In “Peter Craven: Even moderates go berserk” in The Australian (thanks to Warren), Craven recounts a taxicab trip that reminds me of a cab ride I took some time ago with a Wahhabi driver who assured me blandly that innocent people should not have been killed in the Cartoon Rage riots — only the cartoonists should have been killed.
IT was probably a mistake to give a somewhat dry summary of the Hilali affair as we sped to a local Melbourne cinema by cab last Sunday.
I said that the cleric had added to his remarks about cats, raw meat and incitements to be raped by saying that Australia was a free country and you could drink, eat pork, take your clothes off, smoke dope, do what you liked. I did say, a bit cynically, that Taj Din al-Hilali gave the wrong impression that he thought it was a pity it was a free country.
Well, it must have been a mistake because the driver gave us such an earful that we didn’t dare move from the cab. We knew that the only polite response (despite the fact that our films were about to start) was to listen to his impassioned harangue.
He was a man of 60 or so, not obviously Middle Eastern and very respectable looking, and he had driven expertly. “Gentlemen,” he said. “I have listened with great interest to what you have said and may I just say this? I am a moderate Muslim and I am not normally a supporter of Sheik Hilali, but in this instance he is right.” And he was off.
This was a beat-up, he told us in the most vehement tones. Had Hilali made a point of saying this on national television to cause a controversy? No, he had said it in Arabic to his own congregation and it had been plucked out of context to create a fuss.
“And he is right. Look, I am a Muslim, and because I am a Muslim I have to believe in the words of Jesus because he was a prophet, just as I believe in the words of Isaiah. Ninety per cent of what the Christians believe, I also, a Muslim, believe.
“And what does Hilali say? Simply this, that a woman should not uncover her head. Until the last 200 years no woman in the West uncovered her head. Why is there the fuss in saying this? I tell you, there is a war against the Muslim people of this country, there is a persecution, and it is being conducted by the media. And the worst is Andrew Bolt.
“I tell you, I am a good Aussie. I believe in this country. I give my blood for this country…”
He went on to explain that a sheik – in the sense that Hilali holds the title – means one who had memorised the Koran in its entirety, as opposed to a mere imam who was simply a prayer leader. He explained to us with some intensity (because he was clearly beside himself) the relative percentages of the Shia and Sunni constituencies among Muslims.
He was clearly an intelligent, middle-class man and he was incensed that a pack of Muslim baiters should be telling him what his daughter should do with her hair.
As we made our way up the steps of the George cinema to see the work of Antonioni, my friend said what anyone who had been subjected to this burst of passion would say: “And he’s a moderate Muslim!”…
The last thing we need in this supposed new age of terrorism and war on terrorism is any kind of prejudice against decent Muslim people, but decent Muslim people, by the same token, should be making every effort to emphasise what they have in common with the rest of us….