From five years ago

December 16, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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ABC’s Religion broadcaster, Rachael Kohn, questioned how Sheik Haron has been allowed to proliferate his own brand of extremism for so long…in 2009.

The following was written by Rachael Kohn for ABC’s online news in November, 2009


“Sheik” Haron

Almost two years ago, Richard Kerbaj [The Australian, Jan 28 2008] reported that the Melbourne based Shia Muslim leader, Kamal Mousselmani, urged the Australian Federal Police to investigate Sheik Haron, whom Mousselmani claimed was not a genuine religious leader.

Some Sydneysiders would remember Haron as the Iranian refugee Manteghi Boroujerdi, who chained himself to the front fence of the New South Wales Parliament in January 2001, insisting that the Federal Government bring his wife and children to Australia.

Then, as now, he is given to extreme attention seeking behaviour. The difference is that then he claimed to be a liberal and convinced Stephen Crittenden to describe him as such on ABC Radio National’s The Religion Report [January 31, 2001]. Now Sheik Haron is busy converting a property in Campsie, New South Wales, to a prayer hall and a book shop in a bid to teach his extremist form of Islam.

He has recently been charged by the AFP for unlawfully using the postal service to “menace, harass or cause offence” to the families of deceased Australian soldiers. If he’s convicted, we may be temporarily spared an outlet for views that many Muslims have been keen to disassociate from, especially since 9/11.

Islam, they say, is not about the violent jihad which terrorists espouse, it is about peace. Yet in Australia, the Muslim community missed an opportunity to expose, denounce and shut down the antics of a religious extremist, who for at least the past two years has been using the internet, CDs and other means justifying violent jihad.

The trouble is that Sheik Haron, as he calls himself, can seem a bit too loony to take seriously, but this is a mistake. The self-styled mufti is no shrinking violet when it comes to promoting hatred of the West and justifying violence in the name of Allah. Nor is he lacking funds to produce his elaborate propaganda.

I have been one of his targets, along with other public figures, including the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Melbourne magistrate, Judge Peter Reardon, who presided over the case of five men charged with planning a terrorist attack against the Holsworthy Army base [The Australian, Aug 26 2009].

I have read the sheik’s faxes, letters on custom letterhead, and CDs in which he openly promoted the glorious calling of jihad against the West and celebrated the deaths of Australians in war and in the Victorian bushfires.

According to him, the deaths of both soldiers and civilians were the work of Allah, who metes out punishment to those who offend or harm Muslims.

In a fax he sent to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with a copy to me, he asserted that the deaths of people in the bushfires was Allah’s revenge on Australians, because the government did not oppose the death penalty for the Bali bombers. It’s clear where his sympathies lie.

During a week when everyone in the media pointed the finger at the Christian group, Catch the Fire Ministries, which interpreted the Victorian bushfires as God’s revenge on the Victorian government that had recently passed legislation legalising abortion, I announced in my February 15 edition of The Spirit of Things on ABC Radio National that the ‘renegade Sheik Haron’ had propagated an equally extreme view.

This promptly elicited a letter from his lawyer to the ABC, alleging defamation because I used the word “renegade”, which he believed impugned his religious credentials. My intention was more prosaic, to distinguish Haron from most Australian Muslims, who, I assumed, would not agree with his take on the 171 deaths in the Victorian bushfires as an act of Allah’s retribution.

Not that I had any reassurances from Muslims about it – I didn’t. Instead, I remained on Sheik Haron’s website under the title, You Will Pay a Price!, in which he writes, en passant, that the Australian Federal Police is corrupt and connected to the Jewish mafia.

Rachael-KohnIn the many media conferences and interfaith meetings I’ve attended, Muslims have regularly complained that the media cast them in a poor light.

However valid that complaint may be, it loses all credibility when they don’t go after the radicals in their community.

If they don’t, the media will do it for them.

And in the case of Sheik Haron, he was really very hard to miss.

But one issue remains outstanding: just who is a genuine religious leader in the Muslim community and who is monitoring their output to young Australians?

Last year, the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikbal Patel, was reported as not knowing anything about Haron.

Yet it would seem that with the rapid growth of storefront prayer halls, it is time to ensure that all the independent sheiks who garner a following be known and when necessary reined-in by a body that represents the interests of Australian Muslims.

Rachael Kohn is the producer-presenter of Radio National’s The Spirit of Things.


2 Responses to “From five years ago”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    How good is a good man who does nothing? Perhaps it’s more about people believing their own illusions and being unwilling to face realities. It’s more comfortable that way.

  2. Bronwyn Van Dam says:

    When good men do nothing, the innocent victims in our community pay the price.

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