Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Imam condemns Iraq violence

Sheikh Ramy Najmeddine speaks in Shepparton to condemn radical Islamists who are on the offensive in Iraq.

DARREN LINTON June 27, 2014 3:55am

Muhammad Graham, Sheikh Ramy Najmeddine and Dr Imran Syed spoke about violence in Iraq yesterday.

An Australian-born Imam has denounced the violence sweeping Iraq as stemming from a state-sponsored distortion of Islam, which is also a divisive presence in Australia.

Sheikh Ramy Najmeddine, who acts as religious advisor to the Shepparton-based Sadaat Foundation, said he was concerned about the damage being done to the peaceful Muslim community in Australia by Wahhabism, a radical interpretation of Islam that had its genesis in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century.

He said violence in Iraq was being falsely committed in the name of the Sunni denomination of Islam.

‘‘It actually angers us because we don’t recognise them as Sunni,’’ he said.

Sheikh Najmeddine said Wahhabism had split Muslim communities in major cities and was a danger to places such as Shepparton, where people from different countries and branches of Islam live in harmony.

He described it as a cancer that was eating Muslim communities from within.

‘‘There is no doubt the expansion is happening,’’ he said.

‘‘The Victoria Police and the AFP know who these groups are in Australia, the individuals involved in these radical organisations and how they are operating and expanding their activities.’’

Dr Imran Syed, founder of the Sadaat Foundation, which aims to bring together different groups in harmony, said he was concerned about what the damage that was occurring in Iraq would do within communities and for the relationship between Australian Muslims and the wider community.

‘‘There are some concerns in the Iraqi community about misunderstandings,’’ he said.

Sheikh Najmeddine said the uncivilised individuals in Iraq were acting outside the traditional teachings of Islam.

‘‘We denounce and condemn all actions of violence in all its forms, all actions of killing innocent civilians, whether Muslim or non Muslim, for any reason whatsoever,’’ he said.

He urged Shepparton residents to judge the people they live alongside and not draw inferences from overseas conflicts.

‘‘I think perceptions change when you know a Muslim,’’ he said. ‘‘Stop and talk to them, they would love to meet you.’’

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