Reclusive Muslim sect that refuses to recognise Australian law is ordered to knock down its illegal bush compound and stop using the land for religious worship
- Muslim Diwan Al Dawla guild is building a religious site at Colo, north of Sydney
- Hawkesbury Council says no approval was sought for any of the development
- Imam Dr Mustapha Kara-Ali says he does not recognise Australian ‘religious’ law
- Dr Kara-Ali described council officers as ‘Crusaders’ under the Christian Cross
- Council took Dr Kara-Ali and his brother Diaa to the Land and Environment Court
The reclusive Muslim sect building an illegal bush compound north of Sydney has been ordered to knock down every building on the site and not use it for religious worship.
The Diwan Al Dawla guild has previously said it will not obey Australia law and indicated it would refuse to abide by any court rulings over its religious retreat at Colo.
The Land and Environment Court found on Monday the sect had undertaken land clearing and earthworks in breach of planning laws and had built structures without approval.
The guild’s founder, Dr Mustapha Kara-Ali, has previously refused Hawkesbury City Council officers access to the land, stating they are ‘Cruasaders’ and an affront to Islam.
Dr Mustapha Kara-Ali is the founder of the Diwan Al Dawla Muslim guild which has set up a religious retreat on the Colo River, north of Sydney. He does not recognise Australian law
Hawkesbury City Council took civil action against Dr Kari-Ali alleging his group carried out illegal land clearing and earthworks on the site. Pictured is the frame of a horse barn
The entrance to the Diwan Al Dawla religious site (pictured) has to be demolished and removed within 28 days, along with four flagpoles, a shed and a party-built horse barn on the site
Dr Kara-Ali Dr Kari-Ali also refused to attend court because he did not recognise its authority.
‘It’s against our religion,’ the imam said of the court action against him. ‘It’s against our religion to be subject to any other religion.’
‘Because of the religious symbolism of the court, that contradicts with my religion. For my religion to be free I can’t be dictated to by another religion.’
Justice Terry Sheahan ordered all structures on the site including an elaborate entrance, four flagpoles, three concrete slabs, a shed and a partly-built barn be demolished within 28 days.
A ‘river entry ramp’ which council submitted was for boats and Diwan Al Dawla said was for baptisms had to be removed in the same timeframe.
Justice Sheahan also restrained the group from ‘carrying out of any and all religious activities of devotion, self-discipline, ritual baptism, inter-community prayers, contemplation and religious study or for the purposes of public worship.’
The order extends unless and until Diwan Al Dawla is granted appropriate development consent for the site.
Diwan Al Dawla bought the property for $670,000 in May last year and began building what it calls the Southern Chariot religious site.
Hawkesbury City Council says this structure is a boat ramp. The imam of the Diwan Al Dawla group says it is a walkway to the Colo River used for baptisms fashioned from an old spillway
The 12 hectare property is home to about 30 Arabian horses which the group intends to use to help troubled Muslim youth, particularly from western Sydney, engage with God.
A shed and two demountable buildings have been erected on the site and a barn is being built. There is also a grove of young trees including olives, figs and walnuts.
An elaborate structure described by council as a ‘boat ramp’ is in fact a walkway for people to be baptised in the Colo River, according to Dr Kara-Ali.
‘It’s not a boat ramp because we have no boats,’ he said. ‘The purpose of it is religious. The purpose of the horses is religious. The purpose of everything you see here is religious.’
On the other side of the road the group is carving a 1km hippodrome out of a hillside to train horses.
Mustapha (right) and Diaa Kara-Ali (left) pictured when confronted by Hawkesbury City Council officers at the gates of their 12 hectare property in the Hawkesbury region last month
The Diwan Al Dawla guild is carving a hippodrome out of this hillside at Colo so it can train Arabian horses. The group did not seek development approval from council to construct it
The council launched civil action against Dr Kari-Ali and his brother Diaa Kara-Ali alleging the men carried out illegal land clearing and earthworks and built gates, fences and driveways without approval.
The brothers agreed they had not sought approval for the work and said they had no intention of doing so because they did not recognise Australian law.
Dr Kara-Ali considers any government symbol which incorporated a version of a Christian cross – including the Southern Cross and the Cross of St George – to be an affront to Islam.
He cited a description of St George ‘appearing at the head of an army of the Seven Champions of Christendom – a celestial knight who won a great victory over a Moslem host.’
He believes any authority which uses such a symbol – such as the police and the courts – to be religious, rather than secular.
‘Any religious symbol, if they come to us by force it is a violation,’ he said. ‘It is a violation of our site.’
