A radical Australian cleric drew widespread condemnation Thursday over videos in which he encourages children to become martyrs for Islam and ridicules Jews as pigs.
Sheik Feiz Mohammed, head of the Global Islamic Youth Center in western Sydney, made the remarks on a series of videotaped lectures for sale in Australia and overseas.
“We want to have children and offer them as soldiers to the jihad,” the Australian-born cleric said on a portion of one of the tapes, aired on Australian television.
The cleric said many parents were stopping their children from attending Islamic lessons for fear that they “might create a place in their hearts, the love, just a bit of love, of sacrificing their lives for Allah.”
“We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam,” he added. “Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid,” or holy warrior.
He also ridicules Jews as pigs, snorting and saying they will go to hell.
The sheik, who has spent the past year living in Lebanon, was not immediately available to comment. Calls went unanswered Thursday at the youth center, a volunteer-run organization that sponsors pajama parties, ping pong matches and rock climbing expeditions for young Muslims.
Many of the sheik’s online lectures focus on preparing oneself for death, but do not explicitly mention jihad or martyrdom. But in a fiery lecture about the state of Islam posted on the video sharing network, YouTube, he says today’s Muslims are not as inclined to martyrdom as their ancestors.
“In our times, it is the fear of death - the fear of sacrificing your finger, your toe, a drop of blood - that is more honorable than anything else,” he says on the video, which features images of violence and death.
“We are the most humiliated nation on the face of this earth, there is no doubt,” he says. “Why? Because martyrdom to us is not appealing, it’s not as appealing to us as it was to those ancestors, the great warriors.” His remarks have sparked a firestorm of condemnation in Australia.
Kevin Rudd, the opposition Labor Party leader, said the sheik should not return to Australia.
“These are appalling statements and they have no place in Australia,” Rudd told reporters. “As I see it Sheik Mohammed’s statements add up to incitement to terrorism.”
A senior government minister, Kevin Andrews, agreed. “All good-minded people, regardless of their religious beliefs or faith or none, I believe, would find these comments to be reprehensible and offensive - that is certainly the view of the Australian government,” said Andrews, the minister for workplace relations.
The chairman of the non-government Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said the sheik should be investigated under Australia’s strict anti-terror laws for possibly inciting violence.
It is the latest in a string of controversies sparked by some of Australia’s top Muslim leaders. Late last year, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, the mufti of Australia since 1989, made international headlines when he likened unveiled women to “Uncovered meat,” suggesting they invite sexual assault.
Al-Hilali triggered a further outcry last week, when he told an Egyptian television station that Muslim immigrants were more Australian than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts whose descendants were brought to Australia by Britain as convicts.