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Australian Muslims need Generic Leadership

Australian Muslims need Generic Leadership

By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney

In Australia, 1.5 % of total population is Muslim and Islam is the third most common religion after Christianity and Buddhism. Australian Muslims are the mixture of people from different ethnic backgrounds but dominated by the Lebanese and Turkish.

In the last 30 years the religious leaders and imams have demonstrated a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm in the development of Mosques and Islamic centres. There are many Islamic societies, councils and a federation in Australia. However, the vision of these individual organizations has been limited to their own ethnic group or sect. Even the mosques are distinguished by the ethnic background of the management of the mosque, like the Lebanese mosque, Turkish mosque, Pakistani mosque, Indonesian mosque, Bengali mosque and so on despite of the fact that each mosque has an official name.

It is quite understandable that, in Australia, as the Muslims came from different parts of the world they brought with them their own living-style, culture, social trends and political thoughts. Nevertheless, this is not something extraordinary with the Muslim community alone; it may be the same situation with the other communities. When the people of a particular community live in multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious society their representatives have to be very open-minded, diplomatic, tolerable, forbearing and communal. They must know how to live with others and how to respect the others' culture, faith and thoughts.

Islam also teaches to respect the faith and beliefs of others. Prophet Mohammad denounced racism and sectarianism at the most. Unfortunately, things are not different among Australian Muslims compared to how Muslims are divided globally into racial and sectarian sections.

The division within the Muslim community is not only a major cause of failing to designate a single representative into the mainstream society but it is also playing a major role within Muslims to commemorate their religious activities. For example; almost every year, Australian Muslims of different ethnic or sectarian background celebrate the major annual festival of Eid on different days. Noticeably, the common Muslims are found helpless at uniting their leaders to celebrate their holy occasions together.

The credit goes to imams and leaders of the individual groups. Unfortunately, within the community, the so-called leaders and heads of various societies, councils and the federation have never demonstrated that they have responsibility to unify and consolidate the entire Muslim community and lead them in a direction to identify themselves as an Australian Muslim rather than Lebanese, Turkish, Pakistani and so on. These leaders spend most of their time and energy in promoting themselves within their groups. If any problem or issue arises they just try to cash the event for their own vested interest and publicity.

The Muslims started to arrive in Australia after the abolition of White Australia policy in the early 1970s. Since then a new Australian-born generation of Muslims has grown-up. Unfortunately, for these Australian-born Muslims there is no unified political direction as per the needs of a multicultural Australia. The leaders of the running organizations and imams are found incapable to provide a cohesive platform - a platform where the Muslim community issues, problems and thoughts can be appropriately represented into the mainstream Australia.

The Australian Muslims need a true leader for the entire Muslim community who possess deep political sense and who can provide a constructive guideline to the Australian Muslims in dealing with emerging issues in mainstream society.

Common Australian Muslims are found very constructive and affirmative in building a unified and harmonious Australia. They have, evidently proved that whatsoever the situation may be against the Muslims internationally - they have to deal the situation according to the demand as one Australian nation. In public comments and interviews, it has hardly been noticed that any Muslim has abused or condemned Australian society. On the other hand, the so-called leaders without realizing the impact of their statements and without having command on the issue, articulate such conflicting thoughts that the entire Muslim community has to pay significant cost time and again.

The recent statement of Sheik Taj Hilaly has shocked the majority in the Australian Muslim community. The Sheik Hilaly was invited to appear on Egyptian television to explain his disputed sermon where he had compared women who show some skin to uncovered pieces of meat that invite predators. Instead, Sheik Hilaly has set off a new controversy, claiming Muslims have more right to be in Australia than the descendants of convicts. He further said that westerners were the world's biggest liars and accused the media of trying to bring him down.

Sheik Taj Hilaly has again embarrassed the Australian Muslims on his nonsense, inappropriate and unnecessary comments. Sheik Hilaly's biggest regret in dealing with the issues is his English communication. However, whatever he said in his recent interview against Australians in Egypt was not so complicated to translate correctly in English; therefore, he cannot be excused this time.

Sheik Hilaly might be an acceptable religious leader performing the job of Mufti for a section of Muslims but what he has demonstrated until now in dealing with the political, social and other issues should be enough to substantiate his incapability and incompatibility as a true representative of Australian Muslims. If the Muslim community still endures its so-called leaders like Sheik Hilaly then, eventually, it will have to pay unrecoverable costs.

The Australian Muslim community needs a visionary and a political minded person who should play a positive role in the integration of Australian Muslims into the mainstream society.

Australian Muslims are playing a significant role in the cultural and religious diversity of Australia and it should continue. Australian Muslims are the vital bridge between Australia and the Islamic world. Hence, this is the real testing time for the Muslims of Australia especially in the on going international crises in the Muslim world that they should, jointly, take immediate action to bring those people in the frontline who can competently lead the community in the right direction in enjoying the wonderful democratic values of Australia.


(The writer is a Sydney-based Journalist, Foreign Correspondent a Media Analyst, JP, and an active community member.)

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