Monday, July 25, 2005

Anti-West fatwas hit Australia

Trudy Harris:

FATWAS forbidding Muslim women from studying at university have been distributed in Sydney's southwestern Muslim heartland, according to the country's highest-profile Islamic leader.

Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali said the fatwas condemning aspects of Western society had been brought into Australia from Middle Eastern countries, written in Arabic.

He said the religious edicts, reflecting the fundamentalist strand of Islam originating from Saudi Arabia, had been distributed at mosques and prayer halls on pieces of paper.

Other fatwas, which Sheik Hilali said were unwelcome in modern Western countries such as Australia, included banning male and female Muslims from voting in democratic elections.

"They have been given out, sometimes outside mosques like free handouts," he told The Australian this week.

Sheik Hilali used the fatwas to highlight his concerns about Islamic fundamentalism in Australia, which he compared this week to a disease.

He said he and other clerics needed to continue to work hard to capture the hearts and minds of a small number of young, impressionable Muslims who were moving towards fundamentalism.

While he did not consider these young Muslims dangerous or violent, he was concerned that they were being manipulated by a handful of local fundamentalist clerics.

In Britain, the Government is moving to mobilise moderate Islam in an attempt to stem fundamentalism, stop extremism and prevent any future bombings following London's worst terrorism attack this month that killed more than 50 people, including one Australian.

Sheik Hilali's revelations about fatwas in Australia follow a Federal Police investigation sparked this week into radical books for sale at an Islamic bookstore in Sydney's suburban Lakemba.

While Sheik Hilali had not read the particular books under investigation, he said any that preached racism, violence or hatred against Australia and its citizens should be banned. "It's like someone selling poison, or like selling the poisoned Mars Bars, they should be taken off the shelves. It's a free country but it's not free to poison people," he said.

Sheik Hilali declined to name those who had circulated the fatwas he described or how long ago they were distributed. He said he no longer had copies of the fatwas he had collected in the past.

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