Finally, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) is facing serious scrutiny.
It could soon lose its status as a charity as the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (ACNC) investigates ‘inappropriate use of funds’ at AFIC. And that should be simply the start of matters.
The charities watchdog will investigate reports that AFIC funds have been used for private purposes, including legal fees and overseas trips. As part of the investigation, the ACNC will also look into how AFIC operates its halal certification operations. Hallelujah I say.
This investigation is long overdue. And it is by no means the only investigation required. In fact, it is just the tip of the iceberg.
There has been an ongoing culture of financial irregularity and non-compliance within the Islamic community stretching back many years. Here are just some examples (and I went into much further detail in my submission to the Senate inquiry into halal certification):
- In September 1982, the Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry found AFIC had poor financial and administrative performance.
- In September 2005, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that SICHMA was involved in a legal case regarding allegedly unapproved loans of over $1 million to charities.
- In July 2006, SBS reported that AFIC had its assets frozen due to its inability to produce evidence that its board was properly elected.
- In March 2010, the West Australian reported that two administrators of the Islamic College of Australia were found guilty of fraud involving millions of dollars.
- In July 2012, The Australian reported that Melk Fahd Islamic school had been ordered to pay back over $9 million in public funding because it had been diverted to AFIC.
- In December 2012, The Australian reported that senior members on the AFIC board had been suspended while an auditor investigated the alleged loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- In January 2014, Fairfax media reported that a number of Islamic charities, community organisations and individuals had been warned to stop sending funds to Syria through the channels they had been using.
- In September 2014, The Australian reported that a money transfer company was suspended after allegedly funding Islamic State terrorists.
- In April 2015, The Australian reported that the al-Furqan Islamic Centre, which a number of terrorism suspects have been linked to, was under investigation for alleged tax, social security and financial fraud.
- In July 2015, the ABC reported that members of an Islamic charity based in Australia were arrested in Lebanon for allegedly raising funds for the Islamic State.
This all follows the news that the largest Islamic School in Australia, the Malek Fahd Islamic College, faces closure. Essentially, the allegation is that this school has been operating as a cash cow for AFIC and that government funds meant for students have ended up lining the pockets of senior Islamic figures in this country. Some of these figures have linked-up with Wahhabist extremists to create a global halal empire. These same figures have criticised the sentences handed down to convicted terrorists.
It’s a big story considering the big dollars involved. The Malek Fahd Islamic College was given a cool $115,620,887 by the federal government between 2005 and 2013. Actually, Australian taxpayers forked out for that.
And that is just one Islamic school operated by AFIC.
As I also wrote in my detailed submission to the Senate inquiry into halal certification, there is a ‘perfect storm’ for terrorism funding within the Islamic community.
This perfect storm is a result of:
- The requirement for Muslims to pay annual tithes under Islamic law, which may be used for armed jihad.
- The legality under Islamic Sharia law of armed jihad against non-Muslims.
- The evidence that large numbers of Muslims in Australia are prepared to support the Islamic State, including by direct participation as jihadis.
- The equivocal condemnation of terrorism by senior Islamic figures and Islamic organisations in this country.
- The evidence that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups have secured significant funding or support from Islamic charities in other nations.
- The evidence that members of an Australian charity have provided financial support to the Islamic State.
- The evidence that the Islamic State also secures funding from organised crime, with some links to Australia.
- The ongoing and controversial history of financial and regulatory compliance within Australia’s Islamic community.
- The evidence that organised criminal groups in Australia have significant Muslim membership and, in some cases, have been linked to those fighting for the Islamic State.
- The evidence that even Western governments have been unable to prevent funding and weapons sent to Syria to support anti-Islamic State/al Qaeda organisations from falling into the hands of the terrorist groups.
You can read the lengthy evidence of this perfect storm that I presented to the Senate inquiry into halal certification here.
It’s time for a wide-ranging and forensic inquiry into the Islamic community and its compliance with financial regulations. And it’s also time for AUSTRAC and the Australian Crime Commission to get involved.
Furthermore, given the well-known public information about this scandal, it’s also time to recognise that Australia’s political leadership have failed to act, and failed to protect ordinary Australians from a clear and present danger.