Friday, June 17, 2005

Keysar Trad - The Islamic Alex Hawke?

I am an Australian. I am a lawyer. But some lawyers really embarrass me.

They talk nonsense about legalising torture and I get upset.

I am also a Liberal. One day I will renew my membership. In 2001, I ran as aLiberal candidate in the seat of Reid. Western suburbs Aussies delivered me a swing of 5.1% on a 2-party preferred basis. But when Young Liberal President Alex Hawke opens his mouth, I cringe.

I also come from a Muslim background. My parents are from Delhi in India. I have lived in John Howard's electorate for as long as I can remember. I also spent time living in the electorates of Paul Keating and Laurie Ferguson which are regarded as Aussie Muslim heartlands.

Yet everytime something happens concerning Muslims, I see a scruffy-looking fellow on TV saying things that I find embarrassing. Am I talking about the man they call "Mufti"? No.

In his efforts to free Douglas Wood, Sheik Hilali has earned the respect of mainstream Australia. And of his many Muslim critics. Including myself.

What worries me, however, is his alleged spokesman and adviser. I have been involved in Muslim community affairs since 1985. I got involvedin an umbrella Muslim youth body and was its secretary and then president. I got involved in my university Muslim students society (as well as the Liberal Club and the Business Students Association). Yet the first time I heard of Keysar Trad was in a magazine called Nida'ul Islam. In those days, we all thought the magazine was a benign rag, as effective as the Green Left Weekly.

Keysar used to translate speeches andinterviews from Arabic to English. I am not sure about his Arabic skills, but his English was atrocious.

Keysar then translated two books for a local and respected Egyptian scholar, Dr Ibrahim Abu-Mohammad. Again, atrocious English.

So who is Keysar? Who appointed him as spokesman? And why does he continueto say silly things in the media?

We are told that Keysar is the Shaykh's interpreter. But does Keysar have interpreting and translating qualifications and accreditation? It seems not.

What experience does Keysar have in advising peak religious figures (apartfrom Hilaly)? None.

Archbishops Pell and Jensen have a secretariat, assistants, researchers and a full staff. The Mufti of Australia gets an unpaid unaccredited translator. Is it any wonder Shaykh Hilaly gets such bad press?

I was baffled when Mr Trad made defamatory remarks about Stephen Hopper, former lawyer for Mamdouh Habib. Trad took credit for setting Habib up with his good mate Adam Houda, claiming Habib would now receive "proper legal representation". Trad has no legal training and is not in a position toquestion the credentials of either Hopper or Houda. Now neither Hopper nor Houda act for Habib.

I was equally baffled when Mr Trad once described the role of Mufti as akin to "arch-bishop" and "Governor-General" of Muslims. Sorry, Keysar. I like Shaykh Taj. But my Governor-General is Michael Jeffries. And we don't have a priesthood in Islam.

So why do the media keep going to Mr Trad? Simple. No one else is prepared or has the time to speak. Muslims are too busy being mainstream Australians.

They are too busy running medical and legal practices, lecturing atuniversities, managing Australia's largest financial institutions and telecommunications companies or studying at TAFE and university. That leaves plenty of time for redundant public servants with plenty of time on their hands to speak on behalf of one of the most educated and upwardly-mobile faith communities in the country.

So what is the solution? Simple. Australian Muslims (or Aussie Mossies as they often call themselves) have to speak out. If we don't have the time, we have to make it.

Just as I have today. And now I have to get back to myclients.

(The author is a Sydney industrial relations lawyer who has advised numerous Muslim employer and community bodies. A heavily edited version of this article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday 30 June 2005.)