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Close the Door on Your Way Out

Outspoken Muslim leader Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly has stood down as Australia’s Mufti.

 

The controversial Islamic cleric was reappointed Mufti at a meeting of Muslim leaders in Melbourne today, but declined to accept the position.

 

The Council of Islamic Jurisprudence and Research instead elected Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam, who will serve a two-year term.

 

The decision was made at the Preston Mosque in suburban Melbourne at a four-hour meeting behind closed doors.

 

Sheik al Hilali was a surprising and controversial first choice for the Muslim leaders, who have come under intense pressure over the past year to sack the Mufti.

 

In a statement issued today, the council said Sheik al Hilali had “gracefully declined” to accept another term.

 

“We, the Australian National Imams Council, are proud to announce that Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam is appointed as the Mufti of Australia for a two-year term,” the statement read.

 

“Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam will be working with the Council of Islamic Jurisprudence and Research under the umbrella of the Australian National Imams Council for the benefit of the Muslims and the broader Australian community.

 

“We recognise the great services that Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly has provided over the years and we pray for his good health.”

 

Australia’s peak body of Islamic councils has welcomed the move.

 

Immediate past president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Rehin Ghauri, said the mufti made controversy instead of friends and was too Sydney centric.

 

Most Australian Muslims would applaud his departure, he said. “al Hilaly is very experienced but he has caused some problems to the community.

 

“I don’t like his personality, I don’t like his style – uncompromising style. I myself am not one of those who pulls punches, pulling punches gets you nowhere, you bring controversy instead of friends.

 

“al Hilaly was made mufti under controversial circumstances and then he stuck to it and he took advantage of it.

 

“The ordinary Muslims don’t like to see him as mufti.”
 
Mr Ghauri said the Mufti’s outspoken remarks had been controversial at times and an imam (Islamic leader) should have balance and respect the needs of the community he serves.

 

He said he hoped Sheik al Hilaly’s successor, Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam, would bring the country together not “create ripple’s in the Australian community”.

Update: From what I can gather, Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam is widely considered a moderate leader. He has even been awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for “his services to multiculturalism, the Muslim community and multi-faith understanding.” And, indeed, that is his message today.

He is described as a moderate, but he refused to comment on whether he would be less controversial than his predecessor.

 

“And so we want to have a very nice relationship with everybody around us and everyone else have a nice relationship with us,” he said.

 

“Extend [our] hand to you, you extend [your] hand to us.

 

“Give us a fair go, we’ll give you a fair go and that’s what we want.”

The Australian Jewish News also notes:

Sheikh Fehmi is widely considered a Muslim moderate, and has been in longstanding dialogue with Rabbi John Levi, an inter-faith pioneer and emeritus rabbi of Temple Beth Israel.

 

In 2004, he told spoke out against Sheikh Hilaly on ABC Radio, saying he “goes overboard in his statements, and sometimes there are a lot of contradictions and outrageous declarations”.

 

Sheikh Fehmi also said of the Jews: “We have nothing against the Jews as Jews, but of course we have our opinion about the situation in Palestine.”

However, like J.Lo, there is a big BUT.

Last year, however, he spoke out at a pro-Hezbollah rally, incurring the ire of Rabbi Levi, who said the Muslim cleric had put Jewish-Muslim inter-faith relations back a decade.

Update: As NeoZionoid notes, the Australian ABC would have us believe Fehmi is in the middle, while he’s clearly not. Perhaps a metaphor for something else; time will tell.

 

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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