Two days ago The Australian decided to award its “Australian of the Year” to a Muslim, Dr Carl Rifi, who opposes “radicalisation in any way shape or form” (see this article, the internet version of which has a large photo of him at Lakemba Mosque)). With his wife, Dr Rifi presents himself as a peaceful Muslim and as a member of a community which shares “a commitment to human values, to Australian values, and to Muslim values. And to me there is no contradiction among them whatsoever”.
According to The Australian Dr Rifi is “the perfect choice in a year when values have been challenged …he stood up time and time again”. But while this is certainly helpful to the stability of our society, it is not clear that it goes far enough to warrant an award for being a “good Australian”. The award could be interpreted as indicating that the Muslim religion is acceptable for those who like Rifi claim to be peaceful. But for example do the peaceful ones reject the aim of establishing sharia law in Australia?
At a time when Australian values are being disparaged by Islamic extremists, and by some who claim not to be extreme, Australians need to know the values of peaceful Muslims too. Did, for example, Rifi and other peaceful Muslims reject the reported endorsement of the aims of IS at a rally arranged by Hazb ut-Tahrir at Lakemba last Friday?
The attitude which “average” Australians should take to “peaceful” Muslims like Rifi is far from clear. But at the very least they should be fully tested before being given awards.
Beyond that, as I have argued previously it is important that the issue be fully debated and, where necessary to protect our lives and society from violent and other threats, policies are changed. As indicated in the excellent article below by Henry Ergas, the case for such changes is clear – and it is becoming more urgent that “something be done”.