Silma Ihram, noted Muslim educator and much respected campaigner for justice for her Islamic school, offers the following comments on the Iktimal Hage-Ali saga:
In relation to the incredible defense of Iktimal, I think we have to get our priorities a little straight and in perspective:
a) Yes, she is a ‘representative’ of youth, in that, like many of our young, she is not particularly devout
b ) Yes, she has made some mistakes, but I have not actually heard her say that she would never do them again, or that she never drinks alcohol, or that she has never taken drugs
c) Yes, she may be innocent, and has not been proven guilty in relation to association with cocaine trafficers
a) we need young leaders to come forward, not just ‘representatives’ on government bodies. Leaders speak on behalf of the whole of their community, provide leadership in the solutions they come up, and provide solutions While acknowledging and understanding the problems that many of our youth undergo, someone who is still struggling with the practising of Islam is not an appropriate choice of leadership on a government consultative body.
b ) The position of Young Australian of the Year was obviously a political choice, organised in order to encourage a more ”acceptable” face of Islam amongst our young girls. However, it does require integrity, something that appears to be lacking here.
c) When young girls from interstate visit our mosques, they are keen to show respect to our religion and to our community. They happily don the hijab for a day before walking into a mosque, and treat our religious leaders with respect. I was more than a little sad to see Iktimal turn up to the Imam’s conference, stand in front of more than 100 of our leaders, wearing (forget about the hijab!) a tight top with no sleeves, tight fitting jeans that finished mid calf, high heels and well made up. My motto as a teacher has always been – “to get respect, you have to give it first”. I don’t think she earned much at all from her religious leaders.
d) We have a lot of wayward young people, but I think our liberal attitude of being so understanding of their choices is not really beneficial to them. I do not believe that we should slam them, humiliate them or put them down, but I DO think that we should be firm on what is appropriate behaviour, and following the essentials of Islam. We have a very clear religion, which does not excuse its followers from practice. It is a fact that we have many followers of Islam that do not practice, but that does not mean that we can excuse those in the public eye from genuinely trying to follow it. The wearing of hijab comes into a completely different arena from consumption of alcohol, involvement with drug dealers, and disrespect for elders.In other words, why don’t we promote the hundreds of very capable, practising, intelligent, English speaking, Australian educated, pious young Muslims that we DO have in our universities and workplaces? Why do we have to excuse, sympathise and encourage those who put down our religion by their own inability to follow it?
Sorry, i wish her all the best, but not representing the fantastic young people that I know so well.