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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 03:07 GMT 04:07 UK
Sydney's Muslims fear revenge attacks
Burnt-out remains of Muslim mosque targeted last year after 11 September
A Brisbane mosque was attacked after 11 September

In the wake of the Bali bombing there has already been one attack on an Islamic school in Sydney - members of Australia's Muslim community do not expect it to be the last.


We too condemn this terrible attack - our religion does not respect the taking of innocent blood

Imam Uzair Akbar

In the early hours of Tuesday, a group of men climbed over a fence into the grounds of the school in western Sydney and started smashing windows.

They then attacked the home of the Imam, Ahmed Shabbir.

Police are not treating the incident as racially motivated, but Muslims in Australia draw a different conclusion.

Anger

In the wake of the 11 September attacks in the United States last year, the Holland Park Mosque in suburban Brisbane was badly damaged in an arson attack.

A private security company has now been called in to ensure no repeat performance.


Every time something like this happens, we're blamed

Hassan Moussa,
chairman Australian Arabic Communities Council

The Mosque's Imam, Uzair Akbar, says emotions are running high, and there is lots of anger.

"It's there in the back of my mind that it might happen again. I'd like to think it won't, but I thought that last year and my mosque was burned down," he says.

"The message to our Australian brothers and sisters is that we too condemn this terrible attack, our religion does not respect the taking of innocent blood."

'Enough is enough'

But after 11 September, even Muslims on the streets found themselves targeted for abuse.

Members of Australian team hug after laying wreath at bomb site
Australians are in mourning

Many Muslim women wearing veils reported verbal and in some cases physical assaults.

"We're bracing ourselves for more attacks," says Hassan Moussa, chairman of the Australian Arabic Communities Council.

"Every time something like this happens, we're blamed. Enough is enough. We've taken lots of batterings in the last few months, but we go on with our daily lives like ordinary community members.

"Why should our loyalty and commitment to Australia be called into question?"

Bali excuse

There are some Australians who have never been comfortable with Muslims in Australia.


Some people don't like to mention they are Muslims

Hassan Moussa

One reader in a letter to the editor, published in Tuesday's Sydney Daily Telegraph, expressed feelings that a sizeable number of Australians seem to share:

"It's about time we woke up to the fact that the problem of world terrorism today lies firmly rooted in Islam," the letter read.

The uncomfortable fact is that racism lurks just below the surface in Australia.

For some, the Bali attack is all the justification they need to give vent to their prejudice.

Political leaders have tried to calm the atmosphere.

'Traumatised'

The Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has said: "There's no point in picking on anyone on the basis of their religion or colour or creed."

Prime Minister John Howard has also described Islam as a religion of peace and rejected the notion of the attackers acting for a religious cause.

But Hassan Moussa from the Australian Arabic Communities Council says the community feels resigned.

"Some people don't like to mention they are Muslims. They're fearful about the repercussions if they reveal they are Muslim, for their job, for their business, even in their local neighbourhood," he says.

"We feel traumatised [by events in Bali] like every citizen should do. It's a minority of fundamentalists, and the whole community is blamed for it."


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15 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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