Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Shakira Hussein says that Muslim community politics in Australia are "chaotic". Hussein is a PhD student at the Australian National University and editor of online magazine Shalom, Pax, Salam. Her articles are regularly published in leading Australian broadsheets.

She also says that "no one wants to be seen as the axe wielder" in the matter of Taj Din al-Hilali (pictured, in a cartoon immediately above Hussein's piece in today's The Australian).

Politicians who call on "the Muslim community" to get rid of Hilali need to be more specific in targeting their demands. Far from there being a united Australian Muslim community, there are many communities, most of which had nothing to do with appointing Hilali in the first place and which have put as much distance between themselves and him as it is possible to do.

Meanwhile, in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Prime Minister John Howard has backed calls for controversial mufti Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly to consider leaving Australia, saying he is an embarrassment to most Australian Muslims.

Nobody, however, has voiced calls for Alan Jones to stop broadcasting. Maybe they should, following today's story reporting that "The Australian broadcasting watchdog has found that 2GB and its prominent breakfast presenter Alan Jones breached the radio code of practice during broadcasts just before the infamous 2005 Cronulla riots".

Calling those responsible for the attack on a surf lifesaver on Cronulla beach (that started the whole bloody mess) "Middle Eastern grubs" and that "Australians old and new shouldn't have to put up with this scum" is not on, it seems. But at least there's a proper channel for dealing with these sort of breaches. The Australian Communications and Media Authority said that, in order to address the issue, it would send a letter "to Harbour Radio Pty Ltd, the parent company of 2GB, and they would wait for a response from the company".

"We'll be seeking some kind of heightened measure, what that turns out to be is really what comes out of that dialogue between us and Harbour Radio," [spokesman Donald Robertson] said.

All very civilised.

The problem with Hilali is no longer just Hilali himself. The problem is that there is no method by which an oversight body can address the issue of his outspokenness with a stern letter. The federal government says it cannot cancel his citizenship. Ministers obviously want the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils to do something, and soon. The delay is only causing irritation in the broader community. But as Hussein says:

The AFIC has succeeded in making itself almost irrelevant following a series of internal power struggles that led to the organisation being placed under administration last year.

We can only wait for the promised "national council of imams" which, my Pakistani work colleague says, is anticipated with eagerness by Muslims also.

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