Australia 'defending terrorism'
Sydney, June 23, 2007
Australia's top Shia Muslim cleric has said he supports the Hizbollah group and attacked the Australian government for 'defending terrorism' because of its support for Israel.
Kamal Mousselmani, head of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council of Australia, told the Weekend Australian newspaper in an interview that Australia was encouraging people to 'kill our people daily'.
'If Australia supports Israel, they are defending terrorism. Because we believe terrorists come from Israel -- not from our people. I support Hizbollah,' Mousselmani said in the interview, which the paper said was conducted in Arabic.
The comments come after a series of controversies involving Australian Muslim clerics.
Earlier this month, Sheikh Taj El-Din Hilaly stepped down as mufti of Australia after comments seen as justifying rape and his anti-US stance were blamed for inflaming anti-Muslim sentiment.
Hilaly had likened unveiled women to uncovered meat during a Ramadan sermon last November. He subsequently told Egyptian television that Muslims had a greater right to be in Australia than white Australians of convict heritage.
Australia has about 280,000 Muslims, of whom about 30,000 are Shia.
Mousselmani said Australia's Shia community avidly supported Hizbollah and hated Israel, but insisted neither he nor Hizbollah condoned suicide bombings.
'We are against the suicide bombings going on around the world. And Hizbollah is against it. Our opinion is that Hizbollah is not a terrorist group.'
The newspaper said that the comments came as Australian security authorities were looking into transactions between the Shia community and groups overseas.
Mousselmani said the community had sent money to victims of last year's fighting between Hizbollah and Israel, but none of the money had gone to militants.
He said the Shia community would oppose any attack on Australia. Reuters