Samier Dandan unleashes blistering attack on far-right politics in Ramadan speech

The head of the largest Muslim association in the country has given a blistering speech to his community, attacking both sides of politics and the media for fostering the rise of far-right groups and Islamophobia in the recent election. 
In front of politicians, police commanders and thousands of Muslims, Samier Dandan, head of the Lebanese Muslim Association, gave a 10-minute speech outside Lakemba Mosque in Sydney on Wednesday morning during celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan.
He attacked the rise of Islamophobic discourse in public and "a number of divisive and toxic policies" for exacerbating negativity towards Australian Muslims 

He called those on the far-right "hate preachers" and said the growth of far-right politics, as seen in last weekend's election, had left his community vulnerable at a time when the government was trying to prioritise social cohesion. 
"Their ignorance will not define us. Their surveillance will not add to our safety. Their attack will not decrease our intellect and knowledge. Their divisiveness will not break or divide us. Their questioning will not deter us. Their bigotry will not instil hatred in us," he said.
Lakemba Mosque during Eid celebrations.
Lakemba Mosque during Eid celebrations. Photo: Lebanese Muslim Association
"We, Australians, are better than that."
Mr Dandan's speech came amid the prospect that One Nation, the anti-immigration party founded by Pauline Hanson, will pick up a handful of Senate seats after 18 years in the political wilderness.
Ms Hanson used her newfound power on Monday to warn of "terrorism on our streets" and suburbs being "swamped by Asians".
She wants a royal commission into Islam and surveillance cameras in mosques and Islamic schools to root out potential terrorists.
Mr Dandan said the past couple of months and, in particular, the past couple of days had been hard for Muslim Australians.
It was "deplorable" that those "who preach bigotry and hatred" would be given political power, he said.
"It is imperative that people peddling such messages are called out for what they are: hate preachers. 
"They are provided platforms by the media to spread their vitriol. It is just as deplorable as those that entertain such sentiments."
Mr Dandan took particular aim at some news outlets for their "obsessive" coverage of who attended Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's iftar dinner in June.
Mr Turnbull was later forced to say he regretted inviting a sheikh, Shady Alsuleiman, who had previously said homosexuals "spread diseases" and ­bring about "evil outcomes to our society".
It triggered an avalanche of coverage over homophobia in Islam.
Sheikh Alsuleiman later said passages in the Koran did not support homosexuality, similar to other religions such as Christianity and Judaism, but he always followed such statements with "a personal commitment to tolerance".
Mr Dandan said the reporting on the iftar dinner was hypocritical because it was not mirrored by reporting on "the actual hate preachers undermining political discourse".
He encouraged Muslims to use positivity and optimism to improve their community and represent their faith.
"At times it may seem easier to just give up. However, Allah speaks to us in the Koran and tells us ... with hardship will come ease."
More than 50,000 Muslims packed Lakemba Mosque and the road outside on Wednesday for fajr, the morning prayer, to mark the end of the month of Ramadan and the start of Eid.

Wangee Rd filled with worshippers this morning.

Premier Mike Baird, Opposition Leader Luke Foley, state MP Jihad Dib and federal MP Tony Burke were among the attendees.
Eid celebrations last for several days and involve family and friends gathering to eat and pray together.



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