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Radical Islamic conference at uni

The nation's two most radical Islamic clerics - hardliners described by a rival yesterday as producing "bin Ladens in the suburbs" - will use a three-day conference at a major university to recruit followers to their sect.

The Melbourne-based leader of the Ahl Sunnah Wal Jammah association, Mohammed Omran, and his Sydney counterpart, Abdul Salam Mohammed Zoud, will lead the conference next month at RMIT University under modified names - a ploy their critics claim is designed to escape media attention.

The promotional flyer for the Annual Australian Dawah Conference identifies Sheik Omran as Sheik Abu Ayman and Sheik Zoud as Sheik Abdul Salaam.

The pair are widely known in the broader community - and listed in their now defunct newspaper Mecca News - as Omran and Zoud.

Yesterday, Sheik Omran told The Australian that he was known as Sheik Abu Ayman - meaning the father of Ayman in Arabic - by the Muslim community and was not attempting to escape the media radar by appearing under another name at the Melbourne conference.

But a member of John Howard's Muslim Community Reference Group, Mustapha Kara-Ali, said that Sheik Omran and his group were renowned for using "phony" names to avoid "spurring certain media reactions".

"Because when you say Omran, the surname Omran is going to be very controversial," Mr Kara-Ali said. "When you say Abu Ayman, there could be 100,000 Abu Aymans."

He said both sheiks Zoud and Omran teach Wahhabism, a fundamentalist sect that inspired the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is preached by the world's most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qa'ida.

"The (conference) organising group headed by Omran is an Australian Trojan horse," Mr Kara-Ali said. "Year after year this fringe group continues to adapt its cover while it unashamedly holds the same core support to bin Laden and his ideology.

"Omran's conspiratorial pussyfooting over the issue of terrorism is producing more bin Ladens in the suburbs, and it's turning more of Australia's youths towards the path of destruction and terror."

Mr Kara-Ali said Sheik Omran's organisation has a "hidden agenda" to "further recruit" more Australian Muslims and "disenfranchised youth" into his radical sect.

But yesterday a spokesman for Sheik Omran said Mr Kara-Ali's claims were "ridiculous" and divisive.

He said the organisation was open about its annual Dawah (proselytism in Arabic) conferences, which are partly held for "recruiting Muslim and non-Muslims combined".

"It's a calling for the true teachings of Islam," Sheik Omran's spokesman said, and was not to attract "terrorists into the fold".

RMIT University yesterday distanced itself from the conference, which will be held at its Brunswick campus, in Melbourne's inner north.

An RMIT spokesman said the university was not involved in organising the conference, which is expected to attract hundreds of people.

He said Sheik Omran's organisation had rented RMIT conference halls for the same events in 2002 and 2003 and was used for "peaceful" purposes.


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Original piece is http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19623892-2702,00.html


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