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Islamic leaders in Australia say "we don't know" that Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 attacks

August 11, 2005

Islamic leaders won't condemn bin Laden
Liam Houlihan, religious affairs reporter

EIGHT Islamic spiritual leaders who preach to hundreds of Muslims in Victoria each day refuse to accept that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Responding to a survey, the imams from suburban and regional mosques ignored bin Laden's own confession.

Asked if bin Laden were responsible for the attacks that killed almost 3000 people, Carlton mosque imam Rexhep Idrizi said: "We don't know."

Acting Werribee mosque imam Riyad Ahmad said: "I have it only from one side. I'm not sure really."

Fitzroy mosque acting imam Bilgim Alpay said: "I don't know. It's very hard to answer. There are a lot of political games."

Only two of the 10 imams said bin Laden was to blame.

The Herald Sun asked the imams four questions relating to terrorism and publishes their answers inside.

Some were reluctant to accept radical Muslim terrorists were behind the London bombings.

All 10 condemned suicide bombings and most offered unconditional loyalty to Australia.

But the number who refused to blame bin Laden surprised some Islam experts.

Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Aly said "a furious mistrust of mainstream media" was likely to be at the heart of the imams' views.

"Perhaps a feeling of being under siege creates a defensive response. Perhaps what they're waiting for is some kind of clear trial in a court," Mr Aly said.

In a video released just months after the September 11 attacks, bin Laden gloated over details of the atrocity in what amounted to a full confession.

The imams views did not reflect the broader Muslim community, Mr Aly said.

He said they had an administrative role and were not where the Muslim community generally went for political analysis.

Some Muslim leaders said imams may avoid condemning bin Laden publicly out of fear of retribution from local radicals who support the al-Qaida leader.

"They feel pressure from the media one way and also from some groups (of radicals) in their own community," said Deer Park imam Suad Ibisevic, who also refused to link bin Laden with September 11.

"I think they are afraid to condemn."

The glimpse into their minds came as the Board of Imams nominated secretary Fehmi Naji El-Imam as the only imam authorised to comment publicly.

He said the board wanted to curb vocal clerics who were "not representing the real picture of Islam and not representing the common understanding of imams here".

An imam is the male prayer leader in a mosque.

Ruzdija Dencic, who is involved with the Albanian Australian Islamic Society, and believes bin Laden was behind September 11, said Albanian Muslims were more moderate and assimilated into Australian society more easily.

The Herald Sun contacted more than 12 Victorian imams for the survey. Two declined to be involved because of language difficulties. Two others delegated the questions to representatives.

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