Anti-Islam protests spark violence fears in Australia
SYDNEY: Australian officials urged vigilance on Monday following nationalistic and anti-Islam rallies, to ensure sentiment does not boil over into ugly race riots similar to those seen in 2005.
Hundreds of people attended Reclaim Australia rallies around the country over the weekend, with violent clashes erupting in Melbourne as police tried to separate anti-Islam and anti-racism demonstrators.
Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales president Stepan Kerkyasharian said divisions in the community were fueling insecurity.
“You basically have the Muslim community which feels that they are under siege because of international events, because of global terrorism, and because you now have global terrorism which is misusing religion to pursue geopolitical agendas,” he said.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane there was evidence of unsavory elements at the rallies, including neo-Nazi and racial supremacist groups.
“It is important for us to recognize that anti-Muslim protesters represent a fringe minority in our society and we overwhelmingly reject racism and religious bigotry,” he said.