Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Muslims 'must resist' Iraq occupation
The Australian arm of a radical group accused of links to the London bombings says Muslims have a duty to resist the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
While condemning suicide bombings, the Australian spokesman for the group Hizb ut-Tahrir said fighting against such occupations was expected of followers of Islam.
Wassim Doureihi also said the situations in London and Iraq were very different.
"London is one reality, Iraq is an occupied land, Afghanistan is an occupied land and its inhabitants have a right and have a duty under Islam to resist that occupation," he said during a forum of Australian Muslim leaders convened by the Nine Network's Today show.
"No one is condoning what is happening in London or New York, but what we know for sure is that there is an (occupation) which America has brought to the people of Iraq, and the people of Iraq have to resist that occupation."
Another participant in the forum, lawyer Irfan Yusuf, disagreed.
"The thing that makes London different is London, like Sydney and other western cities, these are cities that have actually invited and encouraged tolerance and multiculturalism," he said.
"When you attack a city like London, you're really attacking the world."
Faikah Behardin, from the Muslim Women's Lobby, warned against oversimplifying the debate.
"The argument is far too complex to be reduced to just absolutes," she said.
But Mr Doureihi said the insurgency in Iraq, which has been marked by a huge death toll from suicide bombings, has to be debated "in its correct context".
"The reality is, there is a global struggle taking place which is ideological in nature, that is capitalist states led by America today have the international balance of power in their hands," he said.
"They will not accept any rival to come and alter that balance in any way and Islam, as an ideology, represents an alternative to the capitalist way of life and it's within this context that we have to discuss the matters of Iraq."
He said in the wake of terrorist attacks such as London, Muslims feel they are being asked to apologise for their religion.
"And they feel the pressure," Mr Doureihi said.
"The entire debate has been skewed to an argument over the identity of the perpetrators and the motivation of the perpetrators, but no one is discussing the circumstances that give rise to these conditions."
His comments follow Prime Minister John Howard's call this week for Muslim leaders to speak out against extremist elements of the faith.
Mr Howard has singled out Melbourne firebrand cleric Mohammed Omran for describing terrorist leader Osama bin Laden as a "good man" and saying the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America and the recent London bombings were the work of Americans.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, a network formed in 1952 to fight for an Islamic Sharia political system, is believed to be under investigation by the British Home Office for having links to one of the London bombers.
Mr Doureihi says the British arm of the Islamic group has denied having anything to do with the attack.
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils chief executive Amjad Mehboob this week wrote to Muslim leaders and clerics asking them to preach against terrorism and promote peace.
Mr Mehboob said he had received positive responses to the move, but Mr Yusuf said the letter should have been sent immediately after the London bombings three weeks ago.
"It's 20 days too late and it doesn't go towards addressing the legitimate concerns which mainstream Australians have, including myself, about genuine security issues," he said.
(First published in the Sydney Morning Herald)