Larry Stillman 0

We oppose Islamophobia in the Melbourne Jewish Community

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The signatories to this letter come from many different political orientations, but this is a shameful moment in the history of the Melbourne Jewish community that demands a united response.

Several hundred people attended a meeting organised by the so-called ‘Australian Jewish Association’ at South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation on Sunday night, 11 September 2017 turned up to hear Mark Durie. He is not a specialist in Islam or contemporary problems in the Muslim world, but an Anglican priest, linguist and autodidact. He argues for a literalist interpretation of Islam and Islamic culture and history to demonstrate the inherent violence and intolerance of Islam, and by implication, the treachery of all Muslims.This is Islamophobia.

Durie is also closely allied to the QSociety, a hate group, as well as Halal Choices, which believes that halal food labelling is also part of a conspiracy. The QSociety also tried to prevent a small group of Bangladeshi and Indian taxi drivers meeting for weekly prayer in a community house in St Kilda some years ago. This is OneNation stuff, and part of the agenda of other virulent, nationalist and even Antisemitic organisations in this country.

In Durie's eyes, Muslims are also engaged in deception and subterfuge whatever conciliatory words are said. Of course, the claim is made such words are not anti- Muslim, just anti-Islam. Does this sound familiar? It's exactly the same as the theological Antisemitism beloved of many Christian scholars in the past when both the Hebrew Bible and Talmud were poured over to prove how evil Jews were.

Regrettably, despite Beth Weizmann, the Zionist Federation and even Mizrachi synagogue came to their senses about hosting such a meeting, realizing that it sent all the wrong messages in a diverse community. However, the South Caulfield Synagogue leadership appears quite proud of its support for the Australian Jewish Association and Mark Durie.

This is not a free speech issue. Durie and the Jewish right can say or publish what they want when they want. But feeding ill-informed garbage to people who have deep anxieties, as we all do, about terrorism is another matter and should not receive institutional support from a synagogue.

The organised and intolerant, baiting Jewish right has found a spiritual home.

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