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Migrant Muslim leaders should bow out

By Irfan Yusuf - posted Monday, 14 November 2005

Some Muslim leaders are worried about an anti-Muslim backlash. They keep talking about racism and prejudice, about rednecks and shock jocks and tabloid columnists.

Yes, the shock jocks and columnists are a worry. As are the Liberal backbenchers doing Al-Qaida’s work by making mainstream Aussie Muslims feel marginalised.

But seriously, between racism and terrorism, I’d have to say my biggest fear is the latter. For a number of reasons.


When terror strikes, people of all nationalities and faiths will be killed and injured. In London, at least ten per cent of the victims were from Muslim backgrounds. One even had the surname “Islam”. She was an English citizen on her way to work.

Bombs don’t discriminate. Just ask the friends and family of the killed and wounded at the wedding in Amman Jordan. Just ask the families of the Indonesian workers killed and injured when terrorists have struck Bali and Jakarta.

Terrorism is not really about Islam or Muslims. It’s about politics and perceived grievances. It’s about a lot of other things. But essentially it’s about making a point, about getting attention. It is a violent, deadly form of emotional immaturity and insecurity. And its victims and their communities end up feeling most insecure.

Muslim leaders often talk about going to the root causes of terror. From what we have seen in the UK and Australia, the root causes are not just about Australia’s involvement in Iraq or elsewhere.

The common denominator for all terror suspects is their age and their being born (or at least brought up in) Australia. In other words, the terror suspects are people of my own generation.

Migrant Muslim leaders may point the fingers at racists and shock-jocks and Liberal backbenchers. But for every one finger you point at others, three point back at yourself.


Over 50 per cent of Muslims in Australia are people I describe as Aussie Mossies. They were born and or brought up here. Many are kids of migrants. Or they are converts, many of whom make enormous sacrifices and are disowned by their families for their choice of religion. Both groups feel marginalised by society. But they are even more marginalised by migrant-dominated religious institutions.

Aussie Mossies fit in quite well to mainstream Aussie society. But like so many young people, they have serious issues they need to work through. And unlike churches and synagogues, the mainstream mosques and Islamic organisations have failed young people.

The national body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) has not held a national Muslim youth camp since 1988. They have no youth representatives on their executive, and have not had a single female on their executive for over two decades. Their youth adviser is Sheik Hilali, a man in his 60s.

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About the Author

Irfan Yusuf is a New South Wales-based lawyer with a practice focusing on workplace relations and commercial dispute resolution. Irfan is also a regular media commentator on a variety of social, political, human rights, media and cultural issues. Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published in May 2009 by Allen & Unwin.

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