Readers may recall this post regarding "imam" Afroz Ali's appearance on the Compass program on ABCTV in 2007.
Yours trully contacted the Compass program and there was some exchange of correspondence which I will reproduce here. The initial contact was as follows:
2 December 2007
I occasionally write for various places (including NewMatilda.com). I noticed that in a recent edition of the Compass program, the following was said ...
Imam Afroz Ali is founding president of the Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development in Sydney’s south-west. Imam Ali has qualifications from Saudi Arabia and he’s studied in other significant centres of Islamic learning. At the Al Ghazzali Centre he teaches Islamic sciences, jurisprudence, ethics and corporate citizenship.
Can you please advise as to where you obtained this information from. Was it provided to you by Mr Ali and/or someone from the Al Ghazzali Centre? Did Mr Ali advise you of which qualifications he completed in Saudi Arabia?
I have received a response from Sharon Connolly, the Story Editor, as follows:
6 December 2007
Many thanks for your inquiry about the Compass program One Vote, Which Values.
Information about Imam Ali and his qualifications was provided firstly by Imam Ali himself in an interview with Compass producer Peter Kirkwood published in Tomorrow’s Islam, G.Doogue & P. Kirkwood, ABC Books, 2005, and from information provided on the Al Ghazzali Centre website last August (unfortunately the site seems to be under reconstruction at present).
My understanding is that Imam Ali has studied in a number of centres, including Saudi Arabia, the US, Yemen, Mauritania and, most recently, at Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
Whilst I am not aware of which of his qualifications come from Saudi Arabia , I understand that Imam Ali is qualified to teach in various Islamic Sciences.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance,
I responded to Ms Connolly as follows:
5 December 2007
Thank you for your response.
Did Mr Ali state that he had obtained a university degree from Saudi Arabia? Did he mention any specific university from which he graduated? Did he provide the year of graduation and the specific degree he obtained? Did he advise if the degree was an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification?
Ms Connolly responded as follows:
6 December 2007
I am afraid that both you and Imam Ali have now alerted me to an inaccuracy in the narration for One Vote, Which Values.
In response to your email yesterday I was about to revisit the research files for the program this morning when I received an email from Imam Ali. He is currently in Cairo and though I have sent him a DVD copy of the program he has not yet received it. However as you’ll see in his message (the relevant passage of which I have copied below), Imam Ali has read the transcript of the program on the Compass website.
Imam Ali’s clarification is as follows:
Also, just as a quick note for your records, in the intro part of the transcript i was introduces as holding "qualifications" from Saudi Arabia . I just want to clarify that whilst i have studied in Islamic University, Madina, I did not complete my studies (due to a Wahhabist leaning of the teaching when I was there), nor do I reallu rely on that knowledge base. My qualifications as an Imam comes from Traditional source of one-on-one with Scholars. Just for future reference, if you need me for an interview again!!!!
I regret that there appears to have been a misunderstanding on my part, and hope that the above information clarifies the position.
What a strange coincidence. Anyway, more questions were put to Ms Connolly.
6 December 2007
Thank you for that. I would still be interested to know if at any stage Mr Ali did represent to you or anyone else that he had completed a degree or other qualification.
It is a representation that has been made in the past. For instance, in 2005 in New Zealand ...http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0506/S00251.htm
... Mr. Afroz Ali of Sydney, also well versed in inter-religious matters, holding degrees in Islamic Studies and Shari'ah from Islamic University, Madina, Saudi Arabia, thereafter continuing through traditional Islamic learning styles under scholars such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf of the United States, Shaykh Salik bin Siddina and Shaykh Murabtal Hajj of Mauritania.
... and at the University of Western Sydney in 2004 ...
Mr Ali graduated in Islamic Studies - Sharia after studying in Islamic University, Madina Saudi Arabia ...
This shows the problems arising from the absence of a proper system of accreditation of imams. Perhaps an idea for a future episode?
Ms Connolly responded:
6 December 2007
I haven’t myself seen a description of Imam Ali’s qualifications like those that you quote. I think my ideas about his qualifications came from the program researcher’s notes which say that he is a “qualified Imam” and that he “received licence to teach in various Islamic Sciences.” Those notes contain no more specifics about the qualifications, simply a list of countries (not universities) in which he studied.
I have been unable to contact the researcher concerned as she is no longer working with the ABC. However I understand that her information came from the sources I mentioned to you in an earlier email; basically the Al Ghazzali centre website, Tomorrow’s Islam and from discussion with Imam Ali.
There is however nothing in the material I have revisited to suggest that Imam Ali has misrepresented the case; rather I have erred (as his email points out) in suggesting that he has qualifications from Saudi Arabia. As I said earlier, I think this is a case of misunderstanding on my part.
I agree with you that - to the uninitiated at least - the system for conferring qualifications upon Imams is not perhaps as clear as for some other denominations, and have mentioned your program idea to the Compass Executive Producer.
Perhaps the contents of these e-mails can be discussed separately.
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