CAIRO - Inaugurating his electoral campaign, opposition leader Tony Abbott has met with leaders of western Sydney's Muslim community during an iftar meal in the holy month of Ramadan, in a bid to woo Muslim voters in the coming federal elections.
"[Our] multiculturalism is a beacon of hope to a troubled and divided world," Abbott said at the Westella Renaissance Hotel in Lidcombe, Stawell Times reported on Monday, August 5.
"People from all around the four corners of this earth have come to this country of ours to be welcomed by us and to build a better life in freedom, for themselves and their children."
Abbott was speaking at a dinner hosted by Auburn Council to mark iftar for western Sydney's Muslim community.
The audience, more than 100, included a number of Australian Muslim leaders, including the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad.
Diplomatic representatives from countries with large Muslim populations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, India and Lebanon were also present.
Abbott's address met with warm applause, particularly his pledges to invest in better infrastructure for Sydney's west if elected, including starting construction on the WestConnex motorway as soon as possible.
"Proper infrastructure for western Sydney is the muscle and sinew of a working economy," abbott, the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian House of Representatives and federal leader of the centre-right Liberal Party of Australia, said.
Western Sydney is of high strategic importance to the campaign.
A number of Labor seats in western and south-western Sydney with statistically significant Muslim populations are held by margins of less than 3 per cent, such as Greenway (Michelle Rowland), Banks (Daryl Melham) and Reid (John Murphy).
Launching his campaign with Muslim audience, Abbott's speech was praised by Australia Muslims as symbolically important.
"This is the first night of the campaign, Abdullah Aksu, an Auburn businessman of Turkish heritage who attended the dinner, said.
For him to come and eat a meal with us shows the significance of the Muslim community.
In welcoming Abbott to Auburn, the Grand Mufti echoed Abbott's sentiments about the honor of service and Auburn's social harmony.
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.
Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion since the 9/11 attacks on the US and have had their patriotism questioned.
In 2008, a governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.