Muslim women call for calm

MUSLIM women have called on their community to "cool off" following violent protests on the weekend, saying mothers helped end violence in the Cronulla race riots — and can do it again.

"The women are the ones who are often the most level-headed," said Silma Ihram, project manager and former president of the Australian Muslim Women's Association. "Men have to defend the honour and women are like, 'hold on'."

A protest over an inflammatory film that ridicules the prophet Muhammad turned ugly in Sydney on Saturday, when six police and 17 civilians were injured. The incident also followed police raids on a dozen Victorian properties suspected of involvement in terrorist activities last week.

The release on the internet of the film Innocence of Muslims sparked protests, attacks on US embassies and flag-burnings around the world.

Ms Ihram said mothers of "angry young men" should "encourage them to cool off and to attend the mosque" and she said community leaders should "encourage calm".

She said women's actions helped prevent the Muslim community responding violently to the 2005 Cronulla riots, in which racial tensions flared.

"After the Cronulla riots . . . a number of the leaders called on the women to take their sons' mobile phones and keys and lock them in. We think that was instrumental in preventing any further incidents."

She said: "The sad thing is . . . it's a deceptive film, designed to provoke Muslims, which it has unfortunately done. For us to fall into the trap unfortunately shows that we have a long way to go in terms of practising what the prophet taught."

Sherene Hassan, secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said she was trying to convene an emergency meeting of imams today but advised against any kind of protest.

Ms Hassan said the council, a peak body representing 43 Victorian organisations, was confident "the situation in Melbourne will not be as inflammatory as the situation in Sydney".

But she urged caution with any protests: "Even if individuals have the intention of peacefully protesting there is every possibility that this peaceful protest will be hijacked."

She said the community's condemnation of the violence was "unprecedented".

"Muslims are saying 'enough is enough' and they are sick of a handful of misguided individuals hijacking their religion and misrepresenting it.

"It's abhorrent that these filmmakers should show such disrespect for the prophet Muhammad but . . . it's best ignored."

She said the council was concerned about hate crimes being perpetrated as a backlash against the Muslim community, in particular against women "who are easily identifiable".

Lawyer and community advocate Mariam Veiszadeh noted many commentators on the issue were women and said there had been a conscious move by Muslim women to become more vocal to counter stereotypes. She said the community should discuss the events, and she had set up a Facebook page called Muslims Against Violent Sydney Protests, and a Twitter forum #MAVSP.

Tasneem Chopra, head of the Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights, said the perpetrators "don't represent the community; they never have and they never will".

The story Muslim women call for calm first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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