'Shi'i revolution' in its character or disposition, political aspirations or institutional foregrounding. That revolution always had a global claim on Islam and the world it inhabited. From its very first rumbles, the Islamic revolution had regional, cross-sectarian, and even trans-Islamic aspirations... The Shi'is have always thought of themselves as Muslims. Sectarian thinking in and out of Muslim communities is always a matter of external political manipulation of internally dormant doctrines. Throughout history, every single revolutionary uprising for or against Shi'ism has had more immediate material and political causes and consequences. Today only the United States, Saudi Arabia, and al-Qaeda speak of Shi'is as Shi'is, for Shi'is themselves think of their identities as integral to the Muslim world at large. The reason for Iranian support for the Lebanese Hezbollah is not because they are Shi'is; nor do Iranians withhold their even more active support for Hamas because they are not Shi'is. "
Think of the saving to the taxpayer. But then, hey, what would someone like Dabashi know?
[*See my 6/2/12 post Here We Go Again; **See my 10/10/12 post Izzy Izzy Izzy, OI Oi Oi.]