Australia/Israel Review


Al-Quds Day at a Sydney Mosque

Jun 3, 2022 | Ran Porat

Poster advertising the Quds Day event at Sydney’s Hussaineyat Ale Yassin (Image: Twitter)
Poster advertising the Quds Day event at Sydney’s Hussaineyat Ale Yassin (Image: Twitter)

The website of the Shi’ite mosque and commemoration hall known as the Hussaineyat Ale Yassin in Sydney contains articles about Islam; for example, explaining why it is a religion of peace. Yet, all pretence of peace disappears when it comes to Israel.

The analysis about war in Islam published on the website argues that “Capitalism has begun to break up bit by bit. Both Japan and France have lost their empires, and British and American colonialism have here and there started tottering, especially in the Middle East, with the advent of the dirty policies of the state of Israel.”

Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi al-Amooli is the senior preacher at Hussaineyat Ale Yassin. A respected member of his community, he was interviewed in 2018 by the ABC about Shi’ites in Australia, and before the coronavirus pandemic, he also led tours to holy places of the Shi’ite faith in Iran and Iraq.

Speaking in perfect English, Mehdi consistently spreads anti-West conspiracies and hate of Israel during his sermons to his followers.

For example, in 2021, he told mosque attendees that “ISIS, Daesh” were “manufactured by whom? By the United States.” To prove his claim he quoted former US President Donald Trump, who blamed his predecessor President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for “founding” ISIS. “And they [Obama and Clinton] never got up and denied it. They didn’t say this is wrong. They didn’t make an issue about this being mentioned. It was normal,” concluded Mehdi.

The Sheikh is also not a fan of members of the LGBTQI+ community. In a 2021 lecture, Mehdi complained that commenting against “rainbow people” might result in being fired.

 

Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany

After the 1979 revolution, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, started the tradition of marking “International Al-Quds Day” every year on the last Friday of Ramadan. During that day, the Iranian regime and its allies hold protests and processions around the world in support of the Palestinians and against Israel, often shouting antisemitic slogans and carrying hateful signs against Israel, the Jews and the West.

Al-Quds Day has also been commemorated in Australia over the last few years, especially by Iran’s network of propagandists and supporters here.

This year Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi gave a special Al-Quds Day Friday sermon (April 29) at his mosque. His lecture was a masterful mix of anti-Israel propaganda, conspiracy theories and hate.

Mehdi opened by presenting his own version of the history of the Middle East. After World War II, claims Mehdi, “the plans and the conspirators had come along for the nation, or the illegitimate nation, of Israel that exists today.”

Next, he introduced an anti-American conspiracy, claiming that the US used the September 11 terror attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq, explaining that “when the Americans wanted to invade Iraq, they wanted the opportunity to invade Iraq and September 11th was that opportunity that allowed them to have a reason to invade Iraq. So, they said, we will go into Afghanistan at first. And on the way, we’ll also take Iraq in this manner, but September 11th… even though … the people that they say committed the attacks on September 11th were majority Saudi nationals, Saudi Arabia was not on their agenda.”

From there, Mehdi slides towards Holocaust distortion, arguing that after World War II, Jewish survivors could have stayed in Europe. “With Palestine, they [the West] said that we need to give these misplaced Jews, these persecuted Jews, a home, which is not true because the misplaced and persecuted Jews they spoke about, a lot of them that were Holocaust survivors actually still lived in the regions that were in their homes or moved to the United States or other countries.” In fact, most Holocaust survivors were displaced after WWII, living in refugee camps. With their families dead, their homes destroyed or taken by others, Europe still rife with antisemitism and the US blocking most immigrants from moving to America, many Holocaust survivors had nowhere to go to.

Mehdi uses the classic anti-Israel argument that Jews under Muslim rule flourished until the State of Israel was created. “We are not anti-Jewish”, Mehdi sanctimoniously says, to justify what he is about to say next. “We never have been. Even the Jews that lived amongst the Muslims, they call it the golden age when they have lived in, there was the golden era of the Jews. There were no problems… the Jews living in Palestine beforehand, lived in these regions… It wasn’t until the secular Zionist neo-conservative entity came in and changed everything… they destroyed everything that existed there.”

It is true that during the 1,300 years of Islamic rule in different parts of the world, Jews had in some places and for some periods enjoyed something of a ‘golden age’ – for instance, in Muslim Spain from roughly 912 to 1066 CE. Yet Jews in Muslim countries were never better than second class protected non-citizens (Dhimmis), always precariously dependent on not offending Muslim rulers, and suffering prosecution, expulsions and pogroms in many periods and in many locations, especially in the last 200 years.