This shed on a concrete slab has been built without development approval by the Diwan Al Dawla guild at Colo, north of Sydney. The guild says it does not recognise Australian law
Two portable buildings have been erected on the Colo site but Dr Mustapha Kara-Ali says no one lives in them. They are used by workers on the property or sometimes for prayer
There are more than 30 Arabian horses on the Diwan Al Dawla religious site at Colo
He compared anyone who acted in government interests under a religious symbol to the Christian Crusaders who fought against Muslims in the medieval period.
‘Crusaders, absolutely, by virtue of their use of Crusader symbols,’ Dr Kara-Ali said.
‘My main issue is the interference between the secular and the religious. What we are saying in a nutshell is the country of Australia is entrenched in secular symbolism and religious symbolism that stretches back to the time of the Crusades.
‘This means that this government is not secular. It is religious because it carries these symbols.
‘And we refuse for pagan symbols such as crosses to be on top of our lives.
‘Remove these religious symbols and we can talk about secular government. But not now.
‘For us, this is religious freedom.’
Dr Kara-Ali said if government bodies tried to enforce their rules upon him he would resist. ‘I tell you what, people like us will say our God is supreme.’
The Kara-Ali brothers were due in court on Monday last week but did not attend. A hearing went ahead without them or a lawyer acting on their behalf.
The main entrance to the Southern Chariot religious site as seen from inside the retreat
The court heard the brothers had ignored repeated calls for them to stop developments on the site.
Lawyer Mark Cottom for the council said an officer had requested police accompany them on an inspection of the property because they might have required to force entry,’ according to the ABC.
‘The police appear to have significant concerns in relation to safety… wishing to have the riot squad and Polair available,’ Mr Cottom said.
Dr Kara-Ali said that was ‘just plain ridiculous’.
‘There is no need for the police,’ he said. All the police would find is ‘a group of people praying and a few horses.’
‘We are living our life like we desire. We desire to be separate from the secular. Is this too much to ask? And the secular wants to intimidate us with military might.’
‘We are more powerful than their helicopters.’
Dr Kara-Ali believed his guild members were being treated as ‘violent ragheads that know nothing about the world.’
Imam Mustapha Kara-Ali, pictured with one of the more than 30 Arabian horses on his Southern Chariot religious site at Colo, believes all government officials are ‘Crusaders’
‘We believe in our cause. We believe we are pioneers of religious freedom in this country.
‘It is our way to disconnect. We want to disconnect. We want to be left alone.’
Dr Kara-Ali declined last Tuesday to say how many members of Diwan Al Dawla there were.
‘That’s not significant,’ he said. We don’t have to report that to anybody. It’s not a matter of numbers. It’s a matter of concepts. We’re not short of numbers, let me assure you.’
The court heard the conflict turned ugly last month when three council officers attended the property to serve papers on the Kara-Ali brothers. A dashcam video tendered to the court showed the pair confront the officers.
‘Both men were repeatedly yelling obscenities from the other side of the gate, calling out, “You dogs, I step on your cross”, one of the council officers alleged.
No approval was sought or granted for the tree clearing and earthworks at the Colo site
The horses at the Southern Chariot site at Colo have their own religious meaning to adherents
However, Dr Kara-Ali said he and his brother were intimidated by the actions of the ‘violent monkeys’ and anyone could enter the site as long as they did not do so under a cross.
‘This gate is open,’ he said.
Dr Kara-Ali wrote to Hawkesbury City Council in March explaining another reason why he believed government had no authority over the group.
‘The Colo Wilderness site is a religious site that is owned by the members of Diwan Al Dawla for the carrying out of religious activities of devotion, self-discipline, ritual baptism, inter-community prayers, contemplation and religious study, he wrote.
‘The Land with its Colo River access serves as a reclusive place of worship.
‘Members of Diwan al Dawla… live as a religious guild separated from secular lifetsyles to pursue a religious mode of worship to and an ascetic lifestyle under an oath of self-sacrifice and dedication to the purpose of Diwan Al Dawla.’
The planned hippodrome across the road from the religious site will be used to train horses
Dr Kara-Ali contended Hawkesbury City Council had no power to tell Diwan Al Dawla what to do because it is a ‘basic religious charity’ registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for profits Commission (ACNC).
‘Charities who meet the definition of Basic Religious Charity do not have to submit annual financial reports, and they do not have to comply with the ACNC governance standards which include… “Compliance with Australian laws”,’ Dr Kara-Ali wrote.
According to the imam, that also puts his guild above the law.
‘Religious activities, according to our ACNC registered governing rules… must remain independent of entities that represent secular socio-economic structures and modes of living,’ he wrote.
‘…Diwan Al Dawla, as a Basic Religious Charity, is not required to comply with Australian laws.’
That claim was not supported by the ACNC.