“Despite it being linked again and again to young jihadi warriors from Melbourne, it keeps a reputation as a ‘moderate’ Islamic centre.”
“The Islamic Centre in Melbourne linked to Christmas terror plot,” by Chris Johnston, The Age, December 24, 2016 (thanks to Rod):
From their own social media posts, it is clear that several of the young Melbourne men accused of plotting a Christmas Day terror attack have spent time at a place called the Hume Islamic Youth Centre in Coolaroo.
Despite it being linked again and again to young jihadi warriors from Melbourne, it keeps a reputation as a ‘moderate’ Islamic centre, primarily a place for young Muslims from the northern suburbs to meet informally. It has a gym, table tennis and pool tables, a boxing ring, a cafe and a shop. Next door in a shopping centre is another gym; nearby is Paradise Hijabs and Imran’s Warehouse, a discount store.
Speaking from the site of a potential terrorist attack on Saturday, the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner, the Victorian Premier and the Lord Mayor of Melbourne urged residents and visitors to use the city as normal.
Today the centre ran classes for kids, with the teachers coming from Tanzeel, a company offering Koran tutoring in Melbourne and Sydney as well as Malaysia, Canada and South Africa. On Christmas Day the centre will hold Koran classes for young women.
“This Qur’an Program is our attempt at serving the Book of Allah,” Tanzeel’s website reads, “such that we may assist our students in developing a relationship with the Qur’an that is based on correct and proper recitation and an appreciation of the magnanimity and beauty of that which they read.”
So the centre is not a place where young Muslims would as a matter of course hear firebrand clerics advocating violence against the West. But authorities believe it is a central focal point of the Melbourne community, and they know it is watched over by Sheikh Mohammed Omran, a veteran and very senior leader of Australia’s Islamic fundamentalists.
He is the highest ranked cleric in the country for the Salafi movement – Salafi being a more conservative strand of Sunni Islam, advocating a return to older and more purist traditions. Sheikh Omran also heads a Sydney Islamic Centre, ASWJ.
Hardcore preachers Musa Cerantonio and Junaid Thorne, who have had their passports revoked by the federal government, have both given talks at Omran’s centres. His Brunswick mosque attracted 18 devotees who were later convicted in Victoria and New South Wales by Operation Pendennis, Australia’s largest counter-terrorism sting.
Some of those, including men known to have attended the Hume Centre, were accused of being a part of a terrorism cell led by Abdul Nacer Benbrika (aka Abu Bakr), who was jailed for 15 years in 2009….