Sunday, November 21, 2010

COMMENT: al-Ahbash to speak at Melbourne University??

No, my Lebanese Moslems Association friends, don't get over-excited. It's just a post-graduate research conference that juist happens to be hosted by a university department. It's quite normal for university departments to allow all kinds of people to submit abstracts and speak at conferences.

Indeed at least one sufi (or so he once claimed) deviant fitna-mongering former Liberal Party member has spoken at a conference organised by the Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies.

And it would not be fair to suggest that Mustapha Kara-Ali, an engineering graduate and a PhD student at the International Islamic University of Malaysia has only one layer of identity - being an admirer of one religious leader in Lebanon known as Abdullah Hareri al-Habashi and allegedly belonging to a group known as "al-Ahbash".

This same group was strongly favoured by a former Australian government for assisting with deradicalising (whatever that means) Muslim youth. The result of over $150,000 in Australian taxpayer funded largesse was one manual.

That manual was produced under the auspices of an independent school founded and managed by followers of the said religious scholar in Lebanon. In his bio for the conference, Kara-Ali refers to that manual:

In 2007, he proposed and led a Government-Community-Partnership named the Building Identity and Resisting Radicalisation (BIRR) Initiative. He was also the lead-author of its publication The Way Forward - an Islamic Mentoring Guide for Building Identity and Resisting Radicalisation (2008), which was academically endorsed.

I'm not sure who "academically endorsed" the book, or indeed how something can be "academically endorsed". Did they send it to a university academic who said some relatively nice things about the layout? Did they sit on some steering committees and provide some general direction? Or did it go through a peer review process? Is it being published in an academic journal? Or just being excerpted in Quadrant Magazine?

I was amused by this entry:

In 2007, Mustapha was selected by DFAT to join a delegation to Malaysia to strengthen people-to-people relations ...

I wonder how DFAT staff on that trip found him to work with. What was his response to a presentation on the rights of religious minorities in Malaysia by the Malaysia Chinese Association (MCA)? I really cannot say. I'd have to ask others who went with him. I wasn't in that delegation. I went in 2006 instead. But I don't mention it in a bio for an academic conference.

One thing I would shove in a bio (if I had the chance) was hanging out with the wonderful Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of New York. Imam Feisal has had a few issues of late with imbecilic fruitloops. Many who happily endorsed Imam Feisal are now having second thoughts due to political and social pressures arising from the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" project.

When Kara-Ali attended a conference organised by Imam Feisal's American Sufi Muslim Association entitled Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow, he had this stunning bio:

Mustapha Kara-Ali is a 29-year-old representative on the Prime Minister's Muslim Community Reference Group (MCRG). He represents second generation Australian Muslims. The Bulletin Magazine recently profiled him as "an active mentor and educator within the Australian Muslim youth community since 1995", and last month he was introduced on the ABC's Religion Report as "an agent for change". Kara-Ali has been an outspoken critic of some ethnic leaders in the community for what he says is their failure to address the concerns of an emerging community of homegrown Muslim youth in Australia. He believes that sections of the Muslim community can be too defensive and fail to articulate issues in which they believe strongly.

Mr. Kara-Ali has a Masters degree in Engineering from UNSW and has worked as a consultant for Sydney University and CSC. He is a NAATI accredited translator in Arabic, and has a graduate diploma in media studies. Mustapha has appeared on the Channel 9 Sunday Program, Channel 7 Today Tonight, SBS Insight, ABC Religion Report and other media fronts. He has authored opinion pieces in metropolitan newspapers on Muslim issues such as Muslim integration in the West, identity struggles and immigrant marginalization. In talking politics, Mustapha's approach is informed by the conviction that Muslims in the west are part of the solution, not the problem.

For some reason, Kara-Ali's attendance at such a prestigious international forum isn't mentioned in his conference bio. Is he also now embarrassed to be associated with Imam Feisal?

UPDATE I: It will be interesting to see if Mr Kara-Ali's BIRR makes a bid for the latest round of government-sponsored deradicalisation dosh. According to a recent report in The Australian:

INDIVIDUALS believed to be at risk of falling prey to the lure of violent extremism are to be targeted in a series of community-based programs under the federal government's $9.7 million counter-radicalisation strategy.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland is inviting community groups to apply for federal funding to run grassroots projects to steer young people away from extremist ideology.

Grants of between $5000 and $200,000 are to be allocated to organisations in Victoria and NSW as part of the new Youth Mentoring Grants Program, to be launched by Mr McClelland today.

"The program will support activities that directly assist young people to disengage from intolerant and radical ideologies and encourage positive and constructive participation in the community," Mr McClelland said yesterday.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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