VIOLENT protests in Sydney on Saturday have sent shockwaves through the Australian community, while also raising a host of issues about representations of Islam and moral responsibility.
The protests were carried out over the release of the US-made Innocence of Muslims, which ridicules the Prophet Muhammad.
More than 200 demonstrators were involved in violent clashes with police across central Sydney, with six officers and several civilians injured and six men charged.
Treasurer of the Islamic Society of Ballarat, Dr Saad Saleem said Muslims had a right to be upset by the film, but not violent.
“I believe that all protests should be peaceful and the main aim should be to create awareness,” he said.
“There is no excuse for violence. The Qur’an sanctifies everyone’s life, respect, and possessions, and binds all Muslims to fulfil their contracts.
“Like every citizen of Australia, Muslims are bound in the social contract made through the constitution of Australia and they must make sure they follow the law and not jeopardize anyone’s liberties given under the constitution.”
Dr Saleem said that although the protests were carried out in an inappropriate manner, the film itself was “disturbing”.
“I think the people who made the movie have misunderstood lots of things about the Prophet Muhammad, that’s why they depicted things the way they did and in a satirical way,” he said.
“Like every work done, whether in writing or in media, that portrays misunderstandings about the Prophet Muhammad, it makes all Muslims very sad.
“Our respect of the Prophet is ingrained into Muslim culture. On the other hand, in western civilization after the renaissance and reformation, everything was allowed at a social level in the name of liberty and freedom.
“This difference in perspective sometimes creates the rift we see these days.”
Other members of the Islamic Society of Ballarat echoed Dr Saleem’s comments.
On Saturday, protesters in Sydney carried signs including “Behead all those who insult the prophet” and “Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell”.
Some of the protesters had to be subdued by NSW Police using batons, capsicum spray and the dog squad.