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Reform Islam Here

By Andrew Bolt

It’s something the media was right not to discuss in the rawness of our early grief.

But on Thursday a molotov cocktail was tossed into the Doncaster Islamic Centre, and we know that what the press isn’t talking about, the public sure is.

Islam in Australia. Is it a threat? Do the Bali bombers have friends right here?

True, to even ask these questions is dangerous. So we should ask them calmly.

And when we ask, we should be eager to befriend the Australian Muslims who share these same concerns, and are the best placed of all of us to make them vanish.

As I said, this is risky stuff. Already many Australians fear or even hate Islam. Listen to the radio talkback on some stations. Or see the burn marks of the Doncaster petrol bomb.

If I was a Muslim here, I’d be embarrassed — ashamed — to have my religion linked to the cruel murder of so many young Australians, and to so much other gleeful violence, besides.

Worse, I’d be scared of what other Australians might say or do to me, knowing they must make that link, too.

And even as a non-Muslim Australian, I’m scared.

That fire bombing, for instance. It scares me that we have Australians so mindless or cruel as to act much like terrorists themselves against people they must know had nothing to do with the Bali murders.

And those talkback callers. Many of them seemed so choked by hatred of “un-Australian” immigrants, that they hardly seem Australian themselves.

Aren’t we a people famed for our tolerance? If we now become a country split by religion and suspicion, the Bali terrorists would have managed to destroy the Australia so many of us love.

Even now, some people are screaming: Why aren’t our Muslim leaders condemning these bombings?

Well, many are doing just that. Yasser Soliman, a good man, has bitterly denounced the bombers and extended his sympathy to the victims, on behalf of his Islamic Council of Victoria.

I am certain Soliman is grieving as deeply as the rest of us. As an Australian.

In Queensland and New South Wales, Islamic leaders have called the bombings “anti-Islamic”, and it’s reported that the congregation of the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney has been urged to donate blood.

But none of this should stop us asking now whether such moderate Islamic leaders have done enough to fight militant Islam in our own country.

I don’t say that just because some Muslim hotheads have bobbed up on Channel 9’s A Current Affair and on commercial radio stations to all but say we deserved Bali.

Nor do I say it just because the leaders of the Queensland Islamic Council and the Supreme Islamic Council of NSW used Bali as a stick to beat the Howard Government for being too pro-America or anti-Iraq. There are plenty of non-Muslims, too, who would have us cave in to terrorists.

No, my concern goes back long before Bali.

It’s worried me, for instance, that the Grand Mufti of Australia, Sheik Taj El-Din El-Hilaly, has vilified Jews, and praised suicide bombers both before and after September 11.

It’s worried me that his Lakemba mosque has been the home of the Islamic Youth Movement, which has preached jihad, asked for help for Osama bin Laden, praised terrorists and branded Jews as filth.

It’s worried me that the alleged mastermind of the Bali bombing, Abu Bakar Bashir, visited Australia several times in the 1990s and met Sydney Islamic leaders as an honoured guest.

It’s worried me that the man who helped him to found his Jemaah Islamiyah group, Abdullah Sungkar, also visited us, and had a friendly interview published on the Islamic Youth Movement’s website, along with an appeal for the creation of an Islamic state through armed struggle.

It’s worried me that this vicious website names as its main translator Keysar Trad, the head of the Lebanese Muslim Association and Hilaly’s chief adviser.

It’s worried me that the extremists who tried to blow up the World Trade Centre in 1993 made many calls to Australian contacts, and that several Muslim Australians trained with the al-Qaeda terrorist group or fought for the Taliban.

It’s worried me that two recent pro-Palestinian protests — in Sydney and Melbourne — had men waving the flags of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

And it’s worried me that other Islamic groups here preach venomous poor-us conspiracy theories that can only breed hatred and strife.

Around the anniversary of September 11, for instance, you could pick up a brochure from the counters of some Muslim shops in Melbourne that claimed this attack may have been carried out by “the Japanese, the Vietnamese”, rather than Muslims, and, anyway, it was “the bitter fruit of a tree planted by America”.

It added that the mourning for the September 11 victims was “exaggerated”, and that the wicked Jews who control the media were just using it to “traffic in the pains of others”.

This rubbish was the work of the Coburg-based Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia (IISNA), which runs religious classes, Arabic lessons and paint-ball excursions.

IISNA also has a website telling Muslims to increase “their cache of advanced weaponry”, and condemning democracy as an “evil result of secularism” which shows “disbelief in Allah”.

It’s a website which the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee says it “recommends”.

The evidence is undeniable. There is a culture developing among some Australian Muslims that threatens our ideals of tolerance, peace and freedom.

So far, however, the many responsible Muslims and their leaders have not tackled this culture openly. The Islamic Council of Victoria, for instance, condemns Hilaly privately, but still does not dare to try sacking him as the Grand Mufti, our highest-ranking Islamic leader.

Why not? Is it scared of the backlash? If so, should the rest of us be scared, too?

Nor are groups like IISNA effectively repudiated. Nor has the Islamic Youth Council’s website been removed.

I know there are many decent Muslims who would be appalled by the examples of extremism I’ve listed, and others I haven’t.

But they can no longer stay silent and hope they will stay out of trouble.

I don’t expect any local Muslims, fired up by the extremists, to carry out terrorism in this country.

But I didn’t expect September 11, either. Or Bali.

Tragically, we know now that nowhere is safe, and that ignoring trouble is the same as asking for it.

For Australian Muslims, that risk is doubled. The suspicion they confront today is bad enough. God knows what they’ll have to endure should we suffer another Bali — but right here.

Our Muslims cannot take that risk. Let them drive the extremists from their mosques now. Let them show that in a struggle between extremists and Australia, they choose Australia. Before it is too late.

Reproduced with Andrew Bolt’s permission. This article originally appeared in the Melbourne Herald-Sun, October 20, 2002.


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