GEORGE NEGUS: Wassim, thanks for joining us.
WASSIM DOUREIHI, SPOKESMAN FOR HIZB UT-TAHRIR: Thank you very having me.
GEORGE NEGUS: You weren’t at the meeting in Canberra yesterday but at this point having heard what went on at that meeting, do you believe that Islamic law, your law, Sharia law, takes precedence over Australian law?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: We have to make two clear distinctions on this point, George. What we’re saying is there is life of a Muslim as an individual and there’s life of a Muslim as part of a society.
No-one in this country’s talking about implementing Sharia law in this country. The reality is –
GEORGE NEGUS:You’re not? You’re group are not?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Absolutely not. What we are calling for essentially is implementation of Islamic law within the Muslim world and that is a natural consequence of the belief of the people and a consequence of the belief that the Muslims in the Muslim world should assume their political destiny.
GEORGE NEGUS: So you believe that a Muslim like yourself can obey both the Sharia law and Australian law, no conflict?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: What we’re saying essentially is yes, there are certain beliefs and there are certain attitudes that we carry. If there is an element where someone has broken a law then definitely we would say that we exist in this country as citizens of this country and we obey that law. If there are laws that are broken, then prosecute us under those laws and under the judicial arrangements.
But the issue really is not about what the Muslims are doing in this country. The issue is implementation of foreign ideologies upon the Muslims in the Muslim world.
GEORGE NEGUS: When we talked yesterday and you reject any suggestion that your group is an extremist group, right?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Everybody knows, every government minister and every government in the Western world knows the reality of Hizb ut-Tahrir – we are a non-violent group. Yes we call for the implementation of Islamic law within the Muslim world. Part of that call of course is about removing the Western interference in the Islamic world.
GEORGE NEGUS: In places like Palestine and Iraq?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: In places like Palestinian, Iraq, Afghanistan but we make no exception to the rule. We say every single ruler in the Muslim world is a product and a lackey of the West.
GEORGE NEGUS: So why do you think you weren’t there yesterday? Why do you think people do regard your group as extremist and a worry?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: First of all, we don’t like to play the label game. At the end of the day John Howard has his prerogative and he’ll invite who he seems fit. At the end of the day what we say to John Howard and we say this very clearly, ask every single one of those delegates what are their views on the right of Israel to exist? What are their views on the implementation of Sharia law within the Muslim world? What are their views of unification of Muslims in the Muslim world? And I don’t think you’ll find any distinction whatsoever on this point. So the label as moderate or extremist are irrelevant on this point. It’s time we go beyond the semantics and get to the real issues.
GEORGE NEGUS: Yesterday every Muslim present at that meeting, that so-called summit, right, declared their absolute, unequivocal opposition to terrorism, to violent acts by Muslims in the course of achieving their goals, to the incitement of violence, do you agree with that? Are you unequivocally opposed to those things?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: There is no doubt, not a single Muslim or Muslim organisation in this country has condoned any acts of violence against innocent civilians. The interesting point, of course, is that given the fact that every single Muslim and organisation has denounced acts of terrorism, or violence against individuals, clearly that is not enough for the Government and clearly what we saw as consequence of the summit itself, the issues discussed had nothing to do with terrorism but the reality is about the position of the Muslim community within this country, questions of allegiances, questions of values and definitely what is most important is the Government asking the Muslim community to accept responsibility for a problem that was created by itself.
GEORGE NEGUS: Do you believe that yesterday was a waste of time?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I believe that any discussion, any discussion about the matter of terrorism, any serious endeavour to protect the lives of innocent people is something that should be supported. John Howard has stated very clearly it’s not the be all and end all and everyone considers this point.
What is most important for me is to ensure that the wider Australian community is debating this issue in its correct context and that is of course not one that is localised but is considered within its global context and the reality of Western foreign policy.
GEORGE NEGUS: Given that you’re saying what you’re saying to me and hoping that people believe you, will you expect to be invited to any similar meeting?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: We have said very clearly we are open to dialogue with anyone whether that’s part of the authorities or whether the wider community, we are out there engaging in productive discourse. We are trying to win the hearts and minds of people through intelligent debate. What we’ve seen of course is the response of the Government is their refusal to acknowledge any legitimate form of political dissent.
