Islamic clerics who have preached hate and incited violence will be hit with legal action in a new push by Jewish leaders, claiming police have failed to punish anti-Semitism.
The peak body representing the Australian Jewish community will take legal action against clerics who preached hate in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attacks.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry is considering all legal options and has not yet finalised which sermons and clerics it will take action against, but said its community was feeling “outrage and disgust” after a series of recent statements.
In the past, the council has taken complaints to the federal court and the human rights commission under the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits offensive behaviour based on racial hatred, and is considering using that same avenue.
Islamic clerics “Brother Ismail” and Sheik Ahmed Zoud are among the group the council is set to target.
“Brother Ismail” delivered a controversial sermon, which was uploaded on YouTube, in Sydney last year, defending Hamas for murdering 1400 Israeli civilians. It was investigated by police but no charges were ever laid.
Last week, video emerged of Sheik Ahmed Zoud delivering a hate-fuelled anti-Semitic sermon at a Lakemba mosque in which he called Jews “monsters”.
Federal minister, Tony Burke, called on the clerics in his electorate to face the full force of the law and announced his hope the government would soon legislate stronger protections against anti-Semitic hate speech.
The Arts and Employment Minister said he wanted “legal protections” to be used against the men.
ECAJ president Daniel Aghion said the types of statements being made by the preachers was “grossly anti-Semitic” and the Jewish community itself would take legal action.
“One can only imagine the entirely justifiable outcry if any such rank vilification were expressed from a synagogue pulpit about Muslims. Yet this repeated hatemongering against Jews over the last three months has elicited only a shameful silence from the Australian National Imams Council, many other faith community leaders, and from other parts of civil society. They should know better,” he said.
“The hate preaching must stop now.”
He warned that if such sentiments were allowed to go unchecked, it would “ruin” Australia’s “peaceful and cohesive society”, and called on the government to take stronger action.
“If existing laws are not fit for the purpose of dealing with this hate-filled bile, and the stoking of violence, then the law should be reformed as a matter of urgency. Taking legal action discourages this completely unacceptable behaviour, and supports Australia’s future as a peaceful and cohesive society,” he said.
“Whilst we still have hope that the relevant authorities will act on these matters, our organisation will pursue the legal remedies that are available to us against those who have preached hate and promoted violence. We must protect our own community. In doing so, we will be protecting all Australians from racist behaviour.”
NSW senator Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, said there were laws in NSW that appeared, prima facie, to cover the sermons.
“NSW police has said that they’re not pursuing investigations of this, I think they should … I think charges should be laid,” Senator Sharma said.
“If it’s found in the court that this provision is not sufficient to capture this sort of conduct, we need to be looking at changing it.
“I commend the Jewish community organisations for looking at taking their own independent legal action … but I feel very bad that it’s reached the point where they feel as if their political leaders are not out there defending them.”