Australasian Muslim Times applauds growing support for Palestine

April 2, 2024
 Australasian Muslim Times editor Zia Ahmad
Inset: Australasian Muslim Times editor Zia Ahmad. Graphic: Josh Adams/Green Left

The Australasian Muslim Times, founded in 1991, serves diverse Muslim communities in Australia and beyond. It is widely read by the broader community, including the Jewish community and MPs.

It started as a multilingual community newspaper, publishing in Arabic, Turkish, English, Bangla and other languages.

But, since 2014, it publishes only in English. Jewish writers, including myself, are among its contributors.

Its first issue coincided with former Iraqi Prime Minister Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait; an excellent launching pad for such a publication.

It started as a fortnightly, then became weekly, but since 2014, its print and digital editions are published monthly, with a weekly newsletter.

Editor-in-Chief Zia Ahmad founded AMUST, supported by his father Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad OAM, his extended family and the community.

Ahmad told Green Left about his life and his passion for the publication.

He was born into a well-to-do, land-owning Muslim family, with a progressive outlook, in Uttar Pradesh in North India.

When India was partitioned, the family chose not to go to Pakistan, remaining in India and then moving to Kashmir where his father became an engineering professor and where Ahmad was educated.

They believed in a multi-cultural society, with people of different religions living together.

Despite loving Kashmir, when the political problems emerged, the family migrated to Australia in 1971 when Ahmad was 18.

He formed a group of Muslim students from different schools of thought in 1980, continuing the progressive tradition he had learned in his family. They studied together, appreciating and respecting different points of view. This intellectual-cultural outlook continues to shape AMUST’s editorial policy.

Ahmad’s father had cordial relationships across the Australian community, as does he.

The late Jewish leader, Jeremy Jones and orthodox Rabbi Zalman Kastel were among Ahmad’s father’s friends.

This openness and wide networks are factors in AMUST’s success.

Ahmad appreciates the freedom of expression he has in Australia, unlike in most Muslim countries. He does not deny that racism exists here but says it is verbal, not physical.

His attitude to debate is “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me”, which is sorely lacking in the current preoccupation with “safety” in any discussion.

The paper is very much a family non-profit business: it is funded by them, with family members constituting the editorial team. It allows AMUST to be politically independent of community pressures.

AMUST is supported by a loyal band of volunteers and a large network of writers. A very active distribution allowed the hard copy to break even within 2 years of being launched.

Despite its diverse readership, the paper has attracted little opposition.

Even the annual Jewish review of the media declared AMUST not antisemitic, except for one year as “being on the verge of antisemitism”, and praised it for its support of women.

AMUST is not bland either. It reports boldly on Palestine and other struggles, such as Bosnia and Kashmir.

The current issue includes headlines such as “Israel’s lobbying power exposed” and “Governments’ deceptive ploy: Australian Muslims reject sham gestures amid Gaza crisis”.

Other issues include: “Students take a stand: Aussie students walked out of school for Palestine”; “Calls for permanent ceasefire in Gaza” and “Bassem Youssef’s stirring solidarity at the Sydney Opera House”.

AMUST says it hasn’t received any negative response, so far, to its open support for the oppressed.

Asked about the mainstream media’s reporting on Palestine, Ahmad said it was “very badly biased”, mostly by omission and emphasis.

He noted the New York Times article claiming widespread rape by Hamas forces and others in the October 7 attack on Israel had been widely debunked. He said the Zionist lobby had a strong influence in the media, universities and centres of political power.

Asked how Muslim communities were responding to that attack, and the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Ahmad said people were traumatised, especially by the way Western leaders are supporting and enabling the genocide. are particularly upset with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Labor leader Chris Minns, adding that this will have an electoral impact. He thinks Labor is worried.

Ahmad said the Muslim community supports the Greens’ consistent support for Palestine.

He said Israel is “a very cruel state with no humanity at all. I am really disappointed. It is truly shocking.”

He said the two-state solution is no longer viable and the Palestinian Right of Return is not recognised. The solution needs to be “even-handed”.

Ahmad said the upsurge in support for Palestine, the mass movement of younger Muslims, Indigenous people and Jews is “very heartening”.

Muslims have learned about the difference between Zionism and Judaism. “A lot of good things have come out of this crisis,” he said.

[Subscribe to the Australasian Muslim Times here.]

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