First Islamic party plans Senate push

Heath Aston - Political Correspondent

Australia’s first Islamic faith polit­ical party intends to field Senate candidates in all states and territ­ories at next year’s federal election and also contest upper house seats at state level.

The party, to be announced on Tuesday [today], will be known as the Aus­tralian Muslim Party, Fairfax Media can reveal. Founder Diaa Mohamed said there had never been a more critical time for the Muslim community to have a polit­ical voice in Australia.

As a devout Muslim, he said he would never condone the killing of innocents as seen on the streets of Paris and Beirut in the past week, but the Australian Muslim Party would also never support military action in a Muslim country in re­sponse to terrorism.

“I don’t think Islam is at war with the West, but Islamic coun­tries have been at war for many, many years,” he said. “Let’s look at how well [military intervention] has worked in the past. We invaded Afghanistan. That didn’t work out so well. We invaded Iraq and we’re in the mess we’re in there.

“Would I support something that has never worked in the past? No. It’s just never worked. Not for the Soviets in Afghanistan, not for the United States in Iraq. There’s a solution and it’s not invading some­one else’s land.”

He said the killings in Paris were “inexcusable” but drew a direct link between past foreign invasions in the Middle East and the spread of radical Islam, most recently by the Islamic State.

“From these guys’ perspective, they have had foreign fighters in their lands, their sons and daugh­ters being killed. It could send a few people to change their views and use religion as a justification,” he said.

Mr Mohamed, a 34-year-old businessman from western Sydney, founded a group called MyPeace aimed at improving rela­tions between Muslims and main­stream Australia.

He was also behind controver­sial billboards erected in Sydney in 2011 that claimed “Jesus: a prophet of Islam”.

An unmarried father of a nine-year-old son, he formerly wor­shipped at Lakemba Mosque but now attends the Parramatta Mosque.

He said the establishment of the party was in part a reaction to the six anti-Islamic parties intending to stand for election, including the Australian Liberty Alliance, launched recently by controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, Rise Up and Nick Folkes’s Party for Freedom.

About 20 Party for Freedom supporters protested outside the Parramatta Mosque after the murder of New South Wales Police accountant Curtis Cheng last month.

Mr Mohamed said he had never met Mr Cheng’s 15-year-old killer, Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad, and had never heard any radical sentiment expressed at the mosque, which he described as a small “in and out” mosque used by professionals working in Parra­matta.

He has taken office space in Parramatta, where he and 20 vo­lunteers will seek to gain the 500 members needed to register a political party in time for the next federal election. He said an Austra­lian Muslim Party web site would go live on Tuesday [today].

Mr Mohamed said he had con­sulted imams and Christian bish­ops and priests on his intentions to form the party, saying non-Muslims were welcome as mem­bers. But he said senior Islamic clerics had advised him to “tread cautiously” in seeking representa­tion for Muslims in politics.

Dr Jamal Rili, a respected voice on moderate Islam, said he would encourage young Muslims to get involved with established parties such as Labor, the Liberals and the Greens but understood the com­pulsion to directly organise on be­half of Muslims.

Labor’s Ed Husic was the first Muslim MP elected to the federal Parliament, in 2010.

Mr Mohamed said some Muslim commentators used regularly by the media showed too much “ap­peasement” of the mainstream community.