Friday, October 27, 2006

Hilali is a monster of our own making as well as the media's

Once again, Australia's Muslim community has been held up to ridicule courtesy of some ridiculous, offensive and above all unislamic comments from our supposed 'leader', Sheik Hilali.

In case you missed the myriad of news stories in all the newspapers and on all TV channels, Hilali's speech demonized Australian women, including Australian Muslims who do not conform to his cultural standard of modesty are (at least partially) responsible if they are raped. He is not the first to hold such offensive beliefs - they have been expressed by non-Muslims too in the past - however that doesn't in any way excuse them.

Transcript in English

The real problem with Hilali is that he is a cultural dinosaur who is completely out of touch with the realities of this society. It comes across as arrogant that Australia's so-called mufti, clearly not an unintelligent man, has never bothered to learn English well enough despite living in this country since 1982. How can one understand the society well enough to lead it if one doesn't speak the language?

It is long overdue for the conservative parts of the Muslim community in this country to stand aside and allow the more educated, savvy, Muslims to speak on behalf of the community. People like Waleed Aly for instance. A minimum criteria for senior religious leadership in this community should be fluency in both English and Arabic, and an ability to demonstrate some cultural intelligence.

During Ramadan I attended a Friday sermon delivered by Hilali. I have no idea what he said because he delivered a long speech in a foreign language, which looking around the mosque it was abundantly clear that at least 3/4 of the congregation had no idea what he was talking about. I felt he wasted my time - I have to sacrifice my income to attend Friday prayers and his long speech - much longer than the usual sermon was of no educational value to me or most of the other listeners. If I want to migrate to another country I would need to learn the language of its inhabitants. After 20 years - so should he.

These recent comments show why having a 'mufti' who is ignorant of the culture and the language of the country is fatally stupid for the Australian Muslim community. I have no doubt that some of his words probably were taken out of context and some of the reaction has been more hysterical than it would have been had the comments been made by others. For example, Pru Goward, how do you deport an Australian citizen? None of this diminishes the original inappropriateness or the sheer repugnance of the Sheik's rantings, however.

It should be crystal clear to even the most culturally insensitive community elder that the Muslim community shoots itself in the foot by appointing such a man as its leader. We shouldn't expect that people's words will not be taken out of context and used against them by their enemies - it is a fact of life and an unpleasant reality faced by anyone in the public eye. Aside from the Islamic offensiveness of his comments, having someone who is clearly so politically and culturally incompetent as the community's representative is not only offensive but masochistic too. Removing him from his post is essential and it must be done quickly.