Nation of convicts or second chances?

You know, some people really should learn to keep their mouths shut. But maybe Sheik Hilali isn’t capable of it. He went on Egyptian television, saying that Australian Muslims were more entitled to be in Australia than Anglo-Saxons because they hadn’t come here as convicts. This coming from the man who had previously compared immodestly dressed women to “uncovered meat” and suggested they invited rape.

Should we even listen to him anymore? He hasn’t even got his facts right; South Australia was never a convict colony, so that’s an entire population he’s excluded. The problem is that Sheik Hilali is the leading Muslim cleric in Australia and even if the majority of people don’t take his comments seriously, others still will. His words can only serve to ostracize people when we need to be building unity. And the convict comment wasn’t even the worst of it; his implication that there’s no freedom for Muslims in Australia could be far worse.

Thankfully it doesn’t seem like many people are taking Sheik Hilali seriously. Spokespeople for various Islamic organisations have come out and condemned Hilali ‘s comments, saying that they and the vast majority of Muslims in Australia do not agree with him. That an Australian spiritual leader would go on foreign television to denounce Australia is unbelievable, though. Obviously we want free-speech, but maybe it’s time Muslims thought about whether they want Hilali to still represent them. I think any spiritual (or political) leader making derogatory comments about their country should step down.

It’s been strange watching the reaction in the media too. They’ve really gone after Hilali – but it was the media who built him up to begin with. One good thing Hilali did was to try to intervene in Iraq when Douglas Wood was kidnapped and the media were quick to praise him then. Now they’re attacking him just as quickly. They seem to have forgotten the role they played in the beginning.

And it’s strange as well that a lot of the language on this regards Sheik Hilali, not his views per se. Because the idea that we’re somehow “embarrassed” by our heritage is completely incorrect. We’re proud of our convict heritage. It doesn’t represent something ugly; it says instead that Australia was founded as a land of second chances and we value that. That’s a quality we want to keep as a part of our society and if anyone can’t accept that, they should stay overseas. And maybe learn to keep their mouths shut.

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