Tuesday, September 26, 2006

COMMENT: The Brethren & The PM’s Favourite Muslim

No doubt many will have watched the Four Corners program exposing the internal workings of The Exclusive Brethren sect. This sect receives favourable treatment from the Howard government in a number of areas including workplace relations. Further, some 30 Brethren schools are funded by the Howard government.

Some 12 months ago, then education minister and self-proclaimed “never-voted-Liberal-in-my-life” faction member Dr Brendan Nelson called upon Islamic schools to adopt values or “clear off”.

It is now clear what Dr Nelson meant by Australian values. He wasn’t just referring to the example of an Englishman who breached immigration laws. He also included ensuring that children from your sect are barred from watching TV, attending university, using computers and e-mail, using mobile phones and eating lunch with children from other denominations.

If Muslims follow this sort of isolationist theology, they will be rewarded. And the proof is the open support the Federal Government is giving to the fringe Lebanese al-Ahbash sect and its representative Mustapha Kara-Ali.

The al-Ahbash sect hold views about non-Ahbash people similar to views held by the Brethren. I have experienced this myself, with prominent al-Ahbash leaders castigating me for involvement in the Liberal Party, for cooperating with Buddhist groups and for being involved in interfaith dialogue.

I can now reveal that prominent leaders of the al-Ahbash sect sought my assistance to lobby politicians to close down an Egyptian Coptic newspaper. They included a broadcaster on the al-Ahbash radio station who has interviewed at least 2 Federal Ministers.

I can also reveal that the al-Ahbash sect engage in similar forms of excommunication and division of families. I know of at least 3 cases where siblings joining the sect have been ordered to cut themselves off from other siblings and family members.

The attitudes of al-Ahbash sect leaders toward non-Muslims are most troubling. One woman I spoke to tonight told me she was advised by an al-Ahbash leader to remove Christian relatives from her house as they were “kuffar” (plural of “kafir” or “infidel”) and therefore should not be granted hospitality. Other persons have also approached me with similar stories.

Once again, I call upon Mustapha Kara-Ali to publicly declare the extent of his involvement in the al-Ahbash sect. I also ask Minister Robb whether he approves of the isolationist theology of the sect and whether he believes its teachings will further the process of integration he claims to support.

Words © 2006 Irfan Yusuf

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