You've got to hand it to Keysar Trad. He's always ready to face the difficult questions from journos and shock jocks, even if it means he is grossly defamed (such as on Sydney talkback radio station 2GB).
For many Australians, Keysar has become a household name. Much of his credibility stemmed from the fact that he was President of the Lebanese Moslems Association (LMA) as well as adviser and translator to Sheik Hilaly.
Indeed, many readers will remember Sheik Hilaly as the man who, whilst claiming the mantle of "Mufti of Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific", repeatedly made grossly offensive remarks which embarrassed Muslims across the country.
And each time Hilaly had his foot in his mouth, Keysar Trad was always there, faithfully making excuses and explaining away the Sheik's gaffes. So often did we hear Keysar claim the Sheik was misinterpreted or misunderstood or quoted out of context. So often did we cough the words "bullsh#t, bullsh#t".
However, Keysar is no longer on the executive of the LMA, an organisation which only allows full membership to adult males eligible to hold a Lebanese passport. Indeed, even back then Keysar could only, at best, have represented LMA members.
Further, Sheik Hilaly is no longer Mufti of Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific. It's arguable that few people in this huge chunk of the planet had even heard of him, let alone recognise his title. As such, Keysar Trad can no longer ride of Sheik Hilaly's coat tails.
But it isn't just sheik Hilaly's gaffes that are stunning. Keysar has had a few stunning gaffes of his own. He was quoted in an article in yesterday's The Australian of suggesting that taking out an Apprehended Violence Order against an imam is appropriate should the imam have "made a major breach of religious teachings or the law".
Thus far, Trad has not suggested he has been misquoted. Indeed, in a letter published on various Muslim e-mail lists (see Update III here), Trad says senior reporter Natalie O'Brien interviewed him.
We should not underestimate the sheer embarassment Trad has caused to all those Australian muslims he claims to represent. The remedy of Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) is designed to pretect past, current and potential victims of violence, harassment etc. Trad is suggesting AVO's can be legitimately used by mosque congregations to enforce orthodoxy in their imams.
So on what basis can Keysar claim to appear in the media as a Muslim leader holding some representative capacity?
There are many nominally Muslim people commenting publicly on community issues and ccontroversies. I'm one of them. But I don't claim any representative capacity. I haven't manufactured some front organisation which has conveniently chosen me as spokesman.
Keysar continues to pass himself off as President of an entity called the "Islamic Friendship Society". But what is the IFS? What kind of entity is it? Is it a company or cooperative or an incorporated association? Does it have members? Who are its members? Is there any gender, ethnic or sectarian restriction on membership? When does it hold meetings? Does it have premises or a registered office?
Or is the IFS a sham organisation run out of Keysar Trad's lounge room?
Keysar owes it to the 300,000-odd ordinary Aussies who tick the "Muslim" box on their census forms to be honest about the IFS. If he wants to continue speaking on their behalf using the IFS banner, they have a right to know what representative authority or capacity IFS has to give him.
Keysar must come clean.
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf
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