Islamophobia Downunder

Gideon Polya, “Islamophobia Downunder. Australian racism &  jihad-terror conflation”, MWC News, 21 January 2007

 

Islamophobia Downunder. Australian racism &  jihad-terror conflation

Islamophobia and threat to the beleaguered Muslim community as a result of intemperate and abusive  comments made by an Australian Muslim cleric Sheikh Feiz Muhammed, leader of the Global Islamic Youth Centre, Liverpool, Sydney  (for a recent report ).

In short, Australia-born Sheikh Muhammed variously made comments on “jihad” (actually Islamic spiritual struggle but to racist, anti-Arab anti-Semitic, Islamophobic Western media and politicians a “red button” synonymous with “terrorism”). However his sermon also included words that could have IMPLIED “violent jihad” as opposed to “spiritual struggle” (and hence possibly violating Australia’s anti-terrorism laws with a possible sentence of 15 years in prison – the maximum punishment for intentionally recruiting (including inciting and encouraging) a person to participate in terrorism, according to a top human rights lawyer Lex Lasry QC). 

More explicitly, and whatever the interpretation placed on  “jihad”,  Sheikh Muhammed's  reported remarks about disbelievers and Jews as "filth" and "pigs", respectively, are of course absolutely unacceptable abuse. He has apologized for the "pigs" comment (however not as far as I know for the disbelievers as "filth" comment), saying in an interview that he regretted implicitly referring to Jews as “pigs” in the videos, which were recorded in 2002 following the release of photographs showing bloody clashes between Israelis and Palestinians: "That remark was made in the heat of the moment and I regret it. It was not something I should have said and is not something I believe."

Sheikh Feiz Muhammed reportedly stated (in the context of religious teaching): "The peak, the pinnacle, the crest, the highest point, the pivot, the summit of Islam is jihad … Today, many parents they prevent their children from attending lessons. Why? They fear that they might create a place in their hearts, a love, just a bit of the love, of sacrificing their lives for Allah …[children] as soldiers defending Islam … Teach them this: that there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a Mujahid. Put in their soft, tender heart the zeal of jihad and the love of martyrdom."

Jihad literally means struggle in the way of God and is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam. Thus jihad is a spiritual struggle against weakness and darkness. However jihad has the connotation of more active, collective struggle as in the Christian term “crusade”  - thus Christians can have non-violent “crusades” against poverty, ignorance and  injustice based on Words and certainly had a succession of violent Middle Ages “crusades” (Deeds) against Indigenous Muslims living in the Holy Land.  Notoriously  assisted by anti-Arab anti-Semitic and Islamophobic Western politicians, Racist Zionists and  media,  jihad has become synonymous in the West with “terrorism”.

Some of the Australian Muslim and non-Muslim reactions are quoted below (see also ).

Mainstream media and politician comments

Kevin Andrews (Acting Attorney-General):  "importation of hatred … There is an offence in Australia, in broad terms, for a person to incite violence against another person or group of people based on political opinion or religious grounds or belief,"

Kevin Rudd (Leader of the Labor Opposition) : "These statements are obscene in the extreme. Sheik Mohammad has made extraordinarily violent statements when it comes to encouraging people to commit acts of jihad. Violent statements toward the Jewish community and statements also that describe non-Muslims as filth. These are appalling statements and they have no place in Australia. I would say this to Sheik Mohammed: “Do not return to Australia, you are not welcome here.” As I see it, Sheik Muhammed's statements add up to incitement to terrorism."

The Age newspaper (Melbourne): “Sheikh sparks outrage (page one headline). A controversial Muslim leader who has advocated martyrdom to children and described Jews as pigs could face up to 15 years in jail if charged under Australian anti-terror laws. Political and religious figures, including local Islamic leaders, yesterday accused Sheikh Feiz Muhammad of inciting hatred and terrorism through recorded lectures that have been sold in Australia on DVD.”

Morris Iemma (New South Wales Premier):  "He has gone way beyond the sort of outrageous and stupid comments made in recent times by the other sheikh [Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali. who incited general non-Muslim and Muslim outrage in referring to scantily clad women as “meat left out for the cat”)] … This fellow is inciting people to commit acts of terror."

Jeremy Jones (Executive Council of Australian Jewry): “[Sheikh Muhammad] engaging in a campaign of poisoning minds …Feiz Muhammed comes across like a very angry fanatic, which is very dangerous, particularly as someone who wants to be inspiring youth.”

Michael Lipshutz  (Jewish B’nai B’rith Anti-defamation League): “"racist anti-Semitic diatribe… [comments] should rally the Muslim community to combat this intolerable, vile epidemic among its members".

Muslim comments

Keysar Trad  (President of the Australian  Islamic Friendship Association) condemned the comments against Jews but also indicated ambiguity over “jihad”: “If he means by standing up and defending faith in a non-violent way - do it using words - then we all do that. We all defend our religion using words. But if he means taking up arms, that would be something most people would take objection to."

Kuranda Seyit (Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations): “Jihad ... means to eschew those types of things in our lives which we see as negative, such as promiscuity and drugs and stealing … another case of Islam bashing … [Muslim leaders] do have to be very responsible about how they conduct themselves in public."

Rahim Ghauri (Islamic Council of Western Australia) to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC):  "Some … guy stands up and calls himself a leader of the Muslims, calls himself a cleric because he can read the Quran. Why do people like me [have to] sit here and give an interview because every Tom, Dick and Harry gets up and makes some stupid comments?" (i.e why blame Muslims in general?)

