Islamic Financial Issues Continue

Yet with all the Financial Issues surroundings Islamic Schools or Collages and matter of fact any Islamic Organization there is Financial Hiding or Financial Record issues. So why would a State Parliament allow a New Islamic Collage to open? As I will tell you now, they will apply for State Funding.

October 17, 2013

Red Flag On Fifth Islamic School

A MUSLIM school in Sydney’s southwest has been accused of serious financial mismanagement, becoming the fifth Islamic school in two years to potentially face a freeze in state funding.

A former principal of Bellfield College, who resigned last month, has also claimed its students were put at risk by landfill that allegedly contained asbestos and sewerage problems that contaminated drinking water.

Although the allegations have been put to police, no action has been taken by the NSW Education Department or Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who has declined to reveal when he was first made aware of the claims.

Sam Cannavo resigned as principal late last month over the management of the 230-student school, making a formal complaint to police alleging that up to $2.1 million had gone missing from the school. Mr Cannavo has given police allegedly falsified building receipts with millions drawn on an account managed by a senior school official.

Mr Cannavo also alleges landfill on the school site contains asbestos and the school’s sewage system had frequently overflowed, at times entering the school’s drinking fountains.

A builder hired by the school has also made a police complaint, alleging he was paid only half of the almost $5m the school had charged for projects at the school, alleging the school had charged millions in fake invoices.

The senior school official has not returned repeated requests by The Australian for comment on the allegations.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne last night told The Australian he “asked the department for an urgent briefing on this matter”.

“I take very seriously any allegations that might involve the improper use of funds,” he said.

In the past two years, The Australian has revealed four Islamic schools that have had state or federal funding frozen after allegations of financial irregularities.

Sydney’s largest Muslim school, Malek Fahd, has been ordered by the state government to pay back $9 million after an investigation by The Australian revealed millions were funnelled from the school to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. The school’s funding continues to be frozen, and it is challenging the state government ruling in court.

Rissallah College in Lakemba had its funding frozen in April, amid allegations the school misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in school funds. Al-Noori, the second-largest Muslim school in Sydney, also faced a funding freeze and was subject to a special audit conducted by the Board of Education after its former auditors raised concerns about property transactions in March last year.

The Australian Islamic College in Mount Druitt had its funding frozen in April last year amid concerns about financial practices. Funding has since been restored after an investigation by the department and action by the Association of Independent Schools.

Despite the formal complaints to police about Bellfield and a police investigation, no action has been taken against the school by Mr Piccoli, the state or commonwealth education departments or the Association of Independent Schools, all of whom were made aware of the complaints. It is understood there are concerns about being seen as “anti-Muslim”.

Bellfield College, in southwest Sydney, received $4.1 million from state and federal governments last year, meaning 80 per cent of its revenue comes from taxpayer funds. The school received an extra $2.2m in capital grants last year, and is eligible for the highest levels of government assistance available to independent schools.

Mr Cannavo says he began to inquire about the amounts that were being charged on a multi-million-dollar building project at the school. He claims he found large discrepancies between what was being charged by the senior school official and what was being paid to the builders.

Both Mr Cannavo and builder Louis Nicholas claim that after the official set up an account for the project – including the ability to create invoices for Mr Nicholas’s building company – $2.1m in invoices were created last year that Mr Nicholas never received. The official had claimed that total cost of the work had been $5m, although Mr Nicholas charged up to $2.5m for the work.

Financial statements for Bellfield college show that the official personally loaned the school $2.1m last year and claims the school owes him $3.4m.

Mr Cannavo said yesterday that “without satisfactory answers to a number of concerns that were raised, I felt that continuing as principal would compromise my own moral position and not serve to progress the opportunities that the wonderful students, parents and staff so richly deserve”.

In his police statement, he says he alerted the Association of Independent Schools deputy executive director Michael Carr in July about his concerns and provided the allegedly false invoices. Mr Carr allegedly told Mr Cannavo he would meet with the Department of Education about the school, and AIS chief executive Geoff Newcombe was also made aware of the concerns.

A meeting took place with the state and federal departments, AIS and police. It is understood that there was a decision made among the group to share the costs of a forensic audit of the school. However, despite the serious concerns about the school the group is yet to conduct an audit or a funding freeze.

Mr Piccoli’s office yesterday refused to answer questions as to when the minister was first made aware of concerns at Bellfield.

More to Follow Once More Info Become Available

October 14, 2014

Tighter funding for schools after ‘irregularities’

FUNDING rorts in non-government schools will be easier to police, after the introduction of new legislation forcing schools to hand over financial information or have their funding stalled.

The changes come after a series of high-profile financial irregularities in NSW Islamic schools — one of which, Malek Fahd, was ordered to pay back $9 million in funding that they were redirecting to a Muslim association — an allegation the school is challenging in court.

Allegations involving other schools included that $2.1 million in school funds went missing at Bellfield College, that school funds were misused at Rissallah college in Lakemba, and that property transactions were taking place in the name of Al-Noori primary school in Greenacre.

Education minister Adrian Piccoli will introduce the legislative crack down on Wednesday, that will force schools to only make payments that are at a reasonable market value and required for the operation of the school.

