Australian Politicians Love Free Speech, Just Not Too Much Of It
Australia's most controversial religious figure, Sheik Al-Hilali, has done it again. With his media profile in Australia rising faster than Paris Hilton's, the mufti has opened his mouth and a torrent of fresh headlines have poured forth.
When Hilali speaks his mind, politicians and columnists line up to vent their outrage, horror and stuttering disgust. They can't resist. He's the religious leader every loves to hate, and can openly hate, without being accused of being anti-religious.
Hilali is a perpetual, self-generating headline machine.
If he stood in front of 5000 Muslims and read out his shopping list, just what the sheik picks up from his local Franklins would become yet more news that would occupy another half page of a newspaper that could have been filled with...I don't know...real news?
Government ministers, backbenchers, politicians you didn't even know existed, stampede to get in front of the cameras every single time Hilali says something dopey, dangerous or derogatory.
They do this because they believe that just about everyone in Australia must hate Hilali's guts, and they have to be seen to be siding with the majority of the public.
But what they all fail to comprehend is that most Australians wonder what the Hilali fuss is all about, and likewise wonder why the hell his near every utterance gets front page headlines or a spot in the opening minutes of the evenings news.
Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd don't agree on much, but they certainly agree that when it comes to Hilali that, yes, while free speech is a great and precious thing, sometimes one can have too much of it.
When Hilali recently spoke out in support of Iran, a country Australia is not currently at war with, both Rudd and Howard and an assortment of politicians and perpetually outraged media drones encouraged, demanded and suggested that Hilaly either quit being mufti, get the hell out of Australia, or both.
Now comes today's entry in What Crazy Thing Did Hilali Say Now? :
Sheik Hilali said he had spent 50 years promoting peace and accused the Prime Minister of running a dictatorship.
"It's a disgrace for the leader of a democratic country to be picking on religious people, especially one who is practising a form of dictatorship that could almost be Saddam-Hussein-like," he said.
"I respect Australian values more than he does. Australian people like peace and they like humanitarian welfare and they are attracted to just causes."
For once Hilaly has said something that a growing number of Australians probably agree with, particularly about Australians liking humanitarian welfare and peace and just causes.
The response from the Australian Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, to Hilali's support for Iran is particularly interesting :
"I would be concerned if any Australian was offering support and succour to Iran, particularly as it is intent on pursuing the development of the nuclear fuel cycle outside international scrutiny," Mr Ruddock said.So any Australian who offers support, or succour, to Iran while they are intent on defying the international community over their nuclear energy program raises the "concern" of the Attorney General?
Well, what can you say, but this : How long now before we go to War On Iran?
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One Rule For Hilali, Another Rule For Shock Jocks
Politicians' Furore Over Hilali "Related To His Unpopular Political Opinions"
All Hail Hiali - When The "Mad Mufti" Helped Save An Australian Trapped In Iraq
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