Nine MSN News 20/09/12
One of the key organisers of an Islamic rally to be held in Melbourne on Sunday has cancelled the protest amid police concerns it will be overrun by violent activists.
Swaybah Javed, who had helped invite more than 1800 people through social networking to a rally outside the city’s State Library, says she’s been forced to scrap the event.
“I am calling off the protest as I do not want more violence on the streets, as Islam does not promote violence,” she told AAP on Thursday.
“It is a shameful day for Australia when Islamophobia has boiled over to the point where it is impossible to carry out a peaceful protest.”
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright had already started planning for the worst on Sunday, putting mounted police and heavily armed police on alert and warning that those planning the rally were not representatives of the Islamic community.
“We are tracking the people we believe are organising the rallies and we don’t believe they are legitimate protesters,” he said on Wednesday.
“They are known to us and they have an association with violence in the past.”
Ms Javed said she is Muslim and had planned the rally because she was furious about an anti-Islamic film, Sydney’s riots and a recent counter-terrorism operation in Melbourne that involved raids on the Al-Furqan Islamic Information Centre and the homes of Muslim families.
“I wanted to bring awareness to people that Islam is a peaceful religion and my intention was always to protest peacefully,” she said.
She added that Sydney’s riots were especially upsetting because “demonstrators were brutally attacked by the police for simply exercising their right to protest against racism”.
Police had decided to increase security for Sunday’s now-cancelled rally after an offensive text message began circulating, calling for a violent counter-protest by non-Muslim Australians.
Ms Javed, a university graduate who has been involved in other protests and pro-Pakistan events, said her Muslim friends have been calling her and warning that they’ve already been racially abused and threatened.
The Facebook page for the scrapped protest, titled “Stand up against racism and rally in defence of Islam”, has now been taken down after it became a target for offensive remarks.
Victoria’s Muslim leaders formed a united front earlier this week to condemn the violence in Sydney and have strongly refused to endorse any further community protests.
Leaders are calling for calm and will tell followers during Friday sermons that they must ignore social media or text messages encouraging mass demonstrations.