New Mufti Chosen

The Age and ABC are reporting today that Sheikh Taj ad-Din al-Hilaly, the so-called mufti of Australia and New Zealand, has stood down. He has been replaced by Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam, the imam of Preston Mosque in Melbourne’s north.

Controversial muslim cleric, Sheik Taj el-Din Al Hilali has declined the position of Mufti of Australia and a new mufti has been elected.

Imams from across the country were at Melbourne’s Preston Mosque for a meeting of the National Imam’s Council.

The Council has announced Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam as the Mufti of Australia for a two-year term.

The Council said Sheik Al Hilali was appointed first, however he declined the position and proposed Sheikh Fehmi to be appointed Mufti.

Time will, of course, tell whether the appointment of Sheikh Fehmi is an improvement or not. Nobody can doubt his moderate credentials and he is certainly well respected in the Victorian Muslim community. If we must have one imam as the face of Islam, then I suppose Sheikh Fehmi is a relatively safe choice.

However, rather than appointing a new mufti (and therefore exposing the Muslim community to the same problems that plagued Sheikh Taj’s tenure) the National Imam’s Council should have just abolished the position forever. There is no need for a ‘mufti’ in this country and it causes more problems than it solves by making the entire Muslim community, in all its heterogeneity, hostage to the pronouncements — past and present — of one man. It is also a poisoned chalice for the imam who takes the position: there will, almost certainly, be a frenzied rush to find anything controversial about the new mufti so that he too can be placed on the front page of the nation’s newspapers.