SYDNEY — Australian Jewish lawmaker Josh Frydenberg said the country’s grand mufti has “failed in his leadership” by not condemning the Paris terrorist attacks.
Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, the grand mufti, originally expressed sorrow over the deaths of at least 130 people in the wake of the attacks, but did not specifically condemn them. Media reports on the initial statement were critical of its failure to condemn the attacks.
The mufti later issued a clarification, which Frydenberg, the minister for resources, energy and Northern Australia, on Sunday called a “cover-up.” Speaking on a Sky News current affairs panel, the Jewish lawmaker also said the original statement was a “graphic failure” in leadership.
“I think the grand mufti failed in his leadership with his statement,” Frydenberg, of the Liberal Party, said on the panel. “He sought to cover that up subsequently, but it was a graphic failure and he has more of a responsibility, not only to the Muslim community but to the community at large, because all of our security is at risk.”
Frydenberg agreed that there is a large element of denial in the wider public debate on confronting that there is a problem of extremism in Islam.
“I would say it is a problem within Islam, and the point about Islam is that this is a minority of extremists, and you could argue that it’s even a small minority of extremists, but it’s a significant minority of extremists and it does pose a challenge to our way of life in Australia,” he said.
Frydenberg noted that armed guards are now stationed at his former Melbourne Jewish school in his own electorate.
“Is this acceptable in modern-day Australia?” he asked. “It’s not to me.”
Frydenberg stopped short of calling for the grand mufti’s resignation.
“I think that he needs to show greater leadership than he did, and as for his future, that’s a question for the Muslim community because I know that the vast majority of the Australian Islamic community appreciates the significance of this extremist threat and they also want to see the end of it as I do,” he said.
Jewish federal lawmaker Michael Danby told JTA, “There are people out there who use Islam as a political justification for evil deeds.”