So a Saudi-sponsored imam has been allegedly caught out for tax avoidance. At least that’s what you’d think after reading Richard Kerbaj’s article in The Oz today.

And what does the tax office think of Imam Muhammad Swaiti’s apparent attempt to dodge tax? What definitive reply has it provided? Read this and shudder:

The tax office sent Islamic Society of ACT president Sabrija Poskovic a letter in reply to written allegations made by him and his community regarding Sheik Swaiti.

“I refer to your letter relating to the imam of your mosque, Mohammad Swaiti, who also happens to be a tax office employee,” the ATO’s letter to Mr Poskovic says.

“I have passed your concerns to the relevant area of the tax office and I expect to be able to respond to you by 6 February 2007.”

Wow. I’m shuddering. Kerbaj has managed to find evidence of Swaiti being “probed” on the basis of a standard precedent letter acknowledging receipt of the initial letter of complaint.

Still, I sure hope Swaiti and any other imams caught out preaching the anti-tax message are prosecuted. This misguided notion that Islamic sacred law enables believers to disobey the law of the land is sheer nonsense. As far back as 1999, a mainstream imam reminded his American audience of a basic principle of sharia: “…it is absolutely essential that you respect the laws of the land that you are living in.”

Perhaps of greater concern than the probe is the suggestion that Saudi governments are bankrolling certain mosques and imams. This should hardly prove a revelation. Back in the days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Western governments encouraged Saudi influence as a bulwark against the revolutionary Islam of Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Howard government has known all along about the Saudi influence. John Howard was happy to invite a key Saudi religious financier to his Muslim leaders’ summit, and regularly visits that financier’s school. The Attorney-General has even had lunch at that financier’s house. The SMH reported all this back in 2005.

You’d think our government’s continued support for institutionalised Wahhabism would anger UK columnists such as Melanie Phillips who blame Wahhabists for the world’s security ills. Yet her recent column offers a tabloid tantrum of praise for a host of Howard ministers.

She even had Peter Costello tripping over himself trying to plagiarise from Brendan Nelson, telling anyone who doesn’t want to “live by Australian values and understand them” to “basically clear off”.

Phillips even puts words in Alex Downer’s mouth, claiming he suggested that “in south-east Asia, the war in Iraq has produced a decline in support for Islamist extremism and terrorism.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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