CAIRO - In a bid to repair the damage done to their image, Australia Muslims are showing images of generosity and kindness to police authorities, following violence that marred protests over an insulting movie of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
"I was really, really upset and a little bit physically sick when I saw the images of the protest," Ridhwan Hannan, a 27-year-old accountant, told Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, September 21.
"As a person of faith with them, I feel responsible as well because there's a part of me that hasn't gone out and helped them. They might be offended by that statement but that's how I truly feel."
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Scores of Muslims marched Saturday in Sydney's Town Hall in protest against a US film defaming the Prophet.
The march degenerated into violence after protestors clashed with police, leaving 17 people and six policemen injured.
Following the protest, Australian imams held an urgent meeting to denounce violence and highlight the message that violence has no place in Islam.
Personal initiations were also taken by Australian Muslims who showed generosity and kindness as they battled to repair the damage done to the community's reputation and image.
Hannan, for example, started a Facebook group to raise money for the officers injured in Saturday's violent demonstration.
Hannan said the protesters were his "brothers and sisters in faith" and there is a compulsion to want to say sorry on their behalf.
Raising $1000 for the NSW Police Legacy Charity, he said money would go to officers who were injured, traumatized or had to take time off work because of Saturday's protest.
A 30-year-old Muslim woman, Zahra Al-Shadidi, hand-delivered a bunch of flowers to police officers at the Surry Hills police station on Monday.
Al-Shadidi said it "broke her heart" to see images of police officers with blood on their faces during the riot, so she bought a bunch of flowers to say sorry.
"I felt really sad and sorry that people were getting hurt in the name of my religion so I just wanted to apologize and say that's not who we are," she said.
Another community group held an event yesterday organized through Facebook called "The Muslim Community to Thank the Police" at which it encouraged people to walk into their local police station and to say thank you.
Though the majority of Australia Muslims denounce violent protests, their apology to police officers was seen as a trial to right the wrongs of the past six days.
"I've experienced it time and time again, post 9/11, post Cronulla, post any time a crime is committed by a Muslim person," Mariam Veiszadeh, a lawyer and community rights advocate, said.
"Whether we like it or not there is that association so we feel compelled to ... provide an alternative narrative that is reflective of the wider Muslim community."
Veiszadeh added that the idea of "guilt by association" was a common occurrence for "everyday" Muslims, who were often at the forefront of backlash in times like this and felt compelled to alter the image being portrayed of them.
Dr Emma Waterton, a culture and society academic, agreed.
She said "guilt by association" affected people bound by commonalities such as religion, ethnicity and nationalism and was felt more strongly by people in the minority.
"There is a tendency still to presume that communities are defined by similarities and they're not necessarily," Dr Waterton, from the University of Western Sydney, said.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
This week, Veiszadeh started a Twitter hashtag campaign called #SmileAtAMuslim to encourage people not to victimize or stereotype Muslims in the community.
"It's just something small but it can help social cohesion and social harmony," she said.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net