Police forces in New South Wales and Victoria contained Islam protests on Sunday in the two Australian states. The protests are part of the ongoing global mass action against a 14-minute video posted in YouTube titled Innocence of Muslims.
The video has gone viral and has more than 13 million hits. It caused a violent protest last week in Sydney which resulted in 17 people injured.
The planned Sunday protest, however, was did not push through. Authorities applauded the restraint showed by the Islamic community in the two states although there was an argument in the Melbourne between a Muslim couple and young men wearing Nazi insignias and Australian flags, and waving atheist placards.
Tension ran high in front of the Victorian State Library, site of a cancelled Islamic rally, when one of the four members of the right-wing group Nationalist Alternative waved a placard that said “(Just like all religions) Islam is false.”
To avert violence, the police from the two states deployed extra officers. About 300 policemen were assigned to patrol in NSW including Hyde Park and the U.S. Consulate in Martin Place which were the focal points in last week’s violent protest which was eventually condemned by Muslim leaders in Australia.
However, in Sydney, police arrested on Friday two men for using social networking sites to incite violence in the city’s commercial business district over the weekend. The arrest led the police to monitor social media sites to watch for groups that will attempt to provoke more protest activities.
Meanwhile, the Bankstown bookshop embroiled in violent protests against an anti-Islamic film two weeks ago has accused police of fuelling the violence and their Muslim leadership of betraying the community by quickly denouncing the behavior of their “Muslim brothers” and supporting the police.
Several workers from the Al Risalah book store were at the protest and said they were collecting eyewitness accounts to corroborate their claims that police baited the protesters and cornered them in Hyde Park.
They released a five-page statement for the media to publish today, in which they blamed an anti-Islamic media for blowing the events out of proportion and fuelling further hatred and racism against Muslims.
The bookshop has also attacked the Muslim leaders who formed an unprecedented coalition last week to distance themselves from the actions of the protesters.
“Islamic groups and leaders have been quick to judge and sentence their Muslim brothers and sisters based on pure rumour and speculation,” the statement says.
“The police, the politicians, the media, and even the Muslim leaders have all alienated and created an atmosphere of hatred and fear within the Australian Community. It was not the protesters that created this atmosphere.”
Al Risalah is the second Muslim group to release lengthy statements blaming police, politicians and the media for the violent scenes in the city centre two weekends ago.
Last week, the controversial Islamic political group Hizb ut-Tahrir released an eight point statement praising the actions of the protesters and blaming their underlying anger on “an anti-Islamic agenda peddled by media and politicians”.
Both statements are a blow to Muslim leaders who have been desperate to present a unified front with consistent messages in the wake of the protests.
They also hint at a growing discontent with community leaders with many more young Muslims taking to Facebook to express outrage that their leaders have “disowned” them by siding with police and alienating the protesters.