The GIRU Grant Saga Journal



3 MAY 2008


Courier Mail Des Houghton


Saudis' secret agenda The Weekend Australian


2 MAY 2008



For the record by Mohamad Abdalla (including apology by Fadi Abdul Rahman)


CRIKEY: Even Rupert Murdoch accepts Saudi money! (Irfan Yusuf)


30 April 2008


ABC Radio National: The Religion report


Saudi Money; Australian Universities and Islam - where is the line in the sand?


  Irfan Yusuf Blog



Assalam o alaikum wrwb,
Attached please find attached a letter that the Muslim community of Australia have written and requested to be printed in the Australian tomorrow.
As you all are no doubt aware, the issue of the credibility and standing of Dr Mohammed Abdallah is in question at this moment and this letter gives another side of the story.
Ikebal Patel
President - Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
Ikebal Patel
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Inc
Ph: + 61 02 6214 9834
Fax: + 61 02 6297 6621
Mobile: +61 0419 418 237




Chuck Brooks Courier Mail




Saudi funds not a secret deal: Abdalla

Say no to Saudi funds

‘Ignorance is Strength’


29 April 2008




Jihad body linked to Saudi uni row

Saudi cash seduction is Faustian pact (new blog comments added)


Radio 4BC


Michael Smith editorial



25-28 April 2008




In defence of Griffith Uni




Uni chief lifted text from Wikipedia

No defence for ignorance

Voracious VCs must be curbed


COMMENT: Crittendan does have a point about Griffith (Irfan Yusuf)


22-24 April 2008


The Griffith Islamic Research Unit (GIRU) and Griffith University have come under fire for accepting Saudi Arabian funding for the Unit.


University 'an agent of extreme Islam' and Top uni 'begged' for Saudi funding were just some of the headlines making the front pages of the newspaper.



Extracts from the newspaper reports:


A PROMINENT Australian university practically begged the Saudi Arabian embassy to bankroll its Islamic campus for $1.3million, even telling the ambassador it could keep secret elements of the controversial deal.

Documents obtained by The Australian reveal that Griffith University - described by vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor as the "university of choice" for Saudis - offered the embassy an opportunity to reshape the Griffith Islamic Research Unit during its campaign to get some "extra noughts" added to Saudi cheques.

A JUDGE has likened Griffith University to hardline Islamic "madrassas" in Pakistan - notorious for breeding radicals - and accused the Queensland institution of promoting a Muslim ideology espoused by Osama bin Laden.

Queensland District Court judge Clive Wall also accused Griffith of becoming an "agent" through which the Saudi Arabian embassy was propagating extreme Islam.

The Australian first revealed in September that Griffith had received a $100,000 Saudi grant.


Griffith Islamic Research Unit director Mohamad Abdalla has rejected accusations the Saudi funding would be used to promote Wahabism, saying his centre was opposed to the hardline ideology and in favour of "moderate" Islam. 



Full Articles







Various organizations and individuals issued statements of support:


In response to the daily attacks on the unit from Kerbaj and The Australian, Griffith University Vice-Chancellor Ian O'Connor wrote an opinion piece entitled Islam and the West need to engage in the April 24 edition of the Australian.


Mr. Ikebal Patel, President of AFIC, issued a press release on behalf of his organization.


The Uniting Church and the Queensland Christian, Jews and Muslims press releases.


Professor Toh Swee-Hin, Director of the Multi-Faith Centre at Griffith University, sent a letter to the editor of The Australian


Letter to the Australian from Kemal Omar (unpublished)


The controversy that was stirred up during the week also prompted a number of letters to the editor of the Australian:


I USED to teach ethics at Griffith University, and one of my students was Mohamad Abdalla, now head of the university’s Islamic Research Unit. I found him to be a tolerant, sensitive and modest man, who often raised moral issues from the Koran in our tutorials. I valued his opinions and input. I have no knowledge of the funding arrangements for the unit he now runs, as I have not kept in contact with people at Griffith _ and so have no interest in defending the university. But the suggestion that Abdalla would institute some hardline madrassa-style indoctrination is so out of character with the person I knew as to be quite absurd.

