Home Australia Muslim peak bodies in NSW and Victoria reject invitations to premiers’ iftar dinners

Muslim peak bodies in NSW and Victoria reject invitations to premiers’ iftar dinners

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Exclusive: Australian National Imams Council and Islamic Council of Victoria say they will not attend Ramadan events amid ‘frustration’ in Muslim communities over response to Gaza conflict

Two peak Muslim bodies have rejected invitations to premiers’ iftar dinners in New South Wales and Victoria, as members of the community turn against state governments over their response to the war in Gaza.

The Australian National Imams Council (Anic) and the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) have told Guardian Australia they will not attend the annual events, with the latter calling for Jacinta Allan’s first iftar as premier to be cancelled altogether.

“Out of respect for the suffering of the Palestinians, it just would not be appropriate to hold such an event,” said Adel Salman, the president of the ICV.

“There is a level of frustration with Labor in the community at the moment, at every level, in relation to Israel and the war in Gaza.

“What we want to see from the state government is clear statements of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

An Anic spokesperson told Guardian Australia they were “deeply disappointed with the Minns government’s lack of response to the distress of the Muslim and Arab communities in NSW.”

“Anic hopes that the Minns government will take a more just and considerate approach to acknowledging the distress of the communities in NSW and the suffering of the Palestinian people,” they said.

Government-hosted iftar dinners during Ramadan have become popular and have been attended by politicians, Muslim community leaders, senior clerics of all faiths and consul generals. In Victoria, the premier has hosted the event annually since 2015, though the ICV also boycotted the event in 2017.

Salman said he would like to hear the Allan government “actually listen” to community sentiment.

“Large sections of our community agree that such an iftar is inappropriate right now, and now would be a good time for the premier to take on advice her government has received from Muslims,” he said.

It came as the death toll in Gaza is likely to pass 30,000 this week.

Sheik Wesam Charkawi, a community organiser and academic from Sydney, said “anger” from the Muslim community made the event untenable.

“There is an outright refusal from any imam or community leader to attend the event,” he said.

“I’ve never seen the level of anger in the community as high as it is right now. There is zero appetite from the community to meet with the premier or his ministers.”

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, has previously criticised pro-Palestine rallies and their cost to police, and decided to light the sails of the Opera House in support of Israel last October.

This month, he criticised Labor MPs for making comments about Gaza, saying they should run for federal politics if they want to express strong views on international affairs.

Charkawi said the premier’s positions had shifted the Muslim community into action, with many seeking to hold the Minns government accountable at the next election.

“Palestine is the line in the sand, its the point of no return for the Muslim community,” he said.

“We still have not seen any condemnation, we haven’t seen any change from the government.”

A spokesperson for Minns said the event would go ahead.

“The premier will be hosting the annual iftar dinner with an intimate event,” they said.

Soon after the 7 October attack by Hamas, Allan led a motion that stated parliament stood with Israel and recognised its “inherent right to defend itself”. The motion also recognised that “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their legitimate needs and aspirations”.

Last week, she told parliament she supported Anthony Albanese’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire.

A Victorian government spokesperson said the premier’s iftar dinner would have a different tone this year.

“We understand the heartbreak that Palestinian and Muslim Victorians are feeling as the Gaza conflict continues, and the premier supports the prime minister in calling for a humanitarian ceasefire,” they said.

“Premier’s iftar dinners are an important tradition in Victoria. We’re working closely with leaders of Victoria’s Islamic community to ensure that everybody’s voices are heard, recognising that this year’s event will be a more solemn and respectful occasion.”

 

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