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Iraq war puts Australian Jews, Muslims in spot

Muslims and Jews alike have complained of a wave of harassment and abuse in Australia since the US-led invasion of Iraq began last week.

world Updated: Mar 25, 2003 18:01 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Muslims and Jews alike complained on Tuesday of a wave of harassment and abuse in Australia since the US-led invasion of Iraq began last week.

Australia's Jewish community wrote an open letter to political, religious, civic and community leaders reporting acts of vandalism and anti-Jewish actions since war broke out.

"In the past two weeks in particular, the slur that American foreign policy is controlled by some form of Jewish conspiracy has been broadcast or written on numerous occasions," wrote Jeremy Jones, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

"We have seen how Australia's racist and extremist groups have seized on the airing of this anti-Jewish myth in the mainstream media to justify their hatred of Jews and their attempts to take away from the quality of life of Jewish Australians," he said.

Jones said anti-Semitic incidents included graffiti reading "Kill the Jews" that was daubed on a Sydney wall Friday while a synagogue in the city's southwest suffered minor damage in an arson attack.

On Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, the Jewish Museum in Melbourne was vandalised, with glass doors and panels smashed and Monday anti-Jewish graffiti was painted at the entrance to a university in Sydney, he said.

"The Jewish community calls on Australians in positions of moral and political leadership to publicly condemn all manifestations of anti-Semitism, as well as any other racial hatred, which emerges during this time of tension," he said.

Australia's Muslim minority meanwhile said Australia's involvement in the war against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq had also fueled numerous incidents of harassment against it.

Amjad Mehboob of the Federation of Islamic Councils in Australia, said many Australian-Muslims were too scared to leave their homes, fearing heightened racial abuse since the war in Iraq broke out.

"If you go into where Muslims are large in number like for instance Lakemba and Bankstown (in Sydney's west) you see the streets are pretty deserted," Mehboob said.

"People are concerned about the backlash and they are choosing to stay home. Quite a lot of them are not going out unless it's absolutely necessary," he said

"At street lights, women are stopped when crossing and get abused by passing motorists. Sometimes the motorists are women," he said.

First Published: Mar 25, 2003 18:01 IST