My first foray into journalism was to lambast Sheik Feiz Mohammad for his idiotic comments about sexual assault. I followed this up in the pages of the Daily Telegraph with an attack on Feiz and Omran in an article headlined “The loud minority grabs the Muslim limelight”.
But if the thick Sheiks and Mecca News had any equivalent in the mainstream Australian press, the closest thing would have to be The Australian.
Here is a paper that unashamedly prints the vilest and most feral attacks on Muslim Australians. It published not one but two pieces by former National Party Senator John Stone arguing that immigration of Muslims needed to be stopped as Muslim culture did not allow Muslim migrants to adapt to Australian values.
And who can forget the infantile performance of Janet Albrechtsen as she made the claim that Muslim migrants teach their sons to gang-rape White-skinned women. If anything could be worse than this, it was the pathetic defence of the paper’s editor of Albrechtsen’s racist slur.
Just this week, the Op-Ed pages were filled with the hate-filled words of Mark Steyn. Anyone familiar with Steyn’s work would agree with me when I say that, were he to replace “Islam” with “Judaism” and “Muslim” with “Jew”, his articles would read like some of the worst examples of anti-Semitic literature. Steyn just cannot find a nice word to say about Muslims.
Of course, there are some good things one can say about The Australian’s editorial slant. Phillip Adams tries his best to slant things a little the other way. Paul Kelly provides some semblance of balance. Greg Sheridan is OK on Turkey, though not much else.
So when I read The Australian report on “Clerics still preaching hatred of the West” on November 3 2005, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Reading the quotes from the thick-Sheiks reminded me of the sort of stuff Janet Albrechtsen or Mark Steyn might pen on a bad day.
Let’s make a few comparisons. The reporter, Richard Kerbaj, provided single sentence quotes from sermons that probably took a good 40 minutes to deliver. And that time length is a conservative estimate. Given that a fair proportion of people in their congregation don’t work, and given their love of hearing themselves scream until the speakers and ear drums nearly burst, it isn’t unusual to find these guys taking at least a good hour.
The reports had us believe that the thick-Sheiks were attacking the West. Really? Let’s have a selection.
In the sixth paragraph of the article, Harun Abu Talha was quoted as speaking of ...
... the criminal government of Israel that has been hurting our brothers and sisters in Palestine for so many years.
I have not checked my atlas for a while. But I do recall that Israel is not exactly located anywhere near London or Madrid. And I doubt the Jewish state will be entering the European Union in a hurry.
Of course, one admission the reporter was honest enough to make was hidden in the story.
The message the fundamentalist clerics are delivering to their supporters - mostly in Arabic - is in dramatic contrast to their public statements.
In other words, the quotes were not only out of context but were in fact translations from sermons delivered in Arabic. Further, The Australian has not bothered to inform us as to whether the sermons were recorded and who provided the translations.
At one place in the article, Sheik Zoud is quoted as saying:
No victory (for Islam's brothers and sisters) can be stopped by George Bush or Tony Blair or John Howard.
Now I am no Arabic scholar, but I think it would be highly unlikely for a speech in Arabic to have stuff appearing in brackets. I could be wrong, of course. But unless the sermon went with subtitles, the brackets and their contents perhaps may not have been present.
Many of the phrases and prayers quoted by The Australian are phrases that even the most moderate sheiks declare. Take this quote from Sheik Zoud:
God grant victory to the mujaheddin in Kashmir and Chechnya, and Palestine and Afghanistan.
The term “mujaheddin” is a generic term that refers to any person engaged in an armed conflict as part of a just war. Who knows which mujaheddin these Sheiks are referring to.
Then again, I have to admit that these thick-Sheiks do bring such attention upon themselves. And I myself have been witness to some of the most frightening prayers being recited by these fringe-dwellers.
But in what way is their speech different to the Steyns and Pipes that feature so frequently on the Opinion pages of The Australian? True, the words are not so blatant. But the messages don’t exactly encourage readers to embrace their Muslim neighbours.
…given the radicalisation of the Arab world, and the Arabification of the Islamic world, and the Islamification of much of the rest of the world, in the end you have to fix the problem at source. (The Australian, October 18 2005)OK, one thought just occurred to me. Perhaps the paper is only referring to just some imams. Perhaps the paper acknowledges that not all imams preach hatred of the West or anyone else for that matter.
There are many trouble spots across the world but, as a general rule, even if one gives no more than a cursory glance at the foreign pages, it's easy to guess at least one of the sides: Muslims v Jews in Palestine, Muslims v Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims v Christians in Nigeria, Muslims v Buddhists in southern Thailand, Muslims v (your team here). Whatever one's views of the merits on a case by case basis, the ubiquitousness of one team is a fact. … That's why they blew up Bali in 2002, and last weekend, and why they'll
keep blowing it up. It's not about Bush or Blair or Iraq or Palestine. It's about a world where everything other than Islamism lies in ruins. (The Australian, October 4, 2005)
But I might as well dispel that thought. Why? Read the opening sentence of the story.
MUSLIM clerics in Sydney and Melbourne - led by radicals Sheik Mohammed Omran
and Sheik Abdul Salam Mohammed Zoud - are still preaching hatred against the West …
So Muslim “clerics” are led by Omran and Zoud. A bit like saying Adolf Hitler was the leading figure in modern European politics.
Once again, a very uninformed Australian.
Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf
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