The mufti of Australia visited Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip last Wednesday, sparking condemnation among the country’s Jewish leadership.
Dr. Ibrahim "Abu Mohammed" Salem led a delegation of Australian sheikhs and scholars to Gaza last week, saying he wanted to learn from Hamas’ leaders.
Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said, “There is nothing he can learn from Gaza and its Hamas rulers that can possibly have any legitimate application in Australia. His visit and his comments undermine Australia’s efforts to build a peaceful, inclusive and democratic multicultural society.”
"We feel like we are on cloud nine, we feel like we are on top of the world," Salem said, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
"We came here in order to learn from Gaza... to learn steadfastness, sacrifice, and the defense of one's rights from them," Salem said.
The military wing of Hamas is listed as a proscribed terrorist organization by the Australian Government.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said any allegations of unlawful behavior would be investigated by authorities.
According to a report by The Australian, the country’s foreign ministry said Salem’s visit had nothing to do with the government.
During his visit, the report said, Salem described Gaza as the land of pride and martyrdom. "I am pleased to stand on the land of jihad to learn from its sons and I have the honor to be among the people of Gaza where the weakness always becomes strength, the few becomes many and the humiliation turns into pride," he reportedly told local news agencies.
According to The Australian, Salem has been styled as a moderate since taking the top Australian Muslim post, and “has insisted radical Muslim extremists in Australia need to be corrected”.