“In recent years a disturbing number of complaints about financial irregularities has been made to the Department of Education and Communities”

Payments to school boards will be banned, and there will be tighter controls over the requirements for schools to operate on a not-for-profit basis if they want to access the $1 billion in funding that the state government provides to non-government schools every year.

In recent years a disturbing number of complaints about financial irregularities has been made to the Department of Education and Communities and one school was required to repay NSW Government funding when it was determined to be operating on a for-profit basis,” Mr Piccoli said.

Since 2009, the department has investigated 141 complaints into the financial management of non government schools, but has only been able to find one — Malek Fahd — noncompliant.

It is understood the difficulty arose because schools were not required to produce documents to the department for the purposes of an audit.

Association of Independent Schools of NSW acting director Michael Carr said the organisation welcomed the changes. “The independent schools sector strongly supports full accountability and transparency around the use of government funding for education, and it is entirely appropriate that these funds are provided on a not for profit basis and only for the education of students,” Mr Carr said.

Catholic Education Commission of NSW CEO Dr Brian Croke, said he supported tougher financial controls. “Catholic schools receive almost 20 per cent of their annual recurrent funding from the NSW Government. It is only right and proper that we be held accountable for how that funding is used,” Dr Croke said.

The Malek Fahd Islamic School in Greenacre, is the largest Islamic school in Australia.

More to Follow Once More Info Become Available

New Shia Islamic School Opening Up In Syd


  • Alhamdulilah ala niamat al Islam
  • ~RuQaYaH~

    Salaam Alaykum,

    Bellfield College is a new independent Islamic school commencing in January 2008. Community support and funding is desperately needed in order to ensure the success of the College. If you or anyone that you know would like to contribute please call Haji Zainab Beydoun (02) 9642 1778 / 0404 068 786. If you would like to contribute goods or services , please call brother Ali Hosain on 0411 261 597.

    For enrolment information please call sister Badiya Assaf on (02) 9759 4794 or 0406 009 706.

    All donations are tax deductible!

    Bellfield offers:

    Illuminations (Islamic studies) based on the teachings of Ahul Bayt (a.s)

    Arabic / Qur’an (reading, writing, comprehension)

    A family centered model of education, with services for parents and families

    Personalised education programs for each child

    Spalding (specialised method of literacy)

    Strong emphasis on virtues, morals, and personal growth

    State of the art infrastructure and facilities

    Latest teaching resources and methods

    Small class sizes

    Employment opportunities for community members for more detailed information please visit


  • Alhamdulilah ala niamat al Islam
  • ~RuQaYaH~


    Bellfield College is a new Independent Islamic School located in the Liverpool region of NSW. The school will commence in January 2008, with classes from Kindergarten to Year 2. Bellfield College will be offering exceptional education to all of its students using a full academic and co-curricular programme that is designed to take advantage of its magnificent natural environment.

    Applications are invited from enthusiastic Teachers with a proven record of excellence and an ability to create an exciting environment. Literacy teaching will be strongly phonetically based and will use the Spalding approach as a basis.

    Expressions of interest are invited from suitably qualified and experienced Administrators / teachers with a proven record of excellence and an ability to create an exciting and fruitful environment. Beginning teachers are welcome to apply.


    Bellfield College invites dynamic educational leaders for the position of Principal to undertake the operational responsibility for the College. The successful applicant is required to be an energetic, visionary educator, who will have the ideal opportunity to be at the forefront of building a well resourced successful school community.

    The Principal is the chief educational and executive officer of the College and is responsible to the College Directors, for the overall leadership and management of the College. The successful applicant will be responsible for the leadership and management of the Key Learning Areas within the College. You will be responsible for the management of the scope and sequence of the Learning Programmes, curriculum documentation and standards of achievement in all KLAs. You will ensure the College�s educational programmes are consistent with the stated aims and ethos of Bellfield College. Spalding Training is an essential criteria.

    Click here for detailed link on: Role and Responsibilities of Principal (no link attached to main post)


    The successful applicant will demonstrate a passion for teaching; have a proven track record in teaching students of diverse abilities and be innovative and willing to contribute positively to a team. Spalding training is an essential criteria.

    Other duties: The allotment will include pastoral care responsibility and peer and parental mentoring. All staff are expected to be committed to the overall life of the College, willing to participate in the Schools extra-curricular program and supportive of its ethos.

    Child protection legislation requires preferred applicants to be subject to employment screening.

    Please refer to the employment opportunities page on our website for a full description of position.

    Applications close on 1st September 2007. Forward applications, preferably by email to . Please include curriculum vitae, philosophy of education and with details of at least three professional referees. Copies of academic transcripts of results will need to be presented by those applicants who are required for interview.

    Click here for: Detail Role Description of Teacher


    Click here for: Detail Role Description of Cleaner (no link attached to main post)



    Assalamu Alaykam,

    Attached is the brochure outlining what the school offers, it’s philosophy, vision, and Insha’Allah how it will be of benefit to our community and the children.

    Please have a read through and pass it on as there is still a fair amount of money that needs to be raised.

    Insha’Allah fundraising dinners will start after Ramadan.

    Fi aman Allah,



    Location: Failing to Prepare, Prepare to FAIL.



