CAIRO – Australian Muslim imams are planning a meeting to discourage people from violence that marred protests over an insulting movie of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) and tainted the image of Muslims in Australia and around the globe.
"There is a consensus among the imams that demonstrations have to be peaceful, and that any violent protest has to be stopped immediately," Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, a spokesman for both the Victorian board and the Australian National Imams Council, told The Australian on Monday, September 17.
The meeting, which is scheduled to be held on Monday or Tuesday, came after protests against a US-made film defaming the Prophet in Sydney degenerated into violence.
"Imams are in contact with each other and plan to have a meeting (today) or the day after to respond to this particular issue," Sheikh Saleem said.
Australian imams will highlight the message that violence has no place Islam.
"Muslims are very upset and provoked by this film," Sheikh Saleem said.
"But as other political leaders in Middle-Eastern countries have said -- you are allowed to protest in any democratic country in a democratic way, but it has to be free of violence.
At least nine people died in violent protests in the Muslim world in days of protests against the anti-Prophet film produced by an American-Israeli real estate developer.
Titled “Innocence of Muslims”, the film portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The film was posted on YouTube in June but drew attention until last week when an Egyptian-American Copt produced a trailer in an Arabic-language blog post and e-mail newsletter publicizing the movie.
While condemning the provocative film, Muslim leaders around the world have denounced attacks on foreign diplomatic missions, calling for a measured response to the movie.
Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh said Saturday that attacks on foreign embassies over the film run counter to the peaceful teachings of Islam.
"Such acts damage the Muslim religion, are not permitted by God and are incompatible with the teachings of the Prophet,” he said.
Coordinating their efforts with police, Muslim imams in Victoria have pledged to notify authorities about troubles.
"I would urge anybody who is going to show their displeasure about this film that it should be completely and comprehensibly peaceful," Sheikh Saleem told The Australian.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright said police were in regular discussions with Islamic leaders across Melbourne.
"As you'd expect we're monitoring the social media, we are monitoring the interactions of the local community, we're speaking with our own community members," he told ABC.
"Not surprisingly once we saw what was happening in Sydney we had been in contact with our local community leaders and we've made inquiries.
"We're quite confident what we've seen there, we won't see in Victoria.”
The deputy commissioner stressed that the Muslim community in Australia rejects violent protests against the film.
"I also note Islamic community leaders, our own community leaders, the Prime Minister right across, have all condemned the actions in Sydney,” Cartwright said.
"These aren't mainstream Muslim people, these aren't people acting within the normal boundaries of faith communities.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
Following the protests, the Islamic Council of Victoria general manager Nail Aykan said the council was "appalled" by extremists who turned a peaceful protest into a dangerous riot.
"It is something that has concerned and disappointed everyone, not just Muslims here in Australia," Aykan said.
"It's not just a New South Wales thing -- I think we all share the same sentiments that it was a terrible incident that took place."All it takes is 0.5 per cent of the population to start trouble."
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