The Islamic Council of NSW has declared that it will take the the Australian Broadcasting Authority to court over its decision to award the first Muslim community radio licence to an Islamic fringe group. The authority’s chairman, Professor David Flint, announced on May 25 that Muslim Community Radio (MCR) had won the licence. A bid by the Islamic Council did not make the short list.
But a spokesman for the Islamic Council, Mr Keysar Trad, accused the authority yesterday of imposing by force a new leadership on Sydney’s 100,000-strong Muslim community, by granting the licence to a group with fewer than 500 supporters and 150 financial members.
“They are rejected by mainstream Muslims and Islamic scholars around the world,” Mr Trad said of the Bankstown-based organisation.. “MCR’s teachings are regarded as poison … and they have isolated themselves from the orthodox Muslim community.”
Mr Trad, who is also vice-president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, accused the broadcasting authority of giving MCR preferential treatment, including instructing the group on how to make its application stronger by obtaining petitions.
He said because the Islamic Council could not ask the ABA to reconsider its decision, it would take the matter to court and seek a declaration that the decision to grant MCR the licence was illegal.
Mr Trad alleged that some of the letters of support tended by MCR were fraudulent in that they bore forged signatures of community leaders or wereobtained under misleading pretences.
The broadcasting authority confirmed it was investigating one complaint from a Muslim leader who claimed that his signature was forged on a letter of recommendation for MCR of which he had no knowledge.
It has defended the decision to award the licence to MCR, with Professor Flint saying it had the potential to represent the interests of about 30 per cent of Sydney’s multinational Muslim population.
The president of MCR, Mr Mohammed Mehio, says his organisation has every intention of representing the general Muslim community, and has denied allegations of fraudulent activity. He described the Islamic Council’s tactics as unacceptable and nonsense.
“They [the council] should look at their own history before attributing such activity to us,” Mr Mehio said.
According to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils , neither MCR nor the State council are fit to hold a licence.
MCR has never been a member of the peak body, and NSW was expelled from the national organisation in March this year, for what the federation’s chief executive, Mr Amjad Mehboob, described as a series of “serious wrongdoings”.
“Our position has been that MCR’s faith and belief is in contradiction of the majority of Muslims in Australia and worldwide, and it is not accepted by the mainstream Muslim community,” he said. “On the other hand, [the Islamic Council] is not a deserving body, and are no longer recognised as a representative body of Muslims of Australia.”
The organisation set up in March to replace the expelled NSW council, the Supreme Islamic Council of NSW, said yesterday that it would approach the broadcasting authority seeking a second community radio licence.
Chairman Mr Gabr Elgafi said it had made the wrong decision: “The ABA says MCR will represent 30 per cent of Muslims. But what about the other two-thirds? You can’t neglect 70 per cent of the community.”