    Bellfield College:

    More to Follow Once More Info Become Available

    Australian Muslim school allowed to open one more year

    Dec 12, 2013

    AUSTRALIA’S largest Muslim school has been given a reprieve by the NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and will remain open for at least one more year.

    The NSW Board of Studies last month recommended Malek Fahd at Greenacre in Sydney’s west have its accreditation for next year disallowed after ongoing concerns about financial mismanagement and other practices.

    The Australian has revealed concerns about the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, which managed the school, wrongly charging Malek Fahd millions in “management fees” and backdated rent. The chairman of the board of directors of Malek Fahd, Ikebal Patel, was also president of the AFIC at the time the payments were made.

    Malek Fahd received just under $20 million, or 80 per cent of its funding, from the commonwealth and state governments.

    Mr Piccoli froze the school’s funding and forced it to repay $9m in state funds.

    The investigations have led to the resignation of Mr Patel as president of AFIC and as school board chairman. Probes by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission and the NSW police have been launched into the school’s finances.

    Despite the Board of Studies finding, Mr Piccoli decided yesterday to maintain the school’s accreditation even though there were serious concerns about how the school was being run.

    “While progress has been made in relation to the areas of the school’s noncompliance with the Education Act, the board continues to have concerns about the school’s compliance with the requirements for registration and accreditation,” the board said in a statement. “Accordingly, the school’s period of registration and accreditation has been extended until 31 December, 2014, during which time the school is required to address the board’s concerns.”

    Five Muslim schools in Sydney have now had funding frozen or been subject to financial audits after concerns were raised about their financial management.

    In October, Bellfield College in south-west Sydney was subject to an audit by federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, after The Australian revealed a police complaint had been made by the school’s former principal over the whereabouts of $2.2m in government funding he claims never reached the school.

    malekFIslamic school in news—again

    As reported in The Daily Telegraph October 13 2014, the Malek Fahd Islamic school in Sydney is no stranger to controvesy. This latest round is about the school suing parents for $490

    The changes come after a series of high-profile financial irregularities in NSW Islamic schools — one of which, Malek Fahd, was ordered to pay back $9 million in funding that they were redirecting to a Muslim association — an allegation the school is challenging in court. Allegations involving other schools included that $2.1 million in school funds went missing at Bellfield College, that school funds were misused at Rissallah college in Lakemba, and that property transactions were taking place in the name of Al-Noori primary school in Greenacre.

    Malek Fahd Islamic College takes parents to court over $490 in fees four years after expelling student

    An Islamic school that expelled a supposedly poorly performing student in a bid to bolster its year 12 rankings is pursuing his parents for school fees four years after he left.

    Malek Fahd Islamic College in Sydney’s west will take the Afyouni family to the small claims court this month over $490 in school fees dating back to 2011.

    The school asked the couple’s son to leave in 2011 because his academic performance was “deemed insufficient”.

    It is understood the once prestigious school determined the student was unlikely to get a university entrance rank above 80 and asked him to leave.

    The incident happened three years after the same school made front page news in 2008 for sending poorly performing students to TAFE to bolster its HSC rankings.

    Reports from staff and families suggest the school no longer engages in this practice, but the case shows Malek Fahd continued to manipulate its rankings years after it was first exposed.

    Despite the school’s decision to ask the boy to leave, it is still pursuing his parents for $490 in school fees for his final term of year 10.

    It sent debt collectors to the family home and it will take the parents to small claims court next month over what is now a $1,000 bill once legal fees are counted.

    A statement of claim lodged with the civil court states that the boy did not attend any classes in term four of year 10 and only undertook his final school tests.

    Mr Afyouni said in his statement of claim to the court the school’s actions were “astonishing and unjustifiable”.

    His son had the been the youngest of four siblings to attend the school and had been there since primary school.

    “I have never failed to pay any school fees nor denied any request from Malek Fahd to make any payment for any school expense,” Mr Afyouni said.

    “Malek Fahd Islamic School’s action to deny [him] the opportunity to finish schooling where he has been since primary school has caused major disruption in his life and killed any desire he had to complete a university degree.”

    Documents tendered to the court included a letter from Belmore Boys High confirming he started school there in November, 2011.

    The Afyouni’s son did well and is doing a plumbing apprenticeship.

    The family is fighting the claim because they are angry the school could expel their son and still bill them.

    Malek Fahd Islamic School is among a number of schools run by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC).

    Islamic group probed by FBI sent money to Australia to finance Monash Uni scholarship

    February 26, 2016

    Monash Uni Vic AU

    US Internal Revenue Service documents state one student at Monash University received $6850 from the International Institute of Islamic Thought in 2008.

    AN Islamic organisation investigated by the FBI for terrorism links sent money to Australia to finance a Monash University scholarship and invited a respected University of Melbourne lecturer to speak at its conference.

    The International Institute of Islamic Thought, founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, was raided by US authorities in 2002 and former personnel have previously been linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

    Although the 2002 prosecution was quashed, US investigators argued there was “probable cause” to suspect individuals within IIIT and its wider Safa Group had worked to “provide material support or resources to foreign terrorist organisations,” according to a declassified US Customs Service affidavit.

    Uni of Melbourne

    IIIT invited a respected lecturer from the University of Melbourne (pictured) to a Virginia scholars conference.

