29 October, 2006

Sheikh Elhilaly: Reaction

The controversy surrounding the Sydney mufti, Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly, rumbles on, with the Australian press, for example, the Age, calling for his dismissal. British Muslims are supporting him.

The episode seems to parallel the row in the UK over veils. In both instances, government ministers are wading in and demanding strong action. However, in both instances, ministers are concentrating on the ephemera and carefully avoiding the substantive issues. The UK and Australia each have a problem with the failure of Islamic immigrants to integrate into society but neither will confront their problem head on. Instead, British ministers prefer to manufacture a row about veils and the Australians choose to stir things up over some non-PC remarks by a cleric. The politicians have utilised these narrow issues to distract popular opinion by steering it away from a wider debate on the nature of Islam, both of itself and in relation to western societies.


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