Malek Fahd
Malek Fahd Islamic School, Waterloo Road, Chullora, Greenacre, Sydney J Bar, Creative Commons

In what appears to be a threat to the future of Australia’s largest Islamic school, the Malek Fahd Islamic School is set to close after a tribune upheld the Federal Government’s decision to cut down funding to the Sydney-based educational institution.

The decision was made public in February 2016 after Education Minister Simon Birmingham sought to axe the $19 million annual funding to the school, finding it to be a “for-profit” organisation. The school was apparently misusing the funds, which was in direct violation of the requirements of the Act under which the Malek Fahd received the financial support.

According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled that the school was being run for profit, and hence was not a fit and proper organisation.

Minister Birmingham appreciated the ruling, saying, "Australians rightly expect that every taxpayer dollar committed to school education is genuinely expended on school education." He added that his department, along with NSW Education Minister Piccoli, has been working for months to find out ways on how to minimise the impact the decision faced by the school community.

The tribunal’s deputy president, Bernard McCabe, although acknowledging that the school had made several improvements since March 2016, said Malek Fahd had continued to accrue liabilities to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), a community group that was instrument in founding the school in 1989.

Malek Fahd has been accused of previously diverting millions in funding to AFIC through inflated rent and services that were never provided, according to a SBS News report.

In the tribunal’s December 23 judgment, McCabe wrote: "That is a hard outcome for MFISL (Malek Fahd Islamic School), and for the students and community it serves. But the ultimate responsibility must be laid at the door of the previous management of MFISL."

He further stated, "In those circumstances, the only appropriate course is to affirm the decision under review.”

Meanwhile, Rick Mitry, Malek Fahd’s lawyer, has denied all claims that puts the school in a bad light. He said that the school had severed all ties with AFIC and that it does not operate for profit. Mitry also said that he would be appealing the tribunal’s decision the coming week, according to The ABC.

"It appears that the decision of the AAT laid the blame squarely at the feet of the past board which is unfortunate [as] they didn't address all of the changes made by the current board," Mitry said. "If the current board hasn't already excised itself from any obligations to AFIC, it certainly was in the process of doing so ... So, I think that those things need to be taken into account."

"There is certainly no need for any panic by the parents or the students," Mitry said, in concern to the worries of the parents and the school community members.

About the school

The Malek Fahd Islamic School is the largest Islamic school in Sydney, with campuses in Greenacre, Hoxton Park and Beaumont Hills. The school has around 2,500 students enrolled. Based on the strong performance of its students in the 2016 HSC, Malek Fahd ranked 76th in the state.

“Malek Fahd is a good school which provides quality education. It appears to enjoy support in the community. It has the loyalty of its students and staff…” the tribunal wrote about the school in its Dec. 23 judgment.