    Separate US Internal Revenue Service documents state one student at Monash University received $6850 from IIIT in 2008 and the group invited, but did not pay for, a Melbourne University lecturer at a Virginia scholars conference in 2011.

    Monash has no record of receiving any funds from IIIT but it is unclear if the student disclosed the source of scholarship assistance or if it was under the name of any of IIIT’s dozens of affiliates.

    “IIIT and its related entities are very radical Islamist organisations that had been under investigation by counter terrorist agents, the FBI and the IRS for more than a decade and a half,” said Steven Emerson, director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

    “In its lifetime, the organisation has been directly involved with collaboration with and funding of known Islamic Jihad front groups and has employed radical Islamists and published militant screeds justifying violence.

    “IIIT has been doling out funds for academic chairs in Middle East or Islamic affairs throughout the United States.

    “Its sponsorship of such chairs and fellowships in major universities is designed to promote an Islamist agenda among impressionable students, gain sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, besmirch efforts to prosecute Islamic terrorists, propagate Islamist propaganda under the guise of academic scholarship and spread the mandatory obligation of carrying out dawa (proselytising or preaching) in Islam.”

    IIIT, which is not a proscribed or banned group, says it is a leading Islamic academic organisation which aims to “reform” Islamic thought, particularly in Western democracies and promote interfaith relations.

    But some security analysts, including the Center for Security Policy, warn IIIT has adopted a public profile to mask a Muslim Brotherhood goal of “eliminating and destroying Western civilisation from within.”

    Tax filings for 2011-2013 show IIIT dispersed about $285,000 to east and south Asia and Pacific regions in assistance and analysts believe some of that may have been to Australia.

    IIIT declined to respond to questions put to it.

    Learning to sing from the same page

    Balancing act: Year four students at Bellfield College where ”pianos and harps are fine”.

    How do you teach music in a school where some parents consider it unholy? That’s the predicament faced by principals in Islamic schools, who have to balance the requirements of a compulsory syllabus against the wishes of some parents who say the content violates their religious beliefs.

    There is little consensus within the Islamic community about the appropriateness of music.

    The director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, Professor Abdullah Saeed, says though the issue of music is not directly addressed in the Koran some people interpret certain Koranic verses to mean music is not permitted. There are several schools of thought when it comes to the permissibility of music in Islam, he says. ”A number of Muslim scholars would argue that music in general is not permissible. Others would say music in some of its forms using certain types of instruments may be permissible … but it depends on the context in which music is used and the content of particular songs.”

    Peter Jones, who visited more than half of Australia’s Islamic schools while researching for his PhD, says ”there’s no agreement whatsoever about music”. For this reason, some principals simply ”didn’t want to touch it”. But, as all government-funded schools are required to teach the standard curriculum, being sensitive to some parents’ beliefs can mean taking a flexible approach.

    Al-Faisal College in Auburn has a music department but says it is up to parents to decide what is appropriate for their child.

    ”Some of the parents might say they are not comfortable with their child playing the drums or they are not comfortable with their child playing the guitar,” the deputy principal, Peter Rompies, says. ”But it’s not because we’ve banned them, we just find that our students are more inclined to play the keyboard.”

    While string, wind and brass instruments are often prohibited, many schools have Islamic choirs, which are often accompanied by traditional percussion instruments like the daf.

    This is the case at Rissalah College in Lakemba, where principal Bill McKeith says ”you tend to have more vocal work and more spiritual music rather than secular music”.

    The principal at Bellfield College in Rossmore, Sam Cannavo, says while there were some instruments parents would not be encouraging their children to play, violins, pianos and harps were fine.

    At Malek Fahd Islamic School, principal Ray Barrett says he only has one family who refuses to have their children participate in music.

    ”I haven’t found it a big problem,” he said. ”Whatever is done must fit within the Islamic ethos.”

    The controversies raging inside our Islamic schools

    October 24, 2015

    The sacking of a Brisbane principal is just the latest in a string of dismissals at Muslim colleges. Chris Ray examines claims of financial impropriety, gender discrimination and teachers with fundamentalist principles.

    The grounds of the Islamic College of Brisbane are quiet save the hum of cicada song on a late summer morning. With classes in session, the long-serving principal, Dr Mubarak Noor, is summoned to a conference room. Waiting for him are two power brokers of the Sydney-based Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, which owns the school. One of the visitors, AFIC president Hafez Kassem, gets straight to the point: he asks Noor to resign or be dismissed. “We are 100 per cent happy with your contribution but our advice is that you have to go,” Noor remembers Kassem saying.

    Someone needs to put the heat on ASIC to investigate the federation itself, not just its schools.

    Noor – a short, round-faced man with a full beard and somewhat sorrowful air – listens in disbelief that dissolves into mute anger. He refuses to resign, believing he is being made a scapegoat for troubles that jeopardise the school’s continued government funding. Kassem hands Noor an unsigned letter of dismissal stating he has lost the trust and confidence of “the college”. “I won’t accept an unsigned letter,” Noor insists. So Kassem signs it and thereby ends Noor’s 17 years of service, including 10 years as principal.

