SYDNEY – The mufti of Australia visited Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip last week, saying he wanted to learn from its leaders.
Announcement of the visit this week triggered widespread condemnation.
Dr. Ibrahim "Abu Mohammed" Salem led a delegation of Australian sheikhs and scholars to Gaza and met Haniyeh on December 26.
"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 department of Foreign Affairs said any allegations of unlawful behavior would be investigated by authorities.
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.”