On a Saturday night in Coolaroo, an industrial northern Melbourne suburb where more people consider themselves Muslim than any other religion,[Sheik Mohammed Omran] speaks with disappointment, a tinge of bitterness and overwhelmingly a deep sense of dismay. He says he feels like a foreigner in his own country.
"If I knew that one day this would happen in Australia, I swear by the almighty God I will never step foot in my — in your — country,” he tells Inquirer from his office inside the Hume Islamic Youth Centre....Omran gestures to his adult son Osama, who is quietly serving tea to the older men in the room. “He feels he is not wanted because his name is Islamic. Everyone gets devastated by that."
Omran, emir of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah school of Islamic thought characterised by literal interpretations of the Koran, believes the global threat represented by Islamic State is exaggerated and the national security risk posed by Muslim Australians seeking to join its ranks is grossly overblown.. “How many Australians have been killed by terrorists? Skin cancer, breast cancer kill thousands every year.”
Mustafa Abu Yusuf, an adviser to the sheik and a spokesman for the ASWJ, goes further. He describes terrorism as a fabricated issue that cynically has been used by successive governments to create a Muslim bogeyman. “...If it wasn’t for the half-decent people in Australia most of the Muslim community would be pushed out on to the fringes.”
In raw numbers, the core problem of youth radicalisation is dwarfed by the scale of the federal government’s policy response. Intelligence agencies believe there are 104 Australians fighting for Islamist groups in Syria or Iraq. Between 35 and 40 people have been killed or in combat or murdered by their Islamic State comrades.
Sheik Omran does not like the word extremism. He prefers ''deviation''.
The sheik has been accused of his own deviations, most notably in describing Osama bin Laden as a good man. Omran does not apologise for his past comments or previous associations. Nor does he consider himself a firebrand, as he is often described. Rather, he sees himself as a man grown old in a country that no longer as welcoming as it once was.Let’s add to that picture some more information which might explain why the warm welcome Omran admits he once received here as a young man has chilled - and why the problem lies more with him than the rest of us.
Omran once described al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden, whose followers helped to kill Australians, as ”a good man in some ways, and not in other ways.''
But before that, Omran said ''I dispute any evil action linked to bin Laden.'' He said Ï don't believe that even September 11 from the beginning, I don't believe I was done by any Muslim at all.''
Omran was accused by one Somali mother of turning her son into a hardliner, so that her son returned to Somalia to fight - and be killed.
In 2003 Omran had this conversation:
Reporter: Is it a good Muslim's duty to go and fight the coalition forces for jihad in Iraq at the moment?And now this man is a leader in his community? Unbelievable !
Sheikh Mohammed Omran: I would say yes.
The Way I See It....if Omran wonders why there’s this suspicion he finds so distressing, he should take his rose-coloured glasses off and buy himself a mirror.
And he should ask himself this: if he takes such offence at some non-Muslims here merely being rude to Muslims, can he really be so damning when non-Muslims here take such offence at some Muslims here trying to kill non-Muslims - and some succeeding?
Are you surprised that some in his centre have turned to jihadism? Is Omran surprised that he is treated with suspicion? He's either totally naïve or in major denial.