It’s budget time. The Howard government is handing out fists full of dollars. The opposition is on the defensive over multiple changes to its IR policy. And Dicky Kerbaj, the Australian’s resident reporter on all things Muslim, has managed to find an excuse to put an imam in the news.

His target is one sentence out of a one-hour lesson delivered by a young Lakemba imam. Were the lesson delivered last week or last month or even six months ago, it may be news. But this lesson was delivered … wait for it … in 2002.

Yep, five years ago. The lecture ran for a whole hour, and was part of a series of lectures. The allegedly offending bits, suggesting that Muslims had to fight to defend Muslim countries under attack even if it involved killing young kids, made up one or two sentences.

So what was the context? Who knows? We certainly won’t know after reading the article, which doesn’t mention anything about the context in which the statement is made. Indeed, the quotes provided have … lots of … these … dots … scattered between words. What the … ?

Kerbaj’s terminology is even funnier. He describes the young Sheik as “the deputy spiritual leader of Taj Din al-Hilali”. Huh? Does it mean Hilaly consults Shady or vice versa? Has Hilaly appointed Shady as his deputy? Is Shady deputy Mufty? When did this happen? Why don’t the Lebanese Moslems Association (who manage the mosque) know? How come the Australian National Imam’s Council doesn’t know

Kerbaj then describes Azizah Abdel Halim, president of the Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia, one of numerous Muslim women’s groups, as “[t]he nation’s leading spiritual Muslim woman”. What? How does one become a “spiritual Muslim woman”? Is she a soothsayer? Is she like “the Wise Woman”  from that episode of Blackadder involving his man servant Kate.

The final paragraph represents Kerbaj’s attempt to link Shady’s lecture to Australian forces fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sadly, it only shows an absence of even elementary knowledge of Islamic legal terminology.

Kerbaj summarises Shady’s position as follows: “[W]hile it was obligatory for all Muslims to defend an Islamic nation under attack, there were no Muslim countries living under Sharia law that were currently under attack”. I’ve no idea what Shady actually said. But any imam worth their salt differentiates between Muslim states (i.e. states with Muslim majority) and “Islamic” states (caliphates governed according to sharia ).

There’s general consensus among imams that no Islamic states exist on planet earth, and nothing even remotely so on the horizon. Further, Muslims are forbidden by law from fighting against the forces of a state they have sworn allegiance to. And no imam has told Muslims currently in our armed forces to leave active duty.

Sorry, Dick. Whichever way you spin it, this is a controversy-free zone.