Cler­ics in holy war

Is­lamic lead­ers quar­rel over top Aus­tralian imam

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - LIL­LIAN SALEH

IT’S the ques­tion di­vid­ing Mus­lim Aus­tralia: Just who is the coun­try’s top Is­lamic cleric?

Con­tro­ver­sial Sheik Taj El-Din Hi­laly, who once likened “im­mod­estly dressed” women to pieces of meat, has been reap­pointed as Grand Mufti 11 years af­ter step­ping down.

But that comes as news to act­ing Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Mo­ham­mad. When asked yes­ter­day who the Grand Mufti is, he replied: “Ibrahim Abu Mo­ham­mad.”

The split ex­poses a bit­ter feud among the two lead­ing Is­lamic fac­tions — the Aus­tralian Na­tional Imams Coun­cil and the Aus­tralian Fed­er­a­tion of Is­lamic Coun­cils — fol­low­ing the death of for­mer Grand Mufti Ab­dul Azeem al-Afifi in July. Each fac­tion claims they alone have the right to ap­point the Grand Mufti.

Dr Abu Mo­ham­mad had pre­vi­ously held the po­si­tion for six years, af­ter which he was re­quired to stand down for 12 months be­fore run­ning again. Mus­lim com­mu­nity sources claim Dr al-Afifi, who was suf­fer­ing from ter­mi­nal can­cer, was only ap­pointed to al­low Dr Abu Mo­ham­mad to be re­in­stated af­ter his death.

How­ever, on Fri­day, Sheik Hi­laly was anointed as Grand Mufti by Queens­land’s long-serv­ing Imam Ab­dul Taub Raza at Lo­gan ogan Mosque in Bris­bane in front of fel­low llow imams and a crowd of com­mu­nity unity lead­ers and wor­ship­pers from om AFIC.

Sheik Hi­laly was the first per­son to serve as Aus­tralia’s Grand Mufti af­ter AFIC, FIC, an as­so­ci­a­tion of com­mu­nity mu­nity groups, lo­cal lead­ers and Mus­lim or­gan­i­sa­tions, ns, cre­ated the po­si­tion in 1988. How­ever, in re- e- cent years ANIC, made up of Is­lamic schol­ars, has tried to usurp AFIC’s grasp on who ap­points the Grand Mufti. Dr Abu Mo­ham­mad said Sheik Hi­laly’s ap­point­ment was in­valid and the only au­thor­ity that could ap­point the Grand Mufti was the Aus­tralian Na­tional Imams Coun­cil.

He said: “They have no au­thor­ity to ap­point any­one.”

Aus­tralian In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Col­lege chair­man Imam Ab­dul Qud­doos, who was at the Lo­gan Mosque cer­e­mony, said Sheik She Hi­laly’s ap­point­ment wou would be fi­nalised af­ter a meetin meet­ing of imams in Syd­ney next w week. Asked why Sheik Hi­laly was re­in­stated, Imam Qud­doo Qud­doos said: “Be­cause he is the mos most ca­pa­ble per­son in A Aus­tralia.”

This all came a d day af­ter Sheik Hi­laly re­posted on so­cial me­dia a call he made in 2016 for the po­si­tion of Grand Mufti to be ter­mi­nated.

He wrote: “The po­si­tion was es­tab­lished through the Aus­tralian Fed­er­a­tion of Is­lamic Coun­cils to de­fend Is­lam and Mus­lims. This ti­tle has now be­come a step­ping stone for every fallen per­son. I call upon the pow­ers of AFIC to is­sue a res­o­lu­tion to can­cel this po­si­tion in Aus­tralia.”

Sources claim Sheik Hi­laly was “pres­sured” into the role. A source said: “They were beg­ging him. They said he is the only per­son for this po­si­tion.”

Among those en­dors­ing Sheik Hi­laly is AFIC vice-pres­i­dent Ja­mal El Kholed. He said: “We need peo­ple in this po­si­tion who work from the heart. This po­si­tion is very pop­u­lar in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity and not just any­one can be Grand Mufti. Sheik Hi­laly is the only per­son I sup­port.”

ANIC re­leased a state­ment: “Any other an­nounce­ment of a new Grand Mufti is void and un­jus­ti­fied”.

Pic­ture: John Gass/AAP

Dr Ibrahim Mo­ham­mad.

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