Australian religious leaders have called for a collective response to heal communities in the wake of the murder of police accountant Curtis Cheng in a terror attack last week.
The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed of the Australian National Imams Councils alongside other community leaders from various religious faiths said violent extremism was a rare but serious problem facing the entire community.
“Sadly, a very, very small number of Australians of Muslim faith have chosen this path,” Mohamed said in a statement on Friday.
The leaders came together in Sydney to address the fall-out from the act of terror committed a week ago by Farhad Jabar, 15, who executed police accountant Curtis Cheng, 58, outside the Parramatta Police Station in western Sydney last Friday.
Jabar was subsequently shot and killed in a shootout with police protecting the building.
Authorities believed Jabar was recruited as a lone wolf by a group of men who were targets of Australia’s largest anti-terror raids in September 2014.
It is believed Jabar, who was described as a quite, cheerful student who vigilantly attended mosque was drawn into the extremist circles by a 16-year-old classmate at Arthur Phillip High School.
Though Mohamed stopped short of describing Jabar’s actions as an act of terrorism saying there is not enough information in contrast to Australian authorities and officials to those supported Cheng’s murder, he said: “Stop messing with Australia and its society.”
“Generally speaking, we refuse and reject any form of terrorist activities, whether this — if it’s proven to be a terrorist act or any other,” Mohammed added when pressed on authorities assertions.
“It is not just a religious problem that may have led to these things. It’s religious, ideological, social and other factors that may have contributed to these kind of motivations behind (the attack).”
The Grand Mufti added that other misguided teachings from Google and social media may have contributed.
“In addition to that, the developments in the international arena contribute also,” he added.
Therefore, any remedy should include all factors, not just focusing on the religious part of the story, Mohamed said.
Mohammad said there must be proper forms of communications and dialogue between “families, the community and us” as well as Australia’s security agencies.
“We believe that dialogue is the perquisite of understanding,” Mohammad said.
“Australia deserves this for us to remain in a cohesive society. ”
Anglican Church Archdeacon Rod Bower joined the grand mufti at the press conference in Sydney telling reporters Australia’s response to the shooting would “determine how we live as a community for generations to come.”
“These conversations are of ultimate importance,” Bower said.
“We have a common ancestor. We are all related and we are all brothers and sisters,” Bower said when describing the historical ancestry both Islam and Christianity.
Bower said if we ever wish to cease contributing to any further marginalisation which may cause future acts like Jabar’s actions on Cheng – which he described as “our brothers” — we must choose not to participate in the dualistic narrative of “them and us.”
“So I’m here today to join the mufti’s so that it is never them, but us,” Bower said.
Bower said protesting outside of Australian mosques are only part of the problem, not the solution.
Parramatta Mosque chairman Neil El-Kadomi used his Friday’s sermon to tell the 400 worshipers “if you don’t like Australia, leave it,” local media reported.
Kadomi warned that those who did not respect Australian values would be expelled from the Islamic community in Parramatta.
“We live in this country, you must respect it,” Kadomi said. ” If you don’t like it, leave.”
Kadomi urged the congregation’s parents to watch and engage with their children and the actions of Jabar had been a wake-up call.
Britain Muslim Women Association director Maha Abdo said Australia’s Muslim community had been “under siege” in the past week following Jabar’s actions.
“What happened last week is appalling, it is hurting, and Australian Muslim women are hurting because ‘it could have been my child,'” Abdo said.
It has been alleged in Australia’s media the men groomed Jabar for the killing like a paedophile grooms a child.
“Things are happening and we need to really start engaging academics, research, understanding of the issues because we’ve been literally under siege,” Abdo said.
“We’ve not had that luxury to be able to have the real conversation with our young people and be able to hear and listen. ”
Abdo said Australia can play a major role globally in creating a multicultural society.
Meanwhile Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held a meeting with Muslim representatives in Sydney on Friday.
Turnbull told reporters after the meeting violent extremism, terrorism and politically-motivated violence is a challenge for Australia as a community, a society and a government.
“It is a law and order issue of the highest priority,” Turnbull said while adding respect is a two-way street.
“Every religion, every faith, every moral doctrine understands the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, ” Turnbull said.
An 18-year-old man who was arrested as part of dawn anti-terror raids on Wednesday remains in police custody, without charge, in connection with last week’s act of terror against Curtis Cheng.