'He's Never Spoken for All Muslims'

October 31, 2006

Author: Barney Zwartz

Source: The Age


SHEIKH Taj al-Din al-Hilali may be called mufti of Australia but his only authority was as imam of the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney, Melbourne Muslims have insisted. Now that authority has gone too.

Melbourne leaders said yesterday that "mufti" was merely a courtesy title given to Sheikh Hilali in the 1980s to prevent him being deported. He has never represented Melbourne Muslims, who often find him a source of embarrassment.

"We despise him," said a Turkish imam who did not want to be named. "He makes life difficult for us. The language he uses is really hostile and so crude - the comparisons and justifying the rapes, it's totally unacceptable."

The imam said a third of Australia's Muslims were Turks and Sheikh Hilali did not represent them. But only the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (now in receivership), which appointed him, could remove him.

He said that unless Muslims clarified their disagreement with Sheikh Hilali, people were under the impression they agreed with him.

Emre Celik, director of interfaith group the Australian Intercultural Society, said Sheikh Hilali did not represent the diverse Muslim communities of Australia and asked the media not to suggest that he did.