POLICE say they are closing in on those responsible for the anti-American violence on the weekend, as the Muslim community and national authorities try to stave off a second wave of demonstrations planned for this weekend.
The Lebanese Muslim Association and the Islamic Council of NSW were due to meet last night in Lakemba to call for calm in their community as the actions of a few were resoundingly condemned by politicians.
Police were working to identify those who used text messages and social networking sites such as Facebook to organise the protests, which quickly turned into a riot.
One senior officer said the violence was unlikely to have been the work of just one group.
”It appears to have taken on a life of its own,” he said.
The influential leader of the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah has called for more protests over the anti-Islam film.
In a TV broadcast, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the world needed to know Muslims ”would not be silent in the face of this insult”.
Much discussion among Muslims in Sydney centred on two specific groups – followers of the controversial Sheikh Feiz Mohammad, who once said a rape victim had ”no one to blame but herself”, and another fringe group of Muslims who believe in the so-called ”sixth pillar” of Islam which refers to armed conflict in defence of Islam.
Others pointed the finger at the political group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which on Sunday refused to condemn the violence, but continued to deny involvement.
Attempts to contact the sheikh failed.
Messages encouraging people to attend the protest circulated on Facebook on Friday.
One, from Hana Zaarour, said: ”It might get messy sis coz it hasn’t been council approved”.
Online commentary continued yesterday. Several protesters expressed outrage at the actions of the police and vowed to protest again this weekend.
”It wouldve turned out different if it was organised properly as i intended on doing next week,” said Salafa Em Uthman.
Jamal Daoud, from the Social Justice Network, said the actions of some protesters on Saturday were wrong and something had to be done.
”It has to stop. This is enough. They are hurting the Muslim image, they’re hurting the Muslim community, and they’re hurting the harmony in the community,” he said.
Politicians condemned the violence. The federal Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, said her ”fear is that extremist elements in Australia and other countries are using this YouTube video to incite hatred and incite violence in pursuit of long-held goals”.
In Parliament yesterday, the opposition sought to implicate the government in the riots by attacking the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, for not cancelling the visa of a visiting Hizb ut-Tahrir preacher, Taji Mustafa.
The opposition said Mr Mustafa should have been banned because his organisation had called for Israel’s military destruction, and condoned the killing of Australian troops in Afghanistan.
Mr Bowen noted that the Howard government chose not to proscribe the group in 2007 and it was still legal in Britain and the United States.
Ms Bishop hinted that a Coalition government would ban the group and she described Mr Mustafa as a ”hate preacher”.
But she did not condone comments by the Liberal senator Cory Bernardi on his blog that the unrest was a consequence of multiculturalism, which was undermining Australia’s rule of law and Judeo-Christian values.
with Lisa Davies and Stephanie Gardiner
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