University 'an agent of extreme Islam'
by Richard Kerbaj
A JUDGE has likened Griffith University to hardline Islamic "madrassas" in Pakistan - notorious for breeding radicals - and accused the Queensland institution of promoting a Muslim ideology espoused by Osama bin Laden.
Queensland District Court judge Clive Wall also accused Griffith of becoming an "agent" through which the Saudi Arabian embassy was propagating extreme Islam.
Judge Wall, a deputy judge advocate-general in the Australian Defence Force holding the rank of air commodore, told The Australian it was clear what brand of Islam the university would be teaching through its Saudi-funded Islamic Research Unit. "It would have to be Wahabism, similar to many of the madrassas in Pakistan who receive funding from Saudi Arabia," he said.
At least three of the suicide bombers responsible for the 2005 London bombings - which killed 56 people - attended Pakistani madrassas, which are considered indoctrination centres for Islamic extremism.
The Australian revealed yesterday that Griffith asked the Saudi embassy in Australia for a $1.37 million grant for its Islamic Research Unit, even telling the ambassador that certain elements of the controversial deal could be kept a secret.
It was also revealed through documents that Griffith - described by vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor as the "university of choice" for Saudis - offered the embassy a chance to "discuss" ways in which the money could be used.
The Australian first revealed in September that Griffith had received a $100,000 Saudi grant.
Griffith Islamic Research Unit director Mohamad Abdalla has rejected accusations the Saudi funding would be used to promote Wahabism, saying his centre was opposed to the hardline ideology and in favour of "moderate" Islam.
But Judge Wall yesterday accused Griffith of becoming a Saudi stooge. "They're using the university as an agent to promote their bigoted brand of Islam," he said. "I'm concerned that a country which doesn't itself tolerate freedom of religion is promoting its own quite bigoted version here with the acquiescence of our learning institutions."
This is the first time Judge Wall, who was appointed to the District Court in 1996, has publicly declared his views about the threat of Wahabism and aired his concerns about the Saudi Government's connections.
Asked why he wanted to weigh in on the topic of Saudi funding, he said: "Like many people, I follow what's out there around the world and I was just concerned in particular about the source of the funding being Saudi Arabia. I'm concerned that a university which is in my area is not being entirely frank about what it's doing."
Judge Wall accused Griffith's management of being "naive" in accepting Saudi funds, which have historically been linked to the propagation of fundamentalism.
"They (Saudis) are not being simply altruistic," he said. "They don't give anything for benevolent reasons, there's always something behind it."
September's report in The Australian prompted Judge Wall to inquire about the nature of the fund and how it was intended to be used. He wrote to Ross Homel - then director of Griffith's key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance, which manages the Islamic unit - raising questions about the branch of Islam the university wanted to propagate.
"You have said that the Saudi grant to the Griffith Islamic Research Unit will be used to promote 'moderate Islam'," says Judge Wall in the letter obtained by The Australian. "What do you mean by 'moderate Islam' and what do you understand is the difference between moderate Islam and Wahabi Islam or Wahab-ism (sic) or 'hardline' purposes?"
Judge Wall's questions were hand-balled by Professor Homel to Dr Abdalla. But he never received an answer.
"I'm a little concerned that I've received no response from the university to my letter," Judge Wall said. "They seem reluctant to discuss the matter."
Griffith did not return several phone calls from The Australian yesterday. Mr Abdalla could not be contacted.
1) University 'an agent of extreme Islam'