“It’s not going to be a party of Muslims only and it’s not going to be called the Muslim Party,” says Keysar Trad. Of course not: Almost no one would vote for that, so it will be necessary to package the party in general pleasantries about “honesty and dignity and equality,” in order to deflect questions about substance of the party’s agenda.
“Australia’s Muslims plan to launch political party,” by Lawrence Bartlett for AFP:
SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s Muslims on Monday announced plans to form a political party to fight what they call growing Islamophobia spawned by the so-called war on terror.
The move came as the leader of a Christian party demanded an immediate halt to Islamic immigration to Australia, saying Muslims were beginning to dominate some communities.
Leading the drive for Australia’s 300,000 Muslims to take on the mainstream parties is controversial top cleric Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali, who has the title Mufti of Australia.
Hilali created a storm of protest late last year when he described scantily-dressed women as “uncovered meat” inviting rape.
Faced with calls to get out of the country, the Egyptian-born cleric mocked the convict ancestry of many white Australians, saying Muslims had more right to the country because they paid for their tickets.
Hilali now wants to put a stop to politicians using the Muslim community as a “political football”, his spokesman Keysar Trad said Monday.
Some Muslim leaders have distanced themselves from the mufti’s views, however, and it was not immediately clear how much support he would garner ahead of elections due by the end of the year.
The party would aim to “reclaim the fair go”, Trad told AFP, referring to Australia’s much-vaunted policy of equality for all.
How about women and unbelievers?
“The whole notion has slowly been eroded with all the fears and apprehensions,” he said.
“The so-called war on terror has become one of worst means of dividing society through making people afraid of their own neighbours.”
Prime Minister John Howard’s conservative government has been accused of whipping up anti-Islamic sentiment through tough new anti-terrorism laws and tighter immigration controls, including a test on “Australian values”.
The government denies the moves are aimed at Australia’s Muslim community, but Howard has frequently expressed a fear of home-grown Islamic terrorism similar to that which hit London trains and buses in July 2005.
The leader of the Christian Democratic Party, the Reverend Fred Nile, said Monday Australia should call a 10-year moratorium on Muslim immigration and give priority to Christians fleeing persecution in Islamic countries.
Nile, a member of the state parliament in New South Wales, told a radio interviewer he wanted a study to look at the Netherlands and France, where the Muslim minority had become large enough to “flex its muscle”.
“The same thing is happening in our city of Sydney … they (Muslims) concentrate and virtually by population numbers they dominate that actual community,” he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
Trad rejected Nile’s remarks as “sensationalist headline grabbing”, and denied there was any link between his comments and the announcement of plans for an Islamic party.
“The political parties are focusing too much unfair attention on Muslims,” he said. “We have to do whatever we can to make politicians focus on real issues rather than diversions on Muslims.”
The party could possibly field candidates in elections for the national parliament by the end of the year and would set its sights on winning seats at all levels of government, Trad said.
The new party would not exclude people of other faiths, Trad said.
It’s not going to be a party of Muslims only and it’s not going to be called the Muslim Party,” he said.
“The whole idea is to promote fairness across the board and specific values, such as honesty and dignity and equality.”