The Future of Australian Islam?

On Sunday, ABC2’s Asia-Pacific Focus program featured a story entitled, The Future of Australia’s Muslim Community. Although ABC2 is a digital station and therefore not as popular as the free-to-air ABC channel, this program arguably offered one of the more interesting insights into the federal government’s relationship with particular groups within the Muslim community. Most notably, it explores the role of a sect known as al-Ahbash (Habashies) that, despite being a minority within the Muslim community and rejected by many Muslim groups, have managed to become, in the words of the program, the Australian government’s “preferred model of Islam”.

The transcript can be found here.

The key question, for me, isn’t whether al-Habash should be the “preferred model of Islam” but why should a secular government have any preference at all?

UPDATE: Due to relentless comments spamming by members of al-Ahbash I’ve had to turn comments off.

UPDATE 2: Yusuf Smith has posted a link to a very interesting summary and discussion of the group and their beliefs that was posted to Usenet some years ago by Idris Palmer.

UPDATE 3: Irfan Yusuf makes some disturbing allegations against a member of the Prime Minister’s Muslim Community Reference Group:

This favouritism has led to suggestions that the government is openly favouring projects of the al-Ahbash sect in distributing funds for its $30 million-plus program to combat extremism and promote harmony. Now a former member of the executive of the Islamic Charitable Projects Association (an al-Ahbash front body) and of the Prime Minister’s Muslim Reference Group now publicly boasting on Muslim e-mail lists of receiving otherwise confidential information by people he describes as “DIMA bureaucrats”.