By Michaela Whitbourn
February 8, 2019
The peak body for the legal profession in Australia has called for better “communication and understanding of the Islamic faith” by lawyers and judges, days after a NSW Supreme Court judge courted controversy by urging Muslims to publicly disavow violence in the Koran.
Justice Desmond Fagan, who has presided over a number of terrorism-related cases, said last week the “unqualified acceptance” of the Koran by Australian Muslims “without explicit repudiation of verses which ordain intolerance, violence and domination … will embolden terrorists to think they are in common cause with all believers”.
“If Australian followers of the religion, including those who profess deep knowledge, were to make a clear public disavowal of these verses, as not authoritative instructions from Allah, then the terrorists’ moral conviction might be weakened,” he said.
Justice Fagan was sentencing Sameh Bayda and Alo-Bridget Namoa, a young couple, both 21, found guilty in October last year of conspiring to do an act in preparation for a terrorist act between December 8, 2015 and January 25, 2016.
On Thursday evening, high-profile members of the legal profession and the judiciary, including NSW Supreme Court and Federal Court judges, attended an Islamic Service to mark the opening of the 2019 Law Term at the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque in Sydney.
The president of the Law Council of Australia, Arthur Moses, SC, said the Islamic Service was “a significant occasion for both the legal profession and the community” and it was “important that there is communication and understanding of the Islamic faith in Australia’s legal profession and the judicial process”.
“Without referring to or passing comment on any recent case, I make the observation that we must ensure that the criminal actions of a few are not used to unfairly judge, discriminate against or condemn a whole community and religion and that those who break our laws are the ones that pay the price and bear the punishment – not others wrongly implicated by association. Ultimately, we are one community,” he said.
Mr Moses welcomed the appointment on Wednesday of Sydney barrister Bilal Rauf as spokesperson for the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC). He said Mr Rauf’s “commitment to the administration of justice and to providing opportunities for engagement with the Australian Muslim Community is to be commended”.
In a statement last week, ANIC said it was “disappointed and deeply concerned about the comments which were recently made by Justice Desmond Fagan directed at Australian Muslims and Islam generally”.
Muslims categorically reject extremist interpretations of the Koran
It said Justice Fagan “did not have any regard to the mainstream and orthodox religious positions” relating to the verses relating to the verses of the Koran in question, “and instead implicated the community and faith at large, by association”.
“Muslims categorically reject extremist interpretations of the Koran and the misuse of Islam by extremists. Indeed extremists have caused immense suffering to Muslim communities around the world. Australian Muslim leaders, scholars and community members have repeatedly rejected extremist interpretations of the Koran,” the statement said.
The council warned that the judge’s comments would “undermine the positive efforts of community leaders and members to deal with radicalisation” and “will also likely embolden those who pursue divisive and hate-filled dialogue and agendas”.
“Ultimately, we are one community and we need to work together to overcome the issues which confront our Australian society,” the council said.