GEORGE NEGUS: Do you regard yourself as a political party, not a religious organisation?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: We regard the two matters as inextricably linked. What we’re saying is the Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political party whose ideology is Islam. We’re not working as a party within this country. Our work is directed within the Muslim world by virtue of the existence of Muslims within Australia, definitely there are members of this party but our work is not targeted in Australia. Our work is targeted in the Muslim world where our natural sympathies lie.
GEORGE NEGUS: I ask you this question, do you believe Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attack on September 11?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: What I believed the issue is bigger than Osama bin Laden. What I say very clearly is that I am presented with the same information you were presented through the media. What we know for sure is the reality of Western foreign policy and the harm and the chaos and the calamity it has inflicted upon the people within the Muslim world.
Now we talk about the issue of Madrid, talk about the issue of London, the realities –
GEORGE NEGUS: Back to the question, do you think he was responsible? Do you think he was responsible, he and al-Qa’ida?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: What I say is that I am presented with the same information you were presented by the media.
GEORGE NEGUS: And your position is that he wasn’t or he was?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: There are question marks, absolutely. At the end of the day the issue is not who was responsible for September 11. The issue for us, as a Muslim, is how is America and the West using 9/11 or Madrid or London as a pretext to further their repression of the Muslims.
GEORGE NEGUS: Final question, after yesterday’s meeting do you still believe, as you’ve said once, that Muslims and Western society cannot co-exist and if that’s the case, how do you get along with John Howard’s idea that Muslims in this country should adopt Australian values if you believe that the West and Muslims cannot co-exist?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Let’s make a very important distinction there, George. What I said very clearly and still stick to by this point is that Islam and not the Muslims, cannot co-exist within Western society. We’re talking about Islam as a political order. It’s conducive to say that Islam or communism can exist or capitalism and communism can co-exist.
GEORGE NEGUS: But your group exists, co-exists within Australia.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I’m saying Muslims can exist within this country and do exist within this country and will continue to exist and contribute to this country. Now that’s in our capacity as individuals. But when we talk about ideologies as political forces, there is a clear line between the Islamic world and the capitalist world, which is the Western world. Now those discussions are ideologically based. It’s not a consequence of individuals it’s a consequence of ideologies which affect entire societies.
GEORGE NEGUS: Peter Costello said this last night, “This country is a country which has a constitution, under its constitution the State is secular, the law is made by the parliament and enforced by the judiciary.” He then went on. “These are Australian values,” – the Prime Minister’s term as well – “and they’re not going to change and we would expect people when they come to Australia or if they were born in Australia,” – like you are, an Australian-born Muslim – “to respect those values.” Those things that I’ve just read out to you from the Deputy Prime Minister.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I challenge the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister to show me and to show the Australian people very clearly which Muslim organisation is working to implement Sharia law in this country. The reality is that as this Government, as with all previous governments that are part of Western alliance that is forcing in a foreign ideology upon the Islamic world. Now that’s clearly an attempt by the Government to deflect criticism against itself on its foreign policy.
GEORGE NEGUS: But, Wassim, right, respecting the Australian constitution, right, respecting the secular law of the country, the parliament, the judiciary, those are the Australian values as Peter Costello sees it.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: The question is, does he mean by that that we can’t hold different opinions?
GEORGE NEGUS: I hope not but those two things can you agree with that?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Those two things I ask the Prime Minister and the Treasurer I ask them to show me one example and to show the Australian people one example of any Muslim or organisation that is actively working to alter the political landscape within this country.
Now by virtue of our existence, yes, we are Muslim and we have our Islam and clearly we will have opinions about all facets of society. Now they’re opinions that we hold but it’s different from saying that we’re carrying an opinion and we’re working to alter and implement and manifest that opinion. The reality is that only it’s the Western governments that are inflicting foreign ideology upon the peoples.
GEORGE NEGUS: Wassim, we have to leave it there unfortunately.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Thank you very much for your time.
GEORGE NEGUS: You too.