Lakemba Mosque

Coordinates: 33°54′45″S 151°04′27″E / 33.912589°S 151.074074°E / -33.912589; 151.074074
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Lakemba Mosque
Masjid Ali Bin Abi Talib[1]
Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb Mosque[2]
Eid Prayer at Lakemba Mosque.jpg
Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Lakemba Mosque, in October 2014
RiteSunni Islam
Ecclesiastical or organisational statusMosque
OwnershipLebanese Muslim Association
LeadershipShaykh Yahya Safi (Imam)
LocationLakemba (Sydney), New South Wales, Australia
Geographic coordinates33°54′45″S 151°04′27″E / 33.912589°S 151.074074°E / -33.912589; 151.074074
FounderLebanese Muslim Association
Lakemba Mosque under construction in the 1970s

The Lakemba Mosque, also known as the Masjid Ali Bin Abi Talib[1] and officially the Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb Mosque,[2] is Australia's largest mosque.[3] It was the first purpose-built mosque in Sydney and is located at 71-75 Wangee Road, Lakemba. Owned and managed by the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA),[4] Lakemba Mosque and the LMA offices are situated contiguously at the same address.


A small house on the current site of Lakemba Mosque was purchased and used by the Lebanese Muslim Association from the 1960s as a place of worship. The house was demolished in the early 1970s and construction of the current building commenced. Construction lasted five years, with the mosque being completed in 1977.[5] The opening of the mosque was attended by the former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Fundraising for the mosque took place both locally and internationally, with about half the funds coming from the Middle East and the largest single donation coming from the Saudi royal family.[6] Lakemba Mosque was the second purpose-built mosque in Sydney and remains arguably Australia's most well-known and important mosque.

While historically Muslims of Lebanese heritage constituted the majority of the congregation, today people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Somali and South-East Asian backgrounds also attend in significant numbers, along with a small but growing number of converts. The overwhelming majority of the congregation is either of Hanafi or Shafi'i background.


1977 'Holy War' document[edit]

During Ramadan celebrations on September 30, 1977, around 4000 copies of a document calling for a "Holy War" (Jihad) was distributed to worshippers at Lakemba mosque. The document stated that Muslims must wage war against foreign interference and to spread Islam. It also made discriminatory references to Christians, Jews, Hindus and others, referring to them as "infidels" that must be fought. Middle Eastern Christian groups such as the Maronites and Copts believed that the document was created by Muslim Brotherhood members active at the mosque.[7]

Taj El-Din Hilaly[edit]

Taj El-Din Hilaly, the former Imam of Lakemba Mosque from the 1980s till 2007 (and whose wages were paid by Gaddafi's Libyan Islamic Call Society and private individuals"[8][9]) is known to have made numerous controversial statements.

1988 speech regarding Jews[edit]

In 1988 when Hilaly delivered a lecture to a group of Muslim students at University of Sydney on the topic "The Disposition of Jews in the light of the Qur'an." He was quoted as saying:

"The Jews' struggle with humanity is as old as history itself; the present continuing struggle with the Islam nation is a natural continuation of the Jews' enmity towards the human race as a whole. Judaism controls the world by...secret movements as the destructive doctrines and groups, such as communism, libertarianism, Free Masons, Baháʼísm, the Rotary clubs, the nationalistic and racist doctrines. The Jews try to control the world through sex, then sexual perversion, then the promotion of espionage, treason, and economic hoarding."[10][11]

Hilaly has not since apologised nor retracted his comments, in which he accused Jews of "causing all wars."[12]

February 2004 sermon[edit]

In February 2004 Hilaly gave a sermon at a mosque in Sidon, Lebanon, whilst overseas the text of which was translated by the Australian Embassy in Beirut. It appeared to show him supporting terrorist attacks. In his sermon, Hilaly said:

Sons of Islam, there is a war of infidels taking place everywhere. The true man is the boy who opposes Israeli tanks with strength and faith. The boy who, despite his mother's objections, goes out to war to become a martyr like his elder brother. The boy who tells his mother: 'Oh mother, don't cry for me if I die. Oh mother, Jihad has been imposed on me and I want to become a martyr'." 11 September is God's work against oppressors. Some of the things that happen in the world cannot be explained; a civilian airplane whose secrets cannot be explained if we ask its pilot who reached his objective without error, who led your steps? Or if we ask the giant that fell, who humiliated you? Or if we ask the President, who made you cry? God is the answer.

