…much to to the chagrin of most Australians, especially Sydney-siders, whatever their cultural background or religion. Kevin Rudd (hopefully our next Prime Minister — though I wouldn’t bet on it) says, but not in that 7.30 Report story: “He’s several sandwiches short of a picnic.”
Waleed Aly, a Melbourne lawyer and high-profile Muslim, said some good things in a 7.30 Report interview last night.
ALI MOORE: How much credibility does the sheikh have within the Muslim community?
WALEED ALY: I think it’s a misleading question in a way because when you talk about the Muslim community, it assumes there is such a singular thing and of course there isn’t. We’ve got a whole range of communities that really exist in parallel and so I think, really, to paint an accurate picture is probably to say he has a very strong following in certain parts of the community in Sydney, particularly among some of the Lebanese population in Sydney. Outside of that his following is mixed and there’s a question as to his relevance outside of his immediate community, which makes perfect sense. I mean, he can’t be everywhere.
ALI MOORE: Isn’t the problem, though, that he is widely seen, perhaps even more so outside the Muslim community, as the spiritual leader, as the voice?
WALEED ALY: That’s precisely the problem, and I think that’s something a lot of Muslims in Australia have felt fairly strongly about for a while, actually, particularly outside of Sydney, is this idea that there is one person who, at least as far as the media seems to be concerned, speaks on behalf of the entire Muslim community. That’s simply false. There is no single person who can do that, particularly when, as I said, you’ve got incredibly diverse communities that really almost don’t intersect that often, in a lot of cases. So the whole idea, I think, of having one person that we call the spiritual leader of the Muslim community is inherently and irredeemably false.
On similar grounds I drew our attention yesterday to iMuslim, and in the comments on my previous entry on the subject, where I have also listed other relevant posts on this blog, to some other voices. Her spirit is one with which I can’t see anyone having a problem. It would be ludicrous to feel threatened by her (or her hijab). You may have noted yesterday that I had for several months intended to add her blog to my blog roll, along with a number of other Muslim voices I have listed under the 50+ blogs or under “Faith and Philosophy”.
ALI MOORE: Waleed Aly, the charter or part of the charter for your organisation is to promote an informed and positive understanding of Islam. How much damage to these comments do, no matter how marginalised you may argue the sheikh is, to the sort of work that you’re trying to complete or continue?
WALEED ALY: There’s no doubt they do a considerable amount of damage, and it’s not a matter of my organisation as opposed to any other. There’s Muslims all over Australia who are working very, very hard in interfaith and even just in communications with wider Australia to put out – I wouldn’t say to put a favourable message or image of Muslims out there, but just to put a real one out there. I think that does get damaged very, very quickly when you have a senior figure, particularly one who is understood by the broader Australian community to be the spiritual leader of Australian Muslims, who says things that are controversial and occasionally divisive. It is very, very hard to come back from that. It takes years and years and years of work to build and it takes only fractions of seconds to destroy.
ALI MOORE: And despite the extraordinary divisiveness, the controversial nature, the damage he’s done, there is really nothing the broader Islamic community can do to close his mouth?
WALEED ALY: Essentially, no. The only thing we can do is try to place his comments in context and that is that he is one religious figure within the Muslim communities of Australia. He is a very prominent one and he has a very large following but it is confined, really, to certain suburbs of Sydney. He’s done some incredible community work but that’s not really felt outside of his immediate community. I think as long as we just contextualise these things and it’s understood, then perhaps we can move on. It’s where those sorts of things are not contextualised and we assume this is the equivalent of the Pope speaking that we run into some trouble.
ALI MOORE: Waleed Aly, thanks for joining us.
WALEED ALY: No worries.
The image on the right resulted from a search for Islamic art which led me to NEWSgrist, a very interesting e-zine/art blog.
Just when we all thought it was OK to be indignant (and I think I still am) the Sun-Herald goes and publishes another side of the story: Meet the in-laws: the Anglos whose son married the mufti’s daughter:
THE Anglo-Saxon parents of a man married to the daughter of the controversial Muslim cleric Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly say they have not been offended by his latest outburst that Muslims are more Australian than those with convict ancestors.
Brian and Christine Tocock, whose son Malik Islam is a Muslim convert and married to the mufti’s daughter Asma, said they do not always agree with Sheik al Hilaly’s comments but 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,” 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.”…
The Wollongong family, who are not Muslim, first met Sheik al Hilaly three years ago when their son became engaged to Asma, who is holidaying in Egypt with her parents and is also four months pregnant with her first child.
It is the first time the couple have spoken publicly about their relationship. “We are here to support our son and to also make people aware that the mufti has welcomed us into his family and has treated us well,” Mr Tocock said. “He is a funny man with a wicked sense of humour.”
Mr Tocock came to Australia from England 45 years ago and said he paid £10 for his ticket. His wife was born in Australia. However, neither have ancestors who were convicts.
Mrs Tocock believes many people try to put the mufti down. “I have had to bite my tongue at work when people have spoken about him,” she said. “He is a lovely man who has helped so many people in his community.”
Maybe Mikey, an Asian Australian, in this case has really been wiser than I am?
I mean seriously, is this any worse than what, oh I don’t know, whack job Jim Saleam would say? Of course the comment and others like it, regardless of who says it or whatever ethinic groups are alluded to, is utterly ridiculous. I’m sure I don’t need to say it, but I’ll say it anyway: Australians of any ancestry, through birth or naturalisation, have as much right to be in this country as anyone else.
Maybe it’s because out of all the ethnic groups, those of Middle Eastern descent are the flavour of the week, and the seemingly regular fulminations of al-Hilali are easy pickings for tabloid media, who cynically pander to the prejudices of their target audiences. In this case the hypocrisy is astonishing. Where’s the brouhaha over any of the verbal fartings of white supremacist groups, or even the tamer but equally divisive remarks of our very own Prime Minister? Hmm, I suppose you don’t want to insult the views of your target demographic, do you.
Evidently, in Howard’s Australia it’s okay to be a white racist, but not a coloured one.