Following the terror incident at Bourke Street in Melbourne (November 9) – where Hassan Khalif Shire Ali set his SUV on fire, then murdered well-known restaurateur Sisto Malaspina and stabbed two other people non-fatally before being shot dead by police – PM Scott Morrison portrayed the attack as being a result of ‘extreme Islam’ radicalising people into terrorists.
Unfortunately, a familiar and highly problematic voice appointed himself to speak on behalf of Muslims in response – Sheikh Mohammed Omran, the emir of the Hume Islamic Youth Centre (HIYC) at Coolaroo where Shire Ali reportedly attended prayer sessions over the last few years. Omran slammed (The Australian, November 13) Morrison calling him “This bloody Prime Minister”, suggesting that Shire Ali would not be labelled a terrorist “if this man was a Christian” while refusing to acknowledge any authority over the youth attending his mosque. The next day, Omran criticised (The Australian, November 14) Australian authorities for not disclosing information to him about the circumstances of his son’s death in Syria. Ayman Omran was 26 when a missile strike killed him in the northern Syrian city of Idlib, which was (and is) controlled by rebel forces. Omran supported his son’s trip to Syria, which was purported to be a humanitarian mission, despite the clear DFAT travel warning for Australians not to go to Syria. DFAT also explains that “The ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australians in Syria is extremely limited” and that aiding any military group in Syria is forbidden under Australian law.
Yet following these interventions by Omran, yet another tie between Omran, the organisations he leads, and terrorism was revealed. Newly released court transcripts show that Omran’s HIYC was also the preferred mosque of the members of a terror cell caught attempting to spread death on Christmas Day at the heart of Melbourne’s most famous locations in 2016, their trial revealed. Ahmed Mohamed, Abdullah Chaarani and Hamza Abbas were convicted of terror offences on Nov. 2. During their trial, the court saw the Whatsapp correspondence between Mohamed and Chaarani about praying the HIYC and heard that the group had met up at the HIYC before setting out a reconnaissance mission on Dec. 20, 2016 to case terrorism targets for their planned upcoming Christmas Day attack.
Omran’s long history of connections to terror
It’s important to understand who Omran really is, and why he should not be allowed to present himself as the voice of Australian Muslims. Once labelled “grandfather of Islamic fundamentalism in Melbourne”, Jordanian born Omran has a long history of association with violent Jihad and terrorism in and out of Australia, both personally and as a senior leader of the extreme radical Islamic Salafist movement, Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah (ASWJ) (translates into: the family of the way of the prophet Mohammad – and society).
As AIJAC had previously revealed in numerous articles dating back to 2005 – see here, here, here and here – the Australian branch of ASWJ, founded by Omran in 1985 in Melbourne, is considered the most radical Muslim group in Australia. The various social and religious activities of ASWJ are carried out by a group of preachers who often call for Muslim disengagement from the general Australian public, spread antisemitic views to their many followers, and frequently voice support for violent Jihad in mosques and centres across Australia.
Omran’s connections to the global terrorist group al-Qaeda were first noted in 1993 when he was linked to a cell of the organisation in Spain. The following year, Omran hosted Abu Qatada, a British al-Qaeda supporter (deported to Jordan in 2013) in Australia. Abu Qatada and Osama bin Laden were featured in favourable profiles in the online magazine Nida’ul Islam (Call to Islam), published by the Islamic Youth Movement, which is related to Omran and ASWJ.
In 2005, Omran labelled al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden “a good man”, saying he would “dispute any evil action linked to Bin Laden. Again, I don’t believe that even September 11 – from the beginning, I don’t believe that it was done by any Muslim at all, or any other activities”. Instead, suggested Omran, the CIA made Bin Laden into a powerful force and argued that the 9/11 attacks were “orchestrated by someone within the American Government or helped by them”, “an inside job”. The same conspiracy theories were distributed at the time by Mecca News which was an ASWJ publication of which Omran was Editor-in-Chief with a self-proclaimed circulation of 10,000 copies.
Omran’s students have testified that they were all “willing to strap themselves up” to become suicide bombers. He has praised suicide bombers and criticised Australia as “rubbish because women walk down the street not wearing veils and the men drink.”
ASWJ – The boutique house for radicalism and terror
Like its founder, Sheikh Omran, ASWJ – the powerhouse of Islamic radicalisation – has long been linked with individuals who later became terrorists.
