Here we go again: bearded freaks and well trained hijabees tell a gullible media that nobody, absolutely nobody properly understands the religion of peace. Misinterpreters R’Us; Muslims are victims and “Islamophobia” is the problem.
Believe it, infidel! Or else…..
NSW police praise Islamic community for not beheading infidels
Police in New South Wales have praised the cooperation of the state’s Islamic community in preventing a repeat of last weekend’s violent protests in Sydney.—More fawning praise atÂ Radio New Zealand News
The Gillard Goose:
Â Inside Sydney’s City of Imams
- Jordan Baker and Caroline Macus fromÂ The Sunday TelegraphÂ fawn over ‘diversity’ and Islamic misunderstandings. In their Â typically clueless multiculti-befuddlement they get soaked with taqiyya Islam, which is the intention.
- Most Sydney Muslims are moderates, but….
- Hizb ut-Tahrir is a group of “articulate conservatives” Â calling for all Muslims to live under Islamic law…Â Â they do not preach violence…. (really?)
- Salafism, a new form of Islam….Â Not all Salafis are extreme, but some have radical views….
- Anglo Australians think of Islam in terms of Christian hierarchy, with imams acting as parish priests, sheiks as bishops and a grand mufti as a kind of archbishop or pope, ensuring everyone tows the line. In truth, it’s far more laissez-faire…..
Muslim Leaders hold a press conference today to outline their views on the recent violent protests in Sydney. Pictured speaking are Samier Dandan, President of the Lebanese Muslim Association and Silma Ihram, board member of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, with Muslim Community Leaders behind them.
Only the Koran unites Australia’s Muslim community.
Five times a day, the call to prayer wails from loudspeakers at Auburn’s Gallipoli mosque. A silent parade of men – some young, some old, some new to this country, some long-time Australians – slip off their shoes and form a devout line under the ornate dome.
- El Masri: Rioters misinterpret religion
- Strife: Backyard preachers inflame violence
- Cusack: No room for ideas that create violence
- Submission: The truth of Islam revealed
They bow, kneel and supplicate themselves in flawless unison, a routine perfected over thousands of prayers.Â At exactly the same time, men and women across Sydney go through the same ritual: bow, kneel and pray.Â This, however, is as harmonious as Sydney’s Muslim community gets.
Thanks to Mullah
When 25 Islamic organisations condemned last week’s riots, the event was described as “historic” – the first time so many groups had united for a common cause. But those organisations cannot speak on behalf of Sydney’s Muslim community, because there is no such thing. Australia’s Muslims are deeply, irrevocably divided. They are split by sect, language and ethnic heritage, and further divided by ideology, geography and politics.
“It’s not that they want to kill each other,” says Jan Ali, a sociologist of religion from the University of Western Sydney. “They just don’t interact.”
Disunity is Muslim Australia’s biggest weakness; because there are so many voices, none is loud enough to the reach the restless, angry young men who violently protested last weekend.
Nor is any authority strong enough to draw them away from the radical, self-styled preachers, or “backyard imams”, who operate outside established mosques, and draw in disaffected boys.
Muslims in Australia are so fractured that “(young men) become confused as to which group is right for them,” says the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations’ Kuranda Seyit. “Eventually, they find that the radical groups offer a sense of belonging and explain the religion in black and white terms.”
For all the debate about Islam in Australia, there are relatively few Muslims living here.
While the numbers are swelling – the population grew 69 per cent in the past 10 years – at the last census there were 476,300, about half of whom live in Sydney. Some estimate more than half are non-practising. Of all the divisions in the Islamic community, the main one dates back to the 7th century, when an argument over the successor to Muhammad created two sects: Shi’ites and Sunnis. Australian Shi’ites, who are in the minority (rough estimates put them at 50,000), have settled around Arncliffe in the city’s south. The more populous Sunnis are divided along ethnic lines, and scattered across Sydney.
Australian Muslims come from about 70 different ethnic backgrounds, and latest census figures supplied toÂ The Sunday TelegraphÂ paint a fractured picture. Lebanese, who make up 16 per cent of Australia’s Muslim community, have settled around Canterbury, Liverpool, Parramatta and Rockdale. Turks, the next most populous group at 11 per cent, are concentrated in Auburn, which is also home to Afghani, Iraqi and Somali communities. In Parramatta, there are Pakistanis, Iraqis and Iranians. In Liverpool, there are Bosnians, Kurds and Jordanians. Fijians have settled in Green Valley, and Malaysians have settled around Botany Bay. These groups have little in common beyond religion. Often, they don’t even speak the same language. Their cultures, too, can be wildly different – especially in such fundamental things as food and dress – so they have little to do with each other.
At the press conference condemning last weekend’s violence, 25 organisations claimed to speak for the Islamic community. Yet on closer inspection, the organisations spoke only for those with Arab heritage, who, census figures show, make up about 30 per cent of our Muslim population – not for the Indonesians, or Bangladeshis, or the Somalis. “It’s a very small representation of a very diverse and reasonably large population,” says Dr Ali. “When the Mufti of Australia or the Islamic Council of NSW get up and say we condemn violence as Muslims, he is more talking about his own community than the communities of Muslims in Australia or Sydney.”
