Saturday, July 09, 2005

Advice To My Learned Friend

It is proper etiquette for a solicitor appearing in court against Senior Counsel to refer to the Counsel as “my learned friend”.

But with all due respect, I am yet to find much learning evident in recent calls by Melbourne QC, Peter Faris, to intern Imams and persons caught photographing public monuments.

In a posting to his website dated 8 July 2005, Peter Faris QC called for the implementation of wartime legislation similar to that established during the Second World War.

“Wartime legislation like this is now necessary”, wrote Mr Faris. “Mullahs or Imams or whatever who preach or violence of Jihad should be detained.”

Mr Faris is a prominent Melbourne barrister and former Chairman of the National Crime Authority during 1989-90. He is an expert in criminal and computer law. In the past, he has worked as a criminal lawyer for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and is a founder of the Fitzroy Legal Service.

Despite this impressive record of service, Mr Faris has expressed some remarkably regressive views of late. He was recently quoted as suggesting that torture of terror and criminal suspects was acceptable. His comments were described by the Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Lex Lasry QC, as “bizarre” and a “ludicrous concept”.

More telling than Mr Faris’ comments on his website were comments made by readers supporting his stand.

One contributor under the nickname “Gravelrash” has suggested that “some ozzie Mozzies should be in Baxter, for the sake of national security”.

Other parts of Mr Faris’ blog show the same disdain for Islam and Muslims. I have no doubt Mr Faris is entitled to his opinions. But as a good barrister, he would be expected to at least provide some evidence to back his claims.

Unfortunately, such evidence is not always forthcoming. Unless one were to presume that the hate-filled rants of Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes are to be considered evidence.

In one telling post, Mr Fares summarises his views in these words: “I’m over Muslims, Islam the whole lot. I don’t care whom (sic.) they are, where they came from or what they want from the world. I’m over the murderous nature of a religion that would hold the whole world to ransom. I’m over the people who continually try to defend it. I’m over hearing that the ‘majority of Muslims’ are decent people. If they are so decent why don’t they get out and hit the streets and show us that they don’t support what is happening around the world.”

For such sentiments to come from families of victims is understandable. But for these to be expressed by a prominent senior counsel thousands of miles from the scene is just unacceptable.

Mr Faris’ irresponsible comments are a far cry from the sober tones of a man at the centre of the London tragedy, Mayor Ken Livingstone. Immediately following the bombing, the Mayor had this message for the world:

“I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.”

Terrorists want Londoners to turn on each other. They want Western Muslims to resent and fate Western non-Muslims and vice versa. When citizens of Western countries such as England and Australia begin to turn on each other, the terrorists will be cheering them on from the sidelines.

I would suggest to those like my learned friend who are tempted to express such sentiments to remember the words of London’s Mayor immediately after this tragedy. They should remember that terrorism, not Islam, is the enemy.

Or as one American Muslim scholar said after September 11: “Terrorism is to Islam what adultery is to marriage”.

(The author is a Sydney industrial and employment lawyer.)

© Irfan Yusuf 2005