A senior Muslim navy officer has been counselled and her Twitter account shut down after she tweeted controversial views concerning Islamic extremism and then prime minister Tony Abbott.
Captain Mona Shindy, used the twitter account @navyislamic as part of her outreach work to encourage Muslims to join the defence force, but ran into trouble after tweeting comments at odds with government policy.
Defence personnel are banned from expressing political views in an official capacity.
But the Twitter account described as the “Official Royal Australian Navy Islamic Advisor Twitter account”, published tweets critical of Abbott during and after his prime ministership.
“#QANDA @TurbullMalcolm talking #islam looking forward to a PM that unites #auspol & #OZ,” @navyislamic tweeted in the lead up to the coup that ousted Abbott as prime minister.
The Twitter account – which disappeared sometime before Christmas – also retweeted a comment by counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly that read: “Wait. Did our new PM just give a speech and not mention boats, death cult, security, death cult, terrorism, national security and death cult?”
Captain Shindy – a mentor for the Lebanese Muslim Association, and former Telstra NSW Businesswoman of the Year – used the account to back Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed’s response to the Paris attacks.
Dr Mohamed was criticised after a statement issued on behalf of the Australian National Imams Council and himself that suggested racism and Islamophobia were partly to blame for the massacre.
The Grand Mufti later said he had “consistently and unequivocally condemned all forms of terrorist violence”.
“There is no justification for the taking of innocent lives,” he said in a statement said.
“#IstandWIthTheMufti Righteous & courageous man who categorically denounces #ISIS #terrorism #ListenRespectInclude”, @navyislamic tweeted in response to the statement.
Captain Shiny – a 26-year Navy veteran – also used the social media account to criticise the anti-Islam political party the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA).
“Real shame to see these extreme ill informed fringe groups threatening #community #cohesion #auspol #teamhumanrace”, @navyislamic tweeted in October.
Senate candidate for the ALA, Bernard Gaynor told Channel Seven: “It is clearly unacceptable for defence resources to be used to engage with domestic politics”.
Mr Gaynor, a former army officer, was discharged after he made disparaging comments about homosexuals.
“If I was Islamic then I would probably has [sic] been promoted,” he said on Tuesday.
The Chief of Navy counselled Captain Shindy on these issues and decided to shut down the account after a review into the Navy’s social media policies that began in December, a Defence spokesperson said.
The Twitter account, set up in 2013, had attracted a growing number of contentious comments in recent months, in line with increased public debate over Islam, according to the Defence spokesperson.
“[Captain] Shindy was inundated with these comments and endeavoured to ensure a balance between policy and other comment,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement to other media outlets, Defence said the @navyislamic account was shut down in an attempt to “consolidate” the navy’s social media platforms.
However, a list of social media accounts published by Defence shows multiple official navy accounts still in operation, including that of Warrant Officer Martin Holzberger.
In a later statement to Fairfax Media, a spokesman for Defence said the use of social media by the navy was “continuing to develop”.
“Some individual accounts will remain active due to the site not being solely managed by navy or branding arrangements such as with some sporting bodies such as the Australian Surf Rowers League, Team Navy as well as Navy Rugby Union,” the spokesman said.
He added that other accounts would be reviewed shortly, and that a review of all navy branded sites was due early 2016, with recommendations on developing a “synchronised social media communications strategy”.
Captain Shindy was awarded the Telstra NSW businesswoman of the year award for her work overseeing a $130 million budget for the maintenance of frontline warships.
She also won a government and academia award for her dedication pushing diversity and cultural change in Defence.
Captain Shindy has publicly weighed in on politically-charged issues off Twitter, accusing the “fear mongering” media of “overplaying” the links between Muslim communities and terrorism.
“If you allow hate to be perpetuated through further anger all you do is spiral down into badness,” she told Fairfax Media in November.
She said her recent decision to wear the hijab with her uniform, has made her a target for vilification on a range of social media platforms.
“Maybe when I was younger those things might bite a little bit and hurt,” Captain Shindy told Fairfax Media.
“As I’ve become more philosophical about the issues in the world today I find myself reflecting on why it is people are making those comments,” she said.
– With Alexandra Back