Spiritual warrior for Islam

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Feb. 27, 2003
ByDebra Jopson

“Let it be known, there’s thousands of Osama bin Ladens here and if they ever find Osama bin Laden, another thousand will pop up,” says Khalid, who is not alone as an Aboriginal convert to Islam who admires the terrorist leader.

In his 40s and unemployed, Khalid, who has lived in Sydney and is visiting relatives in South Australia, converted to Islam more than a decade ago when he was in jail.

“Wherever you are, Osama bin Laden, I love you, brother and I do it for you and I pray for you because to me you’re just a spiritual warrior standing up for Islam and propagating freedom around the world,” says Khalid, one of four Aboriginal Muslims featured in an SBS-TV Insight program to be screened tonight.

Solomon, an unemployed 23-year-old from La Perouse community who now lives in another part of Sydney, says he does not believe bin Laden is a terrorist.

“I’ve spoken to many people that have seen the great things that bin Laden has done for their countries, so in that sense I’m a supporter of bin Laden, but I’m not a supporter of terrorism,” Solomon says.

“If there’s solid proof showing that bin Laden blew something up and killed innocent people then I wouldn’t be a supporter of him, but I don’t believe there is any solid proof of that.”

Solomon, who like the other men interviewed for the program did not want their surnames used for fear of reprisals, told reporter Julie Nimmo that he had been investigated by ASIO and that he feared that if he left Australia, he would not be allowed to return.

There are an estimated 500 to 1000 indigenous Muslims nationwide, including recent converts and non-practising descendants of followers of Islam, such as Arnhem Land people with Macassan ancestry, according to Karander Seyit, editor of the Sydney newspaper The Australian Muslim News.

Ms Nimmo found they face discrimination both from Australian Muslims who look askance when they enter mosques and fellow Aborigines.

Like the majority of Muslims in Australia, most do not support bin Laden, she said.

Justin, a University of Technology Sydney law student in his early 20s, says in the program that Islam helps him override his sense of worthlessness as an Aboriginal man.

“It gives me the strength to think, ‘Yes, I am a man, I am a human being. You’re no better than what I am and there’s nothing you can do to me’.”

Shahzad, 31, a Sydney lawyer originally from Western Australia, tells of his great grandfather, an Afghan camel driver who married an Aboriginal woman and who after her death took his family back to Baluchistan to escape authorities who wanted to take his children.

“It’s not a part of our religion to stand there and get stepped on. This is why Islam is so good for the Aboriginal people,” Solomon says.

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