The Future of Australian Islam?

On Sunday, ABC2’s Asia-Pacific Focus program featured a story entitled, The Future of Australia’s Muslim Community. Although ABC2 is a digital station and therefore not as popular as the free-to-air ABC channel, this program arguably offered one of the more interesting insights into the federal government’s relationship with particular groups within the Muslim community. Most notably, it explores the role of a sect known as al-Ahbash (Habashies) that, despite being a minority within the Muslim community and rejected by many Muslim groups, have managed to become, in the words of the program, the Australian government’s “preferred model of Islam”.

The transcript can be found here.

The key question, for me, isn’t whether al-Habash should be the “preferred model of Islam” but why should a secular government have any preference at all?

UPDATE: Due to relentless comments spamming by members of al-Ahbash I’ve had to turn comments off.

UPDATE 2: Yusuf Smith has posted a link to a very interesting summary and discussion of the group and their beliefs that was posted to Usenet some years ago by Idris Palmer.

UPDATE 3: Irfan Yusuf makes some disturbing allegations against a member of the Prime Minister’s Muslim Community Reference Group:

This favouritism has led to suggestions that the government is openly favouring projects of the al-Ahbash sect in distributing funds for its $30 million-plus program to combat extremism and promote harmony. Now a former member of the executive of the Islamic Charitable Projects Association (an al-Ahbash front body) and of the Prime Minister’s Muslim Reference Group now publicly boasting on Muslim e-mail lists of receiving otherwise confidential information by people he describes as “DIMA bureaucrats”.


#1 Abdur-Rahim on 11.14.06 at 3:31 am

I am a member of ICPA in America and I say: instead of throwing accusations back and forth, let’s bring all the issues out into the open and let each side present their proof. If this is done then everyone who clearing see who represents the Path the Prophet Muhammad taught.

#2 Yusuf Smith on 11.14.06 at 3:38 am

As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

The Ahbash or AICP have been known on the internet since the mid 1990s and I’m sure they’ve been around since well before that. One incident in which they were implicated in the 1990s was a violent incident in Massachusetts in early 1997; you might see this post from the Usenet soc.religion.islam newsgroup (and the entire thread). They essentially claim to be Sufis and followers of mainstream Sunni Islam, but they have many points of departure from the latter.

A few years ago I met a convert brother at the house of brother Samir Algar (who passed away with his family in Jordan in late 2001 from gas emitted by a faulty heater). This was in the few months when I was considering taking the tariqa from Shaikh Nuh Keller, which I eventually did. This brother, however, got tangled up with the Ahbash even though their presence in London is pretty small. When I met him a few years later, his personality had totally changed and become totally consistent with involvement in a cult. His manner of speaking was robotic and emotionless as he told me about the supposed consensus on Wahhabis being kuffar (which is NOT the Sunni position and never has been).

#3 rabee on 11.14.06 at 3:51 am

Of course, governments like al-a7bash, they are the voice of the bourgeoisie…

#4 Ahmed on 11.14.06 at 9:36 am

This Habashi group that the government thinks is the “preferred model” for Islam in Australia:

1. Was linked by a UN investigation to the murder of Rafik Hariri, Lebanese PM;
2. Has close links to the Syrian Ba’ath Party and Syrian intelligence;
3. Has been involved in lots of violent incidents throughout the world including the United States where its leaders were charged with home invasion, assault and a bunch of other violent crimes;
4. Considers every other non-Habashi Muslim to be a Wahabi kafir including various sufi groups, the Ikhwani brothers and just normal Muslims.

#5 Ibrahim on 11.14.06 at 2:10 pm

Look all the stereotypes spread about al-Ahbash as people might call them are fabrications by the extremists because the Ah-bash are the ones that exposed the extremists and showed the whole world that bin laden, az-Zawahiry and the like do not represent Islam. Of course as a sore loser the extremists started spreading falsehoods about al-Ahbash to keep laypeople away from them. Because once a person becomes educated with the proper knowledge he would be able to refute the claims of the deviants and consequently this will make the mission of the extremists harder. Fear Allah brothers, Al-Ahbash are Just as the majority of Muslims around the world. But they were given this title because they learnt from a spriritual leader called Shaykh Abdullah who came to Lebanon from Habasha (Ethiopia).

