The religion of peace in Australia

Two current reports below

Muslim students seeking jihad fatwas

AUSTRALIAN Muslim university students eager to become jihadis are regularly seeking advice from Islamic spiritual leaders in the hope of winning religious approval to travel overseas and fight. Leaders have warned that the obsession among some young Muslims to become holy warriors was also driving them to "shop around" for fatwas - religious rulings - should their initial request be turned down.

Moderate Sydney-based Islamic cleric Khalil Shami said young Muslims, "predominantly university students", frequently asked his advice on travelling to war-torn countries to fight in the name of Islam. This comes two years after hardline Islamic university students were involved in the London bombings that killed 52 people and injured 700 others. It also follows The Australian's revelations in January that a 25-year-old Somali Australian, Ahmed Ali, died fighting alongside Islamists in his country of birth in December last year.

Sheik Shami said he always warned aspiring Islamists against fighting because he believed Muslim countries were being run by corrupt leaders who were more interested in making money and advancing their political profiles than liberating their people. "There are some people who would like to go and perform jihad," he told The Australian in an Arabic and English interview. "I say don't go. Because those fighting aren't truly fighting in the path of God. I've been asked numerous times and I've advised against going," added Sheik Shami, an imam at Penshurst Mosque in Sydney's southwest. He said young Muslims interested in jihad either called him anonymously to ask his advice or approached him at the mosque.

Sheik Shami, who is also an Australian Federal Police chaplain, said he had not notified authorities about Muslims interested in jihad because he did not want to betray the trust of people making the inquiries. "If you come to me and tell me about something, it's not nice for me to go and tell the authorities about you because you trust me and I have to just keep your secret," he said. "I know I have enough faith in myself. I'm not going to hurt the person or hurt the authorities."

The federal Attorney-General's department last night said clerics were not obligated under common law to pass on national security information. "A Muslim cleric would have the same obligations as any other member of the community," a department spokesman said. "The Government would expect that any person in receipt of such information, whatever their religious beliefs, would have a duty to prevent terrorist activity and pass the information on."

Sheik Shami's comments follow revelations in The Australian last week that Muslims were refusing to give national security authorities counter-terrorism tip-offs, fearing they might implicate themselves or be labelled traitors by fellow community members. Sheik Shami said young men often became more enthused about seeking advice on jihad after seeing horrific images of fellow Muslims caught up in conflict.

Islamic Friendship Association of Australia president Keysar Trad admitted hearing young Muslims asking their cleric for advice on going to fight jihad overseas. He said some even went to more than one imam in the hope of getting a green light for joining the battle. "Some people will shop around, what you might term as fatwa shopping, and I am yet to meet an imam who would say yes, go," Mr Trad said. "My personal assessment of these kind of people is they want the imam to reassure them that staying here in luxury and comfort is OK, that's all they're doing. But then they go (and say), 'I would've gone only if the imam let me'."

Melbourne cleric Isse Musse said aspiring jihadis do not usually ask for fatwas from their imams to approve their departure for battle. And while the Somalian imam had never been approached by young Muslims wanting to join overseas terror outfits, he said in most cases people would only seek advice about such issues from their clerics.


Australian police and courts not interested in punishing racist attacks by Muslims

They were walking home after a night at the Woolooware Golf Club - two men and two women - when a Toyota Camry pulled up and the driver asked: "Have you been at Cronulla today?" One of the men, Dan, replied: "It's bullshit down there. Don't go there."

It was an innocuous answer, but the six men in the Toyota had earlier been part of a 100-car convoy that assembled in Punchbowl and made its way to the southern beaches that night, December 11, 2005. They had already been involved in violent incidents at Maroubra and Brighton-le-Sands, part of the self-styled "intifada" that exposed the inertia of the police and the court system. The full magnitude of this inertia is yet to be fully understood. The failure is ongoing.

Dan's response didn't really matter. These men were not on a peace mission. The car doors were flung open. "Get the Aussie dogs!" one of them shouted. Dan told his friends: "Run!" They began sprinting down the street. Then he heard another comment: "Get those f---ing Aussie sluts."

He stopped. Even though there was a group of malignant strangers chasing him, something more forceful than fear pulled him up. "I turned around and fronted them," he told me. "As the first one got to me I punched him in the head. He went down. It was a good punch." He was swarmed. "They knocked me down. I was face down, with my arms up to cover my face. I had one on either side of me, kicking my head. It was like a pendulum. The other guys were stabbing me and whatever." The stabbing would have been worse except that the knife was struck with such force that the hilt broke off, leaving the blade stuck in Dan's back. The attackers stopped and drove off after another car approached. Dan was prostrate on the street.

"There was blood everywhere," he said. When someone walked over Dan said he could feel something in his back. "There's a knife, it's broken off," the man said. "Fair enough," Dan replied. "I pulled out my mobile and called the ambulance." There were so many emergency calls that night that a TV crew arrived before the police. He heard a shocked policewoman screaming down the radio: "He's bleeding out!"

Why had he stopped to face a fight he could not win? "Because," he replied, "when I heard them say 'Get those sluts', I thought, 'What are they going to do to those girls?"' He knew that young men like these - men who used "Aussie" as an insult, who hunted in packs, who called non-Muslim women "sluts" - had committed numerous gang rapes and sexual assaults in Sydney. They had sexually confronted and intimidated hundreds of young women over the years. He decided to absorb the attack so the women could get away. He almost died in the process.

Despite the hundreds of violent incidents on this night and the two nights that followed, not a single major conviction and sentence has been handed down. In Dan's case, it took the help of the media. The police were able to break the case after a TV news broadcast of an appeal for witnesses on May 23 last year. The broadcast showed photographs of a beige 1988 Camry sedan, and the first three letters of its registration, plus police computer images of three of the attackers.

Soon after, calls began coming in to the phone of Yahya Jamal Serhan, 21, of Chester Hill. Police recorded various unidentified males telling Serhan that his father's car was on the news and one of the police images looked like him. Serhan and another who cannot be named because he was under 18 at the time were charged with affray and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Earlier this year, the police prosecutor Sergeant Brett Eurell, presenting the prosecution case, told a court: "This was a joint criminal enterprise by members of a group of males who engaged in an unprovoked, racially motivated, premeditated attack." He opposed bail in order to protect the witnesses. The magistrate, Paul Falzon, after reading the statement of police facts, concluded: "They believed someone would roll and provide information to police, that they had to locate that person and bash him. Now, that is not consistent with innocence."

Serhan and the other assailant were convicted. Both had been in prison for nine months pending the trial. They were sentenced to time served. So on the last day of the trial they walked free. The other four men in the Toyota that night were never identified by Serhan and his accomplice. They were never charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

For leaving an innocent man to die on the street in an unprovoked attack, two men were sentenced to nine months in prison and four men got away with it. Nor were their violent actions elsewhere that night ever the subject of prosecution.

"I had been warned by the detectives to be prepared for the worst," Dan told me. "I was told what would happen and then it did actually did happen. I couldn't believe it. I believed that, given the severity of the assault, and their refusal to name the other guys in the car, these guys would be locked up for three or four years. They just walked away." Dan went into a decline after the trial. He has been receiving counselling. He, along with every one of the victims in the nine gang-rape trials involving young Muslim men in Sydney in recent years, went to the courts for justice and got a circus.



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