Ali Khalil (a member of the Global Islamic Youth Centre): “[Sheik Muhammad as a] great bloke … [comments misinterpreted] … Dying for the cause of Islam … or dying as a jihad doesn't necessarily mean going to war and killing someone and you dying in the process… [re “pigs”] I wouldn't like to be called that and I wouldn't like to call anyone that."

Waleed Aly (Islamic Council of Victoria): “ If [authorities] genuinely believe there has been a breach of the law, then I don’t think anyone can object to that law being applied. This sort of preaching is a real concern.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s comments

In addition to his apology for “pigs”, in an interview with The Australian newspaper Sheikh Muhammed stated in relation to “jihad”: “[misconstrued] ….The jihad I speak of is not one of violence. It is one of personal struggle against things like mischievousness, temptation and personal harm. I don't believe in suicide bombing. I don't believe in violence against others.  We denounce that. This is not Islamic law and it is not moral."

IF we accept his assurances, we have to conclude that Sheikh Muhammed believes that peace is the only way – an extraordinarily pacific position compared to that of the Western Racist Zionists, Mainstream media and Mainstream media politicians who all variously support  the Western imposition of horrendous war, violence, occupation and violent death on the Muslim world. Thus the post-invasion excess deaths (avoidable deaths, deaths that did not have to happen) in the Occupied Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan Territories now total 0.3, 0.9 and 2.1 million, respectively – mostly Women and Children and largely due to gross Occupier violation of the Geneva Convention that demands that Occupiers keep their Conquered subjects ALIVE  (see MWC News and HERE ).

A pro-peace, anti-racism  agnostic humanist analysis

Vastly more serious than heat-of-the-moment intemperate racial abuse by an unwisely abusive and intemperate cleric (serious as that is, of course) were the comments by politicians and others getting on the Islamophobic bandwagon (good politics in currently disturbingly  anti-Arab anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic Australia) e.g. take away his  residence, citizenship, passport, job etc. - thus  fanning the flames of xenophobia even further.

 

The harsh reality is that Muslims in Australia are constantly abused (a) collectively by politicians and other commentators through the Mainstream media on any pretext - as this episode illustrates - and (b) at a personal level - e.g. a mosque burned down; a crowded mosque room full of women and children shot at;

other property damage (bricks through windows); persecution by phone; Muslim women and children wearing the hijab publicly abused and spat on; Muslims being bashed up secretly or in public (most notoriously in the Cronulla riots); Muslims threatened with draconian penalties for association, free speech or charitable donation (e.g. up to life imprisonment if a donation for medical help in devastated Occupied Palestine or Lebanon were to fall into the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah, respectively).

In this present case a Muslim  cleric was being publicly and OFFICIALLY  threatened with up 15 years in prison for comments about jihad (spiritual struggle as opposed to the "terror" fantasies of evil, lying, war-mongering, racist psychopaths running the Bush War on Terror which is in actually a war on Asian Women and Children - 3.0 million post-invasion excess deaths, mostly Women and Children in Occupied Iraqi and Afghan Territories) (see MWC News ).

Sheikh Muhammed's reported remarks about non-believers and Jews as "filth" and "pigs", respectively, are of course  unacceptable abuse. He has, however, apologized for the "pigs" comment (but as an agnostic non-believer I am awaiting on apology for the "filth" comment).

Australian anti-Arab anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia are real and ugly contemporary phenomena that have been roundly condemned by 2 great retired Australian political leaders  from opposite sides of politics, namely former Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, the former comparing it to 19th and 20th century White Australian persecution of Chinese. The hysterical and malicious but politically useful  interpretation of "jihad" by politicians and Mainstream media is now routine today in anti-Arab anti-Semitic, Islamophobic,  racist White Australia.

I suspect that just about any Australians who know Muslims will have stories to tell about the appalling physical reality of anti-Muslim racist abuse in Australia today. Thus 2 young professional women dear to me were recently walking in the heart of Melbourne, a major Australian city - one White, non-Muslim, and the other Brown (Aboriginal? Indian? Malay?) and actually Muslim (but not having the hijab). A group of louts abused them roundly and told them to "go back where you come from" (a popular form of xenophobic abuse in Australia today). I could also tell worse stories of violent abuse of Muslims I know (abuse of women and girls for wearing the hijab; the mosque of a wonderfully generous and strictly observant Muslim woman I know was burnt down shortly after 9/11).

Of course the military/violence/terrorism/hatred/incitement (as opposed to spiritual) interpretation of “jihad” is not applied to one of  the best-known Christian hymns “Onward Christian Soldiers” [my comments inserted below in square brackets]:   

Onward, Christian soldiers [violence], marching as to war [violence],
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe [violent enemy];
Forward into battle [violence] see His banners go!

Refrain

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war [violence],
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host [evil enemy] doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers [violence], on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Refrain etc.

Like a mighty army [violence] moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints [martyrs] have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Refrain

What the saints [martyrs] established that I hold for true.
What the saints [martyrs] believčd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction [violence] rolled.

Refrain

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane [violence],
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell [for evil doers] can never gainst that church prevail [victory];
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Refrain

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph [victory] song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.

Refrain

Conclusion

The intemperate and offensive words of Sheikh Muhammed have caused more distress for the beleaguered Australian Muslim community. The hysterical interpretation of "jihad" by politicians and Mainstream media is now routine in anti-Arab anti-Semitic, Islamophobic,  racist White Australia as in other countries of the war criminal US Alliance because  it increases "terror" and wins votes - just as anti-Jewish anti-Semitism won votes for the Nazis three quarters of a century ago.

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