Monday, March 23, 2009

Breakaway Muslims vote to dismiss executive

Taj Din al-Hilali

Angus Hohenboken, Natalie O'Brien March 24

A FAULTLINE through the most powerful Muslim organisation in the country deepened last night as a breakaway faction of the Lebanese Muslim Association voted to sack its executive.

The meeting of young MLA members, labelled the "Taliban of Lakemba" by controversial Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, was held outside Bankstown Town Hall in west Sydney after the group was reportedly shut out of the venue due to security concerns.

The 54 association members at the meeting voted unanimously in favour of motions of no confidence in the board's six executive office-holders.

"All we are asking is for a fair vote in April," Bilal Alameddine said. "From today there will basically be two boards directing what goes on in the (Lakemba) Mosque: nine on our side and six on their side."

Members said that, while the no confidence motions named the board's six office-holders, no one was singled out -- rather it was a vote of no confidence in the executive amid concerns the vote for the new board at the annual general meeting next month would be rigged.

The power struggle is mainly between the younger generation and the old guard, with tensions escalating in recent years.

LMA president Shawky Kassir said the executive would not accept the vote, as the executive was accepted by the majority of the organisation's 400 members.

"There is only one legitimate board," Mr Kassir said. "Irrelevant of its outcome, the meeting was not legal.

"They go and meet wherever they want and whenever they want -- any decision outside the proper procedure of the LMA constitutional law will not be accepted by the members and everybody around the mosque."

One senior Muslim said the younger group were "crazy and will stop at nothing".

The LMA board had previously sent a letter to the members attempting to cancel the meeting, and failed in an attempt to get an injunction in the Supreme Court to stop the meeting going ahead.

Mr Alameddine, who strenuously denied claims the group had Taliban ideology, said the cancelled venue booking was another example of the "political games" being played by the board. "The council asked the police for a risk assessment over the meeting and the police said there was no risk, but the council still cancelled the meeting because of security concerns," he said. "We are not radicals."

Bankstown City Council could not be contacted at the time of going to publication.

Trouble was expected at the Lakemba Mosque last Friday after confrontations last week between supporters of Sheik Hilali and his rivals, but a guest imam from Lebanon gave the sermon instead of Sheik Hilali.

Several scuffles have broken out during prayer times after the Nine Network's A Current Affair played security video footage of Sheik Hilali kicking in a door in his own mosque before calling in the police to report an act of vandalism.

The Muslim youths believe Sheik Hilali staged the vandalism to frame them and gain public support.

Sheik Hilali has denied the allegations and says there is more CCTV footage that proves there was a break-in.

Source: The Australian

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