    While the 1050 primary and secondary students break for lunch and the midday prayer, a dismayed Noor returns to his office and sits for a long time contemplating what has just happened. Then he walks to the prayer hall, finds a moment of calm, and decides what he will do. He calls the union.

    Kassem and his associate, Agim Garana, a functionary of an AFIC school in Sydney, walk back down the corridor to the school board meeting that rubber-stamped Noor’s dismissal. Purged of dissenters a week earlier, the board has been stacked with outsiders flown from other states to provide a quorum for this impromptu meeting. Business over, its members tuck into an ample lunch of butter chicken and rice with naan bread. But one member finds the day too much to stomach and resigns that evening.

    AFIC owns six schools with 5500 students across Australia. Its leadership is notorious for removing school staff and board members who question its management practices. Noor and members of the Islamic College of Brisbane board – nominally the school’s governing body – suspected they had crossed the line when they disputed a $288,420 withdrawal from the school’s bank account. Two senior AFIC figures had authorised the transaction without seeking the approval of the school board or chairman – and without telling Noor, he says. The withdrawal was reversed six weeks later, following Noor’s objections.

    Noor complained again when financial statements prepared by AFIC revealed an unexplained near doubling of its related-party loan to the school. The school’s board refused to endorse the accounts and Queensland’s Non-State Schools Accreditation Board ordered a forensic audit. The result was a show-cause notice from the board threatening to cancel the school’s accreditation. Among the audit’s damning conclusions: AFIC’s “undue influence” over the school board compromised its independence and led to financial decisions not in the school’s best interest; and AFIC’s loan to the school may be overstated by “at least $881,000”.

    Reflecting on his sacking in February, Noor, a 53-year-old father of two teenagers, says: “I knew AFIC were unpredictable and untrustworthy but I didn’t expect to be treated this way without a valid reason. The accreditation board’s findings cast doubt on AFIC and the board it appointed – not me.” On a sideboard in his lounge room rests a farewell gift – a large, framed photograph of the entire secondary school signed by college staff. Though Noor quotes readily from scripture, and insists that “my religious upbringing means I don’t give too much importance to worldly things”, he clearly misses the role of leading one of only two Islamic schools serving Brisbane’s small Muslim community.

    Noor has taken his complaint to Queensland police. Meanwhile, the Independent Education Union is backing him at the Fair Work Commission, arguing he was victimised for raising governance issues and complying with the audit.

    This and other controversies led former federal education minister Christopher Pyne to order an audit of all AFIC schools, which receive about $45 million a year in federal and state government funding. Under examination are Islamic College of Brisbane, the Islamic College of Melbourne, Langford Islamic College in Perth, the Islamic College of South Australia, the Islamic School of Canberra, and Malek Fahd Islamic School, with three campuses in Sydney. Some non-AFIC Muslim schools are also tarnished by claims of financial impropriety, but these are outside the department’s investigation.

    Alleged mismanagement and unpopular, hardline policies have led placard- waving parents to protest at the gates of several Muslim schools. Australia’s biggest, Malek Fahd, was rocked by parent demonstrations in 2012, when breaches of funding conditions brought it to the brink of closure. This year, parents have repeatedly protested outside the Islamic College of South Australia in Adelaide.

    The federal department is examining persistent allegations – given credence by state government audits of Brisbane Islamic College and Malek Fahd – that AFIC operates schools for profit, in breach of their funding agreements. This is typically done through the use of excessive rents and service fees and artificially inflated loans, claim former staff and board members. They also complain of nepotism that puts unqualified relatives in charge of schools and AFIC numbers men on school payrolls drawing high salaries.

    Dodgy financial dealings frequently get the headlines, but other aspects of Islamic schooling – its strengths as well as weaknesses – also deserve far more transparency, say observers. The role of Islamic Studies teachers, for example, is rarely publicised but significant. They may be the imam of a local mosque and are “key figures in all the schools, consulted on issues ranging from dress codes to the suitability of the curriculum and texts or films”, says Peter Jones, a Tasmanian teacher who spent time at 20 Muslim schools to research a thesis.

    Some Islamic Studies teachers appear to foster sectarian intolerance between Sunnis, the biggest branch of Islam, and Muslim minorities such as Shi’ites. Noor, a Sunni, says he got rid of two “narrow-minded extremist” Sunni teachers who were “developing friction” between Sunni and Shia students. “We don’t want teachers to go into controversial topics such as differences between tendencies and sects,” he says. “I told the school assembly that everyone here is equal, whatever their stream of thought.”

    Jones found students felt alienated by teachers who expressed prejudice against other sects or faiths and who compared Islam in Australia unfavourably with a “purer” form of Islam overseas. “There definitely are teachers like that but the kids don’t have any respect for them.” Jones, who teaches at a Quaker school, emphasises that teachers at some Christian and Jewish schools also display religious intolerance.

    There are also claims that female students are pushed to the sidelines. Treatment of girls was contentious at the non-AFIC Al-Taqwa College in Melbourne. Principal Omar Hallak banned girls from a cross- country race because he thought running might cause them to lose their virginity, a former teacher claimed. The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority found no evidence of an outright ban but did order the school to change its curriculum and promote the benefits of sport for girls.

