by Jeanette Stephen
Community vowing to fight deportation of cleric
A community rally will be held at Hurlstone Park on Sunday to protest the deportation of a Muslim cleric from Earlwood.
Sheikh Mansour Legahaei is facing voluntary deportation after his High Court appeal against an earlier decision to refuse him citizenship was recently dismissed.
The Shiite Muslim is considered a threat to national security, however is not permitted to see the evidence held as grounds against his plea for citizenship because he is neither a permanent resident nor a citizen.
In the couple’s home, the Sheikh’s wife, Marzi, keeps a suitcase packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice, devout in her faith and loyal to her husband.
After 14 years in the country, the father-of-four says he now calls Australia home but cannot understand why the Federal Government will not allow him to call himself Australian.
“I have never lived in any city more than in Sydney,” the Sheikh told the Valley Times.
“My children are grown here and really we have become part of the community here. By default, I feel like I am a citizen even though I don’t have the piece of paper.”
The appeal’s dismissal is the latest step in the saga that has been unfolding since 1996.
The Sheikh says he was first confronted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) over an Islamic text found in his luggage on a trip from his former home in Ifshahan, Iran.
The Sheikh disputes the partial translation of the Arabic text into English.
“I know 200 percent that I’m not a risk to national security,” Sheikh Leghai said.
“If you don’t have permanent residency, you cannot have citizenship., I speak English, I work with the community…..Imaging for the last 11 years, we have been like this,” he said.
“Its really a psychological impact. I don’t like to call it cruel, it’s not really fair. If they arrest me for some crimes and don’t tell me what the problem is – if I was a citizen, they have the obligation to show me the evidence and I have the information to defend myself.”
The Sheikh’s many supporters come from a broad section of the community and have vowed to fight for him to be allowed to remain in Australia, arguing that he is a leading figure for interfaith harmony in the community.
The Save the Sheikh Action Committee rally will be held at Ewen Park, Tennant Parade in Hurlstone Park on Sunday from 12.30 pm.