An Eye-opener for the Islamic Community in Australia
By Syed Atiq ul Hassan
An event of siege, terror and killing carried out by Haron Monis in the heart of Sydney has been an eye-opener for the Muslim community in Australia.Haron killed two innocent persons, a lawyer and manager of the Café, before he was shot dead by the police.
Haron Monis had a bizarre criminal history with over 40 charges including sending abusive and threatening letters to Australian soldiers, murdering his own former wife, and many sexual assaults on women in the name of spiritual healing. He called himself a ‘Sheikh’ (an Islamic leader) and many might have been following him. Obviously, he was not a psyche or a mentally sick person; on the contrary, he was a smart man who knew how to use religion, his own community and (Australian) national issues for his personal popularity and thus getting prominence in the Muslim community.
The incident left two very critical issues: one relates to the Muslim community and the second is about the Australian Judicial System.
How come the community had been so ignorant about him despite the fact that he had over 40 serious charges against him? How come he used to participate in community/public gatherings by presenting himself as a leader or spokesperson of the community? How come he continued his activities as a spiritual healer when he was charged with molesting women?
The incident must be a lesson for members of the community and they should now look at the profiles of people who are self-acclaimed leaders. For example; what were they doing before they came to Australia? How did they come and become permanent residents? If they called themselves ‘Sheikh’ then what is their religious and academmic qualifications/professional attainments, and so on. Having a beard, turban and traditional dress should not automatically make them a sheikh or community/religious leader.
Monis arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iran in 1996. His entire history in Australia is a matter of shame for the community. He was convicted for sending offensive letters to families of Australian soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan. At that time, he tried to win sympathies of the community for being a true sympathizer of the Iraqi victims. Since then he had been calling himself a Sheikh and acted as a representative of the community.
On his personal website, Haron called himself as Sheikh Haron and Mohammad Hassan Manteghi. He posted an anti-Australian rant on the website just a day before he staged this horrifying act of terror. Haron’s intention was clear: he wanted publicity on the national media by using religious slogans. He used an Islamic inscription (Kalma) on a black flag and forced a hostage to project it on a window. Basically, he wanted to get attention of the national and international media. As soon as the live coverage of the incident began viewers related the incident with ISIS or Islamic terrorism. Media anchors and commentators started to talk about Islamic terrorism, Caliphate in Australia, etc and the people, especially those belonging to the community, were shattered when they saw these images.
This is what happens when a community makes leaders without merit and proper scrutiny.
Now the members of the community have to look into their own backyard and find out how many Haron still exist among them.
This is the time for the community to look into the profile of the people who claim themselves as Islamic and/or religious leaders. Most of them have assumed the role of a leader on their own.
The Australian public was shocked when it came to know the charges against Haron - murder, sexual assault and threatening of armed forces. There is a big question mark on the Australian judicial system. How can anyone repeatedly commit crimes and get away on bail from a court of law? If Haron Monis had been refused bail for his offences this incident wouldn’t have taken place and two innocent lives wouldn't have been lost.
Furthermore, people like Haron come to Australia on humanitarian or asylum grounds by manipulating the incentives. Therefore, without discriminating against the people of any particular country or religion, the Australian government has to make the process of scrutiny of applicants fool-proof rather than reducing or outlawing asylum seekers.
Coming back to the incident, it is good to see that there has been high level of bonding demonstrated by the people of Islamic and non-Islamic communities with everyone remaining calm. Leaders of Christian and Jewish faiths are reported to have met with the Imam at Lakemba Mosque. This should be welcomed. We need more of such activities and initiatives in our multicultural and multi-faith society.