And Swaiti works in the tax office, which should be investigating him for being on the Saudi payroll. An update on this story. “Controversial cleric splits Canberra Muslims,” by Rob Taylor for the New Zealand Herald:
CANBERRA – The senior cleric of the biggest mosque in Australia’s capital, Canberra, has been ordered not to attack fellow worshippers after an outbreak of violence split the city’s small Islamic community.
Sheikh Mohammed Swaiti, the Imam of the Yarralumla Mosque, was issued with a court restraining order late on Monday following a brawl at Friday prayers last week when his supporters attacked rivals seeking to replace him with another cleric.
“This Imam, he create the violence. We don’t want the violence, we want him to step down,” local Islamic Society President Sabre Poskovic said on Tuesday.
Swaiti has divided the Islamic community with firebrand anti-Western sermons and
accusations he failed to declare US dollar cash donations from the Saudi government.
Tensions in Canberra boiled over when Islamic Society secretary Kurt Kennedy was repeatedly punched after announcing at Friday prayer that Swaiti would be replaced with a new cleric, Yahya Atay, previously Imam in the outback capital Alice Springs.
Swaiti, who refuses to step down, works full time as an employee of Australia’s tax department and part-time at the city mosque, built by Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Critics of Swaiti have written to the tax office seeking an investigation into whether the Imam declared regular salary payments from the Saudi Arabian government.
The court order restrained Swaiti’s and four supporters from attacking other community members or damaging the mosque, which has has its locks changed to keep him out.
New Imam Atay said the violence was unacceptable, although he refused to criticise Swaiti directly.
“I have to love him,” he told local papers, before adding “Muslims need good manners”.