A discussion about Sydney's violent protests tonight, which was to have been presented by a controversial Muslim sheikh, has been cancelled amid mounting pressure and media attention on parts of the Muslim community.
The controversial Sheikh Feiz Mohammed, Sheikh Khaled Issa and other members of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah (ASWJ) group were going to present a seminar at the Bukhari House in Auburn this evening to talk about the weekend protests, the anti-Islamic YouTube film that has sparked demonstrations around the world and "our responsibilities regarding this matter".
After days of damage control within the Muslim community, ASWJ anounced this afternoon it would no longer stage the event. The announcement to cancel the lecture came just hours after after the controversial Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir encouraged "Muslims to continue in their noble work" and hit back at criticisms against Sydney's violent weekend protest by blaming an anti-Islamic agenda from media and political opponents. Hizb ut-Tahrir's Australian chapter issued an eight-point statement this morning that is likely to inflame tensions in the already-delicate situation following Saturday's protests.
In it, the group justified the "praiseworthy" actions of 400 protesters who clashed with riot police on Saturday in Hyde Park and throughout the CBD when expressing their outrage to an offensive and provocative US-made film Innocence of Muslims. "It is a clear illustration that the major issue with events in Sydney is not the violence, but the anti-Islamic agenda peddled by media and politicians," they say. "We encourage Muslims to continue in their noble work of resisting Western attacks, accounting the political establishment and media, and redoubling efforts to establish Islam and the Caliphate in the Muslim World." Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, which says it did not organise the weekend's demonstration and does not condone violence, says the film is a "trigger" to persistent Western attacks against Islam.
"We affirm that primary responsibility for what occurred lies squarely on the powerful institutions of society, media and the political establishment in particular, which continually attack Islam and Muslims, creating the grievances that give rise to such incidents, isolating youth, and causing social tension.
"We reject justifications of insulting Islam and its sanctities in the name of freedom of speech," the group says. Yesterday an unprecedented coalition of 25 Muslim leaders in Sydney broke ranks with the global protest by denouncing the violence and calling for a stop to any future demonstrations in Australia. Police have arrested and charged eight protesters with a range of offences including affray, assault police, and resist arrest.
An Australian Federal Police officer and a riot police officer were both taken to St Vincent's Hospital for treatment after the protest. Last night, police arrested a 17 year-old Padstow boy over the attacks on police. They will allege he used the timber pole of a banner to hit the two officers on the head as they were trying to protect the US consulate from being stormed in Martin Place. Several items of clothing were seized, including an item used to identify the boy from footage of him at the protest. It is not clear if these items included the T-shirts emblazoned with AK-47 guns and the words, "Sixth Pillar", worn by many of the protesters and sold at a bookshop in Bankstown.
Superintendent Mark Walton said the federal police officer suffered an open head wound and is "in good spirits" recovering at home. He said Strike Force McAlister detectives were going through a "huge amount" of footage to identify those responsible for "acts of violence towards police" and more arrests would be made. "There is such a volume of material I can't put a number on [how many more arrests will be made] but I assure everyone we are working hard," he said. Hizb ut-Tahrir say the global Muslim reaction to the film is dwarfed by the actions of the US, which launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The group specifically addressed the US ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich.
"We remind him and them that the US administration has a long record of exploitative interference in the Muslim world. From drone strikes in Pakistan, to soldiers burning copies of the Koran in Afghanistan, to torture by rendition, to Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Baghram air base". The group condemned criticisms from the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his colleagues Julie Bishop, Scott Morrison and Cory Bernardi. "This is the usual crowd of political opportunists who only reveal their hatred of Islam by continually attacking all things Islamic as they appeal to the Islamophobic fringe of their electorates."
The group highlighted an incident in Perth last weekend where mounted police, the dog squad and a police helicopter were called in to control 500 teenagers at a party that had got out of hand. Revellers threw rocks, bottles and bricks at police. A 19-year-old was stabbed and an ambulance window smashed. "This incident, evidently quite similar, if not worse, than the Sydney protests as far as objective facts go – received nowhere near as much media coverage. They were not dubbed the 'Perth riots'. Politicians did not fall over one another to condemn the violence," they said. Hizb ut-Tahrir's divisive leader Taji Mustafa has been in Australia to address the annual conference of the Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Source : smh.com.au