Those protesting against the release of an American-made movie, Innocence of Muslims, which was released on the internet last week, took over Sydney town centre on Saturday. The film ridicules the prophet Mohammad and despite being denounced by governments around the world, has been the spark for violence in more than 20 countries.
What started as a peaceful protest in front of the Town Hall, soon escalated as several members of the throng, which marched to Hyde Park, became aggressive. Police were forced to use capsicum spray, tear gas and the dog squad during the five-hour battle, which alternated between periods of calm to clashes with officers trying to control the crowd.
Condemnation has been strong for the slogans on the signs carried by the crowd such as ‘Behead all those which insult the prophet’ and ‘our dead are in paradise, yours are in hell’. What is perhaps most shocking is the sight of the four-year old child holding such a sign.
Eight men were arrested and two protestors were taken to hospital. Several police officers were also injured.
Both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have condemned the violence, as have several prominent Islamic leaders.
To read the full story, visit TheAge.com.au
Watching the television on Saturday evening I was taken aback by the scenes of the angry crowd rampaging through Sydney’s Pitt Street. Saturday afternoon shoppers, who were quietly going about their business, suddenly under threat from those hell-bent on creating havoc; surely not in Sydney? But sadly this was indeed the case.
A crowd of many, led by few, decided to protest the release of an anti-Islamic movie featured on the internet and the rest of the city just had to accept that this was happening.
I’m all for people having the right to express their views, but what was the point of protesting in Sydney against an American-produced movie, which was deemed to insult the prophet Mohammad? Few have even watched the film which they protested against, claiming they would not watch anything so offensive. So word of mouth has spread the content of this film, which has become an internet sensation, thanks to the adverse publicity provided by these protestors.
Does scaring people witless, causing damage to property and injuring police do anything to support the cause for which these people stand? And how, pray tell, does brandishing slogans such as, ‘our dead are in paradise, yours are in hell’, do anything to endear these thugs to the wider populous. And no, having a young child brandish such signs doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
These young men who claim to stand for all things good and great in the Islamic faith have done nothing but bring shame on their religion. They were not protesting to make a point; the protest was the point. The point that they can do anything they choose, when they choose and do it in the name of their religion. This is about power. This is about a group of people who no longer know who they are. They no longer conform to the rules of Islam, or they wouldn’t be behaving the way they were. They are stuck in a modern world which affords them freedom and rights, but clearly they don’t or won’t accept the accompanying responsibility.
Condemnation of their actions has been swift and widespread, not only from Australia’s political leaders, but from within the Islamic community. As is often the case, a whole community has been tarred by the actions of a few rogue elements and much of the hard work which has been done to ensure that those of the Islamic faith are welcomed to this country, has been seriously compromised.
People should not be judged by the language they speak, the colour of their skin, or the religion that they follow. And nor should they be allowed to undertake random acts of violence in the name of that religion. This works both ways.
Were the police right to try and stop the protest on Saturday? Or did the presence of such large numbers of police lead to the escalation in aggression and violence?