Did you see this coming? Did you? Of course you did!

In late September Taj El-Din Hilaly was again appointed Grand Mufti of Australia.

The position of Grand Mufti is elected by the Australian national Imams Council and is the highest Sunni Muslim position.

Since the role was created in 1992, there have been four Grand Muftis.

  1. Taj El-Din Hilaly (1992–2007)
  2. Fehmi Naji (2007–2011)
  3. Ibrahim Abu Mohamed (2011–March 2018, July 2018-)[5]
  4. Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi (2018, died July 2018)[3][4]
  5. Taj El-Din Hilaly (2018 – )

This means, yes indeed, Taj El-Din Hilaly is back in the hoooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwse.

For your younger viewers who may have just joined after the break, Hilaly has a grand history as Grand Mufti in Australia.

Let’s recount, courtesy of Wikipedia because it would take days to independently verify the last 26 years of Hilaly in Australia.

Up there, Hilaly

Criminal charges

In 1999 Hilaly was charged and jailed after being convicted of being involved in smuggling goods from Egypt.

In early 2003 Hilaly’s vehicle was stopped because an object was protruding from it. After closer inspection, New South Wales Police charged him with driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle, as well as for his behaviour towards the police officers. This incident led to an attack against police officers by nearby Muslims and widespread condemnation from the public. Although charges of assaulting the police officers, hindering the officers, and resisting arrest were later dropped due to police using invalid evidence to justify their suspicion and subsequent search, Hilaly was fined A$400 for the incident.

Antisemitism

In 1988 when Hilaly delivered a lecture to a group of Muslim students at University of Sydney on the topic “The Disposition of Jews in the light of the Qur’an.” He was quoted as saying:

The Jews’ struggle with humanity is as old as history itself; the present continuing struggle with the Islam nation is a natural continuation of the Jews’ enmity towards the human race as a whole. Judaism controls the world by…secret movements as the destructive doctrines and groups, such as communism, libertarianism, Free Masons, Baha’ism, the Rotary clubs, the nationalistic and racist doctrines. The Jews try to control the world through sex, then sexual perversion, then the promotion of espionage, treason, and economic hoarding.

Hilaly has not since apologised nor retracted his comments, in which he accused Jews of “causing all wars”.

February 2004 sermon

In February 2004 Hilaly gave a sermon at a mosque in Sidon, Lebanon, while overseas the text of which was translated by the Australian Embassy in Beirut. It appeared to show him supporting terrorist attacks. In his sermon, Hilaly said:

Sons of Islam, there is a war of infidels taking place everywhere. The true man is the boy who opposes Israeli tanks with strength and faith. The boy who, despite his mother’s objections, goes out to war to become a martyr like his elder brother. The boy who tells his mother: ‘Oh mother, don’t cry for me if I die. Oh mother, Jihad has been imposed on me and I want to become a martyr’.”

11 September is God’s work against oppressors. Some of the things that happen in the world cannot be explained; a civilian airplane whose secrets cannot be explained if we ask its pilot who reached his objective without error, who led your steps? Or if we ask the giant that fell, who humiliated you? Or if we ask the President, who made you cry? God is the answer.

In his speech, he also predicted that Muslims would control the White House and appeared to support Hezbollah. The Australian Federal Police declined to investigate his activities overseas.

2006 Holocaust denial

In July 2006 Hilaly was sacked from Prime Minister of Australia John Howard’s Muslim Community Reference Group following comments he made in which he denied the Holocaust, calling it a “Zionist lie”. He also referred to Israel as a “cancer”. This prompted calls for legal action to be pursued against him in a country which has the highest per-capita number of Holocaust survivors in the world outside Israel.

Comments concerning dress and rape

In October 2006, Hilaly delivered a Ramadan sermon in Arabic in which he made statements concerning female clothing which proved highly controversial. The key part of these was:

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.”

He also said, “in the state of zina, the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement (igraa).” Hilaly later claimed that he had intended to suggest that “if a woman who shows herself off, she is to blame…but a man should be able to control himself.” He also contended that his references to the prison sentence of Bilal Skaf, the leader of a group of Lebanese Australians who committed gang rapes in Sydney in 2000, in which he said that women would “sway suggestively” before men “and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years”, were aimed at illustrating the need for harsh sanctions for rape.

Reactions and responses

Phong Nguyen, chairman of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria, responded by saying, “Cultural diversity and equality between the sexes in Australia means that women are entitled to dress as they choose and should never be judged on their dress choice.” He also commented, “The standard of someone’s dress should never be used to justify rape, which is a criminal offence.”

Pru Goward, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, responded during a television interview that “It is incitement to a crime. Young Muslim men who now rape women can cite this in court, can quote this man… their leader in court. It’s time we stopped just saying he should apologize. It is time the Islamic community did more than say they were horrified. I think it is time he left.”

