Give us our own laws, say Islamic leaders

ISLAMIC leaders want Muslims in Australia to get interest-free loans for religious reasons. The nation's Islamic leaders want recognition of sharia law as it applies to banking practices, according to an exclusive Herald Sun survey of imams. There was also a call for recognition of sharia law as it applies to family law.

The survey showed some imams are sceptical that Osama bin Laden's death will be of benefit to ordinary Muslims, and they are unhappy with the way US forces disposed of his body. The survey has also revealed:

STRONG condemnation of MPs who criticise Muslim women for wearing the burqa/nijab.

CONCERN that ordinary Muslims are still being linked to terrorism.

DISGUST that innocent people in Muslim countries are being killed in the "war on terror".

The survey was conducted in the wake of a $55,000 Federal Government training program for imams on Australian laws and values. They have been told to preach core Australian values such as the fair go, freedom, and responsibility.

"Other than the two major issues mentioned, I don't see other sharia law that Muslims would seek to have legally recognised," he said.

Fellow WA imam Sheik Burhaan Mehtar said sharia law often was raised to scare non-Muslims, but a dialogue would lead to better understanding. "Islamic banking and the non-slavery of humans is a classic example. Interest is slavery," he said.

Islamic Council of Victoria board member Nazeem Hussain said legal and tax barriers currently prevented local banks from offering Islamic finance products. "That's a massive market ... we'd encourage the Government to seek ways to tap into that market," he said.

Imam Parker said bin Laden's demise might serve as closure for those convinced he masterminded the 9/11 attacks. "But the reality is that the negative impact on Islam and Muslims has not changed, and it will take many decades for that to change," he said.

Sheik Burhaan Mehtar said the symbolic victory of bin Laden's death would remain hollow while people in nations such as Afghanistan suffered a "terror of death delivered from the skies" by the US and its allies.

Gold Coast imam Imraan Husain reflected a general view that bin Laden's burial at sea was a violation of Islamic funeral rites.

Victorian imam Sheik Ramy Najmeddine said Muslims felt there was an unfair link between terrorism and Islam. "But we believe this is being broken down by the good work that members of both the Muslim and non-Muslim community are doing."

Sheik Mohamadu Saleem, a spokesman for Board of Imams Victoria, accused some MPs of trying to get political mileage out of the burqa issue. "It is mere political expediency," he said.

Victorian imam Abdinur Weli said: "If only Muslims are the people who are told what to wear, then it is discrimination."


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