The article dates back toÂ June 26th, but it somehow went under the radar.
THE small Alawite community in Australia say they have been targeted by vicious “jihadist” attacks as the bloody Syrian conflict spills over into Arabic communities in Sydney and Melbourne.
I find it rather puzzling that the writer of this article finds it necessary to put “jihadists” in exclamation marks. Does he think it was the boy scouts or the Salvation Army that set the Alawites building on fire?
Alawi community leaders say the decision of Foreign Minister Bob Carr to expel Syria’s charge d’affaires, Jawdat Ali, last month, after the massacre of an estimated 92 men, women and children in the village of Houla, inflamed threats to “hunt down” Alawis in Australia.
Attacks over the past four months include a young father being shot in the doorway of his home in Sydney’s west after a heated Facebook exchange and a prayer room being fire-bombed in Melbourne’s north.
A pamphlet left at the site of attacks in Melbourne and Sydney was addressed to “the dog of the Nasarah (Christians)”.
It threatens that if Alawis do not abandon their “murtaad ways” (blasphemy) “we will bring this fight to every corner of this world to look for you, and hunt you like the dogs that you are. We will hunt, fight and kill you until you testify there is no God but Allah”.
Alawi community leaders are now working with state and federal police, undercover detectives, and the anti-terrorism squad.
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris, are key Shia supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Alawi, and dominate Syria’s top military and intelligence agencies.
The Alawi pro-regime Shabiha militia has been at the centre of massacre allegations in Syria. There are about 20,000 Alawites in Australia from Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese backgrounds, most of whom were born in Australia. In Sydney yesterday, Alawi sheikh Ahmad Jundi said the attacks on his community were causing “major grief” and were being led by ultra-conservative Wahhabi and Salafi radicals.
He believed that at least some of those responsible prayed at the Lakemba mosque.
“Alawites are known to be the most liberal of all Muslims,” he said. “We oppose the extremist view and therefore have become a target.”
He said radical Salafis and Wahhabis “brainwash their own into believing that hurting Alawite or even killing them is halal (permissible)” and Alawi people in Australia feared that the violence against them would escalate.
In Melbourne, a community leader said several attacks over recent months included an Alawi prayer room being gutted by fire in Greenvale, an Alevi (Turkish Alawi) cultural centre being attacked with a petrol bomb in North Coburg and a man being attacked in the street by six “Islamists”.
“We are very scared for our kids,” he said. “I have been here for over 40 years and it is the first time in my life I’ve been scared.”
Joseph Wakim, a Maronite Catholic from Lebanon who received a Medal of the Order of Australia for his work in founding the Australian Arabic Council 20 years ago, said Alawis were being terrorised. He said the Alawi community felt “betrayed and scapegoated” and it was “regrettable that Foreign Minister Bob Carr had jumped the gun in condemning the Syrian president for the recent atrocities”, which he said may have sent an unintended “green light” to radical Islamists.
“The tenor of the texts targeting the Alawite community is very vindictive — along the lines of Syria must be ethnically cleaned from all infidels, it must be reclaimed as an exclusively Islamic holy land, and Alawites should prepare for annihilation,” he said.
He said radical Islamists were seizing an opportunity to strike out at Alawites under cover of a “dominant, romantic and simplistic narrative” that the Alawite Syrian President was a mass murderer and that cast the Alawites as the villains of the Arab Spring, whose democratic beginnings, he claimed, had been hijacked by Islamists peddling theocracy.
Mr Wakim said he had received “dozens of reports” of Alawi people “terrorised into silence”. Alawi centres and schools were regarded as targets, children had been told to stay away from certain gatherings and switch off their Facebook accounts and community leaders who had been in Australia all their lives “have never felt such fear”.
“Clearly, the push to replace a secular Syrian state with a sectarian Sunni state has spilled over to our own backyards,” he said.
“During the 1992 Gulf War, many Arab Australians felt intimidated into silence. There was well-documented vilification at many levels until political leaders and government departments drew the line and reinforced these citizens’ right to be protected.
“Twenty years later, some of these same Arabs are now reliving that nightmare — except that the perpetrators are now fellow Arabs.”