Monday, August 01, 2005

Servants of al-Qaida

I was sitting in a TV studio in Ultimo when a brainwave hit me. I was all painted and covered in make-up, my hair severely gelled, my suit feeling hot and uncomfortable, cameras staring at me. Maxine was looking and talking a million dollars, I didn’t feel like I was contributing 2 cents and I was lost for words (not because of Maxine but because I was nervous!).

Then it hit me. Out of nowhere. I was talking about conservative rhetoric needing to get beyond Islam-bashing. And then I saw the image in my mind.

It was Usama. Usama bin Ladin sitting in his cave, watching me on the TV. Usama reading Aussie newspapers and planning his next attack. Usama generating a desirable result for al-Qaida. Usama trying to think of ways to push the reluctant and sceptical Muslim mainstream in his general direction.

Usama’s Jihadi Salafite vision of Islam is regarded as the stuff fruitcakes and breakfast cereals (as in fruitloops) are made of in the Muslim world. The overwhelming majority of Muslims regard his rejectionist thinking as worthy of people with heads plonked firmly in the sand. Usama is the archetypal Muslim ostrich, ready to be slaughtered and eaten. Except that his ideological flesh is simply not halal!

Young disillusioned Muslim kids (such as the Dureihi brothers of the Sydney branch of Hizbut Tahrir) may find this rhetoric attractive. They might even get a few hundred kids to turn upto the Auburn Town Hall to listen in. But they are on the fringe, almost universally ridiculed when not pitied.

But the real allies of Usama are not the Hizbos (as they are known in the broader Aussie Mossie community). The real allies of Usama are allegedly conservative columnists and commentators who demonise Islam and anything or anyone even remotely associated with it.

When you want to fight the enemy, you can use a scud missile. This large and clumsy creature usually misses its target. Sadly, unintended others are often hurt. In the war against terrorism, neo-Con columnists are like ideological scud missiles. They miss the target but end up hurting others unnecessarily if not unintentionally.

One of my closest friends never met her Muslim father. She works behind a bar. When she told me about her father, I somehow doubted whether this would lead to her feeling passionate about her background and faith.

Then one day, we spoke for an hour about Feiz Mohamed and his comments on rape. I told her I had published something in this newspaper about it, my first foray into mainstream journalism. Her response left me stunned.

“I am so glad someone has spoken out about it! I’ve been up here in Newcastle arguing with people about it. They keep teasing me about it!”

My friend is not the most observant Muslim on the planet. She enjoys mixing champagne with her orange juice. She looks even better than Maxine did on Lateline. And she gets so hurt when she hears or sees someone give her father’s faith a bad name.

My friend gets even more upset when she reads Dr Janet Albrechtsen claiming that her late father would have taught her brothers to rape white women. Or when Piers Akerman claims Muslim citizens are answerable for the actions of terrorists. Or when she logs into the blog of Peter Faris QC and reads stuff that would make Pauline Hanson look like Mother Teresa.

And this young barmaid reads this stuff and gets pushed into the direction of the broader Muslim community. But even here she finds no succour as Muslims condemn but refuse to speak out. She might then begin to believe that there is no hope.

Many isolated irreligious Muslims are angry and frustrated. I know how they feel. I used to be one of them. The first time I published a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, I was criticised by an uncle of mine, an Indian doctor.

“Irfan, you are just a law student. Wait until you have finished your degree and are at the top of your profession. Then do something!” he advised.

“But uncle, you are at the top of your profession. What are you doing?” I responded.

If my uncle was just another Macquarie Street general surgeon, his concern might be justified. But he was the Vice President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, the national body whose very constitution mentions community advocacy as one of its goals.

When people like my uncle refuse to speak out, inexperienced naïve kids like the Dureihi brothers take their place. And the more silent or incoherent Muslim voices are, the louder the voices of Islam-bashers grow. Social discord and loss of liberty result. The only beneficiary is a beady-eyed terrorist hiding on a cave.

Between Muslim leadership silence, Muslim youth frustration and pseudo-conservative hate-columnists and shock jocks, the only beneficiary is Usama bin Ladin.

The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Stumble Upon Toolbar