The appointment of Sheikh Shadi to replace Hilaly is a good one. While the name Shadi may not quell suspicions the wider Australian community may hold about his ilk, it is still refreshing to have someone speaking on religious matters pertaining to Muslims who at least has a cursory experience of living and growing up in Australia.

From my understanding, he is a young man of Arab background who was born and raised in the south-west of Sydney. He is able to connect with some of the alienated Arab youth who are so craving role models.

But, from the content of the taped speeches I have heard, he’s no social progressive. His views are dominated by what he sees as the insurmountable moral corruption in the wider Australian community, primarily related to s-x and drugs, propagated through pop culture. I have heard one speech where he spoke at length about the evils of television and its role in just about every social ill. This will connect with his audience, who seek refuge in their religion from the social excesses they see outside their homes. In that sense, Shadi will not help the wider problem of many Muslims insulating themselves from mainstream Australia as much as possible. His views will also overlap with social conservatives of many stripes.

But the days when the best and brightest headed into the clergy are long gone. Shadi is far from the best and brightest of the Arab community, yet is along the lines of other Muslim clerics who see fit to offer opinions on almost anything ranging from global warming and Third World debt to internet pornography. Hilaly’s comments regarding the White House and Iraqi jihadists are a case in point. There is a bigger crisis in social role models that Shadi will have little impact upon. Regardless, the generational change in theological leadership is long overdue.

Peter Fray

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