Front page today at the Financial Review
Some background on the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed;
*Australia’s most senior Muslim cleric has met the leader of the Hamas government during a visit to the Gaza Strip.
The Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, is leading a delegation of Australian Muslim scholars to Gaza.
Local television has shown pictures of Dr Mohammed meeting with Hamas’s political leader, Gaza’s prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, on December 26.
“We came here in order to learn from Gaza… to learn steadfastness, sacrifice, and the defence of one’s rights from them,” Dr Mohammed said in remarks translated by Memri TV.
The military wing of Hamas is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the Australian Government.* Link:
Australia’s senior Islamic cleric threatened to withdraw community support for federal Labor in Western Sydney if union leader Paul Howes replaced Bob Carr in the Senate, a leaked email reveals.
The email, written on behalf of the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, by his chief political adviser, accused Mr Howes of a “blind bias for Israel” and said that if he was appointed to the Senate, community support for Labor that was mustered for the federal election would be withdrawn.
The email was sent to MPs and officials on September 9, two days after the election and the same day The Australian Financial Review revealed Mr Howes wanted to fill Senator Carr’s pending Senate vacancy.
Mr Howes, the national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, withdrew from the contest last week. Senior Labor sources said the Mufti’s warning was not a significant factor in the internal campaign to convince Mr Howes to withdraw.
The email says that as saddened as the community is at news of Senator Carr’s retirement,
“what is saddening and alarming us more is the rumour that Paul Howse [sic] will be replacing him”.
Pattern of blind bias
“Paul has had a repeated pattern of blind bias toward Israel. His appointment would not at all help the engagement effort between the ALP and the wider Muslim community,” it says.
“As you know we have worked very hard to marshal our community to support and successfully retain the majority of ALP seats in Western Sydney against all odds, and the choice of Paul will threaten our efforts to maintain this momentum, especially if new elections are called in the next year.
“I urge you to help us help you and present our concerns to the decision makers at the ALP so they realise the potential consequences of such a controversial choice.”
The email starts with “Dear Jason, Tony, Julie and E”, who are Jason Clare, the member for Blaxland, Tony Burke, the member for Watson, Julie Owens, the member for Parramatta, and Ed Husic, the member for Chifley. All have large Islamic communities in their Western Sydney electorates.
Never seen the email
It is understood the letter also went to NSW Labor headquarters. Mr Husic fell ill after the election and said he had never seen the email.
Senior sources said it was difficult to quantify how much weight the threat carried in the subsequent internal campaign inside the NSW Right against Mr Howes but believed it had very little effect.
They cited instead a rank-and-file push against Mr Howes filling a casual vacancy so soon after his friend, fellow factional powerbroker and now-former NSW ALP general-secretary Sam Dastyari took the vacancy created when Matt Thistlethwaite moved to the lower house.
New NSW ALP general-secretary Jamie Clements backed Deborah O’Neill, who lost her seat of Robertson at the election, on the basis of affirmative action and that the NSW Central Coast needed a Labor presence in Parliament.
Mr Howes, who has never been to Israel, first became aware of the Grand Mufti’s email on Wednesday when contacted by the Financial Review.
Inappropriate to intervene
Through a spokesman he said:
“Mr Howes strongly believes in a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East”.
“He believes it is inappropriate for religious leaders to intervene in the deliberations of Australian political parties.”
The Israel-Palestine issue has long been a contentious one inside Labor. Labor, with its multicultural bona fides, has forged strong links with the Islamic community in Western Sydney, especially through the efforts of Senator Carr as both NSW Premier and then foreign minister. Senator Carr is set to resign after Labor’s new leader is announced on October 13.
In November 2012, Senator Carr led a cabinet and caucus push to roll then prime minister Julia Gillard, forcing her to withdraw Australia’s support for Israel in a United Nations vote on a resolution to give Palestine observer status in the UN. Australia abstained, rather than join the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution as Ms Gillard had wanted.
Mr Howes has similar views towards Israel as Ms Gillard and Kevin Rudd insofar as he supports a two-state solution and an independent, democratic and secular Palestinian state.
In line with mainstream opinion
ALP identity and businessman Michael Easson, of the Australia-Israel-UK Dialogue Forum, said Mr Howes’s views were in keeping with mainstream ALP opinion.
He likened the Mufti’s political adviser to the Islamic equivalent of BA Santamaria channelling Catholic Archbishop Daniel Mannix, giving direction on the minutiae of local politics.
“Any true supporter of Israel, like Paul Howes, sees the need for Israel to live within secure and recognised boundaries and supports the peace process with the Palestinians to achieve that end,” he said.
“It is outrageous to seek to veto him for views that are supported by 90?per cent of Australians. Hopefully this ‘adviser’ will see the wrong of his crude intervention, which can only be damaging to both the ALP and everything the Mufti has worked for.”
Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said Mr Howes was a supporter of both Israel and the Palestinian state. He said
“there was no place in society for religious leaders to blackball mainstream politicians, aspiring politicians or political parties”.
“Such behaviour is quite divisive and undermines core values of Australia’s democratic society and multi-cultural society,” he said.