John Forge
East Balmain, NSW

READING the story on Griffith University’s soliciting of funds from Saudi Arabia, one gets the distinct feeling that this country is viewed as a menace at best and an outright enemy at worst. If Judge Clive Wall’s concerns, or those of your correspondents who support him, are indeed sincere, then why is nothing ever said about the large-scale support the Wahabi regime receives from its Western friends. Support such as the recent US commitment to sell Saudi Arabia more than $20billion in sophisticated weaponary, to provide assistance to its intelligence agency and making available on-going training to its instrument of repressive control, the Saudi National Guard? These are but a few examples.


Considering Wall’s membership of the Australian Defence Force, he should understand that the implications of this support are far more serious than the funding received by a publicly controlled university in Australia.

Mohammed Alfakhrany
Gladesville, NSW

I OFFER the following ``reality check’’ to the editors of The Australian, Richard Kerbaj and Clive Wall. The vice-chancellor of Griffith University, in an email to all staff on April 22, has advised that two esteemed US universities, Harvard and Georgetown, ``accepted in 2005 donations of $20million from a Saudi businessman and member of the royal family to finance Islamic studies’’.


I look forward to the reactions of your readers to this revelation. I would specifically urge Wall to unequivocally condemn Harvard and Georgetown for being ``agents’’ of hardline Islam. After all, he has condemned Griffith University for accepting donations from the Saudi government.

Iyanatul Islam
Eight Mile Plains, Qld

NEVER having been in Judge Clive Wall’s court, I can only hope that his reasoning there is more rigorous than his reported comments on Griffith University’s bid to secure Saudi funding for its Islamic Research Unit might suggest. His argument is one of guilt by association: Saudi Arabia funds Wahabi-teaching madrassas in Pakistan; Saudi Arabia funds Griffith; Griffith is a teaching institution like the madrassas; therefore its teaching must be Wahabist. Reds-under-the-bed seem to have been displaced by Wahabists cloaked in the respectability of universities.

Ken Goodwin
Indooroopilly, Qld

Dear Editors (The Australian & Weekend Australian), (UNPUBLISHED)

I am deeply dissatisfied with the articles about the Griffith Islamic Research Unit (GIRU) published 22 to 24 April 2008. I found them to be misleading, baseless, and to have made completely false claims. The articles were written in such as way as to suggest sinister dealings between Griffith University and the Saudi Arabian embassy. The lack of evidence and context in the articles, however, suggests that The Australian engaged in a blatant game of fear-mongering and an attempt to undermine the progressive and positive work of a credible and reputable academic institution.

GIRU is strongly committed to a moderate and balanced approach to Islam. It has very clear and progressive objectives that are contrary to the so-called wahhabi ideology. GIRU’s focus on ‘contextualisation’ and ‘objective-oriented’ approaches is contrary to the literalism associated with the wahhabi ideology. Moreover, GIRU is extensively engaged in inter-faith and inter-community dialogue and works with a range of state and federal government departments on various issues pertaining to Islam and Muslims. This level of openness and engagement is also contrary to the exclusivist and insular character associated with wahhabism. An article about GIRU written by an objective journalist would have revealed this.

GIRU should be judged on its product – the research it produces, which is publicly available on Griffith ’s website. GIRU’s research is progressive, unafraid of critiquing and reformulating long-held views in the field of Islamic Studies, and even critical of various Muslim conduct and interpretations of Islam. GIRU’s research positively contributes to the development of an approach to Islam that is conducive to the Australian context and supports more harmonious relations between Islam and the West.

The poor journalism, sensationalism, and inaccuracies of your articles on GIRU are unbecoming of Australia ’s national daily. Please get your act together.

Nora Amath
Brisbane, Qld.

RICHARD Kerbaj’s article shows a worrisome level of fear amongst academics represented through denial and dissociation. Whilst Wahhabism has claimed centre stage as some sort of a fundamentalist version of Islam, this simplistic approach needs some academic scrutiny, that is, when those academics are not ducking for cover to dissociate themselves from yesterday’s much sought after benefactors. The irony of this hypocritical approach to disowning the hand that provides at least part of your food is more than disturbing in a society that is still reeling from the fear of witch-hunts. This is a disturbing attitude amongst beneficiaries of the funding, and is nothing short of an insult to the benefactors.

