The Oz carried the front page headline “Radical Muslim clerics in media comment ban”.

So who are these chaps described as “[f]ive of the nation’s most powerful Islamic clerics”? And what makes them radical? Better still, what makes them clerics?

You’d think someone in News Limited had figured out by now that Islam, like its twin-cousin Judaism, does not have a clerical class. There’s no hierarchy, clerical or otherwise, recognised by mainstream Islamic theology. To be fair, AAP made the same error.

Further, exactly how powerful are imams from the Imam Ali Mosque at Lakemba? Yes, we know that lots of Muslims live in Lakemba. That explains why there are at least ten mosques in the Canterbury and Bankstown local government areas.

So how many people attend the Imam Ali Mosque for Friday congregational prayers? Last time I checked, it was around 3-4,000. That’s alot of people. And how many Sydney Muslims attend the annual Eid Festival at Fairfield? Around 30,000.

You’d think if these imams were as powerful as The Oz suggests, they’d be well-known by Muslims across the country. I decided to do a test. I rang a friend from Brisbane whose family is heavily involved in religious affairs. My mate could only recognise the names of two out of the five imams.

As for their alleged power, it’s significant that Sheik Hilaly could not even find a single candidate to accept his blessing to run for Parliament. They all know that Sheik Hilaly’s blessing is an electoral curse.

You’d think that if the Lebanese Moslems Association could gag such powerful pseudo-clerics, it would have excellent public relations with Australia’s 300,000-odd Muslims.

Yet the LMA’s constitution bars membership to all except Australian Muslim men who are eligible for Lebanese citizenship. I can’t vote at an LMA election because I lack sufficient “Leb”-ness. My mum can’t vote as she lacks it, etc.

Still, at least there is one Man who is influenced by the Sheik.

Peter Fray

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