Chances are, he won’t be gone anytime soon. Â The lefty loons, certain “community leaders” and assorted church-creatures present him as a “peace making sheik”. Â Can’t miss out on that “interfaith dialogue” and those generous gov’t grants that come with it.
An update on this story: Spying for Iran:Â Mansour Leghaei
By John Stewart for Lateline/ABC with thanks to Mullah
Religious and community leaders in Sydney are rallying behind an Iranian sheikh who will be deported from Australia in a fortnight.
Sheikh Mansour Leghaei has lived in Australia for the past 16 years but was prevented from gaining a permanent visa after being declared a security threat by intelligence agency ASIO.
The sheikh’s supporters say he is a peace maker and has been building bridges between Islam and Christianity for more than a decade.
We need drawbridges to protect us from the interfaith parasites/ed
Even Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland wrote a character reference supporting the sheikh in 1997 when Mr McClelland was a member of the opposition.
But after years of battling ASIO and immigration officials in the courts, Sheikh Leghaei will be sent back to Iran.
His wife and one of his three sons will also be deported.
His supporters from an inter-faith religious council are furious that ASIO has refused to re-consider its negative security assessments of the sheikh.
Reverend David Smith from Sydney’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church says authorities know he is not a serious threat.
“They made a negative security assessment of him, 13 years ago, and they’ve known about him for 13 years,” he said.
“How seriously do they take his threat? They know he’s not a serious threat.”
Another supporter, Professor Alan Coates, says he does not want to lose someone who encourages inter-faith dialogue.
“Communications between the faiths is always a delicate flower,” he said.
“Dr Leghaei has been a very good gardener and we don’t want to lose him.
“If we lose him his own community will suffer.
“Hundreds of people are attached to his community, and under whose influence they might fall next we don’t know.”
Two weeks ago the Migration Review Tribunal denied the sheikh a visa after ruling it lacked the authority to examine or overrule ASIO’s assessment.
ASIO is not obliged to reveal to the sheikh’s lawyers what evidence its assessments are based on.
The sheikh’s supporters are outraged that he has been unable to challenge ASIO’s evidence.
Father Gwilym Henry-Edwards from St Luke’s Anglican Church in Sydney says the sheikh has been denied natural justice.
“He hasn’t been able to see what charges have been laid against him or defend himself,” he said.
“I thought that should be a basic human right which should be available to all people.
“It doesn’t matter who they are; it doesn’t matter if they are Australian citizens or not.”
Sheikh Leghaei has always denied being a spy for the Iranian government or spreading a pro-Iranian political message.
He has challenged ASIO’s adverse security assessments in the federal and high courts but failed.
In 2007 the sheikh told the ABC that he was unclear why ASIO considered him a threat to national security.
“In all honesty I have no idea what evidence they have. This is one of my wishes in my life,” he said.
“For the past 12 years I was told that I am a risk to national security and I’ve been living here peacefully for more than a decade.”
ASIO found the sheikh had engaged in “acts of foreign interference”.
But Professor Clive Williams from Macquarie University says so-called “acts of foreign interference” can refer to a wide range of activities.
“It’s not very clear. It might be that they’ve been saying things in support of a particular group or they are perhaps straying from religious sermons into other areas,” he said.
Professor Williams says Australia remains concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and support for terrorist groups.
“Iran has made a policy since 1979 of supporting some terrorist groups, namely Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Al-Madi army, which isn’t listed as a terrorist group but is active in southern iraq,” he said.
“They have all received assistance from Iran.”
The sheikh’s supporters say that deporting him will create bitterness and resentment in his community.
Reverend David Smith says the decision will create a community crisis.
“I think it will cause enormous reverberations in that community,” he said.
“I don’t know how they will deal with it. But certainly if you are already dealing with a group who are on the wrong end of the stick, it’s not going to help.”
In the past, Sheikh Leghaei has also enjoyed strong support from Australian politicians.
When the Imam Husain Islamic Centre was set up by Sheikh Leghaei in 1997, the then attorney-general Philip Ruddock gave the sheikh his blessing.
“I do note very much the inclusive nature of the centre that you have developed,” he said.
In 1997, while in opposition, Mr McClelland wrote a character reference supporting the sheikh, describing him as an asset to Australia.
As the Federal Attorney-General, Mr McClelland is now responsible for ASIO.
Today a spokesman for his office said: “Those references were made for Dr Leghaei while Mr McClelland was in his capacity as a local member and based on his observations of Dr Leghaei’s work in the local community,” he said.
“Because he was in opposition and not in government, Mr McClelland was not privy to the content of security assessments made about Dr Leghaei at the time.”
Sheikh Leghaei has four children. Three will be allowed to remain in Australia.
Ali Leghaei arrived in Australia aged four and is now a 20-year-old university student.
Ali arrived on his father’s visa and has been unable to obtain Australian citizenship.
One supporter, Navid Sedaghati, says Ali Leghaei has completed all his education in Australia.
“He undertook his pre-schooling, primary school, high school and university studies in Australia,” he said.
“He is a true blue Aussie. He has been around since the age of four.”
Sheikh Leghaei is lodging a final appeal to the Immigration Minister.
Failing that, he and his wife and son will be deported.