Australia

Tributes flow at funeral of Australia's Grand Mufti

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Large crowds have farewelled Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi.

People travelled from far and wide to Melbourne's west on Thursday, a place where Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi made a huge impression.

Crowds filled the Al Taqwa mosque, where the Egyptian-born sheikh served as imam there after migrating to Australia 18 years ago.

"Such a person touched us all, such a person who had an impact, not only on the Muslim community of Melbourne but on the wider Australian community," said Imam Sheikh Syed Osama Burhan who led the funeral service.

Sheikh Shady Al-Suleiman, from the Australian National Imams Council, described his colleague as a man who built bridges between Muslims and the wider community.

"One of the things that we constantly mentioned was that if we got together, the community got together,” he said.

“If the imams are united then the rest of the Muslims are united."

Despite his terminal illness, Sheikh Abdel Aziem was elected as Australia's top Sunni Islamic leader in March this year.

Local surgeon Nezor Houli told the service the sheikh remained warm and good-humoured in hospital until the end, determinedly upbeat in the face of a grim prognosis presented by his liver cancer.

"All the nurses really enjoyed looking after him and said he never complained.”

“All he cared about was for the doctors not to tell his wife that he is dying,” he said, visibly fighting back tears.

Funeral-goers also heard how the much-loved mufti helped steer young people away from trouble and forged close relations with Victoria Police leaders, like Inspector Craig Matters.

"He truly was a wonderful man and he as a friend and a brother to me and he will be sorely missed and when I heard the news I knew that part of my heart would go with him," Mr Matters said.

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