The Salafist ideology practised in Saudi Arabia is not the source of terrorism, in fact Saudi Arabia is a leading partner in the fight against terrorism. Some refer to the dominant school of Islam in Saudi Arabia as Wahhaby and it may be conservative, but the denunciation of terror and extremism and the prohibition of suicide bombings by Saudi scholars, even in defence of country, mean that the Saudi branch of Islam has done a great deal to combat terrorism.

Keysar Trad
Islamic Friendship Association of Australia



Other letters and emails received on the matter.



Several leading Muslim organizations in Queensland endorsed a letter of protest to the editor of the Australian.


A formal letter of complaint has been lodged with the Australian Press Council.



Mr. Graham Perrett Member for Moreton issued a press release reaffirming his support for Griffith University and the Islamic Research Unit headed by Moreton resident Dr Mohamad Abdalla.

“I am proud of my local university and will always support their extensive academic and community endeavours. They are a world leader in so many areas and have shown independence and courage during the difficult Howard years when so many other universities chose to put their cash registers before their academic principles.”

In his letter Mr Perrett confirmed that he had known Dr Mohamad Abdalla for many years in a variety of community activities before he took on his role at Griffith University’s Islamic Research Unit.

“I have met many of Dr Mohamad Abdalla’s students and from my dealings with the faculty I could not have seen a more considered and moderate approach to Islam. It is ludicrous for the ill-informed to suggest that this faculty is a madrasah breeding radicals. They would be better served by reviewing the sort of doctorate theses being pursued by Dr Mohamad’s students rather than peddling misguided misinformation.”

Mr Perrett stated that he looked forward to continuing to work with Griffith University’s Islamic Research Unit and Dr Mohamad Abdalla in helping to make sure that the southside community was a harmonious and tolerant place.



Killing the Goose that could have laid Griffith’s Golden Egg


If ever you needed a shining example of the phrase “a beat up” then Richard Kerbaj’s articles on GIRU, that he passes off as investigative journalism, will surely rank high amongst a short list of contenders.


Instead of enjoying his well earned break while Muslims and Islam take a temporary back seat to the apology to the Stolen Generation and the 2020 Summit, Kerbaj has felt the need to justify his raison d'être as the custodian of the “be alarmed and be alert” brigade by literally scraping the bottom of the barrel to continue his campaign of stirring the Muslim pot.


On the Saudi funding issue, Kerbaj has flogged the “guilt by association” angle going as far as to resurrect a nondescript Southport District court judge to lend credibility to some rather vacuous and disingenuous innuendos.


To suggest that a course or programme at a University could be manipulated towards a particular agenda without coming under the scrutiny of Advisory, Faculty and Academic Boards demonstrates, at best, a lack of understanding of the checks and balances engrained in the University system. Even when rogue courses do fall through the normal QA cracks on occasions then students and the public at large will have their say (see the CCN article ANIC and UWS for an example of community pressure at work).


Cash strapped Universities are always in search of research funds. The offer to respect the anonymity of the donor is standard practice and not to be construed as a conspiracy concocted to gerrymander the funds for some perceived immoral or illegal purpose.


GIRU’s track record over its short existence is littered with projects and initiatives that have been designed to bridge the gap of understanding of Islam within the context of the society we live in. Its postgraduate, internationally peer-reviewed research projects address a number of social, economic and political issues from a dispassionate, oft critical, academic perspective as is the wont of Universities. To compare them to Madressas (where school-going boys and girls learn, in the main, the basic tenets and rituals of their religion) is naïve in the extreme and undermines the work of both educational institutions.


Those of us who have heard Dr. Mohammed Abdalla at inter-faith and political forums, and more significantly, from the Kuraby Mosque Mimbar on a Friday afternoon, will readily testify to his exhorting of his congregation (to the point of exhaustion) to greater social participation and involvement with the wider community (both of which are seen as anathema to some hardline ideologies).


It is disappointing to see a newspaper of the calibre of The Australian resorting to tabloid styled journalism at the expense of truth and fair play.


Why kill the goose when everyone could have benefited from the golden egg!