Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mufti to be ousted by Muslim leaders
Richard KerbajApril 04, 2006

A POWERFUL group of Muslim leaders has moved to depose the contentious Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali as Mufti of Australia - the nation's most senior Islamic cleric.The Australian understands the high-profile but controversial spiritual leader of Australia's 300,000 Muslims will be challenged for his position at a meeting of Islamic leaders within weeks.
Under the plan to oust Sheik Hilali, the NSW Muslim Council proposes to call for the position to be made vacant as part of a plan to set up a national board of imams identified by the executive of the umbrella body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
The NSW Muslim Council proposes redrawing AFIC's constitution so that the mufti position would be decided by a vote of Islamic council representatives from around Australia.
The proposed new rules for AFIC - which represents the nation's nine leading Muslim organisations - obtained by The Australian, states: "The AFIC executive committee in conjunction with the federal council and the AFIC state board of imams shall set up a national council of imams under a mufti of Australia who shall be appointed by the congress of AFIC at the recommendation of the executive committee."
The Australian understands the push to depose the Egyptian-born Sheik Hilali from the position he has held since 1989 follows criticism levelled at him by the federal Government and Islamic leaders over his outspoken opposition to John Howard's hand-picked Muslim advisory board.

The chairman of the NSW Muslim Council, Neil Kadomi, said yesterday the plan would give "specific" members of the community the opportunity to choose their mufti. "So many ... say that he (Hilali) is not our mufti," he told The Australian yesterday.
Mr Kadomi said the proposal would make official the position of mufti and be included in the AFIC's constitution.
The outspoken Sheik Hilali, head of Lakemba Mosque in Sydney's southwest, has divided the Muslim community since he was named Mufti by AFIC in 1989. He is paid by the federation but the position has no formal grounding in the body's constitution.
Sheik Hilali, who is considered a moderate leader but has regularly shaken relations with the Howard Government, still has a strong powerbase, particularly within the Lebanese community.
The Mufti, a member of the Prime Minister's Muslim Community Reference Group, told The Australian last month the 14-member body was "stillborn" and had been set up to disseminate Howard Government "propaganda".
He made an extraordinary dash to Iraq last year in an effort to help the Howard Government secure the freedom of kidnapped Australian Douglas Wood.
Mr Kadomi said the proposed process of appointing a new mufti would be more democratic and would be a great test to see rate Sheik Hilali's popularity.
He said the vote to appoint a mufti "would have to be a majority decision".
But the vote would not be determined by the nation's 300,000-strong Muslim population, but by the nine state- and territory-based AFIC-member organisations, including on Christmas Island.

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