The Last Word: Beyond Belief
Jun 1, 2007 | Jeremy Jones
|Sheikh Feiz Muhammad: vicious contempt for Jews|
I have no hesitation in stating that the “Death Series” of DVDs, featuring the dubious wisdom of Sheikh Feiz Muhammad, ooze hate and contempt and provide a rationale for terrorism.
The Sheikh’s premise is that the only way to lead one’s life is his way. The DVDs reinforce this view through negative, offensive and in some cases threatening references to other Muslims and to non-Muslims, with exhortations to martyrdom and vicious contempt towards Jewish people essential for full acceptance of the lecturer’s complete and unalterable wisdom.
The indoctrination in separatism, religious superiority and contempt for others is incremental, but quite deliberate.
The overall impact of such DVDs should be considered in assessments under anti-terrorism or anti-racism legislation, or classification guidelines.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Sheikh’s DVDs is that they are presented as religious instruction, when they are political and racial propaganda.
This is not, however, unique or even unusual.
When Sheikh Hilaly has described Jews as variously, snakes, sexual perverters, conspirators, liars, social manipulators and existential enemies of humanity, he was purporting to be giving religious instruction or, at the very least, social commentary guided by his religious expertise.
A hesitation by legislators to engage too directly with religion undoubtedly played a role in the way the man nicknamed the “Imam of Invective” was treated for most of the time he has been mouthing malevolence in this country.
Of course, the misuse of religion as a cover for racism is not restricted to followers of one particular faith.
In the Federal Court of Australia case Jones v Bible Believers (FCA55, 2 Feb. 2007), the defendant, Anthony Grigor-Scott, responded to the (ultimately successful) complaint that he had breached the Racial Hatred Act with insulting and offensive anti-Jewish material by arguing, “All I can rely upon is the truth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Anything which is on the church website is supported by the Bible, by the Talmud, by the most eminent Jewish scholars, or by history, historical fact, everything.”
As of the time of writing, the sheikhs have escaped legal censure and the self-described pastor is appealing his adverse legal judgement. However, all have justifiably been condemned for promoting ill-will in a context in Australia where a huge amount of work is being done both in interfaith dialogue and to encourage religion to play a constructive role in promoting communal harmony.
As part of the program of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, I recently participated in a challenging and creative event in which Jews, Christians and Muslims met and discussed religion and peace-making in the Middle East.
It is fair to say that virtually the entire invited audience, consisting roughly equally of Catholics, Muslims, non-Catholic Christians and Jews, would have been exposed to ideas, rhetoric and narratives of which they would have been unaware, or which made them uncomfortable or both.
The Christian speaker, Archbishop Elias Chacour, gave a partial and selective account of contemporary challenges facing Christians in Israel, without reference to Christians elsewhere, to the existential threats to Israel or even to the developing challenges to Christian life arising from the Hamas-dominated Palestinian administration.
The Muslim speaker, Muhammed Sammak, has been a vigorous advocate of Muslim-Christian interaction. However, a quick search on the internet confirms the view that this is predicated on creating a joint anti-Israel front rather than a theological spirit of respect.
When I responded to questions which I felt required answers – explaining some basics of world and Jewish history, Zionism and Judaism – the body language of a fair slice of the audience made it clear that the forum opened, rather than concluded, many discussions on a wide range of mutual concerns.
But on one issue I would hope that agreement by members of all faiths, and none, has been reached – that racism, and contempt for others, of the type expressed by the abovementioned sheikhs and the “pastor”, is completely beyond the pale of acceptability.