By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney Australia
“If you don’t like Australia, leave” said, today, by Mr. Neil El-Kadomi, the Chairman of Parramatta Mosque. Well, being an Australian citizen and in principle I totally agree to the statement, however, being a part of the Islamic Community, is this enough to just give this sort of statement? Does this statement eliminate the real issue young Australian Muslims are facing right now? I am terrified with this tragic incident, a high school boy who, as heard, was in the mosque for prayer 15 minutes earlier to his shooting and killing a 58 year old police employee in front of the police headquarters building and then police gunned down the boy in retaliation. Every time, whenever any incident happens of such a nature, Islamic leaders, Sheiks and Imams come out condemning the incident then attend post event reconciliation and harmony meetings, and making promises to work together for the best interest of multicultural Australia. On the other hand, and the fact of the matter is that radicalisation and fanaticism in the young Australian Muslims are growing, day by day.
This incident which is until now unique in nature as only a 15 year old boy, Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabbar, who as heard was a quiet, simple and religious, gunned down a 58 year old police employee in broad daylight. This incident is not something forgettable after issuing regretting and condemning statements by community leaders. This is an eye-opener for the entire Australian Islamic community. What have the community leaders, Sheiks and Imams done in providing a true sense of Islam and the world politics going on right now? How do Australian Muslims have to deal and respond the issues which are directly linked to the Muslim world? This is an era of technology, a brutal image of a child found dead on a beach goes around the world in minutes through social media. When young Australian Muslims, boys and girls, watch these brutal images of Iraqis, Syrian, Palestinians, Kashmiris, and Afghanis in their minds, they retaliate on social media; they are encouraged by fanatic groups to take revenge. Especially, when the Australian government opt to be a part of dirty game of superpowers in the Middle East for their own invested interest on the name of democracy and justice, the young people get aggressive and hostile and for them it is all unjust.
If deceased Farhad was not mentally disturbed by his own personal or family reasons then he must have been inspired and pushed by any individual or group to take that extreme action where he also lost his own life.
It is understood that crimes do exist in the society and this is the job of the law enforcement agencies to maintain the law & order, and bring the culprits in the court of justice. Nevertheless, when we live in a multicultural society where people of different faiths, thoughts and cultures exist then it is the responsibility of the community leaders to promote and maintain social harmony within their own community first. Furthermore, promote understanding to live peacefully and respectfully with the people of other backgrounds. Now, this cannot be achieved just by lectures in the mosques or in any community event. The community organisations and their leaders have to engage the members of the community in practical activities. For example, productive and interesting interfaith activities and multicultural events are the best tools to promote living with others respectfully. Particularly when it comes to the Islamic Community, Islam teaches how to live respectfully with the people of other faiths and culture and much this message of Islam has been preached by Islamic leaders is a big question mark today? Whose job is this to deliver this true message of Islam with practical means to the young minds in the Islamic Community? Certainly, this is the role of community leaders, Muftis, Sheikhs, and Imams who are running so many organisations on the name of religion especially in Sydney and Melbourne. These religious organisations are running millions’ of dollar projects of building big mosques and Islamic schools which are certainly a necessity of the Australian Muslims but if these beautiful mosques and high standard schools are not protected from the fanatic ideas, radicalisation, sectarianism and cruel philosophies then who is to blame?
There is no doubt that there are Islamic organisations and charity groups who are doing excellent job in the Islamic community in spreading harmony and friendship within and outside Islamic community, yet, there are platforms and groups do exist who are preaching their own sect more than Islam. There are some groups who are more interested in the politics of Iraq and Syria, then the local social and welfare issues of young Australian Muslims. We cannot expect the Australian government or law enforcement agencies to fix these issues and policing these platforms and groups. This is the responsibilities of the community organisations and their leaders.
Australian Muslims evidently proved that whatsoever the situation may be against the Muslims internationally, they have to deal the situation according to the demand as one Australian nation. A common Australian Muslim finds very positive and affirmative in maintaining peace, friendship and harmonious relations with the other fellow Australians. Even when agencies raid houses and arrest people for investigation, the common Australian Muslim fully cooperate with the officers. On the other hand, the Islamic leaders, regrettably the seniors, follow their traditional way of dealing issues within their own groups and community organisations. They are divided in their own sect, philosophies and country of origin. And the problem is the same bunch of old so-called leaders are registered with the government departments as the list of invitees & VIPs for government forums and meetings in order to views and feedback of the Islamic community.
I have been watching this for the last many years especially since September 11 (2001). Whenever, any incident of such a nature occurs in the Islamic community, the government leaders, officials and ministers interact with the same Islamic leaders from the same old list, hold meetings & workshops with the same people who have the same statements as they had in the past. These so-called community leaders love to come in media and promote their own character and build their own social network in order to get more funding for their own projects. Result, these community meetings and workshops turned out to be waste of time and tax-payers’ money.
The fact of the matter is that in the last 20 years or so the demographics of the Islamic community have been changed. Many young organisations have been established now which are running by Australian-born highly educated Muslims especially the youth. These young organisations are very focused on local social & welfare issues within and outside Islamic community. The government should involve these new community representatives and young leaders rather than old Sheiks and Imams who are appropriate for religious matters but proven to be incapable of appropriately addressing social and welfare issues within the Islamic community.
Commenting on the incident, Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull said, “Mutual respect is fundamental to our harmony as a multicultural society and it is fundamental to our success”. Prime Minister is absolutely right and this is what each and every member of Islamic community has to understand and leaders of the Islamic community have to work hard to implement this practically by engaging members of the community in multicultural activities.
Another measure the government should take into account as the former Labor leader Mark Latham also indicated in a recent TV show that one reason of young Australian Muslims being taken interest in radicalise activities is the welfare dependency in the Western region of Sydney that is unemployment of parents and youth. They have enough time to spend on social media as they have nothing to do. Economic issues in any society lead to increase the rate of wrong doings and crimes. Therefore, this is also a job of the government to engage the people especially the youth in jobs, apprenticeships and other skill learning activities.