SHAFAQNA -Â The Australian Federal Police hasÂ cancelledÂ anÂ annual Ramadan dinnerÂ after Muslim communityÂ leaders vowed toÂ boycott the event.
In a sign of deepening fractures between the Muslim community and Australian authorities,Â a petition was circulated on July 2, urging imams and other representativesÂ to boycott dinners in Sydney and Melbourne because they were a tokenisticÂ attemptÂ “to create a false image of co-operation, harmony and trust which could not be further from the truth”.
“I can’tÂ break fast with those who authorise flash bombs to be used against families,” said Australian Muslim Women’s Association spokeswomanÂ Silma Ihram, who was one of 840 people to sign the petition.
The authors of theÂ petition, a group calledÂ Concerned Muslims Australia, said police have targetedÂ Muslims in “phoney raids” and theÂ government has introduced legislation to “demonise, marginalise and victimiseÂ the Muslim community”.
“It is incredulous that the same agencies that harass, discriminate and target the Muslim community would expect it to break bread with them,” the group said. “We interpret these overtures as insult to injury.”
The AFP sent an email to community leaders last week, sayingÂ the Sydney Eid dinner on JulyÂ 21 will not go ahead. The Melbourne dinner on July 24 is still going ahead.
“The AFP has consulted with community representatives and as a result has made the decision not to proceed with an event in Sydney this year,” the email from the Community Liaison Team said.
Among the leaders who supported the boycott wereÂ author and social justice campaignerÂ RandaÂ Abdel-Fattah andÂ Sydney lawyersÂ MariamÂ Veiszadeh and Lydia Shelly.
One community leaderÂ told Fairfax Media that so-called moderate voices were increasingly joiningÂ the calls to turn on the AFP and other government agencies.
Last year, the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamedâ€‹,Â boycotted the AFP’sÂ Eid dinner due to proposed anti-terrorism laws.
MsÂ Veiszadeh said previous efforts at community engagement had been disheartening andÂ leaders felt like they were being used “as a rubber stamp for draconian legislation”.
“We have been continuously echoing our communities’ concerns to the Abbott Government but it largely seems to fall on deaf ears,” she said.
Ms Shelly said communityÂ leaders were suffering from “engagement fatigue”.
In a statement, Concerned Muslims Australia hailed theÂ cancellation of the dinner as proof of the “abundant strength in the unity of the Muslim community”.
An AFP spokeswoman said they willÂ conduct an alternative event at a later date.
“The decision not to host this year’s dinner shows that the AFP and its partner agencies are consulting with and responding to the community,” she said.