Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Time To Speak Out

It is with great reluctance that I enter the debate raging over comments made by a certain Muslim “cleric” in south western Sydney some weeks back.

I have never met Shaykh Feiz. I have never attended his lectures. The first time I saw him was on TV after the September 11 terrorist attacks. I consciously refuse to follow his ‘salafi’ brand of Islam. I prefer the wisdom of Turkish sufis to the fires of hate that al-Qaida types like to fuel.

I am rarely involved in Muslim community activities. I am not Lebanese. I did not grow up in south western Sydney. Yet I know that I will be judged by what Shaykh Feiz is reported to have said.

I am your typical Aussie Muslim. I was brought up in a metropolitan city. I went to school here. In fact, I attended Australia’s only Anglican Cathedral School and represented the school in debating and rugby. I went to university, studied accounting and law, played cricket for the university and was elected to the student council. I even joined a political party and ran twice for election.

You might read this and think: “Look, it isn’t about you”. The problem is that it is about me. Whether I like it or not, I and 300,000-odd other Australian Muslims will be judged because of what one man has said.

Including a senior executive of a major Australian bank. Including the managing director of a major sponsor of numerous AFL and ARL football teams. Including the Turkish veterans who marched with their digger mates on ANZAC Day. Including Bosnian refugees who were themselves the victims of gang-rape.

Just as al-Qaida love to stir up anti-Western hatred among Muslims, some Australian journalists, shock-jocks and public figures will behave like al-Qaida and will stir up hatred of Australians against their fellow country men and women.

And Muslim community leadership will sit back and do next to nothing. Or worse still, they might actually try and defend the indefensible comments attributed to Shaykh Feiz.

Meanwhile, your average Aussie Muslim will be too busy organising his or her business or legal practice or career. Most Muslims are too busy being Australians to worry about what some crackpot is saying. I mean, how many Christians listen to Hon. Fred Nile MLC? And for a secular equivalent, how many Liberals listen to Hon. David Clarke MLC?

For that reason, an average anonymous Aussie Mossie (a popular term local Muslims use to describe themselves) such as myself has to speak out. Because if we don’t speak out, people pretending to speak on our behalf will continue to say stupid things. And we will be the ones who will have to hear the abuse from fellow Australians on 2GB on the way to work (or 2UE if we are running late).

So let me state for the record what I believe most Muslims are thinking. Rape is a crime. Rapists should and must be punished. Women and men are subject to sexual assault regardless of what they wear.

And sadly, idiots of all denominations often claim that women could have avoided being raped by dressing more modestly. Yet I am yet to read a scripture or learn of a religion that justifies rape.

Muslims are not the only faith community suffering a crisis of leadership. I am yet to meet a Sydney Anglican who is completely happy with his or her church. Many Catholics are not exactly jumping for joy at the election of a new pope. Jewish community leaders were criticised by their community members over their responses to the visit by Dr Hanan Ashrawi some 2 years ago.

However, at least most (if not all) cardinals and archbishops and rabbis speak English and don’t need interpreters everywhere they go. In the case of Muslims, it seems, language ability and understanding of local cultures are the last criteria one needs to satisfy to become a community leader.

In New South Wales, we have 3 competing Islamic councils. Each of them has spent thousands of dollars fighting each other in the Supreme Court for governance of the NSW Muslim turf. Over 90% of programs broadcast on Sydney Muslim radio stations are in Arabic, not English. Yet I doubt any of them will say a word about Shaykh Feiz.

Muslims have to speak out. We can no longer afford to rely on our non-English speaking imams and feuding leaders to make incoherent noises while we are too busy getting on with our lives. In the current crazy environment, where shock-jocks and poison-penned columnists are quoting our incompetent leadership, our silence will be treated as an admission of guilt.

(This article was submitted to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age for publication.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: