Saturday, February 17, 2007

Excuses, excuses?

I almost fell off my chair reading David Knoll’s letter to the Sydney Morning Herald today. Was Mr Knoll’s letter meant to be an op-ed submission? I’d hate to see Mr Knoll compared to Keysar Trad, who is often accused of trying to excuse or explain away the offensive xenophobic words of a minority of thick-Sheiks. It seems Mr Knoll might be trying to excuse or explain away the agenda of Raphael Israeli.

Let’s run through, piece by piece, what David Knoll says on behalf of the Jewish Board of Deputies, the peak Jewish community body in New South Wales. I’m not sure how representative his letter is of the Board’s position, especially given the eminently sensible response yesterday from Board CEO Vic Alhadeff.

David Knoll writes …

[01] We unreservedly oppose any suggestion that Australia should include or exclude immigrants simply on the basis of their religion.

The comments attributed to Professor Raphael Israeli in the Herald (February 16), properly understood, do not express a contrary view in respect of Australian Muslims.

Yes, Mr Knoll. And according to some, Sheik Hilaly’s comments, "properly understood", did not suggest women dressed a certain way should be raped. Seriously, how else are we to interpret these words? How are we to reach proper understanding? Was there an error in translation? Does Professor Israeli have problems with communicating in the English language?

In order not to get there, limit the immigration and therefore you keep them a marginal minority, which will be a nuisance, but cannot pose a threat to the demographic and security aspects of a country … when they get to the rate of the 10 per cent like in France, then you will see life will become untenable.

Mr Knoll, who is this “they” that Raphael Israeli speaks of? Is it the Jews? The Buddhists? The Callithumpians?

Once you accept that Israeli was talking about Muslims, let me ask you this question. In what way has Israeli limited the scope of his remarks to a certain sector of Muslims? Or a certain kind of Muslim? Was he suggesting that it is only radical or extremist Muslims that make up 10% of France’s population?

[02] … the idea that Australia should exclude persons engaged in undermining the Australian way of life, and those who incite racial hatred (which contravenes the Australian ethos of a fair go for all), which was the gravamen of the comments attributed to Professor Israeli …
Mr Knoll, with all due respect, who are you trying to kid here? Haven’t you read the Shalom Institute’s brochure and its description of the course “Understanding Islam”? Are you suggesting Israeli is not trying to incite racial and religious hatred when his entire approach to the subject is to introduce students to an Islam that “has bequeathed to generations of believers a culture of jihad and violence which has led to the wave of terrorism in the modern world”?

Israeli tried to clarify his comments to Fairfax newspapers. Yet his clarification spoke even more volumes. He said that countries whose Muslim populations reached a “critical mass” would “have problems”, and that this was “the general rule, so if it applies everywhere, it applies in Australia.”

This is a general rule. When Muslim populations reach a critical mass, their host countries have problems. Did he say what kind of Muslims? Were his comments limited to Sunnis? Or Shias? Or Wahhabis? Was he talking about members or sympathisers of Islamist political groups? Was he talking about Muslims from a particular region of the world?

[03] Regrettably, there are radical Muslim community leaders, both religious and secular, who have encouraged violent behaviour against non-Muslims.

The influence of radical Islam in Australia is undeniable, and undermines our social harmony. The need for effective monitoring and redressing the teaching by such radical imams, well identified in the Australian media, has become urgent as well as important.

Regrettably they do exist. But how is their message in any way different to the hate-filled message of Professor Israeli? Yes, it is true that Israeli is not calling for Australia to implement a policy of genocide against Muslims. That’s the sort of policy he prefers to see implemented in the former Yugoslavia. It is true that he hasn’t said that Islam is completely inconsistent with Western values. That’s something he argued during a debate in November 2006 at the University College of Cork in Ireland.

[04] Any suggestion that adopting a broad-brush approach of limiting immigration to Australia on the basis of a person's commitment to Islam is something which the NSW people, and indeed the Australian Jewish community, strongly opposes.

I’m sure Jewish and Muslim and every other Australian opposes such an approach. Yet Professor Israeli doesn’t. he made his position clear in November last year when he argued in a public form that Islam is incompatible with Western values. What, then, does that mean for followers of Islam? What does it mean for those from Muslim background or heritage?

My suggestion to Mr Knoll is that he should take a cue from Waleed Aly, Professor Abdullah Saeed, Dr Mohammad Abdulla and other Muslim leaders who rushed to condemn Sheik Hilaly’s offensive remarks. Instead of making excuses, Mr Knoll should call a spade a spade. He should follow the example of AIJAC and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO and unreservedly condemn these offensive remarks.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007


Anonymous said...

Given that Muslims keep insisting that there's no such thing as 'radical' or 'moderate' Islam, just Islam; and given that Islam demands that Muslims convert the entire planet; and given that so many Australian Muslims hate the society in which they live, I'd say that limiting Muslim immigration is a very good idea.

Irfan said...

Anon @ 354, How many is "so many"? And what evidence have you got illustrating the alleged hatred of "so many" Aussie Muslims toward Australia?

Anonymous said...

It's about time that the Israelis and the muslims worked to bring about peace. A peace where both of those religions have been extinguished and all their adherents exterminated.