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Anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali protesters met with radical sheikh

 

A Muslim leader whose group planned to rally 5000 protesters outside a talk by anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the basis that she "condones violence and radicalises people" has previously met with a radical sheikh who promoted suicide bombing.

On Monday Ms Ali, a Somalian-born activist and refugee, cancelled her planned speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand, citing a "number of reasons including security concerns" and a "succession of organisational lapses" by event organisers.

She had been due to appear in Sydney on Saturday night.

Security agencies and police have reported no specific threat against Ms Ali.

However the Festival Hall in Melbourne, where Ali was due to appear on Friday night, was last month contacted via email by the Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia Incorporated.

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The author of the email, council founder Syed Murtaza Hussain, said the group did not want the Ms Ali's talk cancelled but said it would bring 5000 protesters to call out her hate speech.

Council secretary and board member Syed Waseem Razvi wrote on Facebook on Monday that Ms Ali "shouldn't need to cancel her tour to Australia rather Australian immigration must ban her from entering Australia as she is an extremist who condones violence and radicalises people".

"Any person engaged in extremist behaviour, from any religion, has to be stopped and condemned," Mr Razvi told Fairfax Media. "And Ayaan Hirsi Ali has condoned violence.

"A good Muslim cannot be an extremist, cannot be a terrorist, rather he or she must be a force against extremism."

But Mr Razvi, also the founder and president of Islamic Research and Educational Academy (IREA), has faced past criticism for associating with anti-Semites and proponents of jihad.

In 2015, Fairfax Media revealed Mr Razvi had met with a notorious Qatari-based sheikh, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has issued fatwas supporting suicide bombing in Israel and the jihad in Syria.

On the IREA Facebook page Mr Razvi posted a photograph of himself with Mr Al-Qaradawi, writing that the cleric supported his organisation's work to preach Islam to Victorians.

The IREA is best known for organising the Australian Islamic Peace Conferences, controversial events that have been criticised for attracting speakers with extreme views.

The headline speaker advertised for the first conference in 2013 was Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, a Saudi imam who has reportedly called for violent jihad, and who has been barred from obtaining visas in Canada and the United States. Following publicity Dr al-Sudais did not attend the conference.

Other speakers have included respected terrorism expert Greg Barton.

More recently, Mr Razvi's organisation was criticised for blanking out the faces of female speakers on promotional flyers for the 2017 peace conference.

The women's faces were replaced with red hijabs.

Both the IREA and the Islamic Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia list their address as a warehouse in Hoppers Crossing in Melbourne's outskirts.

Mr Razvi has served as secretary of the council since it was created in April 2015.

In an email seen by Fairfax Media, the council's founder, Mr Hussain, wrote to Festival Hall venue authorities saying: "We continue to monitor [Ms Ali's] public speeches for hate speech and will seek to take aggressive legal action against her if we believe she contravenes the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)."

"We fear that while individuals like Ayaan Hirsi Ali ... may play a part in normalising anti-Islamic feeling in the wider community. We fear that their comments may be used by 'other' individuals as encouragement to harass and/or commit acts of violence against the Muslim community."

Mr Hussain, a 30-year-old dentist, told Fairfax Media he had sent the email to pressure the venue to make sure what Ms Ali said did not constitute hate speech.

He said he did not want the event to be cancelled.

"We wanted her to be careful about what she said and keep it within the law," Mr Hussain said. "We don't threaten people, we just did a bit of lobbying."

Ms Ali is a prominent Muslim apostate who rejected her faith after seeking asylum in Holland.

In 2004 she was forced into hiding after the assassination of the director of an anti-Islam film she appeared in.

She received death threats and has since been forced to live with round-the-clock security.

Ms Ali cancelled speaking events in several Australian states and in New Zealand, as well as a scheduled appearance on Monday night's Q&A program on the ABC.