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I support Hezbollah: Aussie cleric
THE nation's most senior Shia Muslim cleric has attacked John Howard for backing Israel against Arabs and openly declared his allegiance to the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
Kamal Mousselmani -- head of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council of Australia -- said yesterday his entire community considered Hezbollah a "resistance group", not a terrorist network, and lashed the Howard Government over its support for Israel.
"They (the Australian Government) are encouraging terrorism," the Lebanese-born cleric told The Weekend Australian in an interview conducted in Arabic. "Australia is encouraging Israel to kill our people daily. Write that down, we are not afraid of anyone."
Sheik Mousselmani said all of Australia's approximately 30,000 Shi'ites were avid supporters of Hezbollah (Party of God) and haters of Israel.
"Shia in Australia consider Israel a terrorist organisation and also view those who support Israel in the same light," he said. "That's what we believe.
"If Australia supports Israel, they are defending terrorism. Because we believe terrorists come from Israel -- not from our people -- I support Hezbollah."
Sheik Mousselmani's comments come as national security agencies step up their investigation into the Shia community in Australia, which until now has not been as closely monitored as the Sunni Muslims.
The Weekend Australian understands security authorities are monitoring financial transactions between community members and organisations abroad.
Sydney's Arncliffe Mosque, the largest Shia place of worship in Australia, and Melbourne's Fawkner Mosque are also understood to be of interest to the authorities.
Sheik Mousselmani confirmed his community sent money to war victims in Lebanon following last year's conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, but said none of the money went to Shia militants.
Asked if his organisation would send money if Hezbollah were to ask for it, he said: "If they need it, that would be an entirely different matter."
The 36-year-old cleric dismissed claims his community received funds from Iran to spread the ideology of religious hardliners in Tehran.
He said the Shia community in Australia took its religious orders and advice from Iraq's supreme Islamic leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Husaini al-Sistani. "The Shia community has nothing to hide."