— Taj El-Din Hilaly[13]

In his speech, he also predicted that Muslims would control the White House and appeared to support Hezbollah.[13][14] The Australian Federal Police declined to investigate his activities overseas.

2006 Holocaust denial[edit]

In July 2006 Hilaly was sacked from Prime Minister of Australia John Howard's Muslim Community Reference Group following comments he made in which he denied the Holocaust, calling it a "Zionist lie". He also referred to Israel as a "cancer". This prompted calls for legal action to be pursued against him in a country which has the highest per-capita number of Holocaust survivors in the world outside Israel.[15]

October 2006 sermon[edit]

In October 2006, Hilaly delivered a Ramadan sermon in Arabic in which he made statements concerning female clothing which proved highly controversial. The key part of these was:

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."

— Taj El-Din Hilaly[16][17]

He also said, "in the state of zina, the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement (igraa)."[18] Hilaly later claimed that he had intended to suggest that "if a woman who shows herself off, she is to blame...but a man should be able to control himself." He also contended that his references to the prison sentence of Bilal Skaf, the leader of a group of Lebanese Australians who committed gang rapes in Sydney in 2000, in which he said that women would "sway suggestively" before men "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years", were aimed at illustrating the need for harsh sanctions for rape.[18]

There was a significant backlash to Hilaly's comments.

Alleged link to Al-Qaeda[edit]

In February 2009, a Sydney Morning Herald journalist was ejected from the Lakemba mosque and the newspaper later reported that Anwar al-Awlaki, a key organizer, recruiter and spiritual motivator for the Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda, spoke via phone link. A director of the mosque said that Shady Alsuleiman was in charge of organising evening youth events at the time of the sermon.[19]

Alleged sectarianism[edit]

In March 2015, adjunct professor Clive Williams at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence & Counter Terrorism wrote that Sunni Muslims did not welcome Shia Muslims at the mosque.[20]

Christmas controversy[edit]

In late 2012 Shaykh Safi told the congregation, during prayers, that they should not take part in anything to do with Christmas. A fatwa warned that, "disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path". The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, said these views did not represent the majority of Muslims in Australia.[21] Keysar Trad, former director[22] and president[23] of the LMA, said they previously greeted people with Merry Christmas, "I don't know what has changed."[21]

Mosque personnel[edit]

Lakemba Mosque has a number of staff who assist in the running and maintenance of the mosque. Currently the mosque has three official Imams:

  • The Imam of Lakemba Mosque is Shaykh Yahya Safi, who worked as an Imam in Lebanon before his appointment at the Lakemba Mosque in 1996.[24] Shaykh Yahya gives the khutbah every fortnight, unless there is a visiting Shaykh from overseas.
  • The assistant Imam as of 2016 is Shaykh Mohammed Gomaa from Egypt. Shaykh Gomaa is a bilingual Imam who was trained at Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar University. He specialises in Qur'anic Commentary and alternates in giving the Friday sermon each fortnight.
  • The deputy assistant Imam, as of 2015, is Shaykh Mohamed Harby. Shaykh Mohamed is a qāriʾ from Egypt who specialises in the sciences of Qur'an which he teaches at an advanced level to students at the Lebanese Muslim Association.[citation needed]

Due its influence and significance, the mosque regularly hosts and is a first stop for visiting Islamic scholars from overseas.


