HASSAN Bazzi is one of 14 "moderate" Muslim leaders chosen by the Howard Government to "assist in eliminating intolerance".This is, of course, not only Australia's problem. True Islamic moderates, by the Western definition of the word, seem to be few and far between.Last Friday, he showed how he does this good work.
Bazzi went to a Sydney protest at which police had to confiscate the more viciously anti-Jewish signs, and gave a heated speech that praised the Hezbollah terrorist group that has been at war with Israel.
"Death to the enemies", he shouted. "Long life for the Lebanese resistance."
So are we glad Bazzi, head of the Al Zahra Muslim Association, is so moderate that Prime Minister John Howard chose him for his Muslim Community Reference Group?
Or are we instead alarmed that this seems to be as moderate as Islamic leaders get?
When he created his group last year, Howard was attacked for excluding radicals such as Sheik Mohammed Omran, the Melbourne extremist, who said he "dispute(s) any evil action linked to" terror boss Osama bin Laden.
But now he finds at least a third of the 14 "moderates" he picked openly back Hezbollah, listed by his Government as an Islamist terrorist group.
There is Bazzi, of course. But even the chairman of Howard's group, Ameer Ali, led half a dozen group members into a meeting with Howard to urge him to stop calling Hezbollah terrorists, despite its record of assassinations, bombings in Argentina and Beirut and rocket attacks on Israel, as well as its call for "the disappearance of the Zionist entity (Israel)".
Said Ali: "According to our views even the military wing (of Hezbollah) is not a terrorist organisation."
Another member of Howard's group, Sheik Taj Al-Din Al-Hilali, the Mufti of Australia, met Hezbollah's leader in Lebanon two years again, and enthused: "I praised it and its sacrifice. Hezbollah has become a model for all the mujahideen in the world."
But, how Howard ever came to select Hilali as a "moderate" adviser in the first place is a mystery, given he has vilified Jews, praised suicide bombers as "heroes" and called the September 11 attacks "God's work against oppressors".
Preston mosque's Sheik Fehmi Naji el-Imam seemed a safer choice, but even he backs Hezbollah. "Long live freedom fighters," he yelled at one protest. "We are proud of the freedom fighters."
Yet another group member, Yasser Soliman, former head of the Islamic Council of Victoria, has also criticised the Government for calling Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.
"We've seen more innocent deaths at the hands of Israel than we have seen of Hezbollah," he said. He asked why Israel's army wasn't listed as terrorist instead.
I am not saying any of the above support terror attacks, especially on civilians. But I am asking why the Government has advisers who support what it says itself is a terrorist group.
Worse, far from sacking them, the Government praises them instead. The Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Robb, told this same group two weeks ago: "When religion is invoked as a justification for terrorism, religious voices must be raised strongly in protest and I commend you here today for that."
In fact: "The difficult work that many of you did after the Cronulla riots and the publication of the Danish cartoons was a prime example of taking responsibility . . ."
It was? This "prime example" of "taking responsibility" when Muslims were rioting over cartoons involved Fehmi simply calling for the banning of these images of Mohammed on the menacing grounds that they "disturb people who can do things that we don't want them to do". Gulp. OK.
It seems Robb is in full appeasement mode, now legitimising extremism instead of countering it. For instance, a puff piece in The Australian on his work noted "he is convinced that for most of its long history Islam has been a peaceful religion", and "he reflects on the history of the Knights Templar as a period of Christian aggression".
It was also Robb who announced perhaps the Government's most wrong-headed move in fighting Muslim extremism -- spending $8 million to create a National Institute of Islamic Studies.
According to Robb, this institute, an idea of his reference group, will take 300 students and "provide many subjects relevant for those training to be Muslim religious leaders".
It would also "attract eminent, moderate Islamic scholars from around the world".
Some questions for Robb:
Can you even recognise a moderate Islamic scholar any more, given your record of picking "moderates" who actually back a terrorist group?
And if even "moderate" Islamic clerics endorse a group such as Hezbollah, why are you spending taxpayers' money to create still more of them?
Can a Vicar Change his Spots?
23 minutes ago