#6 Sam on 11.14.06 at 2:37 pm

All that I have to say is simple,
The truth is being revealed more and more every day. The Ahbash are been seen in the true light that they are, they are being seen by people on the street to people on TV to Governments as the emerging voice of truth, moderation and the right voice and picture of Islam. The Ahbash have worked hard for this and Alhamdullilah Allah is rewarding them. There has been hundreds if not thousands of schools, Islamic Boards, Shaykhs from around the world that have backed the Ahbash. The falsehood spread by their enemies is falling on deaf ears. Because they are transparent and people can see their Sincerity….

I AM PROUD TO BE PART OF THIS GREAT ORGANISATION. MAY ALLAH PROTECT IT.. And make it strong. Because truly they are amongst the few that are working hard to spread the true moderate GREAT face of ISLAM

#7 SL on 11.14.06 at 2:45 pm

Irfan Yusuf on the Habashis.

#8 Sam on 11.14.06 at 2:48 pm

Irfan Yusuf, is unfortunatly making a huge fool of him self again…
this man has no idea what he is talking about… i have spoken to him on a number of ocassion to show proof of what he says and he has never been able to do so… again spreading false hood without evidence

#9 Habib M. on 11.14.06 at 2:58 pm

for any sound minded person who have the guts and honesty to go and see for him self, he/she will find that the Ahbash are the most moderate group around the world. Most of those who talk bad about them are just following rumers and didn’t have the guts to see for them selfs what the ahbash stand for.. True Sunnah…
Ahmed, wake up!

#10 Ibrahim on 11.14.06 at 5:46 pm

Sheikh G.F. Haddad on the Ahbash (he’s a Sufi not a Salafi, btw):

Take, for example, the Habashi sect based in Beirut, Lebanon (aptly known as the “Association of Islamic Charitable Projects”: the Association itself being neither). They may protest day and night that they are “Ash`ariyy, Shafi`iyy, Rifa`iyy” but as surely as the sun rises in the sky, they are the same brand of insipid Kharijites as their arch-enemies the Wahhabis. Imam al-Shafi`i, Imam al-Ash`ari, and Imam al-Rifa`i, Allah be well-pleased with them, are innocent of anyone that wags their tongues against the Companions of the Messenger of Allah upon him and them blessings and peace, while the Habashi leader known as `Abd Allah al-Harari is the proud author of a booklet declaring thousands of Companions corrupt. The Habashis also distinguish themselves for attacking the Awliya and Ulema of Ahl al-Sunna in our time and declaring them apostates right and left.

#11 Ibrahim on 11.14.06 at 5:52 pm

And from the Naqshbandi Sufi site we have another statement against them so it’s not just Salafis or Wahabis that think the Ahbash are deviant but even the Sufis.

And here’s Sh Said Ramadan al-Bouti on the Ahbash from his site.

If there is one thing that ALL sunni Muslims can agree on, it’s that the Ahbash are an evil cult!

May Allah protect the Muslims of Australia from them and their fitnah. Ameen ya Rabb.

#12 Muslimah on 11.14.06 at 8:27 pm

I would like to add that the “Ahbash” as some ignorant muslims call them, are “the most moderate group” who are really there to spread the truth about islam and fight back in defence of this religion. I think this is one of the reasons people make rumours about them, they just can’t admit what “AICP” say is the truth.

Unfortunately, these days we see and hear people who think they are leaders, when in actual fact, they need someone to lead them and teach them about the truth, and in particular the truth about rape in islam.

I am part of this most wonderful , peaceful and truthful organisation and Surely I am so proud to be.
If people take the time to see them and hear them, they will truly be able to distinguish who is right and who is wrong, I have never come across any sheikh from this organisation who will speak without knowledge and cause harm, disgrace or unwanted attention to muslims.

May Allah be with them always, protect them and empower their teachings and their organisation.

