Last updated: 13 august, 2009 - 11:24 GMT

Al-Qaeda's surf chick

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Part of Sally Neighbour book cover

Rabiah Hutchinson's story has been turned into a book

Rabiah Hutchinson is used to being talked about.

She was born as Robyn Hutchinson in the Australian Outback. Her mother left her violent father when she was three and took the children with her.

Religion played an important part in her life. Rabiah converted to Islam and decided to renounce her 'wild child' past and try to live the best life she could.


In the 1970s and 80s, Rabiah travelled to Indonesia and studied with Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who had founded an Indonesian militant group opposing President Suharto.

Rabiah decided that she wanted to provide a proper Islamic education for her children. In the 1990s, she journeyed to the Mujahidin camps of Pakistan. It was during the Afghan holy war and Rabiah worked in a hospital.

Civil war broke out and Rabiah moved back to Australia, then on to Egypt and finally to Afghanistan.

The Taliban was establishing what Rabiah felt could be a 'true Islamic state'. Although she had some reservations, she was keen to offer her help and wrote to the Afghan-Arab's benefactor Osama bin Laden, asking how she could assist.


Rabiah became well known in the Afghan-Arab world. Mustafa Hamid - known as Abu Walid al Misri - approached her, asking if she would become his second wife.

Rabiah is adamant that when she married him she didn't know Abu Walid was also a member of the governing council - or shura - of al-Qaeda and one of the senior leaders advising Osama bin Laden.

After the September 11th plane attacks on America in 2001, Rabiah and her family left for Iran. She lost her passport and belongings on the journey.

Abu Walid was already in Iran, living with his first wife. Rabiah divorced him because he'd converted to a branch of Islam she didn't agree with.

This meant that she could no longer support her family. Eventually, she went to the Australian Embassy, seeking help.

Return to Australia

After extensive questioning by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Rabiah and her family were allowed back to Australia in October 2003.

She remains under surveillance.

In an exclusive interview for Outlook, Rabiah told Matthew Bannister that she thinks she's been labelled as an al-Qaeda operative because the authorities want someone to blame.

Rabiah's story has been turned into a booked called 'The Mother of Mohammed'. It's written by the respected Australian journalist, Sally Neighbour.

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