by Isaac Wilson
THE threat of deportation hanging over a top Islamic cleric has angered Christian ministers in the Inner West. who have rallied to support the religious leader
Father Dave Smith of the Holy Trinity Church at DulwIch Hill organised the Save the Sheik Christian Coalition week after hearing that Sheik Mansour Leghaei – who is the founder and religious director of the Imam Husain Islamic Centre and the School of Islamic Theology Earlwood – had lost his High Court appeal.
Father Dave said he was appalled that Sheik Mansour had been told to “deport himself” by the Australian Security earlier this month following a lengthy battle to clear his name with the spy agency.
“I’m not willing to see a man like that thrown out of the country just because he’s the wrong religion or colour,” Father Dave said, adding that the sheik was well known for his international mindset and big heart.
The pair had organised a Christians and Muslims can he Friends group and were hoping to bring other religions into the fold.
“The idea that this man cold somehow be a threat to national security is simply outrageous,” he said.
Sheikh Mansour has lived in Australia for 13 years and has four dependants who are citizens, including one child who was born here, but had not even been told why his visa had been revoked Father Dave said.
A Federal Court ruling in 2005 said ASIO did not have to disclose why It considered him a threat.
Father Dave said the Sheikh’s appeal was not about whether he was a risk to national security but about whether he had the right to have the matter heard in court.
“Denying Mansour the right to defend himself is nothing short of outrageous,” Father Dave said. “If I was picked up in Iran on suspicion of some crime, but told that because I was Australian I had no fair right to a trial, the community here would be understandably incensed, and we’d see it as an act of a totalitarian regime. Why is it any different when the boot is on the other foot:”
Sheik Mansour said he had no intentions of leaving. I have asked the community and they don’t want me to go,” he said.
The coalition met last Friday to show support and discuss ways to move forward, Father Dave said he hoped the sheik would not be forcibly deported before the group could take further action.
CALLED INTO QUESTION
ASIO’s decision followed interviews in 1995, 1996 and 1999 during which Sheik Mansour was questioned about an Iraqi group based in Auburn, his role as a meat certifier, his income, the 1989 fatwa on author Salman Rushdie and a book seized by Customs at Sydney Airport that ASIO claimed contained jihadist material – the sheik denied this claim, blaming poor translation on ASIO’s part.