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Another Reason to Worry Down Under

Just when you thought Sheikh Catmeathead’s departure might lead to less public manifestations of bad behavior from Australian Muslim leaders, along comes Sheikh Camel Kamal Mousselmani, who is telling the world he proudly supports Hezbollah.

The nation’s most senior Shia Muslim cleric has attacked John Howard for backing Israel against Arabs and openly declared his allegiance to the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.

Kamal Mousselmani — head of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council of Australia — said yesterday his entire community considered Hezbollah a “resistance group”, not a terrorist network, and lashed the Howard Government over its support for Israel.

“They (the Australian Government) are encouraging terrorism,” the Lebanese-born cleric told The Weekend Australian in an interview conducted in Arabic. “Australia is encouraging Israel to kill our people daily. Write that down, we are not afraid of anyone.”

Sheik Mousselmani said all of Australia’s approximately 30,000 Shi’ites were avid supporters of Hezbollah (Party of God) and haters of Israel.

“Shia in Australia consider Israel a terrorist organisation and also view those who support Israel in the same light,” he said. “That’s what we believe.

“If Australia supports Israel, they are defending terrorism. Because we believe terrorists come from Israel — not from our people — I support Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah’s military arm, the External Security Organisation, is a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia, and supporting Hezbollah’s political and military wings is illegal under UN counter-terrorist financing declarations.

Sheik Mousselmani said Hezbollah was responsible for financially assisting and providing food and shelter for victims of the 34-day war in southern Lebanon last year.

The cleric said neither he nor Hezbollah condoned suicide terrorism missions.

“We are against the suicide bombings going on around the world,” he said.

“And Hezbollah is against it.

“Our opinion is that Hezbollah is not a terrorist group. We consider Hezbollah a resistance group. Put those words down, we are not afraid to say that.”

Sheik Mousselmani’s comments come as national security agencies step up their investigation into the Shia community in Australia, which until now has not been as closely monitored as the Sunni Muslims.

The Weekend Australian understands security authorities are monitoring financial transactions between community members and organisations abroad.

Sydney’s Arncliffe Mosque, the largest Shia place of worship in Australia, and Melbourne’s Fawkner Mosque are also understood to be of interest to the authorities.

Sheik Mousselmani confirmed his community sent money to war victims in Lebanon following last year’s conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, but said none of the money went to Shia militants.

“People send money to their families … just like Greek people and Chinese people send to their families,” he said.

“No one from our community sends money directly to Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not expecting us to send them money. They don’t need our money.”

Asked if his organisation would send money if Hezbollah were to ask for it, he said: “If they need it, that would be an entirely different matter.”

Sheik Mousselmani said there was no threat of his views radicalising young Shia men in Australia because Hezbollah’s ideology was limited to Lebanon. His community was law-abiding and would staunchly oppose any attack against Australia.

“None of our people think this way,” said Sheik Mousselmani, rejecting extremism. “We love Australia, we respect Australia, we are part of the multicultural society. We protect Australia and we work for Australia.

“But it does not mean we like Israel. If John Howard wants George Bush and Israel, that’s his problem. We’ve got nothing to do with him.”

Sheik Mousselmani said Hezbollah did not have a branch in Australia.

“Hezbollah is not operating outside of Lebanon,” he said. “Hezbollah is defending Lebanon against Israel. We either back Hezbollah or we back Israel, and Israel is killing our people.”

He said the Arncliffe Mosque, Al Zahra, in Sydney’s inner south, was strictly a place of worship and was never used as a political platform.

The 36-year-old cleric dismissed claims his community received funds from Iran to spread the ideology of religious hardliners in Tehran.

He said the Shia community in Australia took its religious orders and advice from Iraq’s supreme Islamic leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Husaini al-Sistani. “The Shia community has nothing to hide.”

Of course, this is not exactly what Mousselmani was saying last year:

Two Australian citizens suspected of sending thousands of dollars to Lebanon to help fund Hezbollah during the recent conflict with Israel are being investigated for allegedly breaching terror financing laws.

Australia’s anti-money laundering regulator Austrac has identified at least five suspicious transactions involving two people after closely examining every financial transfer between Australia and Lebanon during the 57-day war.

—-.

The head of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council of Australia, Kamal Mousselmani, told The Australian yesterday he had also assured ASIO at the beginning of the conflict that the Shia community would not provide any financial support to Hezbollah. He said his community often sent money to relatives in Lebanon, but not to Hezbollah.

He added that he was confident there was no organised financial support for Hezbollah in Australia.

“That’s what we told ASIO,” he said.

“There is no benefit in being with Hezbollah. We support our people in Lebanon, but not Hezbollah.”

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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