The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), the peak body of all Muslims in Australia, is in its deepest crisis since it came into existence as AFIS in 1963 and later restructured as AFIC in 1976.
Actually, it is at the verge of collapse, if not demise, due to the total failure of its recent leaders, to manage AFIC as the national umbrella organisation of Australian Muslims and its once glorious Islamic schools. The ongoing infighting among its leaders is leading to numerous costly legal battles.
Unprecedented lack of trust among the members and leaders of AFIC and universal despair in the Muslim community are some of the worst makings of its recent leaders.
Incompetency of the leaders, irregularities in the system, allegation of self-interest, corruption and nepotism, failure to comply with government requirements in the schools, nonadherence to its constitution, and rampant removal of executive committee members and inappropriate appointments and reappointments have taken a huge toll on the operation, management and reputation of AFIC.
AFIC has lost all credibility both within the Muslim community and at all levels of government. AFIC cannot regain its lost glory and reputation with the current team of incapable leaders with failed track record.
They had lots of time to reform AFIC, but they had only caused further damage to AFIC and its schools over the years by deliberately stopping the reform process. They are the ones responsible for the failure of AFIC and now it is time for them to go.
Who would have thought that the immediate past President of AFIC, who was forced to resign from his position last year, would forcefully occupy AFIC office in the darkness of night by breaking the locks, only to remove another President, who claims to have been appointed by his predecessor?
I believe AFIC has not failed as yet, but its current leaders have totally failed. AFIC can be reformed and its glory could be revived through new and capable leaders having no link with those who are behind its current mess and destruction.
There are still good qualified people among the grass root ranks of members of AFIC who have been unsuccessfully trying hard to reform AFIC, and are still willing to undertake the task if given the opportunity.
Unfortunately, the current leaders of AFIC with vested interest have, so far, successfully prevented them to take the reform agenda any further.
Some members of AFIC perceived its problems years ago and alerted the leaders repeatedly in the Annual Congresses and attempted to reform AFIC through reviewing its old and out of date Constitution.
To my knowledge three such initiatives led to the formation of AFIC Constitution Review Committee (CRC) in its Federal Congresses during the last 7 years. No surprisingly, none of these Committees were allowed to work under different excuses by the leaders who are determined to keep their control over AFIC no matter what.
Although, I have been involved in moving motions to set up those Committees, I did not want to be a part of it except for the last one established in the 50th Congress of AFIC held in Canberra to make sure that the much needed review is completed.
Once again, AFIC leaders cancelled the third Review Committee in the pretext of ‘politics’ even though the then General Secretary of AFIC was the head of the committee.
During this Congress, I moved a motion to set up AFIC Constitution Review Committee. There was a long debate between the then President of “Muslims NSW” and me. At the end all delegates supported the motion, except one who voted against the motion.
President of AFIC was not happy, he raised the issue cost, and asked the 9 State Council Presidents if they supported the motion, hoping that they would oppose it. Interestingly, every State Council President supported the motion.
The Committee started its preliminary work and made significant progress within a short time, but AFIC leaders declared the Committee invalid as there was an alleged ‘unauthorised’ delegate in the Congress.
Thus, AFIC President disbanded one of the most important committees of AFIC in its history having no regards to the Congress decision at all. If this third CRC was allowed to work, many believe, AFIC would not be in this crisis now.
No amount of changes in the Executive Committee of AFIC including recycling through musical chairs of rampant appointment, sacking and re-appointment from the same cohort by the same leaders would be acceptable to the community, government and its members if the recent AFIC leaders and those associated with them are in control of AFIC.
The whole group of old guards must go to give AFIC a real chance to survive and regain its lost glory.
Attempts to proscription of members who speak out against the wrong doings, intimidation against those who try to reform AFIC, and threat of expulsion of Councils and Societies for not supporting the failed leaders would serve no purpose rather than inflicting further division and disunity among the AFIC members, and potentially wasting more AFIC money in the court proceedings.
As part of the cleaning of AFIC there should be a ‘white paper’ containing the true and factual state of AFIC including its schools, admin system, halal operations, bank accounts, and properties.
Then all the organs of AFIC should be reformed to meet the professional and Islamic standards so that there is no room for nepotism, conflict of interest, financial gain, and full compliance of government regulations with transparency and accountability.
One of the key problems with AFIC is its election system in which only 10 State Council Presidents and AFIC President vote for the election of the AFIC Executive Committee (EC). This is where the numbers game and manipulation start to keep the control of AFIC positions.
I have suggested time and again to introduce voting of nearly 90 member Societies for the election of AFIC leadership positions in order to stop the manipulation.
The provision of re-election on the EC is another problem. The current leaders always try to favour the Council Presidents that are on their side and disfavour or sack those who are not. My suggestion was to abolish re-election.
Many years ago, I suggested to separate AFIC school business from AFIC as a community organisation, but the leaders did not pay any attention. If this was done then most likely AFIC would not lose its hard-built Schools.
Another suggestion was to run AFIC businesses including Halal certification with employed specialists so that AFIC EC could effectively engage with the community matters and protect the interest of the Ummah, rather than preoccupied with its businesses.
Australian Muslims, like rest of other fellow Australians, are hardworking and deserve respect to live with dignity. We have no right to put them down by failing to stand for them, and misrepresenting them at this difficult time locally and globally.
All recent leaders of AFIC should agree to retire and hand over AFIC to a team of sincere members who have the qualification, skill, track record and community trust and respect to create a better inclusive and respectful AFIC to serve the Australian Muslim community.
It would be foolish to believe that people who have destroyed AFIC could fix it regardless of the level of renewed rhetoric and promises.
Grass root members of the Muslim community, especially the younger generation need to demand and proactively work out a roadmap to not only save but rebuild Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), the umbrella body of Muslim Australians.