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Sheikh sparks outrage
January 19, 2007
A controversial Muslim leader who has advocated martyrdom to children and described Jews as pigs could face up to 15 years in jail if charged under Australian anti-terror laws.
Political and religious figures, including local Islamic leaders, yesterday accused Sheikh Feiz Muhammad of inciting hatred and terrorism through recorded lectures that have been sold in Australia on DVD.
Federal police confirmed they were investigating 16 DVDs, sold under the Death Series title, featuring sermons by Sheikh Muhammad, the head of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool.
In one of the DVDs, Sheikh Muhammad advocates offering children "as soldiers defending Islam".
"Teach them this: there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid (holy warrior)," Sheikh Muhammad says. "Put in their soft, tender hearts the zeal of jihad and a love of martyrdom."
In another passage, Sheikh Muhammad says that being a disbeliever is "filth" and makes pig noises after stating that "Jews are pigs that will be killed at the end of the world".
The DVDs came to light after the airing on Britain's Channel 4 this week of a documentary, Undercover Mosque. Its producers bought the series from children selling Islamic materials outside a mosque in England.
Copies were still on sale yesterday in an Islamic bookshop in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba, and on the Sydney youth centre's website.
Acting federal Attorney-General Kevin Andrews denounced the sheik's remarks as "reprehensible and offensive" and said the Government was concerned about a "developing pattern of behaviour" among some Islamic clerics. "The importation of hatred into Australia is totally unacceptable," he said.
Sheikh Muhammad was born in Australia to Lebanese parents, but has been living in Lebanon for the past year, which could complicate any plan to prosecute him under Australian law. Canberra does not have an extradition agreement with Beirut.
He became a controversial figure in 2005 when he told an audience in Bankstown, Sydney, that women were solely to blame for being raped. "Strapless, backless, sleeveless, they are nothing but satanical," he said. "Mini-skirts, tight jeans — all this to tease men and to appeal to (their) carnal nature."
Yesterday, NSW Premier Morris Iemma called on Canberra to use sedition laws to outlaw the DVDs. "He has gone way beyond the sort of outrageous and stupid comments made in recent times by the other sheikh," said Mr Iemma, referring to Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali. "This fellow is inciting people to commit acts of terror," Mr Iemma said.
Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said the comments were "obscene in the extreme" and called on the Government to act against the sheikh. "As I see it, Sheikh Muhammad's statements add up to an incitement to terrorism," he said. "I would say this to Sheikh Muhammad: Do not return to Australia, you are not welcome here."
Jeremy Jones, of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, accused Sheikh Muhammad of "engaging in a campaign of poisoning minds" against the Australian way of life. "Feiz Mohammed comes across like a very angry fanatic, which is very dangerous, particularly as someone who wants to be inspiring youth," he said.
Michael Lipshutz, chairman of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission, said he was concerned that Sheikh Muhammad's "racist anti-Semitic diatribe" reflected a rising level of anti-Semitism in the Muslim community.
Mr Lipshutz said the comments "should rally the Muslim community to combat this intolerable, vile epidemic among its members".
Keysar Trad, of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said Sheikh Muhammad had gone against Muslim ideals of "being a good person, a good citizen, a good samaritan and a positive constructive part of society".
Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Aly said: "If (authorities) genuinely believe there has been a breach of the law, then I don't think anyone can object to that law being applied. This sort of preaching is a real concern."
Human rights lawyer Lex Lasry, QC, said under the Criminal Code, it was an offence to intentionally recruit (including incite and encourage) a person to participate in terrorism. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Ali Khalil, a member of the Global Islamic Youth Centre, last night described Sheik Muhammad as a "great bloke" and said his comments could have been misinterpreted. "Dying for the cause of Islam … or dying as a jihad doesn't necessarily mean going to war and killing someone and you dying in the process."
But Mr Khalil, 24, said he did not agree with the sheikh's comments about Jews. "I wouldn't like to be called that and I wouldn't like to call anyone that," he said.
With PETER KER, JANO GIBSON, NICK O'MALLEY, AAP