    However, most Islamic schools strive to build strong connections with the broader population, including schools of other faiths. “One of the myths we constantly challenge is that schools like ours are bastions of conservatism and that children are cocooned from the society around them,” says Osman Karolia, secretary of the Islamic Schools Association and deputy principal of Unity Grammar, a non-AFIC school in Sydney.

    Despite their high intake of students with English as their second language, Islamic schools generally perform well in academic rankings. That is what Muslim parents care about most, says Karolia. “Parents used to be quite conservative and inward-looking, with limited aspirations. Now the community is more affluent and parents demand more than just religious studies. They all want their kids to go to uni and become hot-shot lawyers or corporate raiders – to be successful in the professions.”

    So is the negative publicity about Islamic schools justified? The answer is yes – and no.

    Unanswered Financial Questions

    Mubarak Noor, who migrated to Australia from India 20 years ago, is by turns sardonic and indignant on the nature of AFIC. He doesn’t believe ideology played any part in his dismissal. “The leadership does not represent any particular tendency within Islam. They are opportunists who get together for mutual convenience,” he says. The walls of Noor’s apartment display Koranic verses invoking protection against djins, or evil spirits. But he believes only the Australian Securities and Investments Commission can put an end to AFIC’s questionable activities. Haset Sali, a former AFIC president who once ran the SPC fruit company as managing chairman, also wants the corporate regulator to step in. “Someone needs to put the heat on ASIC to investigate the federation itself, not just its schools,” says Sali, AFIC’s honorary legal adviser for more than 30 years.

    AFIC is the biggest single Muslim education provider but caters for a minority of the 30,000 children who study at Australia’s 39 Islamic schools. They in turn represent less than one quarter of all Muslim students, who mostly go to state schools. That may change: Islamic school enrolment numbers have gone up by 82 per cent since 2009 and most schools have long waiting lists. A registered charity, AFIC is built on revenue from schools ($4.4 million declared income in 2014) and the right to certify food and other products as halal (worth almost $1 million in 2014). As the self-styled peak body for Australia’s Muslims, it enjoys access to high levels of government here and abroad. But its many detractors say it is unrepresentative and unaccountable.

    Australian Muslims come from about 70 different ethnic backgrounds and are further differentiated by sect, language, political loyalties and generation. Organisationally, they are highly fragmented. Local disputes are often fired by savage politics far from Australia. Against that background, shifting factions have struggled for control of AFIC over the past decade.

    “I don’t think AFIC represents more than a small minority of Muslims,” says Ameer Ali, a former AFIC president who lectures in management and governance at Perth’s Murdoch University. Education consultant Silma Ihram, who in the 1980s founded one of Australia’s first Muslim schools, Al Noori in Sydney, says: “AFIC is one of the wealthiest Muslim organisations but hasn’t been accountable to the community it claims to represent. Unfortunately, AFIC have had the ear of the government for a long time.”

    At Sydney’s Malek Fahd school, AFIC saw off four principals between 2012 and 2014. The first to go, after 23 years, was the widely respected Dr Intaj Ali. He has never discussed his sacking with the media but two former board members – Neil Kadomi, chairman of Parramatta Islamic Cultural Association, and Hussein Allouche, head of the Al Minia Charitable Association – said AFIC moved against Ali after he sought financial information to assist a state government audit and expelled the son of a prominent AFIC figure.

    Ali’s successor, Refaat El Hajje, lasted six months. He complained to NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli of “continuous AFIC interference and unethical behaviour by both the AFIC board members and the school board members”. El Hajje told Good Weekend: “AFIC started to undermine me as soon as I asked for financial information. They get rid of anyone who stands up to them.”

    Of 148 non-government schools investigated in NSW since 2008, only Malek Fahd was found to have been operating for profit, according to the education department. The NSW government is now in court seeking to recover $9 million in school grants. The school’s HSC ranking has tumbled from 11th to 120th in eight years.

    Two Malek Fahd identities were on the team that dispatched Noor in Brisbane: the school’s bursar, Agim Garana, and its facilities management contractor, Amjad Mehboob, an AFIC chief executive for 29 years until 2006. Mehboob, 73, is now AFIC’s spokesman and is widely said to be still really running the organisation. “I admit I do have influence,” he concedes. “People used to call me the engine room. All the things that used to happen in AFIC, I was behind that.”

    For a multimillion-dollar business, AFIC’s annual reports are light on fact, strong on self-congratulation and piety. Hafez Kassem, a Lebanese-born childcare entrepreneur, ended the 51st annual congress last May with a prayer to Allah to “forgive our mistakes and shortcomings”. However that pans out, AFIC’s earthly critics are in no mood to offer absolution.

    “It’s a dictatorship and the authorities have done nothing to stop it,” says Neil Kadomi. AFIC treats schools as “cash cows” for its central body, says Haset Sali: “They’re focused on making money rather than achieving excellence in education.” The Australian-born son of Albanian immigrants, who recently published his own English translation of the Koran, Sali claims the Albanian Muslim Society of Shepparton, an AFIC foundation member, was expelled simply to exclude him from federation meetings.

