It’s a Muslim “no go” zone – but for trees


Another instance when you should probably pay a qualified lawyer to engage in statutory interpretation:

Hawkesbury City Council has launched civil action against Dr Mustapha Kara-Ali and Diaa Kara-Ali in the Land and Environment Court, alleging they carried out illegal land clearing, earthworks and built gates, fences and driveways without seeking any of the relevant development approvals at a property in Colo, in Sydney’s north west.

Mustapha Kara-Ali, a former member of then Prime Minister John Howard’s Muslim Community Reference Group and past postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, is the Imam of religious guild Diwan Al Dawla.

A letter he wrote to a council staff member, filed in the court documents, says the members of the guild live “separated from secular lifestyles to pursue a religious mode of worship and an ascetic lifestyle under an oath of self-sacrifice and dedication to the purposes of Diwan Al Dawla”…

When the council wrote to Mustapha Kara-Ali directing him to remove a boat ramp and retaining walls at the property, he responded by claiming his organisation was exempt from Australian law because it was classed as a basic religious charity.

“The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Act 2012 stipulates that when it is carrying out religious activities that are related to the practice, study, teaching or propagation of its religious beliefs, or other activities ancillary to them … Diwan Al Dawla, as a basic religious charity is not required to comply with Australian laws,” he wrote.

“As the Imam of Diwan Al Dawla and its spiritual leader, I, therefore, ask the Hawkesbury City Council to revoke its letter … on the basis that its demands infringe upon our religious freedom and tamper with our mode of worship in contravention of our ACNC status as a Basic Religious Charity.”

The narrator: a basic religious charity is required to comply with Australian laws.

Kara-Ali is not one of those self-taught constitutional law experts who live in trailers in the bush hinterland and will argue with you that all the laws of the land are invalid because the Australian Parliament has failed to ratify Magna Carta in 1901 (if you have ever worked in politics you are likely to have come across a number of such legal minds); a Harvard post postdoctoral fellow, even if not a lawyer, should realise that such an interpretation is clearly absurd. Hell, imagine if exempting oneself from all Australian laws was really that easy; we would have Salvation Army dumping toxic waste into local creeks and a neighbourhood Buddhist temple selling top quality heroin straight from the Golden Triangle, all legit and above board – and above the law.

There is also a nice touch of multicultural tolerance:

The conflict between council and the Kara-Alis came to a head last month when three council officers visited the property to provide them with court papers.

A dashcam video tendered to the court shows a man, standing beside Mustapha Kara-Ali, spitting on council staff and attempting to throw a large rock, which hits the fence and then falls to the ground.

“Both men were repeatedly yelling obscenities from the other side of the gate, calling out ‘you dogs, I step on your cross’,” one of the council staff alleged in an affidavit.

“The unknown male person said ‘I spit on you’. He then lunged his head forward towards me and spat at me.”

Considering that cross is made of wood, yes, you do; repeatedly, judging by the desolation at the property in question.

From the Harvard university website:

Prior to his Research Fellowship appointment at Harvard University, Dr Kara-Ali won the Australian Endeavour Award for his doctorate (2013) on science and religion. His PhD Dissertation has been considered a pioneering study, as it brought together discussions on the three foundational disciplines of epistemology, philosophy of science and religious hermeneutics to study the foundations of the Scientific Revolution.

Mustapha has presented his research in papers at Harvard University, Oxford University, Notre Dame University, Melbourne University, Sydney University, the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and various other government and academic forums and conferences. Prior to his affiliation with Harvard University, Mustapha was associated with the American University of Beirut, the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

As part of his teaching and community engagement, Dr Kara-Ali founded Diwan Al Dawla as a guild that provides human and spiritual development, as well as, a framework for practice based upon a unitarian epistemology and narrative. Prior to that he led a number of community initiatives in Australia and the Middle East.

Mustapha completed his Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of New South Wales (Honours class) with a dissertation on human cognitive modelling and Artificial Intelligence, and he was awarded a CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industry Research Organisation) Intern Scholarship.

I find it hard imagining* the author of “Contingency and the Challenge of History: Discerning the Constructivist Structure of the Scientific Revolution” yelling obscenities at council workers, but there you have it (Dr Kara-Ali on the right).


Just goes to show that even a record of standing up to terror sympathisers and Islamists doesn’t disqualify you from having otherwise bizarre views about the intersection of faith and law in a modern Western society.

* actually I don’t; academics are notorious at yelling truth to power.