Not only is the jihadist Sheikh Hilali going to stay on as the Mufti of Australia. He also wants an apology from Australian Prime Minister John Howard and others who criticized his now-infamous remarks praising suicide bombing and other terrorist acts.
A spokesman for the Mufti, Keysar Trad, said the politicians who had criticised Sheikh Hilali, including Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, should apologise to him and to Muslims.
“They have seized on comments which have been misrepresented to demonise an outstanding member of the community,” he said.
After all, they were just poetry.
Interviewed about this by Geraldine Doogue on ABC Radio’s Sunday Profile last weekend, Al Hilaly responded: “Actually it was poetry and in poetry we go a little bit into the imagination of presentation.”
Says Gerard Henderson in Smh.com.au:
It has long been said that Al Hilaly, who is the imam at the Lakemba Mosque, has one message in Arabic and yet another (in translation) in English.
Surprisingly, he did not deny this when the claim was put to him by Doogue. He responded: “Of course, you are talking about two different environments” and added that “when addressing an Arabic community I am using the high literary Arabic language”.
How convenient. It’s just that no other prominent Muslim in Australia appears to experience such language-induced misunderstandings.
To some, Al Hilaly’s presence in Australia is an example of what is wrong with multiculturalism. Born in Egypt, he arrived in Australia on a tourist visa in 1982 from Lebanon and declined to return home. Soon he was making extremist comments which culminated in a manifestly anti-Semitic address at the University of Sydney in September 1988 where he accused Jews of trying “to control the world through sex, then sexual perversion, then the promotion of espionage, treason and economic hoarding”.
Chris Hurford, when minister for immigration in the Hawke government, wanted to deport him. He told the ABC TV’s Insiders program last June that it was “appalling” his decision was “ever changed”.
But it was – and Al Hilaly was granted permanent residence, leading to full citizenship, when Gerry Hand was immigration minister in 1990 during the final years of the Hawke government.
Many thanks to all the many people who sent me these stories.