The fifth workshop of the National Imams Consultative Forum (NICF) took place earlier this month in Melbourne. Its topic of discussion was Syria and it culminated in a statement on the matter issued by the NICF. A summary of the presentations at the workshop is provided by the NICF on its website. An opinion piece by one of the NICF members was also published by the Herald Sun this week.
In this regard, Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia emphasises the following points for the Muslim community at large and the Imams present at the workshop in particular:
1. The NICF is a discredited government initiative designed to use imams for the government ‘counter-terrorism’ agenda. This agenda directly targets Islam and Muslims under the guise of countering ‘terrorism’ and ‘violent-extremism’.** There is no greater terrorist or violent extremist in this country than the government itself. This point alone should be sufficient for rejecting initiatives like the NICF.
2. The statement by the NICF on Syria mirrors, with great precision, the Australian Government position on Syria. The only addition is references to Islam and attempted justifications using Islam. Thus, this is a classic example of Imams being used by the authorities to provide religious justification for their unjust policy – a sad reality we are all well accustomed to in the Muslim world.
3. The political and military struggle against the Assad regime in Syria is a legitimate struggle. Indeed, it is an honorable and blessed struggle. The Muslims of Syria are facing a brutal repression of immense proportions. Any Muslim who sacrifices his time, wealth and life to assist his fellow Muslims engages in a deed beloved to Allah, and worthy of only praise. This is the Islamic position, which no amount of societal or government pressure can change.
4. The position of the Australian law on the matter of people going to fight in Syria is known. It is not the role of Imams to speak for the secular law or government in advising the community about this law. Rather, Imams should be at the forefront of challenging this law that unjustly and unjustifiably criminalises Muslim support for their brothers and sisters. Imams should also be at the forefront of challenging the overall Australian government policy on Syria that is at diametrical odds to what Islam and Muslims demand with respect to Syria.
5. Those forwarding the argument that Muslims who travel to Syria will return ‘radicalised’ are but parroting Islamophobic media and politicians. This argument has been sufficiently refuted. Advocating as solutions the very solutions advocated by the government – that Muslims should stay away from Syria and only offer humanitarian aid through “internationally recognized” aid agencies – is worse still. Adopting such a path would be no less than a betrayal of Syria by Muslims, and only those ignorant of the reality of the agenda of bodies like the UN and states like the US and UK would advocate or adopt such a path.
6. Appealing to “international norms”, referring to Muslims who go to Syria as “foreign fighters” and adopting a position of supposed neutrality with respect to the Syrian regime and opposition is expected from the Australian Government, but absolutely unacceptable coming from Imams. Western policymakers claim neutrality because they see both sides as evil – the regime for its brutal repression and the opposition for being Islamic! On what grounds are the Imams of the NCIF implying neutrality? It is not befitting for any Muslim, let alone an Imam, to adopt a neutral position in a case such as this.
7. This NICF statement is the third on their website – the first two being condemnations of the Boston and Woolwich attacks respectively. This represents an approach whereby when individual Muslims allegedly or actually harm western interests, we get strong condemnations but when Muslims are the subject of much worse and brutal western oppression by states, organisations such as the NICF have nothing to offer but a deafening silence. This is a shameful and unIslamic approach which the Ummah will not forget and which, more importantly, all those who put their names to will be severely accountable in front of Allah.
8. Australian policymakers desire to make Syria a forbidden and abandoned conflict. This is so that their allies and the secular elements of the opposition they support can get their way in Syria. The use of imams is but one element of government policy to achieve this. Other elements include propaganda against the Islamic opposition, arrests and passport cancellations and underhanded intelligence tactics.
We encourage the Muslim community not to be intimidated or silenced on the issue of Syria. Rather, the community must continue to stand with the Muslims of Syria. She must continue to speak out openly and to account the government, as well as all those who stand with the government or advocate its positions.
Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia
25 March 2014
** For a detailed exposition of how the government targets imams in its counter-terrorism agenda please see Section VIII, Chapter 3 of the recently published ‘Government Intervention in the Muslim Community’report.
Contact: Uthman Badar, Media Representative, on email@example.com or 0438 000 465.