A priest, a rabbi, a reverend and an Imam walk into a mosque and declare “We’ll love Muslims 100 years”. Standing side by side signifying solidarity for love and peace, representatives from each faith stood on the steps of the Lakemba mosque in Sydney in a campaign to publicly support the Muslim community over recent negative perceptions perpetuated by the media and posts on social media. 

The purpose of the gathering was in response to the media’s negative perceptions on Islam and the Muslim community. Rabbi Zalman Kastel, the National Director of a multi-faith organisation, Together of Humanity said “We need to preserve our social cohesion. This is a message to the Islamic community of solidarity: we value you, we respect you. Let’s keep working at multiculturalism:  let’s keep it going.”

Kastel connected with the Australian Christian Churches pastor, Brad Chilcott, Tim Costello and other denominational leaders around Australia. Chilcott, from Adelaide said that demonisation of the broader Muslim community risks creating conditions of separation and, ultimately, radicalisation. “When you alienate any group of people, whether that is due to being of a different faith,you create conditions where people don’t trust authority and they separate from mainstream society and alienation becomes anger and frustration,” Chilcott said.

A banner was held with the title “We’ll love Muslims 100 years” by the “Welcoming Australian” mock-up masthead as a twist to the article previously published in the Weekend Australian newspaper titled “We’ll fight Islam 100 years” misquoting Peter Leahy, a former chief of army mentioning that Australia needs to prepare for a war against radical Muslims for the next 100 years.

“ …We celebrate the diversity of the Australian community and recognise the valuable contribution of people of Muslim faith to our culture and community… ”

The Imam of Lakemba Mosque, Sheikh Yahya Safi said that “The clear message of Islam is mercy. … We need to clarify, to show the true message of Islam. It is forbidden to commit acts that are evil. The true Muslim is the Muslim who will live in a safe way with others, and others will feel safe with him. We need to put our hands together in order to spread out mercy and respect.”

This campaign encourages supporters to sign the following statement on their website, www.lovefor100years.com,

“As people committed to building healthy, cohesive and diverse communities in Australia, we have observed with dismay and empathy the way our Muslim friends have been affected by the language and tone of recent public statements and media coverage. We agree with the concerns of Muslim community leaders that the language and policies of our leaders should not marginalise or vilify people of Muslim faith, and that rhetoric used in relation to Australian security and conflicts around the world should not cause further division in our society, or lead to anyone feeling alienated from the nation they call home.

We believe people of Muslim faith are being unfairly smeared in the eyes of the Australian public by both subtle and overt links to violent extremism in political and media discourse. We know and understand the deep concern and hurt this is causing to our Muslim friends and the risks these kind of generalisations present to social harmony and cohesion.

The violence and values of extremists like ISIS are not representative of the vast majority of Muslim people in Australia, who are recognised better by their commitment to peace, community and mutual respect. We stand in solidarity with all people who are suffering the results of war, violence and terror around the world, recognising the dignity of all people and their right to enjoy freedom from persecution and oppression. We celebrate the diversity of the Australian community and recognise the valuable contribution of people of Muslim faith to our culture and community.

We know that vilification and alienation are not the way to peace or social harmony, but that authentic relationships, solidarity, listening, learning and mutual respect go a long way to building the kind of community we’d like to live in.”