Keysar Trad, a spokesman for Hilaly, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “From my discussions with him, the issue was not whether they wear a hijab or don’t wear a hijab. The issue is that every society has a certain dress code, a normal dress code that people go by. So if somebody goes beyond that dress code, if men or women get to the stage where they dress in a manner that is provocative then these people are doing something wrong. He was not talking about rape.”

After such comments were made publicly, on 26 October 2006 Hilaly released a statement. He said, “I unreservedly apologize to any woman who is offended by my comments. I had only intended to protect women’s honour, something lost in The Australian presentation of my talk.”

The Australian National Imams Council was formed in 2006 during a meeting of more than 80 Imams which had gathered to discuss the crisis created by comments made by Taj El-Din Hilaly.

Bikini march

In late 2006 Melbourne resident Christine Hawkins organised a bikini rally, in which women were to wear beach clothing and march on Lakemba Mosque and the Islamic Information and Support Centre in Brunswick, Melbourne, to voice their “disgust” at Hilaly’s comments. Ultimately, organisers claimed that public reports critical of the demonstration and personal attacks caused them to abandon the event.

January 2007 television comments

On 8 January 2007, Hilaly appeared on an Egyptian television program. He made a number of comments that sparked criticism in Australia, including the following:

  • British and Irish settlers arrived in Australia as convicts. Muslims paid for their own tickets, and so have more right to Australia
  • Prison sentences handed down to Lebanese Australian Muslims for the Sydney gang rapes were excessive and influenced by the 11 September 2001 attacks in the U.S.
  • Western people, especially the English race, are the biggest liars and oppressors.

Hilaly also condemned the level of rights awarded to homosexuals in Australia, stating “We have Christian churches which allow people of the same gender to marry” and “I understand the mentality of the West and especially the Australian mentality and I understand that the Australian law guarantees freedoms to the point of insanity.”

Thanks, Wikipedia. That was awesome.

Hilaly 2018

And now he’s back.

This presents an interesting dilemma. Especially in light of the current ‘debate’ about gay teachers. Why the inverted commas? Because until Hilaly’s comments today there was no debate. Everyone agreed that the law would be changed.

Then Hilaly entered the discussion:

Australia’s Grand Mufti has signalled open hostility to gay teachers in Islamic schools in defiance of Bill Shorten’s proposed changes to discrimination laws, saying they engage in “abnormal practices that contradict nature” and suffer from “mental illness”.

Sheik Hilaly yesterday told The Australian that homosexual teachers should “not impose their lifestyle on the rest of society, especially schools which are supposed to provide an environment of learning and culture and not a club for those seeking to satisfy their desires”.

Sheik Hilaly … said gay people suffered from a “mental illness”.

According to The Australian, Hilaly spoke through a translator.

This is remarkable.

Not only has Hilaly been in Australia for decades, but speaking through a translator was one of the criticisms of Hilaly when he was first grand Mufti. The issue was that it highlighted the distance a lot of opponents of Muslim immigration to Australia had against Muslims, that integration was poor.

Hilaly personified this problem.

He personifies much more with his latest comments, less than a month after reassuming the role.

This is a problem – a interesting problem – for Bill Shorten.

Of the seats which voted against the same-sex referendum, most were Labor held seats.

Out of 150 Federal Electoral Divisions, 133 recorded a majority Yes response, and just 17 divisions recorded a majority No response.

Most of these were Labor-held western Sydney electorates, including the top No-voting seat of Blaxland, held by ALP frontbencher Jason Clare.

Blaxland, where 73.9 per cent voted No, takes in the working-class suburbs of Bankstown, Auburn and Chester Hill.

The next highest No-voting electorate was nearby Watson, held by Labor MP Tony Burke, which includes Punchbowl and Lakemba, at 69.6 per cent. They were followed by McMahon, Fowler and Werriwa, Parramatta and Chifley, all in Sydney’s west or south-west.

Throughout the world, where such votes have been held, Muslim communities have been largely silent in their public recommendations of a vote – or at least played a very, um, straight bat. The theory being that they didn’t want to create waves.

Hilaly doesn’t mind waves.

It was only a matter of time until Muslim leaders stated their position against gay teachers. As the survey response highlighted, just because a majority of a population – even a national one – votes in favour of an issue, does mean that it has been accepted. Political outcomes do not equal acceptance. Just that an outcome has been found. For the time being.

This is not to say that the same-sex survey will be overturned. It won’t be. But neither has it changed minds.

It also says a lot about the state of the Christian faiths in Australia that they have largely been silent on this issue.

First, their moral authority – especially the Catholic Church – is shot. For at least 50 years. And that’s being optimistic.

Second, they don’t want a fight. It is easier for them to pay behind the scenes. Which they have to do because they are toxic.

Again,behind the scenes isn’t Hilaly’s style. He’s a front and centre kind of guy. So is Islam. While this may not be the fight the Christian churches want, it might be worth looking at how Hilaly rallies his base and how the parties respond. One thing is sure, Hilaly knows who butters his bread. And they don’t go to Mardi Gras.