Sydney sheikh killed in Syria: reports

Leesha McKenny
Urban Affairs Reporter The Sydney Morning Herald

A POPULAR Sydney sheikh and teacher has been killed by a rocket attack in Syria, his family in Australia has confirmed.

Sheikh Mustapha Al Majzoub died on Sunday while carrying out humanitarian and charity work in conflict-torn country, the family said in a statement, which also thanked the community for its support and messages of condolences.

‘‘Although it is a time of sadness as we have lost a much loved member of our family, we are honoured that Sheikh Mustafa died doing what he has been doing his entire life – selflessly serving the community for the sake of pleasing God,’’ it said.

He was buried in Syria yesterday with his funeral presided over by his brother, Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub, the only Australian member of the opposition Syrian National Council, the Muslim Village website said.

Due to the difficulties accessing information from Syria, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is yet to confirm Sheikh Al Majzoub’s death, or whether he is the first Australian to die in Syria’s ongoing conflict.
Tributes for the well-known sheikh, who was of Syrian heritage, have flooded social media sites ahead of a gathering to be attended by his family in Lakemba tonight.

The NSW counter-terrorism command would most likely be keeping a close eye on the situation, given its potential to further inflame simmering tensions between Sydney’s Sunni and Shiite communities over the Syrian conflict.

The former teacher at the Unity Grammar School in western Sydney travelled to the country on humanitarian grounds in June, but the circumstances of his death remained unclear as news began reaching the community in Australia amid celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan.

Some initial reports stated that Sheikh Al Majzoub was leading a rebel platoon in the northern town of Salma when he was hit, a prospect dismissed by family and community leaders.

Lebanese Muslim Association president, Samier Dandan, said he believed the brothers were facilitating talks between the leaders of rebel groups that may need to work together after the conflict, rather than being directly involved in any fighting.

“Because of the calibre of individuals that they are, you need them at that higher level trying to build bridges between all the different groups,” he said.

‘‘People like that, honestly, even if I was an army commander I would not be putting them in the front line because they would have no experience whatsoever. ”
Islamic Friendship Association of Australia spokesman Keysar Trad, who believed Sheikh Al Majzoub was in the province of Latakia at the time of his death, also dismissed suggestions he was involved in fighting as “far fetched”.

“Some sort of a rocket was fired on his town from about 50 kilometres away by the Syrian regime soldiers, indiscriminately shelling his town and he was killed, unfortunately,” he said.

“A man of the cloth whose mission in life is to bring peace to those around him and attend to their spiritual needs was mercilessly killed by the dying Assad regime.”

The NSW counter-terrorism command would most likely be keeping a close eye on the situation, given its potential to further inflame simmering tensions between Sydney’s Sunni and Shiite communities over the Syrian conflict.

Mr Dandan said Sheikh Al Majzoub was respected in the community as a moderate, and for his work with Australia’s Muslim youth.

“He was quite a family man, a loving father. He cared a lot for what is happening in Syria,” he said.

In January, Sheikh Al Majzoub addressed a Bankstown protest rally in support of the Syrian uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, speaking about the need to support the oppressed anywhere in the world, in particular Syria.

In his final Facebook post on August 3, he wrote that he had learnt not to judge a man by appearances of strength, “rather judge him by his steadfastness at calamities and on the battlefields”.

“I met brothers here who from the first instance you might think they are too merciful or weak (due to the way they treat other Muslims), however on the battlefields they are lions that roar,” he said.

Sheikh Al Majzoub taught at the Unity Grammar College in Austral, an Islamic school, until earlier this year.

Its principal, Walid Ali, said he was committed to his teaching and to his students, who along with staff were shocked at the news.

“He was a really jovial person … very committed to his teaching, very committed to the boys and girls under his care, and just a really positive role model for others,” he said. “He will be very much missed by all those who know him.”

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Note by the editor: Let’s hope that he was really doing humanitarian work. Allah knows best.

Sheikh Mustapha Al Majzoub has been killed in Syria.

Categories: Australia, Islam, Islamism, Syria

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