Sunday, March 20, 2005


There is fitna in the community! Muslims of this town are divided, so much so that the Imam of the Mosque saw it fit to spend over an hour of the Eid sermon reviling the Islamic Centre (CIC). And that was in November. Since then, there may have been a fatwa issued, calling on people associated with CIC to reconsider their ways or risk being branded as apostates. CIC however shows no sign of liquidating, so for the Mosque to retain any credibility, the Imam I presume will have to declare CIC and its members apostates. Hmmm, then again, perhaps no second fatwa is needed - after all, no second resolution was needed for the UNSC's will to be upheld.

So, what is causing this division?

The proximate cause appears to be an article published in CIC's September newsletter. The article, about intimacy between the sexes in Islamic tradition, caused a bit of shake up, as well as stir. No, I haven't actually read it, and have no opinion on the subject. Really! But the Mosque people did read the article, and expressed their opinion rather clearly – such stuff aren't talked about in Islamic tradition. CIC relented, the article was withdrawn, apologies were issued. But maybe the apologies were not accepted.

Maybe it's about the $600,000 received by CIC in private donation in 2004, which I understand is a substantially higher sum than received by the Mosque. The Mosque was built by a joint undertaking of the Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia missions in the late 1960s. It’s primarily OIC, read Saudi, funded. It has been the centre of the town's Muslim community until a few years ago, when CIC appeared on the scene. CIC is registered as a community organisation, much like the South Yarra Country Club. They run ber-be-queues, children's creche, pool tables, a food stall, a gym, and oh they're Muslims – so they have a prayer hall, and they sell religious paraphernalias, and run Quran classes and discussion groups. And from the onset, CIC claimed to be independent of the Mosque – a curious proposition, since in Islam there is no organised Church hierarchy, there is no Islamic Diocese.

By late 2004, CIC Friday prayers drew more people than the Mosque, although the latter is within the walking distance of most government offices and embassies and a short bus ride from the university, while CIC is inaccessible by bus and a sweet 15 minutes drive for most Muslims.

So maybe the tussle is about leadership then! Yes, probably. But also probably about the fundamental role a mosque or an Islamic centre should play in the modern Muslim community in the Western world. The Mosque appears to be of the view that the proper role is to offer a Friday prayer and sermonise everyone about the virtues of parying five times a day. CIC appears to be more like the Christian Jesus saves mob. The Mosque doesn't like any discussion of topics such as sexuality. They are offended by intra-sex meeting that happens at the communal viewing of India-Pakistan cricket matches. They denounce chand raat festivities and girls wearing mehendi as unIslamic. Did I mention that the mosque is primariliy Saudi funded? Well, there you go then, the Saudi petro dollars spreading the Salafi-Wahabi brand of Islam where everything is clear-cut, black and white, holy and unholy.

Maybe. But CIC isn't a secular institution either. These are religious people, in strict definition of the word, fundamentalists – in the way that Mr Bush is one. Evolution for them is not even a theory, but satanic lies. They are against women's right to choose and homosexuality for them is a sin (I'm not sure of their views on stem cell research). But mainstream Islam does require you to hold those views, the way the mainstream Catholicism does. It's a different matter whether you consider yourself an 'enlightened Muslim or Christian', accepting both the God of Abraham and homosexuality – you my friend, wouldn't be mainstream.

CIC people are overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, of Desi origin. Bollywood glared from the sound system on chand raat, while the feasts involved pulau and biriyani and nehari and kebabs and naans and kheer and rashgulla. If the fitna is permanent, Anthony will be taking long detours.