The Daily Telegraph
June 23, 2011 12:00AM
THE preposterous excuses and Pythonesque theatrics of Carnita Matthews and her thuggish supporters outside the Downing Centre Courts this week would be comic, if they weren't so threatening.
The 46-year-old mother of seven, wearing a full black niqab showing just her eyes, has successfully tied the justice system up in knots for the past year, simply to avoid paying a $197 traffic fine.
Described as being "deliberately malicious and ... ruthless" by the magistrate who convicted her last November of falsely claiming a "racist" police officer tried to tear off her veil during a random breath test, Matthews escaped her six-month jail sentence on appeal before the District Court.
Ironically, appeal Judge Clive Jeffreys could not be certain beyond reasonable doubt it was Matthews who had lodged the complaint against Senior Constable Paul Fogarty, because (drum roll) she was wearing the niqab when she arrived at Campbelltown police station last June.
"All we know is that a person with a black burqa came in with a man in a brown suit with an envelope and that's it," he said.
But somebody lied about Sen-Constable Fogarty, whose innocence and restraint in the face of Matthews' screeching provocation were evident on the 20-minute in-car police video, without which his career would have been in jeopardy.
The prosecution was unable to satisfy Judge Jeffreys that the liar was Matthews, despite the fact her friend, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib, alleged to radio 2GB's Chris Smith on Tuesday that he had accompanied her to the police station to lodge the complaint. As well, Channel 7 has footage of Matthews allegedly signing a statutory declaration and driving to the police station.
Maybe the case was too hot to handle. It grew from a simple traffic fine for a woman with a string of driving offences, to a core test of political Islam: Whether a veiled Muslim woman has the right to refuse a police officer's lawful request that she identify herself.
The answer is no.
That right does not exist under our law.
But that doesn't stop Islamist activists pushing for it, as if it is their due.
Regardless of who signed the false complaint against Sen-Constable Fogarty, it was the intimidating behaviour of Matthews' male supporters outside court this week which was most offensive.
The bearded men who chanted "Allah Akbar" (God is Great) as they marched roughshod on cameramen weren't behaving normally.
Their theatrics were a declaration of war on Australia, on the media, on police.
Linking arms and striding down the street chanting the phrase we have heard again and again - often in the wake of other appalling crimes - was a show of power by people who put the authority of their God above the law of the land.
It is a direct challenge to Australian law and order.
We increasingly see the same challenge issued whenever a hardline Islamist appears in court, as the call goes out for "brothers" to run "protection" for the accused.
A man claiming to be Matthews' husband sent out the call on his Facebook page this week and later thanked: "ALL THE HERO'S (sic) AND LIONS OF ALLAH WHOM (sic) HAD THE CHANCE TO COME TO THE COURT AND FIGHT FOR THE SAKE OF ALLAH ... ALLAH HAS GRANTED YOUR OPPRESSED SISTER VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES AND HE GRANTED US A JUDGE THAT FROM THE WORD GO HE WAS DEFENDING YOUR SISTER WHERE EVERYONE ELSE WAS DETERMINED TO SEE HER JAILED, BUT ALLAH HAD OTHER PLANS".
His Facebook page, with the profile picture of a bloodied fist replaced yesterday by a handcuffed figure in a burqa, has messages from supporters such as: "Allah akbar, may all the pigs burn in hell inshallah".
It features videos of Osama bin Laden, slurs against infidels and "Kufaars" (non-Muslims), "American pig savages" and "Zionist dogs". Last weekend Ibrahim wrote: "YA ZIONIST DOGS THERE WILL BE A DAY VERY SOON THAT YOULL FIND NO SHELTR NOR A WALL TO HIND (sic) BEHIND AND WE WILL EAT YOUR FLESH AND SPIT IT TO OUR DOGS TO CHEW OFF."
And this: "HOW LONG ARE WE GOING TO STAY WEAK, NO MORe MR NICE GUY, WE WILL DEFEND OUR iSLAM AND OUR SISTERS WITH OUR BLOOD, BLOOD, BLOOD."
A video also appears with the title "8 US soldiers killed in Iraq" accompanied by the message from Ibrahim: "Keep them Comming (sic)".
Another video, since removed, said: "WATCH THE AMERICAN PIGS THE AUSSIE PIGS THE BRITISH PIGS SOLDIERS RAPING YOUR MUSLIM SISTER".
There is also, ominously, talk on the page about disrupting a coming rally in Sydney by the Australian Defence League, an anti-Islamist group.
Police had to shut down a similar protest against sharia law in Melbourne last month after violent clashes.
On Ibrahim's website there is one lone brave voice of reason, from a woman he refers to as "Philosopha Phatoom".
"The way u men handled this is very wrong. may Allah take away this hated and anger from ur hearts," she wrote yesterday. "I'm not judging ... i can only assure u that setting an example of islam is not that way ... Remember Islam was never spread by the sword, it caught peoples Hearts."
The vast majority of moderate Muslims in Australia want no truck with Islamist ideology. It is for them, as much as for the rest of the community, that Premier Barry O'Farrell and Police Minister Mike Gallacher need to send a firm message that no one is above the law.
The burqa or niqab, as several Muslims have pointed out this week, is not a requirement of the Koran, which advises women only to dress modestly. But it has become a potent symbol of political Islam.
Gallacher has flagged a law change to allow Muslim women to use fingerprints to verify their identity as an alternative to lifting their veils, but he needs to avoid creating special laws for any particular group.
Australia is one of the most successful immigrant nations on Earth. It would therefore be a pity to follow the European path of banning Islamic face coverings, because the result would simply be more repression of women.
In order to safeguard freedoms - not least of Muslim women to wear the veil - then every challenge to this nation's authority must be countered whenever it arises.
Giving an inch to the intimidation of political Islam is a mistake.