A star Liberal candidate has been dragged into a widening controversy about Islam after tweets emerged of him repeatedly declaring: 'Call me Islamophobic now'.
Indigenous leader Warren Mundine, the party's candidate for the critical marginal New South Wales seat of Gilmore, tweeted: 'Call me Islamophobic now.
'Wake up people! Islam has a massive problem ... Call me Islamophobic, but Islam does have a massive problem!'
The repeated tweets were published in July 2016 alongside a picture of a Daily Telegraph front page listing Islamic State terrorist attacks around the world.
The tweets - which were still on the 62-year-old's account three years after he made them - were seen by Daily Mail Australia on Friday after two Liberal candidates were dumped over horrific online comments about Muslims.
Warren Mundine (with Prime Minister Scott Morrison) is a star candidate for one of the most marginal seats in the country - Gilmore, on the New South Wales south coast
When Daily Mail Australia asked Mr Mundine to explain the tweets he said he was 'obviously' being sarcastic.
'That was sarcasm,' he said in a phone interview, adding later that 'Aussies are very sarcastic'.
Mr Mundine, who has a long track record of being critical of Islamist extremism, said: 'I'm a straight talker and always will be.'
'If people are committing horrific acts in the name of a religion or any other ideology then that needs to be called out.
'I never 'identified as an Islamophobe' - that's a silly take on what was obviously me being sarcastic.'
But Ali Kadri, from the Islamic Council of Queensland, said: 'When I read them they don't seem to me as sarcastic they seem to me as Islamophobic.
'If he says they're meant to be sarcastic it didn't come across in his tweets that he's being sarcastic.
'It did come across he's fuelling the divide and the hatred which is not only just dangerous for the Muslim community ... but also divides our country.'
It did come across he's fueling the divide and the hatred ... (which) divides our country
Queensland Islamic Council's Ali Kadri
Keysar Trad, the spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association, said the tweets were 'divisive'.
'It's the sort of nonsense you'd expect from Pauline Hanson.'
In other tweets seen by Daily Mail Australia, Mr Mundine described the burqa as a