Ameer Ali’s Letter to The Australian

Following his recent comments, Ameer Ali, former head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and current chairman of the Prime Minister’s Muslim Community Reference Group has written an interesting letter to The Australian thanking them for their role in the ‘debate’ about Islam.

I WOULD like to thank the editorial team of The Australian for encouraging an open debate and analysis of religious texts (“Brave stand on Muslim honesty”, Editorial, 5/10).

I would also like to thank your reporter Richard Kerbaj for clarifying (“Muslim cleric calls for ban”, 5/10), through the words of Keysar Trad, that the Holy Prophet was perfect as far as human beings go, but the wisdom of God Almighty is always greater. This is what I had intended to say in my comments published on Wednesday (“Prophet not perfect, says Islamic scholar”).

Taj Din al-Hilali’s support for my call for a modern reinterpretation of Koranic text is most welcome. It certainly bodes well for Australian society when the national spiritual leader sends such important, progressive messages. I have had the opportunity to speak to him and clarify my position on the Holy Koran and the Holy Prophet and all these matters will become clear when my academic paper Closing of the Muslim Mind is released later this month.

It is curious how Moustapha Kara-Ali, who only weeks ago was touted as an open-minded, progressive Muslim, has shown his true colours by criticising the inalienable right to question and analyse religious texts and by comparing my comments to the Danish cartoons. This debate has certainly shed light on some prevalent attitudes within the Australian Muslim community and paved the way for a healthy internal debate.
Dr Ameer Ali
Murdoch University, WA

There is really no point commenting on Ameer Ali’s comments in any great detail. Suffice to say, the most important and instructive paragraph in his letter is the last one.

Kuranda Seyit, executive director of the Forum on Australian-Islamic Relations (FAIR) and former media representative for AFIC, also has a letter in the same issue that is worth reprinting here.

AS a former colleague of Ameer Ali’s at the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, I can say unequivocally that he has no credentials in Islamic jurisprudence or history. He holds a doctorate in economics. To describe him in your headline as an “Islamic scholar” is incorrect and demeans real scholars, who have researched and argued vast bodies of evidence.

Even a Muslim lay-person knows that all prophets were perfect beings, that is, they were free of evil and guided by God. For Dr Ali to argue that the Prophet Mohammed was imperfect and that Islam needed to reinterpret itself, he would need to provide his scholarly evidence and present it with a clearly thought out argument.

Dr Ali should stop trying to create the illusion that he has something important or relevant to say. He has no credibility whatsoever in this matter.
K. S. Seyit
Strawberry Hills, NSW

It is, of course, true that Dr Ali’s qualifications are in economics and he has no standing in the Muslim community as a religious scholar, religious leader, or even a commentator on matters of Islamic jurisprudence or Qu’ranic exegesis. That he should suddenly catapult himself on to the front page and editorial of the national broadsheet by raising controversial ‘points’ about the Prophet Muhammad’s character, the worth of traditional scholarship, and the need for a radical and modern reinterpretation of the Qu’ran is interesting. But, again, the last paragraph of his letter holds some clues as to a possible motivation.