#13 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:46 pm

The A. I. C. P. strives to teach Islam as well as the importance of functioning within society. Through its many endeavors, the A. I. C. P. contributes to the well-being of humanity without compromising the values and principles of Islam.

#14 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:48 pm

The A. I. C. P. was established to implement the teachings of Islam as per the guidance of the Qur’an. The belief and practice of the A. I. C. P. worldwide is that of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama^ah, those who adhere to the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam.

#15 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:48 pm

The most important objective of the A. I. C. P. is to spread the correct knowledge of the Religion—teaching Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam—by spreading the Islamic Obligatory Knowledge and supporting it with clear evidence.

#16 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:48 pm

The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, said: which means: “The best of the deeds is the belief in Allah and His Messenger.” (al-Bukhariyy) In accordance with this, the A. I. C. P. emphasizes teaching Tawhid, the Islamic knowledge by which one would know what is and what is not proper to attribute to Allah and His Messenger.

#17 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:49 pm

The A. I. C. P. is a voice of moderation, striving to rid the Muslim community of the vile innovations and prevailing deviations—the proponents of which call for terrorism and violence.

#18 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:49 pm

The A. I. C. P. does not compromise its stand against those who try to deviate the Muslims from the belief of the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, his Companions, and the subsequent Muslim generations known as Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama^ah.

#19 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:50 pm

The A. I. C. P. set its objectives with the realization that victory over evil can only be achieved by spreading religious education and propagating goodness among people—knowing that society can only be reformed through piety and fear of Allah (the Creator).

#20 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 8:51 pm

The A. I. C. P. urges Muslims to help each other and share responsibilities, such as encouraging the wealthy to console and relieve the poor—whether Muslims or non-Muslims.

#21 Ibrahim on 11.14.06 at 8:54 pm

Mohamad, you are not doing a good job of proving the Habashis are not a cult lol

Here’s another fatwa on the group by the highest religious authorities in Saudi Arabia.

So now we covered the sufis and the salafis…

#22 mohamad on 11.14.06 at 9:02 pm

The A. I. C. P. urges all Muslims to provide for the needs of the hungry, orphans, and needy, as well as to correct one’s self, family, and society in accordance with Islam.

People I m going to be very straight forward and tell you to wake up to the world and its about time you notice that rumors and fabrications is not going to stop al ahbash from growing bigger end bigger for tens of years you have been trying al sorts of fabrication about ahbash and its clear that the more you lie about them the more people and Muslim community supports them

#23 true suffi on 11.14.06 at 9:07 pm

The great impact of the A.I.C.P. on Muslims and its popularity among them is the result of the efforts of its leader and spiritual guide: Shaykh ^Abdullah al-Harariyy, whose lineage is from the same honorable Arab tribe as the Prophet, the tribe of Quraysh. With diligence and great devotion, peacefully and in sincerity, Shaykh ^Abdullah spreads the correct knowledge from Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet’s companions, and the generations of Muslims after them.

#24 true suffi on 11.14.06 at 9:08 pm

Shaykh ^Abdullah started acquiring the Religious knowledge at a very young age. He memorized the Qur’an by heart and with tartil (reading correctly with tajwid rules) when he was only seven years old. He is a renowned Scholar of Tawhid, Fiqh, and the Hadith. He learned and mastered many fields of knowledge. These include: the Shafi^iyy Fiqh (Rules of the Religion according to the school of Imam ash-Shafi^iyy), its Usul (the Science of Inferring Rules and Judgments), Nahw (Arabic and Grammar), the Sciences of the Arabic language, Tafsir (Science of Explanation of the Qur’an), Tajwid (the proper recitation of the Qur’an), including the fourteen Qira’at (ways of reciting Qur’an), among others. He is a Scholar of Hadith (Muhaddith) and of its sciences. He is also an authority in the Fiqh and Usul of the other three madhhabs: Malikiyy, Hanbaliyy, and Hanafiyy.

