For some 12 months, I’ve been joining Professor Emeritus Anthony Johns and Ms Shakira Hussein in co-hosting a course on “Understanding Islam & Australia’s Muslim Communities” under the auspices of a leading Canberra centre.

I can’t reveal exactly who attends these courses. Suffice it to say there’s a fair representation of people in law enforcement and national security. Part of the course involves understanding the broad ethnic and sectarian terrain of Australian Islam and identifying different Muslim groups. We don’t sugar-coat our presentations. We just say it as it is.

On numerous occasions, participants have said these presentations have been much more helpful than what they read in newspapers. Numerous participants from agencies I won’t mention have told me of their frustration on receiving false and jaundiced information from people who, if I may quote from one participant, “have been reading too much of that garbage in The Australian.”

Hence, I was amused to see my buddy Sheik Dick Kerbaj quoting “[n]ational security sources” who named “[a]bout a dozen Muslim clerics … identified as key hardliners preaching fundamentalist messages”.

And who are these “national security sources” that are prepared to name imams and speculate on 2-3000 young pockets of “ideological sleeper cells”? Interestingly enough, Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty refused to be drawn in on this latest attempt at hysteria generation.

A clue can be found on the front page of The Oz yesterday, where Kerbaj gave credence to research by one Mustapha Kara-Ali, a former member of the PM’s handpicked Muslim Reference Group.

Kerbaj reported Kara-Ali’s claims that some 2-3,000 young Aussie Muslims were “ideological sleeper cells”, giving credence to these sensational comments by claiming Kara-Ali had been “given a $200,000 grant by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in June last year to investigate the radicalisation of young Muslims in Sydney’s southwest”.

It turns out that Kara-Ali has not received a single cent in government funding to carry out any research. In fact, the DIAC website shows that the relevant project is to be run by al-Amanah College, the amount involved being around $150,000. These details have been in the public domain for at least 12 months.

Clearly some folk at The Oz want us to be alarmed, despite them not being too alert when it comes to reporting falsehoods which can easily be disproved. I wonder how many false alarms will be made at security agencies today thanks to this alarmist reporting.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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