Islamic leaders have urged police to keep a close watch on a firebrand cleric who has shut down his religious centre amid outrage over its links to suspected terrorist plotters.
The Al-Furqan centre in Springvale South closed on Wednesday night, as the Herald Sun revealed its leader Harun Mehicevic’s ties to teens alleged to have planned an Anzac Day attack.
“We believe that given the constant harassment, pressure and false accusations levelled against the centre — particularly by media and politicians — this is the best course of action,” the centre said.
Its statement said the decision would protect its members and the “broader Muslim community” from “insidious campaigns”.
But Bosnian Islamic Council of Australia chairman Jasmin Bekric said he feared Al-Furqan had been brainwashing Muslim youths and kidnapping “the proper teachings of our religion”.
Police “should be closely watching” Mr Mehicevic after his decision to close the centre.
“I’m hoping the Australian authorities will do their job,” Mr Bekric said.
Monash University terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton said Mr Mehicevic, “a rather narcissistic fundamentalist”, should expect to remain under police surveillance.
“To say the things he’s been saying, they come close to the incitement of hatred,” Prof Barton said.
“If you do that, then you have to accept the consequences, and they’ll keep an eye on him.”
He said it would be harder for Mr Mehicevic to influence and radicalise youth without Al-Furqan, and its closure was “the best outcome we could reasonably have hoped for”.
“If I were a Muslim parent in the southeast of Melbourne, I would be breathing a sigh of relief,” he said.
Several teens arrested over an alleged plan to attack police on Anzac Day visited Al-Furqan regularly.
Mr Mehicevic was even seen picking up one of the teens from his house last year.
Numan Haider, who was shot dead in September as he tried to stab two police, also frequented Al-Furqan, as did Australia’s most senior Islamic State fighter and terrorist recruiter, Neil Prakash.
Notorious hate preacher Mohammed Junaid Thorne, who lectured at Al-Furqan, said he was sad “constant harassment” had closed it.
He said the Government, not centres like Al-Furqan, was responsible for radicalising Muslim youths, and warned “nothing will change”.
“This religion was sent to dominate, and it will, even though the disbelievers dislike it,” he posted on Facebook.
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