Secord addresses Parliament on the Sydney riot

September 21, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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State Labor MP Walt Secord has addressed the NSW Parliament on last weekend’s riot in Sydney.

Walt Secord

He told the House: “We all have our views on the events of Saturday afternoon. My view is informed by my background as someone who first came to New South Wales almost 25 years ago.

In the years since, I, like millions of migrants, have built a life beyond my wildest expectations. And I suspect, like almost every one of those millions, I join to condemn the violent protests in Sydney on the weekend. I particularly denounce the attacks on the New South Wales police. There can be no justification for such violence. I also utterly reject and condemn the involvement of children in these protests. Those who wish to break the law and defame the religion of Islam should—at the very least—confine their actions to themselves rather than instilling such perverse hatred in young innocents.

Of course, having mentioned Islam, I immediately recognise that those at the weekend protest comprise a tiny fraction of the 140,000 Muslims in New South Wales. Indeed, the events of the weekend prompt me to ask whether those at the protest have in any way understood the origins and teachings of their own faith. In my experience, fanaticism like this is never present in those who are truly sincere in their beliefs.

Members of this Chamber are aware of my interest in inter-faith dialogue. I was proud to assist groups like the New South Wales Chapter of Religions for Peace, which encourages dialogue, tolerance and understanding between the major faiths of the world. In February I hosted the New South Wales chapter at Parliament and I am pleased to support its very noble aims.

I have never seen other faiths as a threat to my own. As a nominal Christian, I see myself as a person who seeks to better understand and reach out to other faiths. On Sunday night I attended a Rosh Hashanah dinner at the home of Ian and Josie Lacey. With the Laceys and their extended family, we marked the start of Jewish New Year—as we have done on countless occasions.

Just last week I reported to the House about my attendance at the annual open day at the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque on 9 September. Like hundreds of other Sydneysiders, I took the opportunity to gain a better insight into and understanding of the Islamic faith. In doing so, I see the commonalities between the three main faith systems—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—which share a common ancestry as the “Abrahamic” religions. I recognise that interfaith dialogue is difficult and at times can be frustrating and challenging. But another people’s faith should never be seen as a threat to one’s own faith.

The events and scenes witnessed on the weekend defile the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed and the Islamic religion. Those individuals fighting the police simply wish to perpetuate conflict. That is not what Australia is about. We do not judge people by their place of birth or what church, mosque, temple or synagogue they attend. Instead, we say: Show us your ideas, your work, your achievements as these are the only measures in the land of the fair go.

As democratic leaders and legislators we must protect this way of life. That includes encouraging Islamic moderates who are committed to Australia and the future. I am heartened by the strong chorus of Islamic voices who have condemned the protests.

A friend, Mr Ed Husic, the Federal member for Chifley and the first Muslim to be elected to the Federal Australian Parliament, this week said:

‘We need more and more moderate Muslims speaking up against violence as has occurred but more conversations also within communities to build an atmosphere of total zero tolerance for the type of reaction we saw on Saturday.’

I wholeheartedly agree.

What we saw on Sydney streets was an expression of an internal conflict within Islam: The eruption of extreme versus the moderate. It is the moderate voices that need to be supported and encouraged to express themselves.

While the events of the weekend sadden and depress, I remain entirely convinced that we will continue to build the cohesive and tolerant society that this nation is. Those vandals stand no chance against the millions of Australians who work and live with people of all faiths and who would not have it any other way. They will not buy the message of hate these protesters are pedalling because what Australia offers is so much greater.

As a migrant, it is an honour to be able to reflect on that fact here in this Chamber of law and democratic rule.

I thank the House for its consideration.

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