Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Islamaphobic Australians attack peaceful Aussie mufti

January 15, 2007 - Aussie mufti Sheik Taj al-Din Hilali's recent comments during an Egyptian TV interview have triggered more Islamaphobic outrage in Australia, with a number of politicians, including Federal Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone, laughing him off as an "irrelevance" or demanding he "stay in his native Egypt if did not like Australia."

Reiterating his view that the furore over his comments are a conspiracy against him led by politicians and the media, Sheik al-Hilaly said:

"Always upside down my speech. For bad intention. I say many, many times. I taught - love Australia or leave it. Australia is still the best country in world. We're intelligent people, (the) Australia nation."

Sheik Hilali was called an "embarrassment" by Prime Minister John Howard...

However Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilali has proclaimed his love for his adopted homeland and labelled it the "best country in the world". It seems Sheik al-Hilali has has once again been misinterpreted, demonised, his comments sensationalised for the sake of spectacle and fear. The Sydney Imam described his detractors as racist. "That is the racists talking," he said.

"I love Australia. I respect the Australian nationality, Australian society, the land of peace. Australia is the best country in the world."

Sheik al-Hilali was interviewed on Egyptian television last week. According to mainstream corporate media reports, Sheikh Hilali said:

"Anglo-Saxons came here in chains while we paid our way and came in freedom. We are more Australian than them. Australia is not an Anglo-Saxon country; Islam has deep roots in Australian soil that were there before the English arrived."

He also dubbed Prime Minister Howard as "Mr Me Too" - meaning Mr Howard needs instructions from the US before acting. Mr Howard said it was up to the Muslim community to deal with al-Hilali.

The executive director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations, said the comments did not represent the views of the majority of the Muslim community. "I would like to reiterate to all Australians, including our people of Anglo-Saxon heritage, that there is no substance to the idea that Muslims have more of a right to Australia than the early settlers," Kuranda Seyit said.

The shiek's family say whilst they did not always agree with him, they believed he was entitled to his opinion, because Australia "fought wars to have freedom of speech".

"We know what he means, and we don't believe he deliberately meant to offend anyone," his son-in-law Mr Tocock said. "We know that the mufti loves this country, but we can understand how people can be offended by his comments. It doesn't help to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims."

John Heard, writes in the Australian, "whether or not the man should be allowed to say the things he does - or be deported or jailed for them, as some have suggested - is not the kind of discussion a mature democracy should indulge with a serious hearing. So why are we so threatened when the things he says don't square neatly with our view of ourselves?"

"Is it because it is becoming obvious that the sheik is right about some things? ... "al-Hilali's comments about Anglo-Saxons coming to Australia as convicts are, at least on the face of it, mostly accurate. White settlement did occur here because Britain needed a faraway island on which to dump its criminal class. Only an individual ignorant of Australian history would object to such comments on factual grounds, writes Mr Heard. "Only a blind nationalist would get steamed up about, rather than dismiss - even affectionately - the sheik's snobby tone..." (John Heard: Mufti's madness is true-blue larrikinism)

The corporate media created a furore late last year when Sheik Hilali's comments, made during a Ramadam sermon, were deliberately taken out of context and published across front pages of Australia's newspapers - despite the Muslim cleric repeatedly stating he "does not blame victims of rape for their predicament."

ai-Hilali's friend and confidant Keysar Trad said Australia as a nation had over-reacted and would have been more thick-skinned if the mufti had made those comments as a non-Muslim. "Nobody expects us to be so thin-skinned," Mr Trad said. "We're only like that because we find the mufti to be so exotic." Mr Trad said his friend was a proud Australian.

But other Muslim groups distanced themselves from the remarks, saying the sheik's extreme personal opinions did not represent the views of the majority of Muslims.

Sheik al-Hilali came to Australia in 1982 and was granted permanent residency in 1990. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) appointed him Mufti of Australia in 1988. The AFIC, which has the power over the position of Mufti of Australia, is in receivership and fresh elections for a new executive board are not expected until next month.

AFIC's legal adviser, Haset Sali, labelled the sheik's recent comments on Egyptian TV as insane and said the comments had horrified thevast majority of Australian Muslims. Mr Sali, who was once a close mate, has become a bitter critic, said Australian Muslims needed a head mufti as much as they needed a "crocodile in the back garden" and described Sheik Hilali was like "a bull in a china shop..."

"In reality, Sheik Hilali is no longer the Mufti for Australia," Mr Sali said.

Sheik al-Hilali is expected to return home this week to confront a salivating pack of sensationalist media.


The Australian
Herald and Weekly Times - Don't hurry
Middle East Online
Wikipedia - Taj_El-Din_Hilaly
Sheikh's OK, say in-laws - The Age
John Heard: Mufti's madness is true-blue larrikinism
Muslim slams 'disgraceful' Hilali

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