Islamic cleric’s fight against deportation over
by Jodie Minus
Source: The Australian
June 28 2010
The father of four flew out of Sydney last night with his wife and 14-year-old daughter Fatima after a long campaign by Australian supporters from across the religious divide failed to sway the federal government against the deportation decision.
“I’m going to miss everyone so much,” Dr Leghaei said yesterday after packing up his home in Sydney’s inner west.
The sheik’s three sons will remain in Australia.
“I will not only miss my children — my flesh and blood — but I will also miss the Muslim community and the wider community, the Christian community and all the other Australians who have been amazingly supportive,” he said.
“I don’t think I will find better friends anywhere.”
Dr Leghaei, an imam at the Shia Imam Husain Islamic Centre at Earlwood in Sydney’s inner west, was ordered to leave Australia after ASIO issued an adverse security assessment when he applied for permanent residence in 1995.
But neither ASIO nor the government will tell him the reasons behind the decision, saying they are not required to because he is not an Australian citizen.
Mansour Leghaei at home in Sydney with his wife, Marzieh, and daughter, Fatima, 14, before they were deported to Iran yesterday. Picture: Brianne Makin Source: The Australian
Dr Leghaei spent more than a decade trying to have his case heard in the federal and high courts without success, but the legal action did bring to light some of the reasons behind ASIO’s decision to make an adverse security assessment against him.
The security organisation translated the Arabic student diaries belonging to Dr Leghaei and claimed they promoted jihad, but two subsequent translations found no such evidence.
An anonymous and unsubstantiated letter claiming Dr Leghaei had links to an obscure French terrorism cell was also used in ASIO’s determination that he had carried out “acts of interference”.
Dr Leghaei’s wife, Marzieh, and son Mohammed Ali, 21, both applied for permanent residence on the same paperwork as the sheik and their request was granted.
Fatima was born in Australia, while twin sons Mohammed Reza and Mohammed Sadegh, 26, were granted Australian citizenship shortly after the family arrived in the 1990s.
Dr Leghaei is a moderate cleric and widely admired by other religious leaders for his work in building bridges between the faiths. A farewell event at the Islamic Centre on Saturday night attracted almost 1000 people, including many from the Christian, Hindu and Jewish faiths.
Fatima, who has only visited Iran for holidays and cannot read or write Farsi, said it was hard saying goodbye to her friends from Canterbury Girls High School.
“The main thing that was difficult was at school on Friday when I said goodbye and all my friends and I were just crying and it was really sad,” Fatima said.
Despite the freighting of all their belongings to Iran and the bubble-wrapping of homewares yesterday, Fatima was still having difficulty accepting the move to Iran was permanent, and was hopeful her family would return to Australia in six months.