#25 true suffi on 11.14.06 at 9:08 pm

Shaykh ^Abdullah narrates the hadith with continuous chains of narration linked all the way to Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam. Among the many prominent narrators of his chains are: Ibn ^Abbas, al-Hasan al Basriyy, ash-Shafi^iyy, Abu Hanifah, Malik, Ahmad, at-Tabariyy, al-Ash^ariyy, al-Maturidiyy, al-Bukhariyy, Muslim, al-Bayhaqiyy, ath-Thawriyy, an-Nawawiyy, Ibn Hajar, at-Tahawiyy, al-Qadi ^Iyad, and al-Ghazaliyy.

#26 true suffi on 11.14.06 at 9:09 pm

Shaykh ^Abdullah’s primary goal is to spread the truth of Islam, by teaching the correct belief of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama^ah, and he works with tenacious determination to reach his goal. His students have spread through more than forty (40) countries, across six (6) continents. He continues to support the Muslims in acquiring the knowledge and in fighting the deviant factions who attempt to spread misguidance in the name of Islam.

#27 true suffi on 11.14.06 at 9:09 pm

Shaykh ^Abdullah emphasizes the rich and moderate face of Islam—that of justice, truth, trustworthiness, knowledge, generosity, manners, excellence, and sound intellect.

#28 true suffi on 11.14.06 at 9:15 pm

ibrahim, the so called fatwa you are talking about is not a fatwa because fatwa should come from a pious muslim who fears ALLAH not from a murderer that his Ideologies which is the so called salafist or wahabis killed tens of thousands of innoent people in algeria, egypt, iraq and dont forget the rest of the world.

#29 Habib M. on 11.14.06 at 9:36 pm

Mohamad, you are not doing a good job of proving the Habashis are not a cult lol)

huh ! Ibrahim ! you mean wahhabies Fatwa!!! those wahhabies who say only them are muslims !! did you read what thier leader “muhammad Ibn Abdul wahhab” said that only them “Wahhabies” are muslims , meaning that only those who join them are muslims and anybody else is kaafer !!! and you say lol !
go check your brains man.. go and read Hempher memories the english spy . ready what wahhabies leader’s father & brother wrote/said about muhammad ibn abdul-wahhab,,the wahhabies he killed all those who did not join his sect! or cult.. wake up.. don’t be just follow rumers.. or you will be sorry in the hereafter. go and ask icpa,, ask them to show you the proofs from 4 mathhabs.. Hadak Allah.

#30 Samia on 11.14.06 at 9:36 pm

The reason why the government is pleased with a group such as those called the “ahbaash” is obviously because they are not liars or terrorists like many other groups.

They outrightly and truthfully reject bin laaden and his actions. They outrightly declare extremists as so, using the Religious proofs to show the true path of Muslims.

They unite with the groups that also reject terrorists and extremists which give people a bad picture of Islam.

By doing so they save Islam’s image from falsehoods and protect the community from the evils of terrorist ideologies.

THAT is why the “Ahbaash” are favoured alHamdu lillaah.

#31 sareeh on 11.14.06 at 9:40 pm

Ibrahim, I think you need to go learn some more facts about people who claim they are sufis and salafis because it doesn’t seem that you do know them at all. These people hide under these names to spread their extremist approaches and beliefs and claim that they are muslims, they are the “wahabbis” who are the real terrorists and extremists.
so as mohamad said “wake up to the world” and stop defending people, think about defending the prophet and the islamic religion as the “aicp” do.

#32 sareeh on 11.14.06 at 9:45 pm

The great impact of the A.I.C.P. on Muslims and its popularity among them is the result of the efforts of its leader and spiritual guide: Shaykh ^Abdullah al-Harariyy, whose lineage is from the same honorable Arab tribe as the Prophet, the tribe of Quraysh. With diligence and great devotion, peacefully and in sincerity, Shaykh ^Abdullah spreads the correct knowledge from Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet’s companions, and the generations of Muslims after them.

#33 RPG on 11.14.06 at 10:01 pm

When a bunch of people swarm on a single post and start spamming it with pro-Habashi propaganda, it just reinforces the impression that you guys are brainwashed drones of a dangerously unhinged pseudo-Islamic CULT. How you guys can claim that you are representing Muslims is beyond me when pretty much every Muslim I know thinks you guys are nutso! And these are not Wahabis but Tablighis, Sufis and just normal Muslims.