The March print edition of AMUST featured an article by Mohamed Ainullah reporting the cancellation of the 2024 Premier’s Iftar in both New South Wales and Victoria following a boycott of such events by peak Islamic bodies like ANIC, AFIC and the Islamic Council of Victoria.

The boycott was in response to the Labor Party’s inaction over the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, oppression in the West Bank and constraints over Muslim worshippers praying at Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.

Australia’s oldest not-for-profit Muslim organisation, the Lebanese Muslim Association, took the concept of prohibition a step further when it announced that NSW and Federal politicians would not be invited to its annual Iftar on Saturday 16 March, nor the traditional Eid Prayers at Australia’s most famous and most recognisable masjid, Lakemba Mosque, during the second week of April.

A media release issued on 1 March doubled down on the LMA board’s decision of late October 2023 that State and Federal politicians would not be invited to official LMA functions for the foreseeable future.

This drastic action was sparked by community outrage over inflammatory statements by the likes of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong stating that “Israel has the right to defend itself” in the wake of the events of  7 October  2023, as well as an overall lack of support by the NSW and Federal Labor governments for the people of Gaza.

NSW Premier Chris Minns’ decision to light up the Sydney Opera House in the colours of the Israeli flag and his ongoing criticism of pro-Palestinian rallies have hardly endeared him to supporters of Palestine either.

LMA Secretary Gamel Kheir on stage at the organisation’s Iftar in Lakemba on 16 March. President Hafez Alameddine is on the far right.

“The LMA board decided in late October 2023 that no state or federal politicians would be officially  invited to any of our functions during Ramadan and at Eid and we announced this in multiple radio broadcasts at the time,” LMA President Hafez Alameddine told AMUST.

“This (ban) includes our official Iftar and the Eid Prayer at Lakemba Mosque, meaning the end of the long tradition of Prime Ministers and Premiers addressing the crowds from the front steps of the masjid.”

“Frankly, I would be amazed if any politicians actually thought they would be welcome at the moment, given their actions – and more importantly, their clear lack of actions – with regards to Palestine.”

LMA Secretary Gamel Kheir added: “Our board doesn’t take these decisions lightly.”

“That was a historical moment when the late, great Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam took his place on the stairs of our iconic mosque with Muslim dignitaries all those decades ago.”

“The LMA board of the day took the very  bold step of inviting Mr Whitlam, who wasn’t only a visionary but who was a man of courage and principle who fought for the rights of the downtrodden, the vulnerable, the immigrants and the refugees.”

“Sometimes, I wish we could turn back the clock to that era – Gough Whitlam, now he was a true  leader!”

“Sadly, today’s politicians seem to lack the same courage to call out the genocide and the ethnic cleansing taking place in Palestine.”

“All Australians expect our politicians to call out blatant breaches of agreed human rights….it’s a shame that today we see politicians afraid to take such moral leadership – why?”

“The LMA feels that we are not being heard – that today’s politicians have taken away our voice and by taking this stand, we are telling our political leaders exactly how our community feels.”

Late, Australian prime minister, Gough Whitlam (pictured at Lakemba Mosque during the late 1970’s) was a man of great principle and remained a vocal supporter of the Muslim community long after his retirement from public office.

Strength in numbers

In Victoria, it was a case of strength in numbers with over 100 Muslim organisations and groups putting their names to an open letter that they would be boycotting the Victorian Premier’s Iftar, forcing Premier Jacinta Allan to cancel the event.

Mohammad Helmy, long-time community leader and key author of the open letter, said that the letter has transformed into an “unprecedented show of multicultural unity within the larger Muslim community of Victoria.”

Mohammed Helmy was the key author of the open letter written on behalf of over 100 Muslim organisations, boycotting the Victorian Premier’s Iftar.

He added that the open letter “is a grassroots-led initiative to scream out and plead, not only to the government but also to the top bodies of the Muslim community, to act against the genocide.”

The open letter lists multiple incidents since 7 October, 2023 where Premier Allan has stood with Israel as it commits genocide against the people of Palestine.

“The Premier has not yet called for the genocide to end despite demands from international bodies for boycott, divestment and sanctions to prevent the imminent assault on Rafah,” the letter reads.

The letter ends with a set of political demands expected of the Victorian Government: “We hope for this boycott to also register the betrayal felt through the Premier’s dismissal of the immense suffering of many Victorians due to the genocide perpetrated before our very eyes and cause her to remedy this through concrete and tangible actions.”

“These actions include ending partnerships with the Israeli arms industry and recognising the pain and suffering of the Palestinian and Muslim communities in Victoria caused by the ongoing genocide against the people of Palestine.”