Tuesday, January 03, 2006

On Australia's Mosque Apartheid

As most Aussies busy themselves watching the latest Test Match between Australia and South Africa, members of the Australian government’s Muslim Community Reference Group are debating how to regulate Imams.

Yasser Soliman, a member of the group and former President of the Federation of Australian Muslim Students & Youth (FAMSY), has suggested some kind of accreditation system be set up.

The Federal Government is concerned about “radical” Imams misleading poor gullible youth into blowing themselves up in the hope of obtaining 72 virgins. Now I realise it is probably a bit hard finding 72 virgins in a place like Sydney (despite it being the second gay capital of the world), but I’d have to doubt any but the most desperate young Muslims would blow themselves up.

The problem is that there are some desperate young men. There are also some real wackos out there teaching what they regard as “authenticated” Islam (or as they would spell it, “Islaam”). The government knows this, and they are getting quite worried.

The situation in Australia is like that of most Western countries. The majority of Muslims are home-grown and young. But Muslim institutions are dominated by middle aged migrant men who insist that mosques be run as personal and family fiefdoms. All peak Muslim bodies are dominated by these men, few of whom can speak English and hardly any of whom understand politics and media in Australia.

Now, these very leaders who refused to engage with the mainstream are being forced to deal with some difficult national security issues. Since the London terror attacks of July 2005, the government and media have become almost paranoid about the possibility of home-grown terrorists.

In recent times, a number of young men in Sydney and Melbourne have been arrested and charges with various offences under anti-terror laws. Almost all these young men were born in Australia, and their alleged ring leader was a “radical” shaykh. At least he may have claimed to be a shaykh.

At present, just about anyone can claim to be an Imam, Shaykh, Maulana etc. In Sydney, we even have a chap who charges money for sharia classes, claiming to have studied with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and at the Islamic University of Madina. Despite numerous requests from persons of varying degrees of repute, he still has not shown us his qualifications.

Some years back, some friends and I wanted to test the waters of Muslim gullibility. We decided to send out an e-mail advising of the national tour of the allegedly famous “Shaykh Mohiyuddin Abdus Salam as-Sumbluq”. This Shaykh was apparently from Mali, spoke 6 languages and was an expert on various classical Islamic disciplines.

I started receiving phone calls and offers to host the Shaykh. Everyone was getting excited about the imminent arrival of this great master. Until I announced that the Shaykh would be accompanied by his wife. And her name?

Shaykha Aisha Sumsheila.

(In case anyone didn’t get it, “Sumbluq” is the Arabic mis-pronunciation of “some bloke” and “Sumsheila” is “some sheila” where sheila is an Australian slang for woman.)

But for the government, gullible youth and pseudo-shaykhs are no laughing matter. The government has set up a Muslim Community Reference Group to advise it on Muslim issues. The Group is dominated by the same migrant cliques and clans who have divided mosques along ethnic and sectarian lines.

Young Muslims feel little incentive to go to mosques where imams cannot speak their language or understand their problems. Imams are employed to perform cultural roles. And the culture is determined not by the Australian environment of young people but rather by the overseas environment of the particular sect or group of the mosque executive.

Imams themselves work under poor conditions. Most imams are paid poorly. For many years, the Imam employed by the Pakistani-dominated mosque at Rooty Hill in Western Sydney was provided with a house that looked like it had survived a tsunami.

Imams are expected to lead all the prayer services, deliver sermons, teach kids, perform marriage and funeral services, mediate family disputes and perform a range of social and pastoral roles forcing most to work a 36 hour day.

Imams are frequently told by ignorant executive members what to preach. I remember seeing one executive member criticising an Imam for expressing an opinion which allegedly contradicted a view expressed in an Indian book of scholarly opinions called “Fatawa Rahimiyya”.

So my suggestion is that before we set standards for imams, perhaps we should set some standards for mosque committees and for their managing societies. Perhaps get rid of the apartheid that currently infests so many mosques in Sydney and Melbourne. When the employers improve, perhaps so will the employees.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

9 comment(s):

  • AA
    The list of mosques published on Islamic Sydney indicates that some mosques offer a khutbah in Arabic & English. Rooty Hill is one of these, & I was assured a couple of months ago by the President of the mosque committee that English would be used so that non-pakistanis & young people could understand the sermon. Today's khutbah & all announcements at Rooty Hill were exclusively in Urdu. No wonder half the congregation strolled in late!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/05/2006 09:30:00 PM  

  • Talking of gullability, the writer seems convinced by the governments assertions that muslims could blow themselves up at any time.
    I recommend you to read a bit more about the "politics/climate of fear", and how it has historically been used to increase the powers of the state over ALL its citizens.Many of the so called anti-terror legislation eventually ends up becoming part of the mainstream criminal justice system.
    The real problem my friend is a dishonest govt trying to fool its citizens into beleiving that its criminal aggression in Iraq & Afghanistan is somehow linked "muslim terrorism". Don't Beleive The Hype!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/06/2006 02:11:00 AM  

  • Unfortunately there are some groups of Muslims who have begun to believe the hype. Basically this is out of a fear that the government will go after them, and they don't want to lose their material possessions.

