Thursday, January 22, 2009

In The Name Of Islam, Stop The Extremists

At the risk of being labeled “Anti-Islamic”, the reported remarks of Samir Abu Hamza represent a threat to our community and our way of life. Hamza is not just a radical ratbag spouting nonsense, he is a person in a position of influence and responsibility. He is the President of the Islamic Information and Services Network, an independent organization in Melbourne. He is a cleric whose teachings have the capacity to influence significant numbers of people.

In a sermon originally given in 2003, but more recently distributed on the internet and now reported in the mass media, Hamza offered his teachings under the title of “The Keys To A Successful Marriage.” In the lecture he advised that under Islamic Law it is a husband’s right to demand sex from his wife whether she wants to or not. He states that it is the wife’s obligation to accommodate such a demand. “She must respond,” he says. And if she doesn’t then as a last resort it is permissible to beat her. In his view, it is impossible for a husband to rape his wife, even if physical force is required to obtain her participation.

It is obvious that the teachings are completely incompatible with not only Australian community standards, but also Australian law. It is also out of step with responsible mainstream Muslim teaching, and other Islamic figures in Australia have denounced his views. But Hamza he is not alone. Others have articulated similar teachings based on fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran. Every time such teachings come to light, the same platitudes are offered, and the same denials are made.

But the problem is that somehow these idiot extremists are allowed to represent themselves as spiritual leaders and are allowed to preach their extreme views with a level of legitimacy which they have not earned. It is often said that the responsible leaders of the Muslim community need to do more to denounce these extremists, but that is not enough. Responsible leaders of the Muslim community must prevent such ratbags from holding positions of influence in the first place. They must ensure that unsavoury lunatics are not permitted to label themselves clerics and set about teaching in the name of Islam. They must no longer allow the name of Islam to be brought into disrepute.

While the fanatics are allowed to spread their influence, they pose a threat to all of us. As long as young followers are subjected to such messages of intolerance, hatred, and prejudice, then the greater the danger of creating more fanatics. If young people are taught by so called “religious” leaders that the law is wrong, then there is the risk that some of them will disregard the law. And as long as others allow the teaching of extreme values, the threat will grow.

This is not simply an Islamic issue. It is a community issue, because we have all chosen to live together. Australia’s multicultural record is not unblemished, but is nonetheless magnificent. It works because most of us have learned tolerance and respect for each other. Beating and raping your wife is neither tolerant nor respectful, and is certainly not Australian.

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