Hundreds of angry Muslims gathered in Lakemba, a suburb of Sydney, to protest the ‘negative coverage’ of Islam and the paedophile prophet Mohammed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and shootings by Muslims in a Kosher supermarket in Paris.
7News (h/t Marina) Among the 800-strong crowd in the Muslim enclave of Lakemba, placards were held up with the slogan: “Je Suis Muslim” or “I am Muslim”, evoking the same sentiment that became a touchstone for many in the wake of attacks in Paris.
Organizers of the Our Prophet, Our Honour rally said it was intended to be “a peaceful and respectful event” to counter negative coverage of Islam and the lampooning of the Prophet by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Speaking at the rally, outside the Lakemba train station, local Muslim leader Sufyan Badar told the crowd it was also in response to the waves of protests in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Mr Badar said the protests in the name of free speech had nothing to do with freedom. “We also gather to place the politics of the events in France in the correct context,” he said.
“Freedom is the smokescreen with which Western politicians and media conceal the underlying issues.
“In reality free speech is one of the many political tools that are used to maintain dominance over the Muslims.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned against the rally being used to incite terrorism, saying he hoped few people would attend.
Hamzah Qureshi, a spokesman for the controversial group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which helped organise the event, questioned the prime minister’s comments and the suggestion the event could incite violence.
“No one should be asked to apologise for or distance themselves from something they are not responsible for,” Mr Qureshi said.
“I would however mention that it’s interesting that the question of whether a Muslim event will be peaceful or violent consistently seems to come up.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had previously spoken to say he hoped few people would attend. He warned against the rally being used to incite terrorism and called on Muslim leaders to distance themselves from “evil things that are done in the name of Islam”.
A spokesman for terror-linked Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir, which helped organize the event, questioned the Prime Minister’s comments and his suggestion the gathering could be used to incite violence.