How did the Grand Mufti of Australia become “the damn problem” and “a disgrace” after issuing what sounds to us like a very reasonable press release?

First let’s be clear on what was said. The Australian National Imam’s Council’s now infamous press release, sent on Sunday, in full:

“His Eminence, the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, and the Australian National Imam’s Council mourn the loss of innocent lives due to the current terrorist attacks in France. Almost 130 people were tragically killed and more than 350 injured.

“We would like to convey our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. We reiterate that the sanctity of human life is guaranteed in Islam.

“These recent incidents highlight the fact that current strategies to deal with the threat of terrorism are not working. It is therefore imperative that all causative factors such as racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention must be comprehensively addressed.

“In addition, any discourse which attempts to apportion blame by association or sensationalises violence to stigmatise a certain segment of society only serves to undermine community harmony and safety.

“Credit goes to those who have called for calm and responsibility. We call upon all people off goodwill to stand against fear-mongering and injustice.”

Hardly a controversial view. Bernard Keane in Crikey yesterday:

“[Former Afghanistan CIA officer Mark] Sageman’s view [that Western foreign policy is a factor in terrorism] is hardly controversial within the intelligence community. It’s widely accepted, including by MI5 and by the CIA, that Western foreign policy has directly helped perpetuate terrorism.”

But Treasurer Scott Morrison isn’t happy. On 3AW yesterday.

“I would encourage him I think to come out and clarify what his statement said. I was very disappointed for Australian Muslims yesterday, I thought Australian Muslims were let down by the Mufti yesterday …

“I think we’ve got into a much more, I think, mature discussion about these very complicated issues, and I think Australian Muslims would have been disappointed in those comments — certainly those who I have close relationships with were — and I really urge him to listen to his own community on this and to reflect their views.”

Neither is Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. On 2GB:

“These acts need to be condemned for what they are – they’ve been condemned by Muslim leaders around the world and they should be condemned here in Australia by the leadership … as well.”

Ray Hadley on Channel Nine says people like Mohammed are “the damn problem”:

“He didn’t attend the funeral of [murdered police accountant] Curtis Cheng … That was a disgrace … Now he’s come out with this insanity … suggesting that Islamophobia is responsible for what’s happened in Paris. The bloke’s a disgrace, he doesn’t represent mainstream Muslims in Australia, and he should resign. The other thing he should do is learn to speak our lingo. He’s been here 18 years and doesn’t speak English. Not good enough. He’s not the solution, he’s the damn problem.”

The Daily Telegraph today …

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Inside, Matthew Benns and Miles Godfrey write:

“Meanwhile, it has been revealed the Grand Mufti snubbed a requiem mass for the victims of the Paris attacks and refused to explain why he would not condemn the extremists who carried out the horrific killings.”

The Australian’s editorial today:

“Refusing to condemn in the strongest terms the barbaric Islamic atrocities committed in Paris, Australia’s Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed gives the impression that he secretly supports the establishment of an Islamic caliphate run by a bunch of murderous criminals.”

But did the Grand Mufti really not condemn the attack? Here he is on Facebook on Monday:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and people of Paris and Beirut at this time of unspeakable horror.

“We will continually stand united in peace with them against such heinous attacks of cowardice.

“There are no words to truly describe the devastation of these acts but we will continue in solidarity and pray for peace.”

It’s not the first time he’s said something similar. Here he is at a press conference in the aftermath of the Parramatta shooting.

“We utterly refuse and reject any form of terrorist activities, including [the Parramatta shooting] if it is proven to be a terrorist act or any other terrorist act.”

But this criticism demanded a response. The ANIC tries to mollify the outrage this morning.

“Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed and ANIC have consistently and unequivocally condemned all forms of terrorist violence. The Grand Mufti on 15th September 2014 said about ISIS that: ‘These criminals are committing crimes against humanity and sins against God.’”

Is anyone listening? AAP reporter Elise Scott on Twitter when linking to statement:

“Grand Mufti and Imams Council clarify Sunday’s statement on Paris attacks. Still don’t condemn attacks.”

Peter Fray

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