Monday, October 30, 2006

From The Australian Editorial, October 30, 2006 ...

ONE of the most important questions to arise from the controversy surrounding Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali is a simple one: how did he get here and why was he allowed to stay? The answer, it turns out is Paul Keating and the NSW Labor Right. From the moment Sheik Hilali came to the attention of the authorities, the former treasurer and prime minister has been a very powerful friend to a man with some very bizarre ideas.

The sheik's remarks on women, reported by this newspaper on Thursday, were not unique. The man held up as the spiritual leader of Australia's 300,000 Muslims has a two-decade history of making outrageous and inflammatory speeches attacking women and Jews and endorsing terrorism and suicide bombing. Twenty years ago Sheik Hilali had to apologise after he was quoted as saying, "the two cheapest things in Australia are the flesh of a woman and the meat of a pig". Chris Hurford, immigration minister in the Hawke Labor government, tried to have the cleric deported in 1986 for these remarks and others. What's more, Australia's intelligence services knew that before he left Egypt for Australia, Sheik Hilali had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist organisation largely influenced by the writings of Sayyid Qutb, whose theological justifications of violence have been heavily borrowed by al-Qa'ida and other modern international Islamic terrorist groups.

But none of this appeared to trouble Mr Keating or powerful ALP backbencher Leo McLeay. The two men held the neighbouring seats of Blaxland and Grayndler, both heavily populated with Lebanese Muslims, and went in to bat for the sheik. Neither wanted to risk alienating that community, and they pressured the Immigration Department to ignore the body of evidence revealing Sheik Hilali as poisonous to our healthy body politic. And they were backed by a NSW Labor Party heading into an election in 1988 and looking for votes in western Sydney. Indeed Mr Keating engineered the elevation of Sheik Hilali to the leadership of the Muslim community to ensure Labor would have a leader it could deal with. And when he was acting prime minister while Bob Hawke was away in 1990, Mr Keating personally approved Sheik Hilali's residency. Chris Hurford was moved from his portfolio of immigration, and Bill McKinnon, who headed the department at the time, lost his job. So far Mr Keating has been uncharacteristically silent on his role in helping Sheik Hilali to stay in the country. But this saga is yet another blot on the record on immigration policy of the ALP, which from before the time of Arthur Calwell and the White Australia policy has a sorry history of putting special interests before the national interest.

... Mr Keating and the ALP used divisive multicultural politics for short-term political gain at a cost to the long-term health of the nation. Today Australia is reaping the fruits of that electoral cynicism.

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