    Stung by the criticism, and perhaps seeking to anticipate official findings, the normally secretive body announced it was “scaling back its services arrangements” with all schools, “reconciling any anomalies in the accounting for these services and subjecting all its financial arrangements to more stringent scrutiny”. It said AFIC had allowed the Islamic College of Brisbane to underpay its agreed rent whenever it was short of funds and the huge loan increase was “the balance of this accommodation”. AFIC’s media statement also claimed that the withdrawal of $288,420 from the school’s account was a mistake immediately reversed when identified by the school’s “standard reconciliation process”.

    Several attempts to seek clarification from AFIC finally resulted in an invitation to meet Amjad Mehboob at Malek Fahd school in the south-west Sydney suburb of Greenacre, where about 40 per cent of residents are Arabic-speaking Muslims. During a tour of the sprawling campus, with its own silver-domed mosque, Mehboob offered a different explanation for the controversial withdrawal: it represented outstanding rent that AFIC transferred to its Canberra school to cover urgent expenses including staff salaries. He added that far from profiting from its schools, AFIC subsidises them with loan guarantees and income from halal certification.

    Gender and Curriculum

    In ordering an investigation of school finances, Pyne said he was also concerned by controversy over curriculum and gender segregation. He may have been thinking of the irate parents battling the board of the Islamic College of South Australia over edicts mandating headscarves for female teachers and girl students, the scrapping of a music program reportedly deemed un-Islamic and the dismissal of a popular religious studies co- ordinator with 16 years of service. Two student protesters were expelled by text message and many of the 600 students responded by boycotting classes.

    Like other AFIC schools, the Adelaide college is notorious for staff purges. It has had four principals in three years, including two non-Muslim principals from prestigious private schools, and the Independent Education Union in SA claims to have fought more legal battles with it than the rest of its 200 private schools put together. Local ABC radio host and actor Peter Goers has had a 15-year association with the school as a volunteer drama teacher. Its problems include “hardline, overzealous Islam” and “a chairman who determines how the school is run rather than the principal,” Goers wrote in an opinion piece for Adelaide’s Sunday Mail.

    The college’s chairman, until he was removed in an AFIC “restructure” on October 10, was Farouk Khan, the national vice-president of AFIC. Fijian-born Khan, who has a background in meat processing, was also sent to Brisbane to oust Mubarak Noor. Khan defended the headscarves policy to the Adelaide media. “What about Mother Teresa?” he asked. “The whole of her life she never showed her hair and I have a lot of respect for her.”

    All private schools must teach the national curriculum to qualify for government funding. Muslim schools also teach: the Koran, held to be God’s revelations to Muhammad in the early 7th century; Islamic Studies, typically the life and teachings of Muhammad, along with ethics and etiquette; and Arabic. These lessons occupy up to six hours a week, similar to religious studies in Jewish and conservative Christian schools.

    Peter Jones spoke to imams at every school he visited. “They came from every corner of the earth. None were born in Australia, their levels of English varied enormously and they often were not trained as teachers,” he says, adding that many schools are working to put all staff through Australian teacher training. Ameer Ali, who chaired the Howard government’s Muslim advisory council, says imams from Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Egypt are not attuned to Australian culture. “More importantly, they are ill-equipped for the main challenge facing Australian Muslims – how to live as a minority in a non-Muslim country,” Ali says.

    Training local Islamic Studies teachers is a challenging long-term project, says Silma Irham, an Australian-born convert to Islam. “You need about 10 years of solid training at a very high level to become a recognised scholar. There is no tradition of scholarship in Australia to support that level of training.” Replacing foreigners – often here on short-term contracts – with trained locals will not by itself eliminate intolerance. Some scholars from the Middle East are “more open-minded and more accepting of other faiths and traditions than people who have lived here all their lives”, says Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh of Deakin University.

    Extremist elements

    The contradictory story of Mustapha al-Majzoub is a puzzle not easily solved. Majzoub was an imam who taught Islamic Studies at Unity Grammar in south-west Sydney, “a really positive role model” popular with students, according to principal Walid Ali. Majzoub was also the first Australian known to have died in the war in Syria, in 2012. Was he doing “humanitarian and charity work”, as his family said, or did he take part in the fighting, as seems possible? Majzoub preached at such platforms for bellicose fundamentalism as the Global Islamic Youth Centre and the former Al Risalah Bookstore in Sydney. He was “known to law enforcement and the intelligence community for extremist views”, according to The Australian newspaper. Yet the school’s only concern was for Majzoub’s safety after he resigned to go to Syria, says deputy principal Osman Karolia.

    Majzoub was born in Saudi Arabia to a Syrian father associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, a powerful regional opponent of secular Arab governments. Mustapha’s brother, Fedaa al-Majzoub, is a member of Australia’s National Imams Council and the only Australian member of the Syrian National Council, an Islamist shadow government based in Turkey. A didactic speaker with a chiliastic message, Mustapha’s Australian lectures shared on YouTube cast the Syrian conflict in purely sectarian terms, asserting that non-Muslims (a reference to Syria’s secular regime) must not be allowed to rule over Muslims.

