Hawkesbury City Council has launched civil action against Dr Mustapha Kara-Ali and Diaa Kara-Ali in the Land and Environment Court, alleging they carried out illegal land clearing, earthworks and built gates, fences and driveways without seeking any of the relevant development approvals at a property in Colo, in Sydney's north west. Mustapha Kara-Ali, a former member of then Prime Minister John Howard's Muslim Community Reference Group and past postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, is the Imam of religious guild Diwan Al Dawla. A letter he wrote to a council staff member, filed in the court documents, says the members of the guild live "separated from secular lifestyles to pursue a religious mode of worship and an ascetic lifestyle under an oath of self-sacrifice and dedication to the purposes of Diwan Al Dawla". The Colo property was owned by the members of Diwan Al Dawla and used "for the carrying out of religious activities of devotion, self-discipline, ritual baptism, inter-community prayers, contemplation and religious study," the letter said. A council compliance officer visited the property in October last year following an anonymous complaint to find land clearing, including a number of large native trees and the removal of metal waste, according to court documents. Islamic leader accused of illegal land clearing says his group is exempt from Australian law Not sure what I step on your cross has to do with anything.