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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 15/12/1987
Words: 774
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 1
Australian Muslim groups are receiving more than $100,000 a year in funds from Libya, according to documents obtained by the Herald.

The money is being directed to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), which has close links with Tripoli.

Earlier this year, AFIC representatives went to Tripoli to organise the transfer of funds. Evidence of the Libyan link is contained in AFIC records supplied to the Herald.

Minutes of the AFIC's Federal Congress this year state: "Following the meeting of our delegation with Dr Mohammed Ahmed Sherif in Tripoli in February, 1987, AFIC received a grant of $US100,000 ($A140,000) from the World Islamic Call Society for purpose of investment in order to strengthen the financial viability of the Federation."

Libyan links, or alleged links with the Australasian and Pacific regions in recent years include:

Financial aid for New Caledonia's main pro-independence group, the Kanak Socialist Nationalist Liberation Front.

The movement of weapons into the South Pacific for dissident groups through Vanuatu.

Financial support from a faction of the Free Papua Movement.

The sponsoring of a conference of revolutionary groups attended by Tasmanian Aboriginal activist, Mr Michael Mansell, who reported that the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, would help establish a separate Aboriginal nation if the government did not accede to Aboriginal land rights claims.

Prominent Muslim leaders confirmed that the Libyan money had been received, but insisted that it was a "no strings attached" grant for purely religious and charitable purposes.

They said AFIC received funds from a number of Middle Eastern countries on the condition that Australian groups were free to act with complete independence.

Other AFIC documents suggest that smaller amounts of Libyan money - of about $10,000 - have been used to help fund the legal battle of the controversial religious leader of the Lakemba mosque, Sheikh Taj El-din Hilaly, to stay in the country.

The Sheikh has been fighting a protracted battle with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs which has refused to grant him permanent residence. The former Minister, Mr Hurford, ordered the Sheikh to leave Australia because of an alleged "deep-seated contempt of basic Australian values and attitudes".

The present Minister, Mr Young, however has apparently abandoned legal action and granted the Sheikh a two-year temporary visa.

The documents supplied to the Herald suggest a well-established link between Australian Muslim groups and Tripoli.

In one letter from Sheikh Hilaly to the secretary of the Islamic Call Society in Tripoli, he writes to outline how the previous rules and regulations of the Islamic Centre at Lakemba have been replaced with a true Islamic type of administration which it is hoped will be adopted around Australia.

Yesterday Sheikh Hilaly confirmed that money was coming from Libya but denied that he had received any for his legal costs. He said any documents purporting to show this must be forgeries and were probably the work of enemies in the community who, with the backing of the Saudi Arabians, were seeking to discredit him.

This was because he had resisted the efforts by local representative of Middle Eastern regimes to influence local Muslim affairs and because he had criticised the Saudi royal family for its departure from true Islamic values.

He said he did have connections with Libya, he had lived there for five years, but insisted they were purely religious and without any political overtones.

"We don't stand for anyone seeking to influence us here. If they were to try that we would cut off links immediately. There is nothing wrong with us accepting money for charitable works, for schools and education."

A spokesman for the acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Duffy, said the Federal Government would wait until it was had documentation about the Gaddafi-backed funding before taking action.

The Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Mr John Spender, said that any funds supplied by Gaddafi should be looked upon with scepticism verging on suspicion.

"We all know he funds organisations in different countries, some innocent, ranging to some terrorist," Mr Spender said.

"I have seen no proof about how the money is to be used but we know that Gaddafi is a person who engages in terrorism as an act of policy."

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