The man and the Mufti

Egyptian-born Ibrahim Abu Mohamed is the new Mufti of Australia. A political moderate, though religiously orthodox, he faces formidable challenges within and outside of the Islamic community, writes Barney Zwartz.

IT IS the oddest question I have been advised to ask the new Mufti of Australia, the figurehead of Australian Islam: why don't you wear the clothes of a man of God? Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, immaculate in a beautifully cut navy suit with a lemon shirt and lemon and navy tie, is obviously taken aback, but he laughs and answers with aplomb. ''There is no specific Islamic clothing for the Muslim male. So whatever culture he's living in, that's how he dresses. But the one that gives the fatwa [religious ruling] is not the clothing, it's the one inside the clothing.

''If I wear Islamic clothing then give it to someone else, would that person be able to give fatwas? Small minds debate men, larger minds debate things, great minds debate issues and ideologies.''

A much more important question, one everyone I speak to in preparing for this interview advises me to ask, concerns his poor command of English. How can he cope with the media, mainstream Australia and the diverse Muslim communities here if he has to do it through an interpreter?

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