CAIRO - Leaders of the Muslim community in Australia's most populous city of Sydney have signaled readiness to cooperate with the police in fighting the escalating gun violence in the area.
"I think the community does need to take responsibility," Silma Ihram, President of the Australian Muslim Women's Association, told The Australian on Wednesday, January 30.
"We're not really stepping up to the mark as Australian citizens. People tend to act defensively and close ranks even when they see something that's wrong, and that's not helpful to anybody."
Gun violence has escalated in western Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, in recent years.
Estimates show that the number of shootings in Sydney jumped more than 50 percent in 2011 to reach 165.
Though the numbers dropped in 2012, they are still at an average of more than two a week.
At least six people have been shot dead in gun violence in Sydney in the past four months.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has described the gun violence as a "reign of terror on the streets of Sydney".
Seeking to control the violence, police launched raids to crack down on people involved in illegal arms trade. Caches of weapons were seized in the raids.
NSW Police acting Organized Crime director Arthur Katsogiannis urged Muslims of Middle Eastern origin to break down the wall of silence and help efforts to control gun violence.
"They know who's got the guns, they know who's using them and concealing them," he said.
"We need their cooperation to stop that because it could be their son or daughter who is shot.
"If you want to stand back as a community and allow these people to use guns, then you are going to suffer the consequences, he warned.
Katsogiannis stressed that the Middle Eastern community in western Sydney "are our eyes and ears andâ¦their information is just as important as the evidence collated by our investigators.
We are starting to slowly see the community coming on board."
Community leaders have underlined their responsibility in helping the police combat gun violence.
"Why do we have to destroy what this beautiful country gave everyone? Fadia Ghossayn, President of the Australian Lebanese Foundation, said.
So I don't see why we should not co-operate with police."
But activist Jamal Daoud called for the police to help rebuild trust with the community in order to help ensure greater cooperation.
At the moment, the police, their position in the community is not very good and this is why the local community are not trusting the police to help them," he said.
But Keysar Trad, of the Sydney-based Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, questioned the call for greater cooperation with police.
"This is a policing matter, he said.
I don't know who has got the guns and that would go for most of the community.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
In post 9/11 Australia, Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.