Muslims in Australia seem to be a pampered and protected species. The city council of the western Sydney suburb of Blacktown HURT THE FEELINGS of many Muslims. Yes, their feelings were so hurt that explanations and ‘… apologies and reassurance were given by Blacktown City Council officials during a meeting with Muslim community leaders on Wednesday 19 August for the Council’s involvement in celebration of the founding of a temple, on the land of razed Babri mosque in India, held on Wednesday 5 August 2020 corresponding with 5 August 2019, the day Kashmir was stripped of its special status and placed under military lockdown since.
The Blacktown officials attending the meeting included the mayor, Councillor Tony Bleasdale, Ward 1 Councillor Moninder Singh and Mr Peter Filmer, Manger, Community Events and Sister Cities.
A petition (copied below) was submitted by the Muslim community leaders during the meeting signed by a number representatives of Muslim organisations in the Western Sydney area and beyond including Islamic Forum for Australian Muslims (IFAM), Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), Australian Forum for Kashmir (AFK), Stand with Kashmir and Islamic Association of Western Suburbs (IAWSS).
The petition questioned the Council in its role on the divisive celebration reportedly organised by the Hindu Council Australia that has hurt the feelings of Muslim community at large.
“A large section of the community in the Blacktown City Council area has serious concerns about the inauguration ceremony held on 5 August 2020 at Blacktown City Council to celebrate the Ram Mandir in India,” the petition read.
It was reported that the Hindu Council Australia installed a huge LCD screen in the Blacktown Council car park next to Civic Centre on Wednesday 5 August 2020 relaying the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, India by PM Modi.
The event was also attended by the Blacktown Mayor and Councillor Maninder Singh who both addressed the audience at the celebrations.
During the meeting Mr Peter Filmer strongly denied that the event was organised by the Blacktown Council and explained in detail as to how the organisers managed to hold the event without any formal permission.
“Initially the organisers wanted to set up lightings and hold a major gathering that the Council did not agree with and later asked for an EVM board to be set up. To our surprise we later found out that they had set up an LCD screen,” Mr Filmer explained.
The Mayor said that he agreed to say a few words at the gathering with the understanding that it was a religious celebration, admitting his ignorance of the historical background to the disputed site where the temple is going to be built. He formally apologised for his misjudgement regarding this matter during the meeting.
Councillor Maninder Singh also provided a detailed explanation leading to the holding of this event and denied any role in facilitating the celebrations.
“Let us clarify that Blacktown City Council did not provide the screen for the event on 05 August 2020. the screen was displayed by a private party and we sincerely apologise any offence caused,” Councillor Singh explained.
Mr Anjum Rafiqi from Stand With Kashmir, quizzed Councillor Singh reminding that him being of South Asian origins and of Sikh faith, he would have been privy to the dispute regarding Babri mosque/Ram mandir issue and the significance of the 5 August date in relation to Kashmir, but still failed to brief and advise on the issue to Blacktown Council officials.
Subsequently in a letter dated Wednesday 19 August, after the meeting Councillor Singh wrote to AFIC saying, I would like to extend through the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils my sincere apologies for any offence caused, this was never my, nor Council’s intention. I extend my hand in friendship to the Australian Muslim community and to all my constituents.”’https://www.amust.com.au/2020/08/blacktown-council-apologises-for-hindutva-celebrations/