A Muslim’s ethnic heritage influences the way they practise Islam.
Turks have a moderate approach to religious observance – for example, Turkish women are less likely to wear veils. Pakistani Muslims often require women to wear the niqab and men to grow a beard, because Pakistan takes a tougher line on religious observance.
The divisions within these cultural groups can run even deeper, to old superstitions and grudges held for generations. Some Lebanese Muslims will not marry a Muslim from another part of Lebanon. There are religious differences within ethnic groups, too. Among Sunnis, there are four types of religious law. In theory, differences do not matter; in reality, they do. Even Muslims worshipping at the same mosque might have different interpretations of the law.
“In some contexts the Shafis (one Sunni sub-branch) might not pray behind the Hanafi imam (representing another Sunni sub-branch), and vice versa,” says Dr Ali.
“There are differences in the way to slaughter an animal; Shafis say that as long as the three jugular veins are cut, and a person is in good mind, even people of the book such as Jews and Christians, if they slaughter an animal, it’s OK. Hanafis say you have to be a Muslim, and you need to recite this statement in the name of God most gracious.”
Political disagreements also cut deep. Most Sydney Muslims are moderates, but there are progressives and conservatives agitating at the edges. For example, there are about 1000 so-called modernists in Australia, who want to reconcile Islamic faith with modern values. They are calling for reforms such as allowing women to lead prayers and to cast off the hijab. However, it’s the right wing that attracts most attention.
The two organisations linked by the media to the recent violence were Hizb ut-Tahrir and Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah (ASWJ). Insiders say that Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group of articulate conservatives that are calling for all Muslims to live under Islamic law, is a small group with no more than a few hundred members, but growing influence on Australian university campuses. They don’t believe in democracy; rather, they want to see revolution in the Islamic world, and the removal of puppet governments governing Muslim states. While members have, as one observer put it, “weird views of the world”, they do not preach violence.
The other group, ASWJ, is an umbrella group. Many of its member organisations are followers of Salafism, a new form of Islam that brings the religion back to basics. Salafis discard the views of the Muslim scholars – Islam’s version of St Augustine and Thomas More – who they say corrupted the message, and focus on how Muhammad lived and what he taught. Not all Salafis are extreme, but some have radical views on issues such as of the role of women or US foreign policy. Salafism is attractive to young Muslim Australians because it is simple – worshippers with Pakistani, Moroccan and Indonesian backgrounds can worship together, without being caught up in cultural differences.
The ASWJ is influential. It has thousands of members and was represented at the Islamic community’s press conference last week (its most controversial leader, Sheik Feiz Mohammed, said he was invited but couldn’t make it). It has been around for 25 years and has 11 centres across Australia, including four in Sydney. It’s funded by donations, and it is growing.
However, police don’t think ASWJ is a threat. “Put it this way,” says Detective Superintendent John O’Reilly, commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Operation Group. “We know of people who have left ASWJ because their beliefs are too moderate. We have very good relationships with ASWJ and I don’t consider ASWJ a threat to the general community of NSW.”
Det Supt O’Reilly isn’t worried about Sheik Feiz, either, despite his having been quoted in the past saying women invite rape and that children should be offered as soldiers for Islam. “I can say categorically that (the violence) had nothing to do with him. And he’s one of the Islamic scholars that have been supporting police.” The real threats, he says, are smaller and much harder to reach.
It’s tempting for Anglo Australians to think of Islam in terms of Christian hierarchy, with imams acting as parish priests, sheiks as bishops and a grand mufti as a kind of archbishop or pope, ensuring everyone tows the line. In truth, it’s far more laissez-faire. Muslims don’t stick to certain mosques as Christians do to churches. They pray five times a day, so use whichever mosque or musalla (prayer hall) is convenient and tend to congregate around cultural centres, such as the Turkish centre in Auburn.
Imams are also less influential than priests. Traditionally, they are simply prayer leaders; if they know chapters from the Koran, as most Muslims do, they can lead the faithful in prayer. The grand mufti is elected by the Council of Imams, but as the council only represents some Australian imams, the mufti’s influence is limited. Messages from imams – such as asking followers not to react violently to insults – might not have much impact either.
“They don’t have the authority of a priest in the pulpit,” says Dr Ali.
Sheiks are highly educated; they should hold formal qualifications from important tertiary institutions, such as the University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia. They have influence, but only over their own flock. For example, Sheik Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly at Lakemba Mosque is popular among the Lebanese Muslim community, but has little to do with Shi’ites, who look to Sheik Kamal Mouselmani for religious guidance.
In Australia, traditional benchmarks have changed because centres of Islamic teaching are so far away. Imams can have more influence here than they would overseas, and “backyard” sheiks can get away with less education. This can be dangerous.
