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Sydney, Austrailia - Moderates within Australia's biggest Muslim organisation, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, have staged a dramatic coup, ousting controversial president Ikebal Patel after accusing him of a dictatorial style.

At Sunday's annual congress of AFIC, the umbrella organisation representing the key state Muslim bodies, six out of seven state councils present backed a vote of no confidence in Mr Patel.

Mr Patel, who migrated from Fiji in 1992, has been replaced by Haset Sali, a Sunshine Coast commercial lawyer who once likened the actions of former mufti of Australia Taj Din al-Hilali to those of Hitler.

At the congress, held in the nation's biggest Muslim school, Malek Fahd in southwest Sydney, it is understood Mr Patel stormed out, urging all the state councils to follow him. The Christmas Island and Tasmanian councils joined him, but the rest stayed.

"He knew his numbers were failing. He walked out and said he was going to AFIC's head office, asking others to come with him," Mr Sali said yesterday.

"The fact that only two councils went with him shows his mandate was not a very big one."

Mr Sali, who has been appointed interim president, said Mr Patel had been removed because of his allegedly unaccountable leadership style and for attempting to expel or suspend up to 40 member groups from the AFIC in violation of its rules.

AFIC is made up of dozens of representative Muslim bodies, which sit beneath the nine state and territory councils. "He was trying to set up a sub-culture where he was the guru," Mr Sali said. Mr Patel would not comment yesterday.

Mr Sali said he and the new executive committee members had been appointed only for 180days until fresh elections could be held.

"We want to give members the opportunity to think closely about who they want as a future executive," he said. "We want to move in a proactive direction."

He encouraged women in the community to consider taking leadership roles.

AFIC, which still acts in an advisory role to governments, derives most of its income from rent on land that houses Muslim schools across the country and the certification of halal food. It manages an annual budget of about $20 million and assets of about $50 million.

The body has faced controversy over its financial dealings and internal disputes, which erupted during elections in April 2006, when a group of Pakistanis took control of the organisation from a faction controlled by Fijian-Indians.

AFIC was forced into administration in September that year after months of internal brawling. Westpac then froze the organisation's accounts. It was hoped that the damaging feud had been resolved last year with the election of Mr Patel and a new board.

Mr Sali, who has in the past been a legal adviser to AFIC, attracted headlines last year when he spoke out against Sheik Hilali after the then mufti's comments likening scantily clad women to uncovered meat. He said that what the sheik was doing for Muslims in Australia was about as useful as what Hitler did for Christians in World War II.