The language of hate by radical Islamists in Australia has increased in recent times or at least has become more obvious. This is exemplified in particular by the widespread publicity given to DVDs containing the ugly views of a young Australian-born youth leader and cleric, Sheik Feiz Muhammad. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ) concern is that such
The language of hate by radical Islamists in Australia has increased in recent times or at least has become more obvious. This is exemplified in particular by the widespread publicity given to DVDs containing the ugly views of a young Australian-born youth leader and cleric, Sheik Feiz Muhammad. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ) concern is that such rhetoric will inspire equally hateful actions, threatening Australia’s democratic way of life and of course the Australian Jewish community. The inevitable question is how a civilised society should respond.
Let’s examine the case of Sheik Muhammed, a young man who moulded the thoughts of even younger people as the coordinator of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Sydney. During this time he filmed a series of DVDs for commercial distribution that amongst other things sought to foster “a love of martyrdom” in children, advocated jihad and described non-Muslims as “filth” and Jews as “pigs”. When asked by the press what Muhammed was like, a member of the Global Islamic Youth Centre described him as a "great bloke", which says a great deal about that organisation and radical Islamists in this country.So, what should be done? Some argue that this is a freedom of speech issue and hence these views should be openly debated rather than suppressed. In this particular instance, the ECAJ responded with public statements, which were widely circulated, expressing its concern. Our line was that extremism is a problem for all Australians, something we firmly believe.In such a case, however, I believe that countering such emotive, dangerous language with reasoned argument doesn’t go far enough. In the increasingly charged atmosphere of the last decade when violence and terror are increasingly commonplace, there is a great danger that a call to arms will prompt violent action, particularly by the young and the unstable.
As all Australians are under threat, the ECAJ thinks it is up the Australian government to take action. It has the tools at its disposal in the form of the sedition offences contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act (No 2) 2005 (Cth). Sedition is a political crime that punishes certain communications critical of the established order. Under the 2005 changes, five new offences replaced the old sedition laws.These are:
Statements and acts found to fall in such categories could lead to seven years imprisonment. The ECAJ considers the sedition provisions an appropriate remedy in relation to behaviour such as Mohammed’s.
In our opinion, however, ultimately the best answer to extremist Islam is moderate Islam. Thus for example the ECAJ supports in principle the Australian Government’s establishment of a National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies which will aim to counter extremism by training moderate local imams. This aim is achievable, as long as the Centre’s courses and outcomes are stringently monitored to ensure that radical teachings supporting terrorism and violence are not taught or endorsed.
At the end of the day moderate Islam can only predominate if desired and led by Muslims themselves. The great challenge for Muslim Australians, their leaders in particular, is to demonstrate in word and deed that the advocates of terror increasingly hitting the headlines are as unacceptable to their community as they are to the rest of us. This is a longer term solution and the question remains whether the Islamic community has the will and courage to act. It is up to the rest of us to support them in every possible way in what will be a long and difficult battle.