“There are a number of self-made, self-appointed imams,” says Dr Ali. “To become an imam, you can simply sport a beard, put on some Islamic attire, and be a bit charismatic. Some self-made imams do not have the necessary qualifications to be a religious leader. Suddenly an ordinary individual, because of a lack of authority figure in the area … assumes that role. The danger is that due to inadequate formal preparation, the self-appointed and self-made imams may contribute to a situation in which Muslims might find themselves proceeding in a direction or on a path that is not necessarily part and parcel of Islamic teaching. It can be, in fact, somewhat outside the teaching of Islam, and that can create problems later on.”
These self-styled leaders preach in so-called “garage mosques”. Not every makeshift mosque or backyard imam is a bad influence – some take young men off the street and give them purpose and education. But some preach anger and hate. They attract restless young men, some of whom may have been in jail and are looking for religious leadership, and teach an oversimplified, radical Islam.
Sixth Pillar (a slogan worn on some T-shirts during the protest, referring to the sixth pillar of Islam, or jihad) may have sprung from a garage mosque.
The trouble with these rogue groups is no one knows who they are, including the 25 organisations that came forward last week to denounce the violence.
“(Those leaders) don’t know who these young men are, they don’t know who to contact, how to influence them, they don’t know how to get a good positive message to them,” Dr Ali says. “The young boys won’t listen to them. Some of (the young men) would accuse them of not being real Muslims.”
These are the groups police worry about, Det Supt O’Reilly says. “When you speak to any of the Islamic scholars, there is no valid Islamic argument in resorting to terrorism,” he says. “Traditionally, with instances of terrorism that have been committed here, the threats have come from people who have been secretive and broken away from the recognised groups, seeking like-minded individuals.”
No one in the Muslim community will say it on the record, but quietly most blame the recent riots on young Lebanese men. It’s no secret there are socio-economic problems in many Australian Muslim communities – the Lebanese community included. Among the Muslim population in Auburn, Canterbury and Parramatta, 60 per cent is under 30, latest census data shows. Their very young population suffers higher-than-average unemployment, and earns lower-than-average wages, leaving bored, resentful young men with little to do. Add an angry defensiveness at the distrust of their religion by many Australians and the perceived insults to fellow Muslims overseas, and the backyard mosques begin to fill up.
“Of course, the biggest problem is cultural,” says Seyit. “Islam per se is not the problem. If it were then you would have Indians, Turks Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Bosnians running wild in the streets of Sydney too.
“What we are seeing is an underclass of disenfranchised males, who have heavy accents, dark complexions and few skills. They find empowerment through joining religious groups and this energises them with bravado and a sense of infallibility, and they take on authority figures and see them as the enemy. In their own cultures, they suffer from an inferiority complex, low self-esteem and harbour little respect for authority.”
Muslim communities are well aware of these issues. And the next generation of community leaders is trying to do something about it. At last week’s conference, the spokesman was Samier Dandan, the young, handsome president of the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA), which is – arguably, as these things are never clear – the most influential Arabic-speaking organisation.
Dandan is the new, fresh face of Muslim leaders. He grew up on the north shore, studied computer engineering at university, and became wealthy through investments with other Muslim entrepreneurs. He speaks English with an Australian accent, has corporate contacts throughout the Middle East and is politically well-connected. He was the first to leverage the power of the Muslim community by throwing the LMA’s support behind Liberal candidates at the last state election, saying Labor had failed to provide much-needed resources for the community.
He chose a woman to be his co-spokesperson at the press conference; Silma Ihram converted (or “reverted” in Muslim parlance) in 1954, and was an Australian Democrats candidate at the 2007 federal election. He imposed a media ban on the leaders of the other organisations present, in the hope of presenting a united front.
Dandan conceded that Muslim leaders needed to develop programs to help young people, and pledged to implement a governing body to respond to religious vilification. He asked Muslims to “respond only to directives from reputable and established centres and mosques”.
However, others believe a new governing body would be a waste of money – yet another organisation to add to an ever-growing list.
“The only way is to get to the youths before they join these groups,” says Seyit. “Maybe that’s one area community leaders can get involved with, mentoring youth in schools and supporting parents.”
Engaging with these troubled youths before they are lost to a radical backyard imam may be the best way to stop extremism, but that requires collaboration – a herculean task in such a divided community. It also requires money. There is only one youth worker at Lakemba Mosque. His position is government-funded, and his reach limited to Lakemba. The young men of Canterbury, Punchbowl and Granville are beyond his reach.
As the men left Auburn’s Gallipoli Mosque after prayers on Wednesday, they talked about the protests and the video that was seen by Muslims around the world as a slur on the prophet.
Some condemned the violence.
“It was disgraceful,” said a Lebanese man.
One condemned the film, but not the violence.
“Just look at what the Americans did,” said the Bangladeshi-born man.
Others condemned the police response. Some condemned it all.
“We don’t like the movie and we don’t like the violence,” said an Egyptian.
As these men showed, there are as many opinions among Australia’s Muslims as there are factions.
Leaders face a huge task in providing provide unity to Australian Muslims and direction to their sons and daughters.
“When you have such great diversity, you need a strong, strategic, instrumental focus to bring people together, and it’s an enduring commitment and process,” says Dr Ali. “You need commitment and resources and know-how.
“It’s a very difficult task.”
Hyderabad journalists beaten and dragged for not covering protesters
You cannot not protest: