Wednesday, November 02, 2005

COMMENT: The Terror Laws We Had To Have

It appears the Howard Government has successfully negotiated laws ostensibly designed to protect Australians from terrorism. Of course, we know that these laws will effectively compromise the civil rights of Australia’s 350,000-plus Muslims.

Having had some involvement in an attempted campaign to stop these laws, and having tried to get Muslim Australians to agitate and lobby against the laws, I believe it is now possible for the Government to introduce any legislation adversely affecting anyone deemed to be Muslim.

The sheer apathy and lack of interest shown by Muslim Australians has been disgraceful and appalling. And believe me, this has been noticed by many non-Muslims active in the civil rights campaign.

I received the following e-mail from a libertarian in Perth:

On the subject of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, I find it incredible that they have had NOTHING to say about the federal government's latest power grab against our liberties, in the name of "fighting terror". AFIC seems to find the complete overthrow of habeus corpus quite unremarkable. What are they playing at?

Equally, my Muslim acquaintances in WA have been mostly unbothered by these laws, and are saying very little about how they might be affected should they be arrested and their parents be prevented from telling anyone where they are/if they are safe. Does this complete lack of concern apply over East as well?

Astonishingly, rather than actually stand up to these insane government policies, both the ALP
and AFIC have either been silent, or, worse, have actually called for extending the laws by imposing more expansive provisions against "incitement".

I don't know exactly what is going on, but it seems that every side of this "debate" is working towards the precise same goal of erecting a big government police state.
It appears non-Muslims are more concerned about justice and civil rights than Muslims who will be the main target of the laws.

My own experience with trying to get Muslims active in this area is also telling. Around 8 months ago, a few Muslim lawyers got together to form what we hoped would be a Muslim lawyers body. The body would hopefully expand upon the hard work that went into the formation of the Lawyers Committee of the Graduates’ Group set up by Albert Hadid and others.

Muslim lawyers, legal academics and law students were invited to take part and contribute. Sadly, despite a number of meetings, few seemed interested. Even when the full extent of the anti-terror laws became clear, it seemed most Muslim law students were more interested in the next iftar party than in helping to ensure fair and just security laws were enacted.

The apathy of the lawyers was duplicated by the imams. I have never seen such a useless bunch of religious leaders in my life. Most imams in Sydney had no idea about the terror laws. Then again, most imams cannot even speak English.

Muslim societies and state councils also did very little. With the exception of the ACT and Victoria, the state Islamic Councils completely failed to agitate effectively against the laws. The Islamic Council of NSW and its 2 competing equivalents were completely ineffectual. But what can one expect when the allegedly-volunteer media officer of the Council was holding media committee meetings at 10am on a Thursday morning.

The Muslim Women’s Association seemed more worried about some useless petition in support of hijab. It seems they had not kept up with the news. The hijab debate ended months ago. Why waste time on some futile exercise?

Surely a better way to use the “Step-Up” money to fight discrimination would be to fight and lobby against laws that represent the biggest assault on civil liberties since Federation.

There are exceptions to this story of pathetic apathy. AMCRAN did some sterling work. FAIR also agitated and spoke out on the issue. Individual members of what could (or rather, should) have been the Mevlana Lawyers Society sent out some e-mails and wrote some articles.

But in this debate, the real Jafar bin Abi Talib was ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope. When the Muslims went to Abyssinia as asylum seekers, they appointed the Prophet’s cousin Jafar to speak on their behalf. Why Jafar?

Because Jafar could speak the language of the Court. Because he understood how the Abyssinian monarch managed public policy and made decisions. Because Jafar was the best man for the job.

Jafar was able to package Muslim ideas as mainstream. Most Muslim organisational leaders, on the other hand, make Muslims look even more marginal than they are. But Muslims across the country to look to Jon Stanhope to speak for them.

I propose that at the next election of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, we elect Jon Stanhope to be President, Mufti and Chief Executive all in one. He may not regard himself as Muslim, but Mr Stanhope is more concerned with consulting with Muslims than any of the existing leaders.

In short, we are getting tough laws that will affect our civil liberties because we deserve them. We have done little to protect ourselves and our interests. And in the long term, we will be the big losers. Islam will survive. God will protect the Qur’an. But those of us who have failed Islam, the Qur’an and our nation will not be part of the process.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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1 comment:

CARNIFEX said...

I'm not at all suprised Irfan.

I've worked with Muslims in 4 different countries and had them as neighbours in 3.

They just look out for themselves and there is much petty one upmanship amonst them.

Those sheiks may rant on about uniting against the west but I don't think it'll come to much.

The whole thing's a joke really