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A Step in the Right Direction

On the second anniversary of the Bali bombings, we could do with some positive news.

The controversial head of Australia’s Muslims, Sheikh Taj Din al-Hilali, is under threat from a new Islamic council that is trying to gather support for an alternative leader.

 

The Islamic High Council of Australia was formed in southwestern Sydney this month with plans to become the leading organisation of the country’s 400,000 Muslims.

 

Members of the council said their goal was to appoint a mufti of their own, in a direct challenge to Sheikh Hilali, the current mufti of Australia.

 

The council is hoping to tap into disenchantment in some Muslim communities with Sheikh Hilali over his controversial speeches, in which he reportedly attacked Jews and supported suicide bombers.

 

Sheikh Hilali was criticised for praising suicide bombers and claiming the September 11 attacks were God’s work against oppressors. His supporters later claimed his comments, made in a speech while in Lebanon earlier this year, were mistranslated.

 

Sheikh Hilali, based at Sydney’s oldest mosque, in Lakemba, also sparked controversy last year when he was charged with assault after police pulled him over for a routine traffic matter.

 

The charges were later dropped.

 

A spokesman for the new council, Mahmoud Krayem, said yesterday that 20 Muslim organisations had joined the council from different ethnic backgrounds around the country, including Afghan, Indonesian, Pakistani and Lebanese.

 

A key member of the council is the Islamic Charity Projects Association, which is based in Sydney’s Bankstown. Some of its members have never accepted Sheikh Hilali as their spiritual leader.

 

Sheikh Hilali is overseas this week and unavailable for comment. But his spokesman, Keysar Trad, said the new council was a fringe organisation that would not adversely affect Sheikh Hilali’s standing.

 

Sheikh Hilali was appointed mufti in 1988 by the highest Muslim body in the country, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. But any council of recognised scholars and sheikhs is entitled to appoint its own mufti.

 

Federation chief executive officer Amjad Mehboob yesterday reiterated his support for Sheikh Hilali, saying the new council was a peripheral organisation that did not represent mainstream Muslims.

 

“The Islamic communities of this country are already well represented by their local, state and federal bodies that have been in place for 40 years,” Mr Mehboob said.

 

The spiritual leader of the new council, Sheikh Salim Alwan Al-Hasani, said there was a need for a moderate umbrella organisation that “totally refuses all kinds of extremism” and rejects interference from overseas.

 

“In looking at the current state of the Muslim leadership in Australia, we can confidently say there is an urgent need for the unity of all the moderate sheikhs, sincere scholars and the highly qualified and educated members of the community,” Sheikh Alwan, who trained as a Muslim cleric in Lebanon, said at the launch of the council.

 

The council “is an institution that would truly bridge the gap between the Muslims and their needs and one that holds the highest Islamic order”, he said.

 

“Darul-Fatwa Islamic High Council of Australia is not a tool serving the interests of any foreign government nor does it accept or receive funds from any overseas sources.

 

“It is an independent organisation which has its own identity, policies and guidelines, free of prejudice or discrimination.

 

“Darul-Fatwa totally refuses all kinds of extremism as it refuses its elements from any group or individual and declares all acts of extremism unrelated to Islam, as Islam is not related to them in spite of those who claim otherwise.”

Sounds like a positive step in the right direction. However, more needs to be done. For example, Australian Muslims might want to rethink this website. And this kind of talk does not help matters either:

There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (peace be upon him). He will descent (to the earth). When you see him, recognize him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.

Update: Sheikh al-Hilali responds:

 

“If the Islamic High Council of Australia appoint their own Mufti to challenge me, the cat gets it.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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