ASIO warned authorities 20 years ago that Sheik Taj al-Din Al-hilaly could inflame communal violence in Australia.The Sheik is Australia's most senior Muslim cleric. The BBC's Nick Bryant described him on Thursday as a:
Court judgments show ASIO initially believed the controversial mufti posed a risk to the community because of his alleged propensity to cause or promote violence.
Shortly after his arrival in Australia as the new imam of Lakemba Mosque in 1982, Sheik Hilaly was also linked with a shadowy terrorist group, Soldiers of God, which is thought to have been involved in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Sheik Hilaly was also alleged to have endorsed suicide bombing, verbally attacked women and preached a highly political message of extremism.
The Sunday Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman writes today that a former intelligence officer said Sheik Hilaly's name first surfaced in a report by one of Australia's most senior intelligence assets in Cairo. The claimed the sheik spent a number of years training in Libya and was sent to Australia to train extremists.
softly-spoken man, who clearly commands both enormous respect and affection within his communityand suggested that Hilaly is being criticised for reasons of cynical political partisanship:
Pru Goward, the country's outgoing Sex Discrimination Commissioner, also weighed in, calling for the cleric to either be deported or prosecuted for incitement to rape.While yesterday, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty blamed the media for negative perceptions of Islam:
A leading light in the Liberal Party, Ms Goward is a parliamentary candidate and is said to harbour prime ministerial ambitions of her own.
She will not have done her chances any harm by speaking out so forcefully on this issue.
"You hear more and more stories of treatment of the Islamic community that really is substandard by members of our own wider community," he said at a lunch hosted by the South Australian Press Club. "It is vilification, picking them out of the crowd because they dress differently or they speak differently.Meanwhile, Abduljalil Sajid of the Muslim Council of Britain backed up the Sheik:
"If we are not careful we risk raising a generation of Australians who will have a bias against Islam."
saying that “loose women like prostitutes” encouraged men to be immoral. Dr Sajid, visiting Australia, said that Sheikh al-Hilali was attacking immodesty and loose dress, or “standing in the streets, inviting men to do these bad acts”.Who indeed?
Although the Australian cleric did not use the word prostitute, but appeared to be attacking women wearing revealing clothes, Dr Sajid said that the sermon had been taken out of context. Referring to the thrust of the Sheikh’s argument, he said: “So what is wrong in it? Who will object to that?”