Australian mufti condemns Sydney siege

Television footage has shown a black flag with Arabic writing being held up in the cafe

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The Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), commenting on the siege at a Sydney cafe on Monday, said it “condemns the act unequivocally.”

Speaking to Al Arabiya News, the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, said that the Australian Muslim community strongly condemns the “criminal act” which he said “does not reflect Islam or Muslims.”

“The Muslim community in Australia strongly condemns this criminal act, which does not reflect Islam or Muslims in any way,” Abu Mohammed said.

“There is an important difference between these extremists and Islam,” the top cleric stressed several times during the interview.

Abu Mohammed said that the Muslim community in Australia is much respected and that “Australians know by now how to differentiate between terrorist and Muslims.”

“The image of Muslims will not get affected by this incident,” he said.

Abu Mohammed also said that the Australian National Imam Council (ANIC) has set a “crisis management unit to deal with the situation.”

He also said that ANIC is “fulfilling its duty on a cultural level to prevent people from traveling to Syria and Iraq and fight against militants there.”

“We believe that changing the mindset of citizens will can help changing their behavior and prevent them from traveling to fight alongside ISIS,” he added.

Abu Mohammed said that he hopes that the situation will unfold peacefully and that the hostages will return to their families safely.

The grand mufti and the council pledged their “full support and solidarity with the victims and their families and aspire to a peaceful resolve to this calamity.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also denounced the ongoing situation.

“The unfortunate incident was nothing but criminal in nature as holding people hostage could not be justified under any pretext,” a written statement from the organization said.

An armed assailant was holding an unknown number of hostages inside a central Sydney cafe on Monday, police said, with local television showing some being forced to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing in the window.

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