    So, they try to appease the governments by pointing fingers at some of the most vulnerable members of the Muslm community. Such as those who don't speak English well enough, or do so with an accent. Irfan Yusuf has been catering to some of the worst racist impulses in Australia. In a recent article on the riots in Australia, he ended up blaming Muslims with "thick accents." Thats is not very different from blaming a raped woman for the way she dresses. It is blaming the victim of the worst kind.

    But such is the state of Muslims these days, on the one hand we have crazed people blowing up civilians, and on the other we have these sell outs who cater to the whims of westeren governments at war with Muslims.

    The Qur'an gives the example of a flimsy spider's web for those who build their material world through the support of oppressive governments.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/06/2006 03:15:00 PM  

  • What is so racist about insisting on community spokespeople who can speak the language properly? Or would you rather have leaders that take 21 days to condemn terrorism but only 21 second to condemn the dress of an Australian convert?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/07/2006 06:45:00 AM  

  • That's a good point - I don't think the Australian spokespersons have sufficently condemned the Australian government's continued support for American/Israeli terrorism. This should be done every single day, because every single day people die of this kind of terror. Maybe you will create a blog where you will condemn your government's terror every single day. And you will do this before you condemn people because of their "thick accents."

    Or, would you prefer writers who condemn people's thick accents in most of the articles they write, rather than condemn their country's involvement in terror?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/07/2006 11:00:00 AM  

  • The comment in question did not talk about community spokesperson speaking the language, or communicationg effectively.

    The comment was about the article specifically blaming Muslims with "thick accents" for the racist white riots.

    It is about blaming the victim, the same as how people blame a raped women for the way she appears. So Irfan would blame the beat up Muslim/Arab for their "thick accents" - maybe they "provoked" the White racists to riot.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/07/2006 11:21:00 AM  

  • Er, where did I blame those assaulted by rioters for thick accents?

    And who says I have never criticised the Australia government?

    Why are you guys so stroppy about criticising Muslims when they do something wrong? And in what way are Muslims victims?

    Please, leave victimology to the followers of other faiths. I stand tall with my chin up as an Aussie Muslim. I don't want to be treated as a victim.

    It is simple common sense. You put people forward to represent you who can speak in the language and can understand the culture of where you live.

    Consider this. Why did the Companions choose Jafar bin Abi Talib to speak on their behalf? What qualities did he have?

    Seriously, if you are content to cry "racism!" and "victim!!" everytime some incident happens, you will find yourselves getting nowhere. Telling people about Islam and yourselves isn't done by making them feel guilty about how you are allegedly treated.

    By Blogger Irf, at 1/08/2006 07:46:00 AM  

  • No Aussie should be walking with their chin up! The Aussie pedigree is one of an unfenced prison colony and genocide of an indigenous people followed by looting and usurping the rights of the legal owners.
    The more recent immigrants both muslim & non-muslims would do well to disassociate themselves from an Aussie Ruling Class that continues to compound its previous crimes by joining the Washington, London, Tel Aviv Axix of Evil that is determined to secularise Islam.
    And yes, muslims should not cry victim all the time. I look forward to Aussie Muslims joining up with other conscientious Aussies to provide justice to the Aborigonies & desperate Asylum seekers fenced up in those ghastly concentration camps in the Australian outback.A muslim should work for a just society 24/7.Targetting the little Napoleans in the muslim community is far too easy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/08/2006 10:27:00 AM  

  • In the UK, we have the Muslim College in London, the Madrassa in Bury and others, training many British born Muslims. But a few years ago, Yahya Birt wrote a piece for Q-News lamenting how many graduates from these madrassas were finding it extremely hard to find jobs.

    Why? Coz Mosque committees, made up of the usual cohort, don't want to employ them. It seems they prefer their kids, facing racist unemployment, to drift into drugs and crime (11% of male prisoners in England are Muslim).

    I tell you, if Allah gave me the opportunity, I would get trained as a trad hanafi Imam and set up a youth mosque!


    The Muslim Anarchist

    By Blogger Julaybib, at 1/10/2006 06:24:00 AM  

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