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Australian communities mourn Beirut and Paris terror victims

The Lebanese community in Australia is in shock after a double suicide bombing tore through the south of Beirut on 12 November, killing 43 people and wounding over 230. The terrorist organisation ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted a Shia Muslim stronghold, stating the bombing was retaliation for Hezbollah’s offensive against ISIS in Syria.

Hussein Diaa, from the Sydney-based organisation Australian Muslim Youth, lost his cousin in the attack. He told The Point Magazine his community is hurting, but is it hard to find the space to grieve properly in the current security climate.

“There is a barrier to Australian families mourning, who have been directly impacted as a result of these attacks. We have this anti-Islam hatred which is being directed at the Muslim community which is not allowing the community to grieve as they should and everyone has that right. Instead of grieving we have to defend our religion constantly with our backs against the wall and when you’re grieving it shouldn’t be that way.”

The day after the Beirut bombings, ISIS claimed credit for massive terror attacks in Paris which claimed over 120 lives and wounded hundreds of others. With public attention quickly shifting to the Paris attacks, many in the community feel the plight of victims in Beirut was overshadowed. 

Shaykh Youssef Nabha, Imam of Kingsgrove Mosque, led a congregational mourning ceremony in the days after the Beirut attacks. 

“Whenever terrorist attacks occur we should speak out against them not just pick and choose what we want to speak out against,” Shaykh Nabha told The Point Magazine.

“You shouldn’t wait for a terrorist attack to reach your borders before you express disgust and condemnation of other attacks. Terrorism is dangerous to all nations and all humans and should be treated as such.”

In the same week, close to 100 people turned out for a candlelight vigil in Paul Keating Park, Bankstown, mourning the victims of both the Paris and Beirut attacks. Diaa said the aim of the vigil was to remember all victims of terrorism no matter which part of the world they come from, or what faith they ascribe to.

Many in the Muslim Australian community joined the social media campaign #PrayforHumanity, which went viral shortly after the Paris attacks and aimed to spread awareness about all the victims of terrorism including Beirut, Syria and Iraq. 

“I’ve seen Muslim, Christians and atheists showing solidarity online and showing support for each other and I think that’s what’s needed."

– Shaykh Youssef Nabha

Diaa told the Point Magazine, “ISIS have an aim they wish to achieve and that’s for Muslims and non-Muslims to hate one another, by spitting hate on each other and causing disunity because they know hatred breeds hatred and that’s what they want.”

Like other communities that have fled war, the Lebanese community in Australia and has long dealt with issues of trauma. Nabha said the recent bombings have added to the grief.

“The Lebanese community grew up dealing with the pain and hurt of war and conflict. We are used to tolerating the effects of war and oppression during the 70s and 60s and now. It’s not a new thing for us, but it does accumulate overtime and it needs to be dealt with.”

Shaykh Nabha said community support has been fundamental in healing the wounds of grief and loss and maintaining community resilience in the face of terror. He said Australian families are affected and are also part of the solution.

“There is of course an impact of overseas conflicts here on local communities, however at the end of the day, we have Australian laws here, we have protection and we all have a duty to protect the safety and future of our country in which we live. It is paramount we maintain community cohesion here in Australia, that’s our duty as citizens,” he said.   

Mounir Bahsoun, also from the Lebanese Shia community in Sydney, said local communities need assistance when dealing with the impacts of overseas conflict.

 “Local communities are doing their best in most circumstances to provide assistance, help and counselling to their adherents, but their resources are limited. What the Government should be doing is engaging more frankly and more openly with community organisations and share with them and learn from them how we can all help one another to live peacefully and harmoniously,” he said.

Diaa said it is the responsibility of communities and the government to work in partnership to help families who are struggling with grief.

“Mental health should be of concern. The government should liaise with mosques around Sydney to see what services and support they can offer to these families of victims living here. That should apply to the families of the victims of Paris if they are any here in Australia, they should apply that to them as well,” he said.

Engineer Ali Bazzi said Muslims in Australia, Shia and Sunni, will withstand the attempts by ISIS to split the community.

“The sentiment in the community has been positive in the face of this. What Daesh (ISIS) don’t know is that they’re pushing Muslims together. Our Sunni brothers and sisters are coming together we’re bonding, it’s not generating feelings of animosity.”

Bazzi said the onus is on all Australians to ensure we sustain community harmony.

“We need to bring communities together as much as possible with a greater degree of harmony within our society. This is a peaceful country and everyone wants to keep it that way, no one wants violence here. We are all part of the same global village and we need to all play a role, including the government in their role in politics and to develop the right political attitude.”

At the candlelight vigil in Bankstown, Father Michael Palmer told the crowd that unity, peace and love need to be nurtured continually.

“I love the parable that we’ve seen tonight, have you noticed what’s going on? These beautiful candles keep going out and yet each time that happens someone steps forward to light it again. Someone wants to keep it lit and to keep going. Things like unity, peace and love don’t just happen, they don’t just stay alight, we have to keep them alight by extending hands of friendship to each other and standing for common decency,” he said.


The Point

The Australian Muslim Lebanese community is in shock after a double suicide bombing tore through South of Beirut, killing 43 people and wounding over 230.


Images courtesy Huss Fares


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