Transcipt of Mufti interview

SBS REPORTER, ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: Yesterday you said that you gave the money to poor families in Lebanon.

What proof do you have to show that that happened?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY, MUFTI OF AUSTRALIA: I go to village, all village in north Lebanon. And about 30, 35 family, gave them donation hand by hand. Which by hand? By Sheikh Sayfi hand. I no touch any money in my hand. Not touch any money, in Australia or in Lebanon.

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: Are you aware that there has been a note that has been alleged to have been written by you, which claims that you gave money to Bilal Shabaan, the Lebanese political figure who is linked to Hezbollah and al-Qa'ida?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: Nothing here... propaganda, media.

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: Have you provided any financial support or ever supported terrorism?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: Again, for 15 years, safety for peace, man of peace. Man of modern way.

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: Well, how do you respond to claims that you are un-Australian?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: I repeat - I'm an Australian just as much as anyone.

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: People have said that your comments are very un-Australian, have been very damaging to the Muslim community and that your citizenship should be reviewed?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: I think in Australia, the country for democratic, for free, for multiculture. Australia not for under control of anyone. Australia for all.

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: When you were overseas you were quoted as saying that Australia is a dictatorship, is ruled by a dictatorship. Do you stand by that?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: Any leader, the pressure for any community, should be change your leader, change your imam - it's dictatorial. Not a free country. Not a free country then. Like, what's different between my government and the Arabic regime - where is the difference?

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: Some Muslims say you are a liability, an embarrassment, the Prime Minister has said that you are a joke. Will you consider stepping down as Mufti?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: It's a free country. Everybody can say everything they like. I am Mufti, I am Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilaly. What is different?

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: What will it take for you to consider stepping down from this role?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: Just one - you can't, go, my God.

ASHLEIGH NGHIEM: If the Imams Council decides that you should not stay on as Mufti after June, what will you do?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: I respect the Imams Council, but we need Imams Council, we need, you will see, what's the right imam or false imam?

Are you saying that you won't listen to what they say?

SHEIK TAJ EL-DIN AL-HILALY: With the right imam, I listen to right imams.

Source SBS

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