THE cheque from the Saudi Government for $360,000 was enclosed in an envelope.It was a donation, a gift, a part payment to subsidise the construction of a building that would become Sydney's Muslim heartbeat: Lakemba mosque. More than 35 years after Sydney cleric Khalil Shami received the cheque, he insists it came with no strings attached. But while the cheque had no tangible conditions in the form of written instructions or binding contracts, the cleric received a message from his donors several months after depositing it.
"They said: 'Please, can you mention the tragedy of the Palestinian people and what's happened to them in your sermon?"' Shami tells Inquirer. "Which is really a very noble cause, a very noble cause, I couldn't see a negative in their request."
The message Shami received from Riyadh brings into question the influence petro-dollars can have on their recipients, whether the money is bankrolling a religious centre, a clerical allowance or Queensland's Griffith University, which was exposed by The Australian last month for seeking a $1.37million Saudi grant, of which $100,000 was received, and offering to keep elements of the deal a secret.
The Saudi Government - largely through its embassy - is believed to have funnelled at least $120 million into Australia since the 1970s to propagate hardline Islam, bankroll radical clerics and build mosques, schools and charitable orgnisations.
But the Saudi cash that has flowed into Australia, that also allegedly has paid the allowance of hardline Canberra cleric Mohammed Swaiti, who has publicly praised jihadists, is dwarfed by the $90 billion Riyadh is believed to have pumped into promoting Islamic fundamentalism internationally.