Controversy arises over non-English speaking Mufti

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He has worked for the Australian Federations Islamic Council (AFIC), is the director of Al Quran Al Kareem Radio of Australia, and his scholarly work into Islamic and religious studies is world renown; But It’s Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed’s latest title as Australia’s ‘mufti’ – (the teacher, or translator, of islamic law -) that has sparked a controversial debate amongst the Australian-Islamic community.

Despite his remarkable contributions to Islamic communities in Australia since he moved to the country over 20 years ago, Dr Ibrahim’s English remains limited, causing some to question his ability to fulfil the role of mufti. Reem Al- Yawee, a year 12 student at one of Sydney’s most respected Islamic schools, Al-Faisal College, won’t be affected by a language barrier due to her Arabic speaking background, but says it could prove to be a hurdle for her friends. “I have Turkish and Indonesian Muslim friends who don’t speak Arabic and it will be hard for the mufti to communicate his messages to the non Arabic Muslims, especially the youth,” she says.

It is this diversity of cultures within the Australian-Islamic community has sparked criticism of Dr Ibrahim’s role as an effective mufti. Mr Levent manager at Aurban Gallipoli Mosque, congratulated Dr Ibrahim, but raised some concerns. “You need a mufti to be a spokesperson for all Muslims and since there is such a diversity of Muslims, it becomes hard to find someone who represents that diversity,” he says. However, Dr Ibrahim would beg to differ. When asked by SBS reporter, Suheil Damouny, about his inability to speak English, Dr Ibrahim replied, “The dialogue between generations is not restricted to one person, but the values have to be delivered by trusted channels…consisting of Imams, who can speak English and Arabic well…I value the importance of language and although I may not speak English, I still have a lot to say and contribute.”

Supporters of Mr Ibrahim say that his experience positions him as the best man for the job. Devoted Muslim, Saad Nashed, says Dr Ibrahim’s knowledge, “gives him the ability to explain to people the true picture of Islam and can clear up any misconceptions people have about our religion.” Dr Ibrahim plans on doing just that; one of his aims is to help re-direct misguided Muslim youths who have been following extremism, through education. However, it has been argued that such a task will prove to be a challenge as many young Muslims do not speak or come from an Arabic background.

It’s still too early to determine whether Dr Ibrahim’s language restraints will affect his representation of the Australian-Islamic community. His new role has already seen him tackle contentious issues including the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, home grown extremism and sharia law, but it appears that his biggest test will be proving himself worthy of being Australia’s mufti.

Image: Sam Mooy, The Australian.

Widyan Al Ubudy.

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~ by widyanalubudy on June 8, 2012.

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