    Syrian rebel online outlets claimed Mustapha was a rebel battalion commander “martyred while fighting”. In a Facebook post from Syria, he reported: “Allah Akbar Allah Akbar 72 from the shabeeha (loyal alawaite [sic] supporters) have just been captured in the Kurd mountain in Latakia. It’s going off everywhere here Allah Akbar.” One of his Facebook followers asked, chillingly: “Have they been slaughtered yet?” At Unity Grammar, where Majzoub taught mostly younger students, teachers “tried to ease the kids’ anxiety [over Majzoub’s death] but we didn’t dwell on it,” Karolia says. He insists the “highly respected and much-loved” Majzoub could not have deviated from the approved curriculum even if he wanted to, due to supervision and quality-control measures. He says the school is “very much on the alert” for extremist propaganda that might put students at risk – including on social media. “It’s not something we hide under the carpet; we openly discuss these matters with them at assembly or via formal statements and provide the correct guidance.”

    Majzoub’s birthplace, Saudi Arabia, is ruled by a theocratic monarchy that uses its oil wealth to globally promote a dogmatic mutation of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. Though Saudi Arabia is the West’s most important Arab ally, in July 2013 a report of the European Parliament identified Wahhabism as the main source of global terrorism. A British historian of religion, Karen Armstrong, says it has given a generation of Muslims around the world “a negative view of other faiths and an intolerantly sectarian understanding of their own”. Despite this, Wahhabism has become a major force among Australian Muslims thanks to Saudi largesse and control over the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

    Saudi donations helped build some of Australia’s first Muslim schools in the 1980s, including Al-Faisal College and Malek Fahd in Sydney and Melbourne’s King Khalid Islamic College (now Australian International Academy). Muslim schools are less reliant on donations since the Howard government made it easier to get government funding for private schools in the late 1990s.

    However, Saudi money continues to pay for scholarships to train Australian teachers of Islam in Saudi Arabia and Saudi students in Australia, grants to build mosques, subsidies for imams’ salaries and Arabic media, and free pilgrimage tickets. AFIC and other Australian certifiers of halal food vie for the patronage of the Saudi government-funded Muslim World League. It decides which Australian organisations are permitted to certify as halal more than $1 billion worth of Australian food exported to Saudi Arabia annually. It was from Saudi Arabia that AFIC’s Hafez Kassem issued a statement criticising former prime minister Tony Abbott’s February call for Muslim leaders to do more to combat extremism and violence.

    “O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends,” instructs a Koranic quotation on Mustapha Majzoub’s Facebook tribute page. Whatever its historical context, it’s a sentiment that would seem to offend the ethos and practice of Australia’s Islamic schools. Most have extensive outreach dialogue programs with non-Muslim schools, including Christian and Jewish schools, says Peter Jones. “When I was visiting the [Muslim] Australian International Academy primary school in Coburg in Melbourne, there were two Muslims, two Jews and two Christians addressing students, then discussing what was halal or kosher over morning tea.”

    During fighting between Israeli and Lebanese forces a few years back, Karolia, then principal of the Muslim Arkana College in Sydney’s south, contacted his counterpart at the Jewish Mount Sinai College in the city’s east to propose joint student programs. “Whatever happens overseas, our kids have to live together and work together,” he said. His proposal got “a few raised eyebrows” from Arkana parents but no overt opposition. “Ninety per cent immediately gave their consent and the rest eventually came on board.” The two schools still get together four times a year for activities such as sport, environmental clean-ups and cooking.

    Mixing with Jews did not please Man Haron Monis, the gunman who, claiming allegiance to Islamic State, held hostages in Sydney’s Lindt cafe siege in December 2014, resulting in the deaths of two hostages and Monis himself. Five years earlier, Monis, who had no connection with Arkana College, sent about a dozen faxed messages to Karolia objecting to the school’s ties with Mount Sinai College. He also condemned Karolia as a “traitor and sell-out” to Islam for organising an inter-faith Anzac Day ceremony for his students. Karolia complained to the federal police when the messages turned threatening, but he heard nothing more of Monis until the carnage at the Lindt cafe.

    Talking openly about your school can be risky in a community that often prefers to deal with problems in-house. Among several who declined to comment on the record for this story is a former student of Melbourne’s Al-Taqwa college, who earlier wrote a thoughtful critique of the school for Fairfax media. She described systematic discrimination against girls due to “culture and personal beliefs that are then filtered through the lens of Islam”. The article polarised her former classmates and generated a backlash strong enough to deter her from speaking out again.

    How much of our school funding is diverted to Islamic groups?

    What is going on here?

    A senior official in the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has been accused of attempting to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Islamic College of Brisbane and falsifying school loans worth almost $1?million…

    The school receives about 80 per cent of its funding from taxpayers…

    Islamic schools around Australia — including the nation’s largest, Malek Fahd in Sydney’s southwest — have been involved in numerous financial scandals.

    Malek Fahd was forced to repay $9m to taxpayers after The Australian revealed it had been funnelling profits to AFIC.

    Rissalah College in Sydney’s southwestern Lakemba had its funding frozen in 2013 amid allegations it misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in school funds and that a gun was pulled on a whistleblower.

    Three other Muslim schools have had their funding frozen by the NSW Education Department or have been the subject of police investigations in recent years…

    AFIC president Hafez Kasseem did not return requests from The Australian for comment.

    Add halal funding, and a hell of a lot of money is being channeled into AFIC and other Muslim groups.