Why has Sheik Hilali had such a roasting?

Sheik Hilali’s media roasting provides a fascinating insight into contemporary Australian cultural politics. It’s pretty clear that there is a widespread view that Muslim attitudes on women – and particularly Arab Muslim attitudes – are very unsatisfactory. But it’s hard to say that in public. When someone like Marcus Kapitza decides that he’s tired of the behaviour toward women of young Lebanese men at Cronulla Beach and blames ‘Lebs’ for the problem this will get him labelled a racist. As was said in this blog’s comment this week about his case:


18 thoughts on “Why has Sheik Hilali had such a roasting?

  1. Jeremy – I think there is a subtle distinction here. Take Hillali’s mos recent comments about cleaning the world of the White House. Also crackpot stuff, but not likely to trigger as much controversy because nobody thinks that the local Muslim population is capable of doing such a thing. But abusing women? That they can do. I think the PM put his finger on it when he said:

    “It’s not for me to say who the Mufti of Australia should be. But it is for me to say as Prime Minister that I believe unless this matter is satisfactorily resolved by the Islamic community there is the real worry that lasting damage will be done,” he said.

    “My view is that they have to resolve this issue. If it is not resolved then, unfortunately, people will run around saying, well, the reason they didn’t get rid of him is that secretly some of them support his views.”


  2. Yes, I think you’re right on this score. I don’t think we’re too far apart. I just think, if the head of the CWA had said the same things, it would still have been reported quite heavily, because it is so outrageous.

    What seems to have been overlooked, and which has come out today in the Oz and theSMH, is how Hilali in the same sermon criticised Christians and Jews as being the most evil people, and prophesying that they will go to hell for eternity. Surely this is just as disturbing as his comments about women?


  3. The problem is not just with Hilali. The sermon by this cleric, the head of Muslims in Australia was preached one month ago, and heard by 500 muslims, yet not a word about it until the nom muslim population heard of it.
    Why did the muslim community not condemn it at the time???


  4. Jeremy – I agree, in the unlikely event tht the CWA President said such things there would have been controversy, but nobody would have thought she spoke for a community and she would have been promptly sacked. It wouldn’t have been nearly as big as this.

    I don’t think the comments about Jews and Christians (not to mention atheists, I’m on the list too) are in the same league – while crazy stuff again, it is just a statement of what he thinks happens to them after death. I do not construe it as jusifying action now.

    Kerry – Someone leaked it to The Australian, presumably someone who attends the Lakemba mosque. But clearly his or her view is a minority one, which is why this story is big.


  5. If Hilali were a rampant mid-western American Baptist preacher, exhorting his flock against the evils of the feminine gender – which is what Hilali was doing if you read the transcript – he’d be laughed off as just another religious nutbag. However, because he’s a muslim, he’s reviled for stating his beliefs as a spokesman for his religion. Remember, the Roman Catholic church still purports to support this doctrine as well. No-one castigates the RC’s in the community as the Oz media has the Islamic community.

    Double standards for mine.


  6. David R. and Bannerman,

    I won’t debate the other issues. But: when an Australian representative of one of the churches comes out and says the same or similar things as Hilali has said, I will be the first to condemn the comments as outrageous, and I would hope others would too.


  7. Don’t forget that Hollingsworth was hounded out of office, and the churches have – belatedly, and under public pressure – acknowledged and paid out on the abuse claims made against them. Islam is facing the same modernising pressures that Christianity has felt over a long period of time. I can’t see that there are any double standards.

    If anything, fundamentalist Christianity is subject to more persistent criticism than Islam, because the left is not torn on the issue – they can’t work out whether Muslims are oppressors or ‘victims’.


  8. Fundamentalist christianity subject to more persistent criticism? That sounds like a belief rather than anything that could be backed up.

    We know the media loves to print all the outrageous Muslim stuff because it sells far more papers than (say) Bill Meuhlenberg making outragoeous statements. Old Bill is capable of being just as offensive as the Mufti, but he isn’t under anywhere near the amount of scrutiny. When was the last time a fundamentalist made a front page?

    I think from Beazleys comments we can firmly put to rest this fallacy that the left is divided too. Both sides of politics are currently fighting over the dog whistle and they’ve damn near worn it out.


  9. David – Admittedly much of the fuss surrounding fundamentalist Christianity is political rather than cultural, but very vocal nonetheless. Remember the fuss surrounding Family First during the 2004 election campaign? About the Lyons Forum? About politicians talking at Hillsong meetings?


  10. Re political scrutiny / family first / Hillsong / Lyons forum.

    Point taken Andrew. Bob Carr and Uncle Pete Costello lobbing into Hillsong and the rest of the things you mentioned were heavily covered.


  11. Andrew said: “If anything, fundamentalist Christianity is subject to more persistent criticism than Islam, because the left is not torn on the issue – they can


  12. Hans – I’m not dichotomising, it is a reference to the leftist tendency to support ‘victims’, regardless of whether the victims’ behaviour is good or bad.

    I agree that all Muslims tend to get blurred, but then again I’m sure many Westerners are very vague on the differences between the various Christian groups.


  13. Another reason is the left’s erstwhile commitment to feminism. The left had a near-monopoly over feminism until the last decade or so, when modern feminists like Naomi Wolf split with old-style man-haters like Andrea Dworkin, Helen Coonan went from setting up a women’s refuge in Glebe to becoming a Cabinet Minister in a Howard Government, Germaine Greer lost the plot, and nobody has much to say to women earning less than about $80k annually who struggle to find adequate childcare. While these recent developments can be confusing and divide people who agree on other issues, the old-fashioned unreconstructed sexist becomes a rallying point for all.


  14. As you say “a fascinating insight into contemporary Australian cultural politics” … as we know I don’t place as much faith in social surveys as you do, but while I’m fairly sure that practically no one thinks that any woman ever deserves to be raped, I do think you would find a lot of (older, maybe?) people who think that women who dress provocatively are, in certain situations, creating an impression. And if they go on reinforcing that impression by other behaviour – drinking, flirting – they are heading into a potentially dangerous area.

    I’m guessing that the people who think this would also be suspicious of Imams and multiculturalism – so where do they go on this one. Joining in the avalanch of (justified) criticism of the Sheik’s ideas sort of pushes people towards the feminist idea that people can wear or do whatever they want and others can just deal with their feelings – but I don’t think they’ll feel comfortable in that position. But who will dare speak up for the virtue of modesty after this?


  15. David Rubie are you really serious? If a Catholic Cardinal came out and said “little boys are tools of the devil and they are to blame when they are molested by a Priest” and then he not only kept his job but other prominent Catholics and thousands of lay-Catholics came out and supported him then you really don’t think the Catholic Church would be condemned? What more does it take?

    All ethnic/religous/racial groups have their share of kooks, and if Hilali was roundly condemned by the vast majority of Muslims and immediately sacked most people would not have a negative view of Islam. But the problem is that Hilali does not appear to be out of step with his flock. He is being supported by his community.


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