When we decided not to back down on the barbaric attacks by local extremists, we took this decision as enough is enough. The current barbaric medieval attacks on our democratic rights of freedom of speech and thoughts were not the first attacks we sustained. But we have decided that they should be the last.
The first time we decided to run candidates in local election was on September 2008. At that time, there were no controversial issues like the current violence in Syria. Our election campaign was going on very smoothly. Until one day we were alerted by a friend who attends Friday praying at musallah operated by one of these extremist groups.
We were told that the imam of the musallah had urged his followers not to vote for us, namely. The reason for this because he suspects that we are Shia seeking representation in the local council. The calls to boycott us spread like fire in the hay. We heard accounts that all other musallahs, masjids and mosques operated by extreme groups affiliated with Al Qaeda had done the same.
We approached one of these musallahs and encouraged the leaders of that musallahs not to spread sectarian hate. Regardless of the fact that we are not Shia, sectarian hate should not have place in Australian democracy and life-style. The leaders denied that they spread such sectarian hate. But at that election we heard more horrific accounts. The extremists in fact used all venues available to them to advocate people not to vote for us. They even utilised Islamic school to spread sectarian hate. Some of the school kids are in fact Shia, studying in Sunni dominated school. They were urged to tell their parents not to vote for “infidels” like us.
We decided not to take any action, as this could hurt the reputation of the community and could affect the fragile harmony between its sects.
The same story was repeated, in more ugly way, during the last year’s state election. While again during the last year’s election, the issue of Syria was not a factor in the election, violence against our campaign was very high. With no warning, we woke up one day to discover that all our posters had disappeared from the streets. Even posters inside shops were torn apart by angry mob. We then were told that the mob has left us message that they belong to Al Bukhari bookstore. When we tried to talk to Al Bukhari bookstore, we met with mixed response. Officially they denied encouraging their members to attack our posters because we are “infidels” and no Muslim should vote for us. But practically there were few members who admitted that they did all this. And the campaign to sabotage our campaign went on and on. All our efforts to stop these Al Bukhari members from attacking our campaign were unsuccessful. We left with one option: report these barbaric medieval attacks to authorities, including police. We also leaked news alert to media.
The police could not take practical step to stop these attacks. It was only when The Daily Telegraph published small article about these attacks that Sheikh Feiz and his group moved to stop their members from continuing their campaign. But with more threats to us.
At that time we again decided that the reputation of the community should be put above our interests of getting decent votes. And this is why we refused to talk directly or indirectly to the media. We had several requests from different TV stations (including SBS, ABC and other channels) in addition to newspapers and radio stations (including 2GB and 2UE). Even the Times contacted us from its offices in London and offered to send journalist to meet us and get the full story.
Eventhough it was the golden opportunity for us to get a lot of media during election campaign, we refused all offers. Some think that we could have lost a lot of Muslim votes if we accepted the offers. This is not true. And the result was clear evidence.
A lot of community members are against these extremists. We should remember that in the community there are a lot of Shia Muslims, Alawis and moderate Sunnis that are sick of these extremists and their extreme ideas and tactics. There are also a lot of racist and Anti-Muslim community members. Let us remember that One Nation racist and Anti-Muslim party got in many elections more than 10% of the votes in Auburn seat.
We did not take all these numbers and facts into account when we took the decision to refuse to talk to the media. All what was important for us is the interests of the community, including its reputation and harmony among its members.
But the attacks during this election led us to clear understanding that the reputation and interests of the Muslim community require us to stand up and stop these extreme groups from going on with their extreme tactics and agendas. If we continue to cave in and absorb attacks without counter attack, these groups will take the whole community as hostage. And the same tactics will be repeated in any future elections or public campaigns.
These groups were the reason for the very bad reputation of the Muslims around the world and gave us the bad name as “terrorists” “monsters” and “inhumane”. They in fact do not care about the reputation and harmony in the community. Not only this. Their tactic is very simple: to abuse our careful steps not to hurt the community’s reputation. They then attack and claim that any counter attack on them will divide the community and give the community bad reputation.
In this election we decided that “the best way to defend yourself is to attack your enemies”. And so we went on counter attack from the first day the extremists started to send us threatening sms, phone calls and Facebook messages. And we continued by alerting the media, politicians and other community members. And we will continue until they stop their dirty tactics.
We believe that in democracy people can exchange ideas, debate, make accusations and compromises to settle disputes. These extreme groups do not recognise democracy at all. This is why they resort immediately in any debate to threats, physical attacks and use of religious centres to attack opponents. We will do the same.
We know that the damage was done this election. We know that these groups resorted to all dirty tactics; including using “Islamic” schools to spread sectarian hate and lies.
But we are doing all this for future. They should stop taking the whole community a hostage for their extreme agendas. They should start to act like any other Australian in the society. If they do not like things, they can either shut up or debate, within the laws. Not threats and no physical attacks.
And we know that they are well organised and have no morals to do any low acts. And this is why we need to better organise and show them that we will not allow them to go on with their dirty tactics.
And we will do this.....