Oddfellows by Nicholas Shakespeare

March 2015, no. 369

Two aggrieved Islamic men follow a foreign cause and wage jihad on their fellow Australians. Shouting Allahu akbar, they stage an ambush, raise a home-made flag and open fire on hundreds of men, women and children. They escape and die in a final shoot-out. They leave four dead and seven wounded.

It could be ripped from today’s headlines – except it happened a hundred years ago. On New Year’s Day in 1915, Gul Mehmet and Molla Abdullah, denizens of Ghantown, the despised Afghan settlement on the outskirts of Broken Hill, took up arms against the town’s citizens as they rode the train to the annual Oddfellows picnic. They did so in the name of the Turkish Sultan, who was calling for resistance to the Anzac invaders in their home territory.

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Many of us would find it as hard as Shaw’s Ladvenu does to think of any good reason for torture. It seems medieval, it is abhorrent, it is internationally illegal, and it doesn’t work. Statements made under torture are legally useless, and their value as intelligence is not much better ...

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Never far from one’s mind these days, the events of September 11, 2001, and their direct aftermath in Afghanistan and elsewhere, had to be prominent in this month’s issue of ABR, such is their complex resonance and ubiquitous iconography. To complement Morag Fraser’s essay in this issue on the consequences of ‘September 11’ for civic ...

Primo Levi, in two interviews given almost twenty years ago*, set a standard of critical sympathy that is not only exemplary, but peculiarly apt to the fraught debate about the post-September 11 world and the USA’s place and reputation within it.

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