Sunday, August 21, 2005

Learning & un-Learning To Hate Jews

Mr Howard has invited what he describes as moderate Islamic leaders to a summit on Tuesday 23 August 2005. Amongst the organisations attending is the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) who are being represented by their President, Dr Ameer Ali.

Dr Ali is an economist teaching at Murdoch University. He is a highly educated and well-spoken man with bright ideas and plenty of enthusiasm. He is perhaps new to the AFIC structure and is not aware of some of the matters you are about to read on.

Indeed, many of the things I am mentioning will be totally unknown to many people associated with AFIC. But anyone who has attended AFIC camps will confirm what I am saying.

In 1985, I attended my first Muslim youth camp, held at Harrietville, a small village in country Victoria. The camp was organised by AFIC, a body which is now asking the Australian government to legislate to give it exclusive powers to regulate and monitor Muslim religious affairs in Australia.

At the conclusion of the camp, all participants received a certificate and a set of books. These books were printed in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and were published by the International Islamic Federation of Student Organisations (IIFSO) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).

Among the books was on the Afghan Jihad. It had substantial quotations from Sheik Abdullah Azzam, a prominent Muslim religious scholar and spiritual leader of all Afghan mujahideen movements. Those were the roaring ‘80’s, a time when jihad was synonymous with fighting communism.

Another book was a small brown-coloured book. It was entitled “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”. At the time I received my copy, I had no idea what the book was about. The book had no author and seemed a cheap pirated reprint. What I do recall was that the book had the official seal of AFIC on the inside cover. It was being distributed as prizes to camp participants, and I received a copy of the book as a result of winning the camp essay competition.

I never took much notice of the book until I attended my next AFIC camp in 1987. This camp was held at Jindabyne. I was again in the “advanced” group. Our teacher was an elderly Sydney imam. At the end of the camp he took our names and addresses and promised to send us some books.

Some 2 months after the camp, he sent me a book. It was a copy of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I telephoned the imam and asked him about the book.

“You must read this book. You must learn what the Jews are doing to Muslims and to the world. You are a young man and an educated man. You should learn to be careful about the Jews.”

I showed my mother the book. Without my knowing, she slipped into my room that evening and threw the book in the bin. I never saw the book again.

Some years later, I was organising a Muslim youth camp for the Islamic Youth Association of NSW. Our office was in Zetland, in the same complex as the AFIC headquarters. We wanted to borrow the AFIC photocopier so that we could photocopy the camp educational materials.

The AFIC CEO, Mr Amjad Mehboob, was happy for us to move the photocopier downstairs to our office. However, in return, we were to assist him in cleaning the store room adjacent to the mosque.

I remember entering the store room and assisting Mr Mehboob and others in lifting boxes and shelves and rugs. One box was sealed and had a sticker which said that it was a gift from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

I opened the box. Inside it were multiple copies of the same book with the same brown-covered English reprint of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I asked Mr Mehboob what I should do with the box.

“You might want to hand them out as prizes at your youth camp”.

I took a copy of the book to the camp organiser. He threw the book back at me and told me to destroy all copies.

Around 2 weeks later, I was in my university library and saw a book entitled “Index of anti-Semitic Propaganda”. It was a book containing titles and summaries of books which were regarded as spreading hatred toward Jews. The first book listed was the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

My mother’s first friend in Australia was a Jewish lady named Anne. My parents had many Jewish friends and colleagues. Some of my closest friends at school were Jewish. Yet I was being taught at a youth camp organised by the peak body of Muslim Australians that an old anti-Semitic forgery from Russia was to be treated as a legitimate Muslim religious educational text.

At university, I was passionately pro-Palestinian. I had numerous Palestinian friends. The first novel I ever ordered from overseas was a copy of Sahar Khalifeh’s “Wild Thorns”. I bought the book from Abbeys Bookshop in York Street in the city, a few minutes walk from my school.

I always saw the Palestinian struggle as a national one, a battle against an essentially nationalistic and irreligious ideology called Zionism. The war was against extreme Zionism, not against Jews or Judaism. If anything, the struggle to liberate Jerusalem would have to involve Jews (and indeed Zionists) of goodwill.

Saladdin could never have defeated the crusaders and liberated Jerusalem without the advice and wise counsel of the famous Shaykh Musa bin Maymoun al-Qurtubi (Moses Maimonides).

I support the idea that Muslim youth need to be educated in proper, real Islam. But I am afraid of having Islamic education managed by an organisation which was involved in distributing an anti-Semitic text. I am aware that certain Imams have not been invited to sit with the PM. Amongst the crimes of these Imams is that they distribute anti-Semitic literature.

But the Protocols is just the beginning. Schools managed by AFIC have refused to sign an Islamic school manifesto committing signatory schools to Australian values and to opposition to all forms of terrorism. By implication, it seems AFIC schools are against Australian values and support terrorism. I am sure this implication is wrong, but it may be regarded as a legitimate interpretation.

So why did some people from AFIC distribute anti-Semitic literature to young people at Muslim camps? Was it unwittingly done given the lack of English language skills people had? Was it pure malice against Jewish people? I am not sure.

The books were not locally printed. Rather, they were printed in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The books were being distributed by pro-Saudi religious bodies in Australia, including by at least two organisations being represented in the meeting with the PM.

Many young Muslims would read this literature and develop hatred and resentment toward Jewish people. But when they moved into wider society and worked and studied and made friends with Jewish Australians, they realised such sentiments were absurd. However, a seed planted at an early age tends to leave some traces on the garden. And sadly, anti-Semitism has been one of the seeds planted in the minds or Muslim youth in Australia.

Today, AFIC don’t run Muslim camps. Groups such as the Australian Islamic Cultural Centre are no longer (as far as I am aware) active in the education of young Muslims (apart from running the odd school). Young Muslims are taking control of their own education.

The Melbourne Age recently reported on an initiative by Young Muslims of Australia (YMA) based in Melbourne. Women from YMA are running a program teaching Muslim girls and women to swim. Groups like YMA and FAMSY are offering relevant services and activities to young Muslim Australians. YMA and FAMSY people are slowly but surely taking over peak Muslim bodies such as the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV).

But groups like AFIC and others are resisting generational change. They are resisting the involvement of young people committed to their faith and their country. They are resisting women’s participation. Instead, they are locked in the old mindset of migrant settlement and welfare. And of unwittingly distributing books like the Protocols.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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Dirk said...

I am surprised that any group anywhere still pays any attention to The Protocols. They've been discredited for so long that they've become a sort of sick joke.

Anonymous said...

Irfan saw your 4 corners crap. You look and talk like a pompous Jabba the Hutt.You even smell bad on television. I guess your 'wife' didn't want to hang around to listen to your mad harangue against the entire world. I will order you 6 filthy kebabs. 3 for you to cram into your mouth for a quick snack. And the other 3 for you to shove up your other shithole. Dinner and Sex Irfan style. Congratulations on being the fattest slug on the Mossad payroll