Islamic leaders urge an end to protests

Islamic leaders have moved rapidly to stamp on extremists within their communities and heal serious rifts with other Australians in the wake of last Saturday's violent riot in Sydney.

Leaders of a wide range of Islamic groups met in Sydney and Melbourne - where they were joined by the city's Coptic Christian Bishop - as police tracked ringleaders through inflammatory texts and dozens of tips from within the Muslim community.

With conservative columnists and politicians calling for tougher measures, including demands for new barriers to Islamic immigration, Muslim organisations and websites received hundreds of death threats and abusive messages.

The leaders of 25 Sydney Muslim organisations yesterday condemned the violence, called for the "handful" of extremist troublemakers to be identified and punished by law, and urged that there be no further protests.


Texts obtained by ABC television's 7.30 Report advocated confrontation to deliver a strong message not only against the YouTube video mocking the Prophet Muhammad, but also other "intentional and deliberate attempts" to humiliate Islam.

The ABC also reported that protest leaders included some radicals with known links to Islamic extremism, including cases involving charges in 2005 brought against five men for planning a terror attack.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is examining the possibility of cancelling the visas of any non-citizens charged in connection with the riot.

Lebanese Muslim Association president Samier Dandan told a press conference yesterday that it was no surprise people known to police were among the alleged ringleaders, and that the Muslim community would help to identify them.

But as moves were made to calm tensions, Opposition leader Tony Abbott attacked the Government for issuing a visa to British Islamic activist Taji Mustafa, who spoke at a conference in Sydney on Sunday.

Described as a "preacher of hate" by Abbott, Mustafa is the public face of the global Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT) organisation, which advocates the end of Israel and the installation of an international caliphate.

Mustafa is not on any watch list and HUT, which publicly preaches peace, is not banned under Australia's anti-terrorism laws.

Mustafa told ABC television that he was concerned at Saturday's riots and promoted peaceful political protest: "The original intention is not for any of these protests anywhere in the world to turn violent."

The conference drew further fire yesterday when posted coverage of an 8-year-old girl named Ruqaya telling delegates that children should join the fight and that "nobody is too young".

Earlier, a mother who had outraged many Australians when her young son carried a banner urging the beheading of those who insulted the Prophet was interviewed by police and child welfare officers.

No action will be taken against her, but the imagery infuriated police and political leaders, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

What they said
* More needs to be done to reach out to disaffected Muslim youth.
* Religious leaders should call for calm during Friday's sermons.
* Further protests are not supported by the Muslim community.
* Dealing with the protests should be left to police, Muslim organisations have received hate mail.
* Restraint is needed in media reports and in political reaction.
* Community members will meet police and the NSW Government.
* Goodwill is needed from the wider Australian community.