For the past few weeks, I have been spending time with my parents in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia. And a more relaxed place you will be hard pressed to find. Gorgeous weather, friendly people, and relative quiet – it is very easy to forget about the troubles in the Middle East, and, indeed, other parts of the world.
But reading the local news this morning, I was reminded that no matter where you are, there are signs of the impending threat to the West.
A Muslim school in Kenwick has been raided by police and shut down by WA Education Minister Mark McGowan. The school’s head faces a stealing charge.
Mr McGowan said he had taken the extraordinary step of closing Muslim Ladies’ College in Kenwick because of allegations, including fraud and the use of unregistered teachers who were focusing mainly on religion, rather than the WA curriculum.
The school’s acting director, Zubair Sayed, appeared in East Perth Magistrates Court on Saturday charged with stealing.
The court was told the charge related to an alleged theft offence — of $355,934 — in April, when Mr Sayed, of Sarah Close, Canning Vale, was a company director of Muslim Links Australia Ltd.
It is alleged the school was overclaiming for state and federal government funds for students. Police prosecutor Sgt Scott McCormick told the court that detectives had discovered the money had been sent to Pakistan.
“This is a matter which is of extreme seriousness, whereby Mr Sayed obtained public money from the commonwealth by deceit,” Sgt McCormick said. “The state wishes to put on the record that this is a very serious charge.”
The court was told that Mr Sayed wrote a Commonwealth Bank cheque for money from the Federal Government that was meant for the Muslim Ladies’ College to educate students.
At the time, Mr Sayed’s brother was principal of the college.
Magistrate Vicki Stewart granted Mr Sayed bail, with conditions he surrender his passport, not be within 1km of international sea or air ports, report to Cannington police station each Wednesday and reside at his home address.
He was released on $100,000 bail and a $100,000 surety to reappear in Perth Magistrates Court on January 2 next year.
On Friday, Mr McGowan told The Sunday Times: “I want to make it clear that this decision (to close the school) has not been made because this is a Muslim school.
“This decision has been made because this is a school that is not educating students properly.
“An investigation into the operations of the college by the Department of Educational Services began in December 2006 — following complaints about the conduct of the principal-administrator, staffing of the college and the educational program.”
Key areas investigated included whether teachers were registered, the appropriateness of qualifications of teachers, inadequate educational leadership and standard of education, and the sufficiency of the school’s resources.
Mr McGowan said other concerns were about the college’s governance structure, the condition of buildings, and facilities and enrolment, and attendance procedures.
He said it was found that teachers were inexperienced in teaching and understanding the curriculum framework, and students weren’t being taught all required subjects.
“The college has employed a number of unregistered teachers and many with limited authority to teach,” he said. “Teachers are not spending 50 per cent of the school day on literacy and numeracy, as required.
“Instead (they) spend a large amount of time on religious studies. This is clearly unacceptable and seriously damaging to the student’s academic well-being.
“The school is not being properly led because the director of the college (Anwar Sayed) is in Afghanistan and has been for most of the year.”
Mr McGowan wrote to the school’s governing body to notify them of his decision, which took effect from Friday.
He said enrolments had declined in the past year, from about 90 students at the beginning of 2007 to about 50 or 60 students currently.
Color me paranoid, but I’m willing to bet that the word “Jihad” came up numerous times during these “religious studies.”
I’m also willing to bet the money sent to Pakistan was not earmarked for an orphanage, and the college’s director was not in Afghanistan sightseeing.
I sure hope I’m wrong, because if I’m right, Australians are in for one hell of a ride. Just like the rest of us.