PLANS for an Australian visit by Islamic preacher Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, who has described Jews as “apes and pigs”, drew condemnation from many sources, but in the end the fanatical imam is staying away.
The Saudi firebrand, who is a senior Sunni cleric and imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, has been denied entry to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom for his anti-Jewish rhetoric.
Al-Sudais has called for the “termination” of Jews, describing them in Hitlerian language as “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs … Read history and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil fathers of the Jews of today, who are evil offspring, infidels … whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs”.
He was initially promoted as the keynote speaker at this weekend’s Australian Islamic Peace Conference in Melbourne. A Department of Immigration spokesperson told The AJN earlier this week he could not confirm whether al-Sudais had a visa, but it was subsequently confirmed on Tuesday night that he had not even applied for an entry visa.
The decision to invite al-Sudais was widely condemned. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) slammed the sheikh’s hateful comments. In a joint statement, ECAJ president Danny Lamm and executive director Peter Wertheim said: “While it is true that al-Sudais and several other advertised speakers from overseas have an appalling record of spreading bigotry and hatred against Jews, Sikhs and gays, and have been barred entry to Canada and the UK, we understand that al-Sudais at least is not in fact coming to Australia.
“It appears that a number of false claims have been made about who will be attending the conference.”
Describing al-Sudais’s rhetoric as “un-Australian”, Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby added: “Given the fact that character is a criterion under Australia migration law, the Saudi was unlikely to be granted such a visa … he is an unsuitable person to enter our pluralist democracy where all Australians are considered equal.”
Immigration and Citizenship Minister Brendan O’Connor said the Saudi preacher’s “character and public statements” would be considered in any visa application he makes.
The three-day Australian Islamic Peace Conference, due to be held this weekend, is expected to attract huge numbers of Muslims to the Melbourne Showgrounds, and was endorsed by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV).
Aside from al-Sudais, other speakers whose names were associated with the conference include supporters of the death penalty for gay people, wife beating and rape, and the work of Osama bin Laden.
The ICV had not responded to an AJN request for comment at the time of going to press.
A statement by interfaith group the Jewish Christian and Muslim Association (JCMA) lamented that “a number of international speakers invited to present are not supportive of religious freedom and have a history of publicly disrespecting other faith communities and encouraging others to adopt the same position. We are concerned that these speakers will introduce overseas hatreds into the local community. These hatreds have no place in Australia.”
In the statement, signed by JCMA president Imam Riad Galil, the organisation issued a public invitation to the conference organisers “to arrange a meeting between their international speakers and a representative group from JCMA”.
However, a JCMA spokesperson told The AJN on Tuesday that it had not yet had a response to its invitation, sent by private email to the organisers, but was still hopeful a meeting could take place after the conference.
ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim slammed Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais’s comments in a joint statement.