- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

MELBOURNE, Australia — The anti-American leader of Australia’s largest mosque has infuriated his adopted country again by asserting that Muslims have more right to live in the country than Westerners who descended from the first convict settlers.

Taj el-din al-Hilali, 65, previously inflamed public opinion by declaring the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States were “God’s work against oppressors” and comparing “immodestly dressed” women to “uncovered meat.” He also has dismissed the Holocaust as a “Zionist lie.”

Such remarks by Sheik al-Hilali, mufti of Sydney’s Lakemba Mosque, outraged moderate Muslims and the mainstream community alike, and in November 2006, he went on extended leave to the Middle East and his homeland of Egypt.

Now, Sheik al-Hilali has further fanned furor by appearing on Egyptian TV and accusing Westerners of being “the biggest liars and oppressors — especially the English race.”

“The Anglo-Saxons who arrived in Australia landed in shackles,” he said. “We paid for passports from our own pockets. We have a right in Australia more than they have.”

The sheik first came to Australia in 1982, became a permanent resident in 1990 and eventually became a citizen.

During his TV interview, Sheik al-Hilali said his time in Australia had given him great insight into the Australian way of life and “oppressive” Western mentality.

He maintained that lengthy jail terms given to a gang of Lebanese Muslims for a gang rape in Sydney last year were “excessive” and had been influenced by the September 11 attacks.

He also criticized legal unions between homosexual couples because “Australian law guarantees freedoms to the point of insanity.”

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone was quick to question Sheik al-Hilali’s commitment to being an Australian citizen.

“I remind the sheik that if he doesn’t like Australia — our heritage or our way of life — then he doesn’t have to come back,” she said.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the public no longer took his comments seriously. A spokesman for Prime Minister John Howard said that, while Sheik al-Hilali was a “growing embarrassment to his community,” the issue could only be resolved appropriately by Muslims.

Opposition Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd dismissed the sheik as being “several sandwiches short of a picnic.”

But the Age newspaper declared in an editorial that Sheik al-Hilali now “has no right to hold office. He must go,” and took issue with the “somewhat disingenuous” remarks by politicians.

“Because the sheik continues to use his public position to make his pronouncements, he cannot be dismissed merely as someone whose unorthodox opinions are irrelevant or uninfluential,” the newspaper said.

In an unrelated event concerning Muslims, a local council in Sydney has canceled a rally by the radical Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir to promote its call for Australia to become part of a Caliphate, or Islamic superstate. The event had been scheduled for Jan. 27, a day after Australia’s national day holiday.

Articles published on the group’s Web site say Israel is an illegal state and that Iraq is an “occupied land” whose residents “have a duty” to resist the U.S.-led coalition.

Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock has said there is not enough evidence to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organization, but that the government will monitor the group’s activities.

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