Thursday, July 14, 2005

Top Cleric Sparks Anger Over 'Bin Laden Innocent' Claim

Sheikh Mohammed Omran
One of Australia’s leading Islamic clerics says he does not believe Osama bin Laden directed the September 11 2001 terrorist strikes against America or that Muslims were involved in either that attack or last week’s London bombings. “I dispute any evil action linked to bin Laden. I don’t believe that even September 11 … was done by any Muslim at all, or any other activities,” said Sheikh Mohammed Omran, echoing a point of view that has gained wide currency in the Islamic world since the attacks. Omran, head of the fundamentalist Ahl Sunnah wal Jama’ah Association in Melbourne, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation television that he rejected allegations that bin Laden played a leading role in the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York. “When you look at the man (bin Laden), from some part of his life, yes he is (a great man),” Omran said. He said he also did not accept that Islamic extremists were responsible for the London train bombings that killed at least 52 people last week.“No one has proven that any Muslim (was involved),” Omran said. “How could I believe any Muslim could think to help his religion by doing an evil act like this?” Omran’s statements drew sharp criticism from Attorney General Philip Ruddock. “I don’t think (Omran) speaks for Muslims generally and I think most Muslims in Australia regard what has happened as inexcusable and quite horrific,” he told ABC Radio. “I think his comments were disingenuous.” Ruddock, who is responsible for Australia’s major spy agency and a raft of new counter-terrorism laws, said most Australian Muslims “recognise that Osama bin Laden, by his public statements, has made it clear that he is about pursuing terrorist objectives”.