Yet such was the unrestrained venom and hatred that spewed from the speaker it is not beyond the realms of possibility it has inspired another Mohammad Merah, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Mehdi Nemmouche, Said Kouachi, Amedy Coulibaly or Omar El-Hussein — the terrorists who murdered innocents in Toulouse, Boston, Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen. Or another Man Haron Monis, the Sydney siege gunman
What was the issue which should have created a stir, but caused just a blip in the media and public consciousness?
A rally was held in Lakemba on July 25 last year. It featured the spiritual head of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the nasty extremist group that unashamedly advocates sharia and the destruction of our democratic way of life.
Interpretations of sharia vary, but can include denying women the right to vote, drive or go outdoors without a male chaperon, outlawing homosexuality, the death penalty for theft, inequality between believers and nonbelievers.
In a chilling harangue dripping with vitriol, Ismail al-Wahwah unleashed his bile on Jews everywhere, accusing them of corruption, describing them as “hidden evil”, warning that the world would rid itself of them.
“The entire world suffers from the children of Israel today and complains about them,” he fulminated. “Who will set the world free from the children of Israel so that the world will be able to say that it has rid itself of that hidden evil?
“This mission will be accomplished by none but you, O Muslims … The ember of jihad against the Jews will continue to burn.
“The struggle and the jihad will continue until the words of Allah come true.
“Judgment day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews … Tomorrow you Jews will see what will become of you — an eye for an eye, blood for blood, destruction for destruction.”
Reinforcing his bloodthirsty message, the unseen crowd interjected with a chant of “Khaybar, Khaybar” — the full war cry being “Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud jaysh Muhammad saya’ud” (Khaybar, Khaybar O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return).
Khaybar was the scene of a 7th-century massacre of Jews in what is now Saudi Arabia.
The problem we face as Australians today is not just violent Islamic extremism, it is also nonviolent extremism. There are authorities tasked with recognising and countering those who engage in violent extremism.
It is infinitely more difficult to recognise and counter nonviolent extremism, yet it is no less sinister, no less threatening, its potential to cause harm no less dire.
It is unconscionable at any time — yet how much more so at this time of heightened concern for our country’s security — that a public figure can brazenly and outrageously incite such hatred.
Wahwah’s poisonous rant ought to be condemned by all who care about protecting our democratic way of life.
His diatribe was not anti-Israel sentiment, as some supporters insist, but vile and crude Jew-hatred reminiscent of last year’s anti-Israel rallies that descended into blatant anti-Semitism, complete with Nazi swastikas and placards evoking racist images that had nothing to do with the Middle East.
It could be argued that his rant constitutes racial vilification; that needs to be explored.
The issue is that our society comprises 200 cultures living overwhelmingly in peace in an environment where civility, respect and diversity are the norm; but we dare not take those values for granted. To do so is to put our way of life at risk.
Wahwah’s speech was delivered in Arabic and a subtitled video released last week in the expectation that it would galvanise attention, such is the potential harm its message conveys. That didn’t happen.
It is inconceivable that some choose to defend and offer excuses for Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Wahwah represents.
All people of goodwill have an obligation to speak out on these issues. We are either opposed to giving platforms to hatred and bigotry or we are not. There is a stark choice to be made.
Vic Alhadeff is chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.