Australian Center Affiliated With Pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Preacher Runs Saturday School To Teach Young Children Islam

January 24, 2024

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here. 

On January 12, 2024, the Al-Madina Dawah Centre (AMDC) in the Bankstown suburb of Sydney, Australia, which is affiliated with pro-Islamic State (ISIS) preacher Wisam (Abu Ousayd) Haddad, announced that its Saturday Shari'a School is open for enrollment for 2024. The school, which operates from 9 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays at the AMDC address, is for boys and girls from K-6, and teaches "shari'a, Quran, hadith, du'a [prayers], and Arabic." An Australian mobile phone number was provided as a registration contact.[1]

AMDC also posted a 13-second video on its Instagram, Facebook, and Telegram accounts advertising the school.[2]

Children's Shari'a Course Advertised In 2022

AMDC first advertised the school as a "kids shari'a" course in October 2022, stating that the topics of Quran, hadith, fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence], and sirah [the Prophet Muhammad's biography] would be taught to boys and girls between the ages of five and 12. The cost of the course was listed as $110 Australian per semester.[3]

School's Mission Statement

On February 1, 2023, the school published a post on its Instagram account,[4] detailing its mission statement: "To promote broad awareness of Islam for Muslim students studying in K to 6th grade through Islamic teachings, emphasizing the fundamentals, ideologies and legacies, guided by the Qur'an and the Sunnah. To this end, by using a comprehensive curriculum, carefully selected text books, and knowledgeable instructors, the school is committed to intellectually stimulate the students to grow up as responsible, practicing Muslims choosing Islam as the way of life."

The school noted that its staff are all volunteers from the local Muslim community, some with experience teaching in Islamic schools. Admission is open to any student living in Australia, "irrespective of their immigration status," and the language of instruction is English.

The school noted on February 27 that it had three classes: one for grades K-2, one for third and fourth grades, and a third for fifth and sixth grades.[5]

In April 2023, AMDC again advertised its Saturday school, using the slogan "growing hearts & minds guided by the Quran & Sunnah" and noting that the school offers "lots of hands-on learning fun & play" and has only female teachers. The cost was raised to $200 a semester, including textbooks.[6]

School Promotes Fundraising Event For Gaza

In December 2023, the school's Instagram account posted an invitation to a "women & children fundraising fete for Gaza," to be held on January 9, 2024 at the AMDC. As part of "a fun day for a good cause," it advertised the event as including various stalls, a petting zoo, hot food, and face painting.[7]

The AMDC and Abu Ousayd have long been involved in instructing children in their ideology. In July 2022, the center announced plans to provide tutoring in both Islamic and general subjects to homeschooled children.[8] It is possible that this initiative ultimately developed into the Saturday school. In November of the same year, the Badr Fight Gym, a martial arts studio affiliated with the AMDC, advertised a weekly boxing and mixed martial arts training program for children.[9]

Prior to the January 9 fundraiser for Gaza, geared towards women and children, AMDC promoted another fundraiser in October 2023, for men only.[10]

Classroom scenes

Some Islamic-themed artwork made by the students

Background On Abu Ousayd And AMDC And Their Links To Members Of ISIS And Al-Qaeda, Arrested On Terror Charges

As detailed in an extensive MEMRI JTTM report published in August 2020, AMDC is affiliated with a network of Australian Salafi figures, some of whom have professed support for ISIS and been imprisoned on terrorism charges.[11] One of the most prominent figures still associated with AMDC is Wisam (Abu Ousayd) Haddad, who avoided a prison sentence in 2015 despite a raid on his home turning up weapons, an ISIS flag, machete, and large number of extremist DVDs and terror-related newspaper clippings. Since then, he has continued preaching Salafi-jihadi ideology, but has avoided openly inciting violence or professing support for ISIS. Warning his followers about making incriminating statements that will allow non-Muslims to label them as terrorists, he told them: "If you're going to do something, if you're going to say something, make sure you're doing it for the sake of Allah and don't be stupid."

In August 2022, Abu Ousayd participated in the online conference "Free Muslim Prisoners" along with British pro-ISIS preacher Anjem Choudary, who has since been imprisoned again.[12]

Abu Ousayd formerly owned the Al-Risalah bookstore and Islamic center, which shut down in 2014. He now preaches at AMDC, which began operations in 2019, and features prominently on the center's social media accounts, where videos of his Friday sermons and other talks delivered at the center are regularly uploaded.[13] The preacher has been linked to high-profile members of both ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and has served as a leader of the Salafi community in the West Sydney area, dispensing religious material and opinions, organizing events and prayer gatherings, and running street-preaching activities.

Abu Ousayd lecturing at AMDC (Source: Facebook, January 20, 2024)

Abu Ousayd lecturing at AMDC (Source: Telegram, January 14, 2024)

A lecture by Abu Ousayd uploaded to AMDC's Tiktok account (Source: Tiktok, July 19, 2023)

A Friday sermon given by Abu Ousayd at AMDC (Source: Instagram, June 10, 2022)

A now-defunct online preaching operation, Virtual Dawah, run by Abu Ousayd, commented on issues of interest to ISIS supporters, such as the condition of Australian women and children who were residing in ISIS territory and are now being held in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) camps in Syria, and the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Youssef Uweinat aka Abu Musa Al-Maqdisi participated in AMDC events until his December 2019 arrest on charges of pledging allegiance to ISIS, attempting to recruit teenagers to join the organization, downloading a document on how to use knives and blunt instruments in a terrorist attack, and plotting terror attacks in Australia. Radwan Dakkak aka Abu Bakr At-Tarabulsi, a pro-ISIS preacher and media operative arrested in July 2019 for planning terror attacks in the Sydney area, was part of the same network.  

Prominent pro-ISIS preacher Musa Cerantonio attended classes and events at Al-Risalah and was also one of the keynote speakers there until his arrest in 2016 for planning to join ISIS in the Philippines and aiding efforts to overthrow the government there. Mostafa Mahamed aka Abu Sulayman Al-Muhajir, who became the spokesman for Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN), was a frequent speaker at Al-Risalah until leaving for Syria in 2012. Known terrorists Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar were friends of Haddad and frequented the Al-Risalah center before traveling to Syria in 2013 and joining ISIS. Lebanese-Australian Al-Qaeda member Bilal Khazal, sentenced to 14 years in prison for producing a terrorist handbook on downing planes, was a prominent preacher at Al-Risalah in 2012, before being sent to jail.

Pro-ISIS preacher Junaid Thorne, aka Sheikh Abu Umar of Perth, Australia, also spoke at the bookstore and co-founded the Brothers Behind Bars (BBB) organization with Abu Ousayd. BBB provides financial, social and legal aid to Muslim prisoners – including many convicted of terror-related offenses – and their families. Thorne was arrested in 2016 for connections to an ISIS-inspired terror plot, and rearrested in 2019 on drugs and firearms charges.


[1] Instagram, January 12, 2024.

[2] Instagram, January 12, 2024; Facebook, January 21, 2024; Telegram, January 21, 2024.

[3] Telegram, October 20, 2022.

[4] Instagram, February 1, 2023.

[5] Instagram, February 27, 2023.

[6] Instagram, April 17, 2023.

[7] Instagram, December 31, 2023.

[13] Most recently, Telegram, January 14, 2024;, January 20, 2024.

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