Thursday, August 28, 2014

An interfaith gesture of support for Muslim Australians a Lakemba Mosque

Guest Post By Natasha Robinson

Photo by Damien Begovic
SOME wore a yarmulke, some a priest’s collar, and one an imam’s kaftan. And they all held hands in solidarity on the steps of Lakemba Mosque to spread a message of peace.

The priests, reverends, imams and a rabbi held a large banner of a mock-up newspaper masthead they dubbed “The Welcoming Australian”. “We’ll love Muslims 100 years,” the newspaper front page splash read. In an address on the steps of his mosque, imam Yahya Safi said that “the clear message of Islam is mercy”. 

“We need to clarify, to show the true message of Islam,” the imam said. “It is forbidden to consider acts that are evil. The true Muslim is the Muslim who will live in a safe way with others, and others will feel safe with him. We need to put our hands together in order to spread out mercy and respect.”

The gathering was a response to concern that publicity of the heinous acts of Australian-born terrorists Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, fighters with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, had prompted “shrill and harsh” rhetoric towards ordinary Muslims in Australia and had fostered a negative perception of Islam.
Rabbi Zalman Kastel, CEO of the organisation Together for Humanity, said the expression of solidarity was timely as the prime minister continued to appeal to Muslims to join “Team Australia”. “We need to preserve our social cohesion,” Rabbi Kastel said. “This is a message to the Islamic community of solidarity: we value you, we respect you. “Let’s keep working at multiculturalism: we’ve got a good thing going, let’s keep it going.”

Sydney doctor Jamal Rifi appealed to the prime minister to show leadership as he consulted with Muslim groups over tougher counter-terrorism laws. “We need to be part of the team, but we want to be equal members of the team,” Dr Rifi said. “We feel we are close to the target. We want them to pass us the ball so we can score. We appeal to the captain and to the coach: show us your strategy.”

Canberra last week moved to address concerns among the Islamic community that the government was at war with it, with ASIO head David Irvine publicly declaring on the western Sydney-based Voice of Islam radio station that the counter-terrorism battle was being waged purely against terrorists, not a religion.

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