Leaders back Bendigo’s Muslims

AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein.

JEWISH communal leaders have shown their solidarity with Bendigo’s Muslim community, which last week became the target of a racist campaign over the proposed erection of a mosque in the rural Victorian town.

The Bendigo council last week approved the city’s first mosque, sparking an outpouring of anti-Islam sentiment. The Q Society, which brought Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders to Australia last year, has thrown its weight behind the protests, circulating anti-Islam pamphlets and holding meetings to “inform” residents about the evils of Islam.

The Facebook page “Stop the Mosque in Bendigo” – which has more than 8000 likes – is brimming with anti-Islam taunts labelling Australian Muslims “Jihadists” and calling for their annihilation.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Colin Rubenstein said the Jewish community was duty bound to speak out.

“No religious group in our overwhelmingly tolerant, harmonious multicultural Australia should be subjected to discrimination, and AIJAC unequivocally supports the right of Australia’s Muslim communities to live in any locale and gather to pray in their communities in peace,” he concluded.

Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, also condemned the “religious bigotry” faced by Bendigo’s Muslims, stressing that “such discrimination is wrong and fundamentally inconsistent with the great Australian tradition of respect for all.”

Echoing the sentiment, Nina Bassat of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria said, “The outstanding feature of Australian life is its ability to forge one society from many, and part of that is the freedom to practise one’s religion.”

ADAM KAMIEN

“No religious group should be subjected to discrimination”: AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein.