Muslim leader in heated clash
By RACHEL MORRIS and BEN ENGLISH
January 7, 2003
THE spiritual head of Australia's Muslim community faces five criminal
charges after he was arrested in a heated clash in Sydney yesterday.
In a tense stand-off involving up to 20 police and as many onlookers,
Sheik Taj El Din Al Hilaly was handcuffed before being transferred to
hospital when he complained he felt unwell.
The incident began when the sheik, 62, was pulled over while driving his
1991 white Ford LTD.
A patrol officer stopped him when he noticed white metal sheeting
protruding from a window.
When the sheik emerged the officer demanded that his car - and later the
mufti himself - be searched.
A local resident, a 23-year-old from nearby apartments, then intervened
and began to argue with police, allegedly telling the officer he had no
right to treat the mufti in this fashion.
When Sheik Hilaly refused to be strip-searched on the spot, the officer
suggested they ask local residents if he could be searched in their
homes. Again the sheik refused.
The officer then called for back-up and police converged on the scene.
Police then handcuffed the Islamic leader and an onlooker.
Then the mufti, who underwent triple heart bypass surgery 18 months ago,
complained he was feeling unwell.
He was taken by police to hospital where he was undergoing tests.
He was also treated for a sprained hand and bruising from the handcuffs.
He was later told he would be charged by summons with assaulting an
officer, resisting arrest, carrying a protruding load from his vehicle
and driving while unregistered and uninsured.
The other man was released and faces a number of charges, including
Lawyer Stephen Hopper said Sheik Hilaly would vigorously defend the
charges of assault and resisting arrest.
Mr Hopper said the incident was a case of "over-zealous policing".
Sheik Hilaly's spokesman, Keysar Trad, condemned the police treatment of
the mufti but urged the Muslim community not to react.
"This is like the Governor-General being arrested," he said. "You
wouldn't see the Governor-General being treated like this."
Imam facing charges after row with police
By Linda Morris
Sydney Morning Herald
January 7, 2003
Sheik Taj el-Din Al Hilaly emerges with his family from Canterbury
Hospital after tests on his heart. Photo: Peter Morris
It began as a routine traffic check but ended with the spiritual leader
of Australia's 300,000 Muslims in hospital and facing charges of
resisting arrest and police assault.
What happened in between is a matter of hot dispute, with conflicting
versions of events, allegations of police harassment and threats to sue
the force for unlawful detention.
And the resulting rift is likely to threaten the tenuous accord between
the local Muslim community and the NSW Police Force.
Sheik Taj el-Din Al Hilaly, 62, an Australian naturalised Egyptian, Mufti
of Australia and imam of Lakemba mosque, was pulled over by an Ashfield
highway patrol officer in Wiley Park at 11.25am yesterday.
As he drove to his daughter's home a tube of plastic was protruding from
a passenger door window, according to Keysar Trad, spokesman for the
Lebanese Muslim Association.
"It was sticking out five centimetres, it was very pliable and soft. It
wasn't any danger," he said.
But police contend it was made of metal, not plastic, and found the late
model Ford LTD to be unregistered and uninsured.
"Next thing, the officer wanted to search his car and Sheik Al Hilaly
asked that he should do it privately, not publicly, as it was an area
where he would be recognised and he didn't want to create a stir," Mr
"They took everything out of his pockets and there was nothing in the
car, nothing on him, nothing suspicious and why would there be?"
But by now, a crowd of mostly Muslim men was watching. Some witnesses put
numbers at 10, others at 30 to 40.
Police say that as the officer spoke to the driver, a 23-year-old man
came out of a nearby block of flats and began arguing. The man later told
the Herald that police were suspicious the sheikh was carrying weapons.
None was found.
What followed, police say, was a struggle which resulted in two arrests.
There was some pushing and shoving, admits Mr Trad, but not involving
Sheik Al Hilaly.
In any event, the highway patrol officer called for back-up. Again
witness stories vary, with some saying 20 police turned up, others fewer
than five or six.
Sheik Al Hilaly was handcuffed and taken to Canterbury Hospital's
emergency department after he complained of heart strain and bruises to
his wrist and hand. He left about 8.30pm.
Surrounded by his wife and children, he said: "The police officer, he
tried to do his job, but not through the Australian way. I think he tried
the Chicago way.
"He tried to do his job. I leave my case with the [police] commissioner.
"Law is law. There is no difference between one person to another but we
need respect for all people."
Sheik Al Hilaly's lawyer, Stephen Hopper, said he expected his client to
be charged by summons in coming weeks for resisting arrest and assault of
a police officer. All charges would be contested.
Sheik Al Hilaly was also considering lodging a formal complaint against
the officer for unlawful detention, an action which if successful could
result in a compensation claim.
The police said the matter was before the courts and no further comment
could be made.