FIJI MUSLIMS OBJECT TO DEPORTATION OF PROMINENT FIGURE

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SUVA, Fiji (The Daily Post, Dec. 22) - The Fiji Muslim League and its community want an explanation from the Immigration Department and the State as to why a head of an Islamic institute was deported days before his work permit had expired and what sort of security threat he posed to Fiji.

"The State and the Immigration Department should explain to the public and the Muslim community in particular why they have expelled him," a prominent member of the Muslim community who wished to remain anonymous said.

Sheik Abdul Maajid, the director of the Islamic Institute of the South Pacific in Nabua, Suva was escorted out by Immigration officials on Thursday last week. The immigration authorities have refused to renew his work permit, saying he was considered a security risk. Earlier media reports claimed Maajid, a Sudanese had been staying in Fiji without a residential visa for over 18 years, was a terror suspect and had to be deported for national security reasons.

The source said these claims by the Immigration Department of linking Maajid to the terrorism network was totally misleading and would only cause him to be victimised by immigration officials in other countries if he was to travel in future.

He said the reasons as to why Maajid was being referred to as a threat could have resulted from security reports received, which prompted the deportation decision by the Immigration Department.

The source said the Immigration Department and the State were worried of Maajid becoming a suspect of terrorism because he came from Sudan in Saudi Arabia one of the places where the al-Qaeda terrorism movement led by Osama bin Laden is based. The other bases for this movement are Yemen and Afghanistan.

He said one incident that could have initiated the claim of being a security risk was when police raided his house and found about US$30,000 (F$60,000), which was claimed to have been sent by King Fah’d Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia to be distributed to the poor and needy people of Fiji during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The source said Maajid had been in the country since 1985, "long before the al-Qaeda terrorism movement in Saudi Arabia was formed. It is so shocking to see that he had been expelled," the source said.

Attempts to get comments from the Immigration officials to clarify the claim proved futile.

However, Home Affairs Minister Joketani Cokanasiga when contacted yesterday said Maajid was deported because his work permit had expired.

"His work permit in the country had expired so he had to go. For all the time he had been leaving here, he did not apply for any residential visa, and there was no guarantee his visa could be renewed," Mr Cokanasiga said.

He said even those who sponsored him to work in the country also did not apply for Maajid’s residential visa. He pointed out that rumours of Maajid being a security risk in the country was only speculation.

"My stand is his work permit had expired in December and that he had to leave the country because he was illegally leaving here," he said.

Fiji Muslim League vice-president Senator Dr Ahmed Ali said he was not aware of the issue since he was away overseas and had yet to find out the details. No comments could be obtained from League President Hafiz Khan yesterday.

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