Sheik Mohamad Abou-Eid loses unfair dismissal case

A MUSLIM cleric whose supporters engaged in wild brawls outside a Victorian mosque has lost an unfair dismissal case.

A CONTROVERSIAL Muslim cleric whose followers engaged in mass brawls outside one of Melbourne’s largest mosques after he was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations has lost an unfair dismissal case.

Sheik Mohamad Abou-Eid was dismissed as the Imam of Preston Mosque by the Islamic Society of Victoria in March last year after several female members of the congregation accused him of “inappropriate sexual conduct” towards them.

The Board of Imams Victoria suspended his membership while it investigated the issue, as did the ISV. Around the same time, Mr Abou-Eid began accusing the ISV of misappropriating donation funds intended to help refugees in Syria and graves in Lebanon.

According to a Fair Work Commission decision, Mr Abou-Eid claimed in a February interview with Channel 9’s A Current Affair that the ISV were “thieves, criminals, money launderers, money smugglers and gangsters who had stolen millions of dollars”.

He made similar claims in a speech outside the mosque, where his supporters engaged in “riotous” behaviour over three successive Fridays, the ISV alleged.


Mohamad Abou Eid at Preston Mosque.

On the third occasion on March 3, Islamic Society of Victoria president Tarek Khodr said Mr Abou-Eid “brought in some men who are known to be underworld figures” who came inside the mosque and “effectively stopped the sermon”.

“Because of the serious nature of the complaints made against you by members of the Preston Mosque congregation, you can no longer hold any position of trust and confidence … especially [with] female members,” the ISV said in its termination letter.

“Finally, your conduct following the suspension by the Islamic Society of Victoria … was inflammatory and evidenced your flagrant disregard of lawful directions given to you by your employer.”

In dismissing Mr Abou-Eid’s application, Fair Work Commissioner Michelle Bissett cautioned that the evidence given by many of the witnesses “must be treated carefully” and “many of the statements made were hearsay or were statements that could not be tested”.

She said the ISV should not have relied on the BOIV’s investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations to sack him, saying the process was “hurried” and “lacked procedural fairness”.

“It is perilous to rely on the outcomes of an inquiry conducted by another organisation where that inquiry is conducted in private and its procedures not known and where procedural fairness is not afforded,” Ms Bissett said.

“I am not satisfied that the belief of the ISV with respect to the sexual misconduct allegations was reached on reasonable grounds.”

But she said Mr Abou-Eid’s riotous behaviour, wild claims made against his employer and attempts to conduct a political campaign to install a new committee constituted serious misconduct.

“The ISV concluded that the applicant made ‘outrageous claims’ of misappropriation of funds on A Current Affair,” she said.

“Whether these claims are true is not a matter I need to decide. I need do no more than determine if the ISV reached its belief on reasonable grounds. I am satisfied that, in relation to this matter, it did so.”

In relation to the violent scenes on February 24, Ms Bissett said it “beggars belief” that Mr Abou-Eid “did not know those who supported him would be there to assist him entering the mosque”. “He was not compelled to go to the mosque but he went anyway,” she said.

“The speeches given by the applicant, particularly that on February 17, were designed to garner support to his cause at the expense of support for the ISV committee.

“The conduct of February 17 and 24 and March 3 may well have been considered ‘riotous’ in that it otherwise disturbed the orderly conduct otherwise expected of Friday prayers.”

Ms Bissett said she was “satisfied that the ISV had reasonable grounds to conclude that the applicant’s conduct was sufficiently serious to justify immediate dismissal”.

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