Man accused of sharia assault called bin Laden 'soldier of God'

A MUSLIM man who once called Osama bin Laden a ''soldier of God'' participated in a brutal flogging of a man to impose his religious beliefs and his standing in the Islamic community, police have alleged in court.

But unpaid debts, not alcohol, are thought to be behind the assault of Silverwater man Christian Martinez, sources in the Muslim community said.

Wassim Fayad, 43, was one of four men who allegedly broke into the Silverwater townhouse of Mr Martinez, 31, in the early hours of Sunday morning, held him down and whipped him repeatedly with a cable, allegedly as sharia punishment for drinking alcohol.

But Mr Martinez, an electrician by trade, was known to ''owe a lot of people a lot of money'', according to one local Auburn source, and the attack had nothing to do with sharia law, which punishes the consumption of alcohol with 80 lashes.

The Herald sought comment from Mr Martinez yesterday but he was not answering his phone. It is believed he has signed an exclusive contract to tell his story to Channel Seven.

The alleged instigator of the attack, Mr Fayad, also allegedly stole a CCTV hard drive and a quantity of Budweiser beer from Mr Martinez, who was a recent convert to Islam.

Mr Fayad is due to be released from Silverwater correctional centre today after being granted strict conditional bail in Burwood Local Court yesterday.

Mr Fayad, a father of six from Auburn, works part time at the Bukhari House Islamic Bookstore in Auburn and was reported in May as saying bin Laden was a soldier of God who ''died a martyr and … is now in paradise''.

The accused is a follower of the controversial Sydney-born imam Sheikh Feiz Mohammad and a regular attendee of the prayer hall attached to the bookshop, which recently was bought by the Auburn branch of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama'ah (ASWJ Auburn) which supports Sheikh Feiz.

The spiritual leader returned to Australia in March after a six-year absence following controversial public statements made on the culpability of rape victims who wore immodest clothing.

It is believed the same prayer hall followers were behind the ruckus outside the Downing Centre Court last month, when a Muslim woman, Carnita Matthews, had her conviction overturned on appeal.

She had been found guilty of making a deliberately false statement involving a police officer forcibly removing her veil.

Mr Fayad's lawyer, Avni Djemal, in applying for bail said Mr Fayad had lived in Australia since he was two years old and ''his connections are here''.

The magistrate, Tim Keady, said the allegations against Mr Fayad were serious and the prosecution had a ''strong case''. He will appear in court again on August 14.

Muslim groups condemned the attack, saying it was misguided if motivated by sharia. Kuranda Seyit, the executive director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations, said it condemned criminal actions in the name of religion.

"Anyone who takes the law into their own hands will be dealt with by the Australian judicial system,'' he said. ''If these men did what is alleged, then they have no understanding of sharia and should be discouraged."

The leader of the Lakemba Mosque, Sheikh Taj el-Din al Hilaly, called for the alleged attackers to be ''assessed for a mental disorder'' and if found guilty to be deported.

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