Imagine this scene. John Howard rises before the dispatch box, takes stock of a baying Opposition, and clears his throat. “Mr Speaker, I acknowledge that the Minister has been caught red-handed, and not for the first time, in an egregious financial impropriety. Immediate and decisive action is required. I will appoint a panel to look into the matter and then I might sack him. Or perhaps I won’t. Either way, I’ll get back to you in a few months.”
Absurdity has turned into reality in the serial drama that envelops Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, the holder of the pre-eminent clerical post in the Australian Muslim community.
In a consummate example of having your cake and eating it too, the Australian National Imams Council, made up of the country's most senior Muslim clerics, has placed Hilali’s survival as mufti of Australia well and truly on the agenda … well, at least maybe.
According to spokesman Dr Mohamad Abdulla, the conference has formed an executive board of 15 members which will consult with the wider Muslim community and then make a decision on the position of mufti in about three months time. A decision that achieves nothing and everything, depending of course on how you spin it.
Not that any amount of community consultation is needed to shed light on Hilali’s credentials. His latest foray into the headlines concerns the destination of thousands of dollars in donations from the Sydney-based Lebanese Muslim Association, intended to aid victims of the recent war between Lebanon and Israel.
Now significant questions have been raised concerning the whereabouts of that money, together with allegations that it may have partly ended up in the hands of terrorist organisations. This has understandably altered the interest of the Federal Police, and forced the Lebanese Muslim Association to repay $10,000 to donors that was misappropriated to a Lebanese radio station operated by propagandist Bilal Shaaban, head of the Islamic Unity Movement - well known for his support of suicide bombers and insurgents.
As always Hilali will no doubt deny any wrongdoing, and although the Lebanese Muslim Association has responded swiftly, this latest scandal begs the question, yet again, as to why Hilali remains in his post.
Long before the latest incident Hilali had accumulated a remarkable record of offences. A quick inventory of Hilali’s infractions is more than enough.
"September 11th is God's work against oppressors", he said, but only if you believe a translation made by the Australian Embassy in Lebanon. Quizzed about this by Geraldine Doogue on ABC Radio, Hilali explained it away as “poetry and in poetry we go a little bit into the imagination of presentation".
Then there was the notorious comment that women who do not wear the hijab, or head-dress, are like uncovered meat, and another that appeared to excuse pack rape. Pru Goward, Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner went further and accused Hilali of inciting rape.
On the Egyptian television show Cairo Today, Hilali branded Australians inveterate liars and again excused convicted gang rapists. On women as victimisers: “When it comes to adultery, it’s 90 per cent the woman’s responsibility. Why? Because a woman owns the weapon of seduction.”
Go back to 1988 and we recall his infamous accusation that Jews are the root cause of all wars. John Howard saw the light. He dumped Hilali from the Muslim Community Reference Group over his blatantly anti-Semitic sermon which labelled the Holocaust a Zionist fraud.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
151 posts so far.