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Young solution to sectarianism for Australian Iraqis

Australian Iraqi community leaders are calling for grassroots interaction with youth amid fears of rising sectarian tensions stemming from the Iraqi conflict.

Many in the community weren’t shocked by the arrests of Australian Iraqi Omar Al- Kutibi, 24, and recent Iraqi-Kuwaiti immigrant, Mohammad Kiad, 25, for allegedly planning an imminent ISIS-inspired attack.

A machete, a hunting knife, a flag associated with ISIS and a video of a man discussing the attack were seized in the raids on their Fairfield home, police allege.

Samir Yousif, president of the Chaldean National Congress in Australia, said, “We were expecting these arrests to happen. There are some Iraqi ISIS sympathisers. ISIS isn’t just (comprised of) foreigners - we have Iraqis joining their ranks.”

Sayed Abdullah, a religious youth leader and lecturer based in Sydney, said the impact of ISIS is exacerbating sectarianism and threatening the usual unity within the Iraqi community.

“Hatred has been taken on board and taught at some  universities, in gatherings, and prayer rooms where by you can’t go to worship God peacefully as there will be people there questioning your every action and attacking you.”

We have privileges and freedoms here in Australia that we could only wish (for) in Iraq and here are these people destroying that freedom and taking it for granted.

– Abdulwahab Talabani, secretary of the United Kurdish Association of NSW

Religious leaders now need to engage with such youth to avoid them holding violent, misconstrued versions of their faith, according to Trimdah Matar, of the Sydney Mandaean community.

“We engage with our youth on a weekly basis and find that sometimes listening to their elders about history and connecting them with their roots works well in helping them understand world issues. We need more of that because this is what works.”

The arrests have contributed to existing community strains and Australia is “not immune” to sectarianism, Matar said.

Adead Alrobaiay, a Sunni who delivers a weekly sermon at Mount Druitt for 15-20 Iraqi families in the area, told The Point Magazine, “We teach them to be Australian Muslims.” 

Abdulwahab Talabani, secretary of the United Kurdish Association of NSW, said people need to remember their Australian identity as well as their Iraqi one.

“We have privileges and freedoms here in Australia that we could only wish (for) in Iraq and here are these people destroying that freedom and taking it for granted,” he said.

Australian Iraqis should value their religious freedoms and not emphasise divides, Talabani said.

“Just remember the olden days when we were living in harmony together in Baghdad. I want to encourage leaders in Iraq no matter what they belong to, to work with the government to help our community here and back in Iraq including all minorities,” he said.

Communities should work together to ensure friends and families in their former countries receive assistance, Talabani said. 

The Point

Australian Iraqi community leaders are calling for grassroots interaction with youth amid fears of rising sectarian tensions

References

Feature image: Creative Commons

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