The mosque offers a number of religious classes, such as in prophetic biography, fiqh and aqidah. The mosque gives a platform to a number of local Shaykhs to speak and teach, such as Shaykh Wesam Charkawi.[25][26] Since 2014, the mosque has served as the centre of the National Mosque Open Day event.

Several thousand worshippers normally attend weekly prayers on Fridays.[27] In 2015 around 30,000 worshippers attended Eid prayers at the mosque and in the road outside, making it one of Australia's largest Eid celebrations.[28] In 2016, an estimated 40,000-50,000 attended Eid prayers.[29][30][31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ali ben Abi Taleb Mosque Lakemba - The Dictionary of Sydney". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Lakemba Mosque". Lebanese Muslim Association. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Lakemba, Australia's unofficial Muslim capital, is between two worlds". The Australian. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Mosques and Prayer Halls". Islamic Council of NSW. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 26 January 2007.
  5. ^ The Lebanese Muslims Association: Sheikhs Archived 5 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 2007-01-26
  6. ^ "Mosques hooked on foreign cash lifelines". Sydney Morning Herald. 25 November 2002. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  7. ^ Gill A, Holy war call to 'liberate' Moslems. Sydney Morning Herald (Late Ed.). 1977 Oct 4; News: pg 2.
  8. ^ Irfan Yusuf Islam and Australia: Hilali Has to Go. Wednesday 1 November 2006 Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 27 January 2007
  9. ^ "Gaddafi sending $140,000 a year to Australian Muslims". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 December 1987. p. 1.
  10. ^ Home Archived 1 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Confronting Reality: Anti-Semitism in Australia Today – Jeremy Jones
  12. ^ The Religion Report: 28 September 2005 – Full Transcript Archived 28 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ a b Taj El-Din Hilaly (13 February 2004). "Sheikh Hilaly Sermon at Sidon Mosque". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 14 September 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2007.
  14. ^ "11 September is God's work: Mufti". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 February 2004.
  15. ^ Call for legal action over mufti's Holocaust denial (July 21, 2006) Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ AAP (2006). Ethnic leaders condemn Muslim cleric. Retrieved 26 October 2006.
  17. ^ "Read Sheik Hilaly's comments". Special Broadcasting Service. 28 October 2006. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2007.
  18. ^ a b Kerbaj, Richard (26 October 2006). "Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks". The Australian. Archived from the original on 26 October 2006. Retrieved 26 October 2006.
  19. ^ Jensen, Erik (15 April 2010). "Al-Qaeda at city mosque". Sydney Morning Herald.
  20. ^ Williams, Clive (20 March 2015). "Ancient religious war at root of contemporary conflict in the Middle East". The Age. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  21. ^ a b O'Brien, Natalie; Olding, Rachel (23 December 2012). "Lakemba Mosque removes Christmas 'fatwa' post". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Islam's man of a million comments". Sydney Morning Herald. 2 October 2002. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Muslims to stand in federal poll". The Age. 13 March 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  24. ^ Shaykh Yahya Safi Biography retrieved 2007-02-02 Archived 23 June 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Mercer, Phil (27 October 2014). "How anti-Muslim sentiment hit one Australian". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  26. ^ "Unity to Flow Through Open Doors of Nation's Mosques". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  27. ^ "Miranda Devine Spends a Day at Lakemba Mosque". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  28. ^ Kidd, Jessica (17 July 2015). "Muslims gather to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, feast to mark end of Ramadan".
  29. ^ "Calls for unity as 40,000 Australian Muslims mark end of Ramadan at Lakemba Mosque". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  30. ^ "Muslim Leader Calls Out Rise of Far Right Political Parties as Thousands Mark End of Ramadan at Lakemba". Daily Telegraph. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  31. ^ Ngo, Cindy (6 July 2016). "Thousands of Worshippers Attend Lakemba Mosque to Mark the End of Ramadan". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  32. ^ "Premier Mike Baird's Backing for Besieged Islamic Community". Retrieved 13 July 2018.


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