Wednesday, August 05, 2009

COMMENT: On Howard, Hollingworth & Hilaly ...

Last night, President of the Islamic Friendship Society Keysar Trad addressed a group of students at Melbourne University on the subject of the role of media in Australian politics. Or maybe it was former Prime Minister John Howard. I guess it could have been either of them.

Howard decided to defend former Governor General Dr Peter Hollingworth for using the kinds of words Howard condemned Sheik Hilaly for using. And using the kinds of words Trad defended Hilaly with.

Howard claimed that ...

... by and large that the Australian media treated Peter Hollingworth disgracefully ... the relentless pursuit and character assassination of a very, very decent man - I thought that was appalling, and it went largely right across the media.

Hollingworth resigned in May 2003 after outrage when his handling of child abuse allegations during his period as Brisbane Anglican Archbishop was revealed. He was accused of showing minimal if any compassion for sexual assault victims in much the same way as Hilaly’s comments about uncovered meat and the allegedly disproportionate sentences handed out to the Skaf brothers also showed gross insensitivity to sexual assault victims.

Hilaly’s remarks were revealed some months after Howard appointed him to a hand-picked Muslim Community Reference Group set up in the wake of the July 2005 London bombings. The Group consisted largely of middle-aged men of Mr Howard’s generation, most of whom had poor English skills and little ability to deal with scrutiny from and interaction with media and politicians. Having given Hilaly a privileged position, Howard dumped on him from a great height as soon as the uncovered meat comments were revealed.

Hilaly deserved to be condemned for his comments. Apart from his family members and a small number of die-hard supporters such as his interpreter Keysar Trad, Hilaly almost overnight lost what little support he had left among various congregations.

Hollingworth also had little support from across the broader community. But he did have his own Keysar Trad figure in the person of John Howard. And like Trad, Howard continues to defend the indefensible.




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