Mehdi escalates his rhetoric, likening Israel to Nazi Germany. “The tragedy here and the irony”, muses Mehdi, “is that what happened to the Palestinians in 1948 was a mirror of what had happened to the Jews a decade before, by Nazi Germany.”

The comparison between Israel and the Nazis, which is an example of antisemitism given in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism, again resurfaces when Mehdi shares a story about the time he was questioned at the UK’s Heathrow Airport about his support for the Lebanese terrorist organisation Hezbollah. According to his story, Mehdi told his interrogator: “You’re British-born. He said, yes. I said when the Nazis attack […] what would you think of any Englishman that refuse to defend the country or refuse to support the defence of the country? He said that person would be a traitor. I said when Israel invaded Lebanon, are we denied that same right? […] He agreed with me.”

Later (near the end of his speech) Mehdi is complaining how unfair it is that “you’re not allowed to support [Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah] now because he’s considered a terrorist [in Australia]. They consider him the same as Abu Bakr al Baghdadi [former ISIS leader], you know, or Usama bin Laden.”

Revealing again his views on the LGBTQI+ community, Mehdi sarcastically comments: “You know, honestly, if you were to think about it, that someone like Elton John [who is gay] would become a knight and someone, like Hassan Nasrallah would become a terrorist. Honestly, what kind of a world do we live in?”

 

Celebrating Sadat’s Assassination

The assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat by Muslim Brotherhood fanatic Khaled Islambouli in October 1981 is celebrated by Mehdi. “Khaled Islambouli rid the world of Anwar Sadat. Sadat was killed by the Muslims. They executed him. Yet, if you go to Iran, Iran, they have a Khaled Islambouli square [in his honour]. They remember him, a young 18-year-old that was killed [executed by Egypt]. And he was martyred over this issue, why? Because Anwar Sadat was the first to give recognition to Israel.”

Mehdi’s next aim is to “prove” that Zionism and Judaism are opposites. “The people that moved [to Israel] were not Jews, the majority of the Zionist government and regime are Jews by race, but that are secular that have no association with Judaism,” he says.

His explanation? Zionists do not follow the Ten Commandments and “accept” homosexuality.

“Firstly, Judaism has the Ten Commandments, two of those commandments are destroyed [by Zionists]. Thou shall not kill – the sixth commandment. And that’s what the Zionists do all the time… They’re actually targeting children.”

Another commandment broken by Zionists, according to Mehdi, is “thou shall not covet” thy neighbour’s house or wife. “Not only do they [Israel] not respect [their neighbours], they also remove them from their homes and take their homes.”

Finally, quoting from Leviticus, he notes that the bible “condemns homosexuality… it actually says they [homosexuals] should be put to death. Tel Aviv today is the most homosexual friendly city in the world. So, it’s not Jewish. It’s secular,” concludes Mehdi.

 

Israel – the root of all problems

Commenting on the 2022 elections (the sermon was given prior to the elections), Mehdi criticises what he describes as the leading Australian politicians grovelling and humiliating themselves to show their support of Israel. “You noticed everyone before they’re running for election, go up to [ALP leader Anthony] Albanese or [Coalition leader, PM Scott] Morrison. Ask them about Israel. They’ll do you a little jig and dance and start singing a quartet. Just so that you would vote for them. Why? Because this is what the most important thing is for them when it comes to getting into election. It’s how loyal and how in love are you with Israel? This is where it goes to. And the perpetrators [Israel] are almost always portrayed as the victims, no matter what happens.”

Approaching the end of his sermon, Mehdi lists the steps Muslims should take with regards to Israel.

“The first thing is never recognise the existence of Israel, refusal to recognise the existence of an entity [Israel].”

Mehdi’s bottom line: Israel is responsible for everything bad in this world. “Just remember this, always remember,” he harangues the crowd, “this is the root of all problems. Whenever someone talks about Daesh [ISIS], the root is Israel. All the Arab governments which are doing Sujud [worshipping] to Tel Aviv, the root [of this] is Israel. You know, you saw Al-Aqsa [mosque in Jerusalem] been attacked while they were doing Iftar [dinner at the end of fasting during Ramadan] – the root is Israel. The origin of all problems is the Zionist entity that exists in the Middle East. So this is what you always need to keep in your mind.”

Actually, extremist conspiratorial views like Mehdi’s are much more at the heart of the region’s problems than the existence of a small Jewish homeland. And Medhi represents, knowingly or unknowingly, the Iranian regime’s efforts to bring those destructive views to Australia.

 

Dr. Ran Porat is an AIJAC Research Associate. He is also a Research Associate at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University and a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Reichman University Herzliya.

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