Christian and Jewish leaders campaign to support Muslim community

Christian and Jewish leaders have rallied to support the Muslim community, asking members of the Australian public to join them in a campaign called “We’ll love Muslims 100 years”.

Rabbi Zalman Kastel will join Australian Christian Churches pastor, Brad Chilcott, Tim Costello and other denominational leaders in three events in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia on Friday to declare their support for Australian Muslims.

The title makes a play on a recent headline in the Weekend Australian, “We’ll fight Islam 100 years”, which accompanied a story quoting a former head of army Peter Leahy saying that Australia must prepare for a war against radical Islam lasting for the rest of the century.

Leaders will hold a banner headline, “We’ll love Muslims 100 years”, under a mock-up newspaper masthead called The Welcoming Australian.

He also described as divisive the “us and them” language developing around Christians being killed but not acknowledging Yazidis and Muslims were also being targeted.

Muslim leaders have expressed their disquiet at the national political debate in response to terrorism in the Middle East.

“That headline would be like running a headline ‘we’ll fight Christianity for 100 years’ in response to the sexual abuse allegations within the churches,” said Chilcott, who is national director of Welcome to Australia.

“Young Muslims in all walks of life are feeling very alienated by this conversation. They are uni students, engineers, doctors, all rightly feeling they are contributing to Australian life.”

Kastel, who was raised in an “ultra orthodox” Jewish tradition, is national director of a multi-faith organisation, Together for Humanity Foundation. His foundation has a Muslim president, a Christian chairman and atheist Janet Holmes a Court as patron.

Kastel said he felt compelled to act because of “shrill, harsh talk” against Muslims in mainstream and social media.

“I was concerned about shrill, harsh talk we see both in social and mainstream, even though there is a lot of good interfaith work going on in Australia every day,” he said.

“As a result, we have Muslims who are made to feel like terrorists in the past few years and they report the atmosphere is similar to post-9/11 and it is simply as a result of cultural incompetence.

“We are all on the same team, if I may use that word, in terms of the result, and that is peace.”

Chilcott, based in Adelaide, said government rhetoric raising the spectre of September 11, 2001, and demonising the broader Muslim community risked creating the very conditions that lead to separation and, ultimately, radicalisation.

“When you alienate any group of people, whether that is due to being unemployed, young, disabled, or 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.

The campaign is calling for supporters to sign their support for the Muslim community.