Prior to the examples revealed this week, in November 2005, nine Melbourne men who attended an ASWJ prayer hall in Brunswick were charged with terror-related offences. These men later became followers of Abdul Nacer Benbrika, convicted for his role in masterminding a plot to blow up Melbourne’s landmarks in 2004. In 2006 ASWJ was associated with al-Qaeda-linked Australian terrorists Jack Thomas, Ahmad Kalek and Shane Kent. In 2015, ASWJ was connected to Sydney’s Street Da’wah preachers, some of whose followers went on to become ISIS militants in Syria.
Abd al-Salam Zoud, an influential ideological ASWJ leader emerges time and time again as being in contact with terrorists. In 2000 he met in Malaysia with Abu Bakar Bashir, the Indonesian spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing. In the meeting was also Jack Roche, later convicted of plotting to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra. In 2005, Zoud was contacted by Zaky Mallah, later convicted of threatening to kill an ASIO officer, seeking endorsement to become Australia’s first suicide bomber, by travelling to Lebanon and killing non-Muslims. In the same year, Zoud communicated with Willie Brigitte, incarcerated in France for his role in a foiled terror attack against nuclear and army facilities in Sydney. Zoud also presided over Brigitte’s wedding to Melanie Brown, a recruiter in Australia for terrorist attacks.
Several of Feiz Mohammad’s other followers were tied to terror. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the 2013 Boston Marathon bomber, was following, ‘liking’ and sharing lectures on social media by Mohammad. Mohammad’s student, Australian Ahmad Elomar, was arrested in Lebanon for terrorism-related offences, and Wassim Fayad, who labelled Bin Laden a “Soldier of God”, lashed a Sydney man 40 times for drinking alcohol. Feiz Mohammad’s ‘Global Islamic Youth Centre’ in Liverpool, Sydney was raided by the Australian Police for selling books and DVDs calling on Muslims to sacrifice their lives in a “jihad martyrdom” war against the West. Mohammad has called for the beheading of Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
ASWJ leaders oppose integration into Australian society and instead advocate separatism amongst Muslims in Australia. In 2001, Zoud warned against the children of Muslim emigrants to Australia going stray from Islam because of the influence of the “Jews, Christians and the pagans”. To a large crowd of 1,000 people, Feiz Mohammad said in 2005 that women are to be blamed for being raped because they wear revealing clothes “to tease man and appeal to his carnal nature.” In 2008, he compared modern Western society to “a stinking toilet” and defined it as satanic. In 2016 he warned that it was a major sin for Muslims to attend non-Muslim events like New Year’s Eve celebrations. Abu Bakr Zaoud sent a similar message in his lecture titled “Warning, Christmas Has Arrived!!!”.
Jihad to free Jerusalem and Antisemitism
ASWJ preachers constantly and openly voice antisemitic views and encourage their followers to wage Jihad to free Al-Quds (Jerusalem). Omran himself was leading the way in that regard. Responding to AIJAC’s expose (August 2005) about antisemitic books sold in the ASWJ bookshops, Omran referred to four supposed quotes from the Talmud which he claimed “legalises and promotes crime against non-Jews” by Jews. Yet, these “Talmudic quotes” are widely published on antisemitic websites, and were either fabricated or taken out of context.
In 2007, Feiz Mohammad labelled Jews “pigs that will be killed at the end of the world”, calling them racist and evil. Another ASWJ preacher, Mohammad Doar, explained in November 2017 that the Muslims today “are disgraced by the most disgraced nation, the Jews.” Abu Bakr Zaoud exposed his antisemitic prejudices (February 2018) by implying that Jews love money.
During his sermon at the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney in December 2017, Abd Al-Salam Zoud called on all Muslims to unite and wage Jihad with “body” and money to free Jerusalem. He praised martyrs sacrificing their lives for the sake of Palestine; described Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israelis as heroes and celebrated the actions of early 20th century Palestinian terrorist Izz al-Din al-Qassam. Zoud cited an Islamic tradition which says that in Palestine “the Jews will be killed by the Muslims as they hide behind the stones and the trees! […On judgment day] The Messiah will kill the Dajjal [the evil figure in Islamic eschatology] and his Jewish followers.”
Similarly, in July 2017, Abu Bakr Zaoud gave a sermon where he called on Muslims to follow the example of Salah al-Din al-Ayoubi, who conquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the 12th century. In October that year Zaoud explained that Jerusalem “is occupied”, and that “the Israelis are inside; the Zionists, they have their own agenda and their own evil plans to do whatever they want to do with it”.
These facts should be kept in mind next time Omran tries to portray himself as a victim or the voice of Muslims in Australia. As AIJAC’s research has revealed for more than a decade, he has proven over the years to be very much the voice of the “extremist radical Islam” which leads to the sort of violence which PM Morrison criticised. He is at the heart of a very large part of the problem here in Australia – no one should expect him to be part of the solution.