Muslim leaders hope to avoid violence in Melbourne following riots in Sydney, despite admitting a text message has circulated planning a protest on Sunday.
Religious leaders of the Islamic and Coptic communities held a press conference today denouncing the weekend violence in Sydney and a film, which denigrates the Prophet Mohammed, that caused it.
Victorian Board of Imams spokesman Sheik Mohamadu Saleem said he had seen a text message organising a protest at the State Library on Sunday, but had not been able to find who sent it. He said it was difficult to verify its authenticity.
"It may be just a mischief, we don't know anyone who is planning it, but we know they are going around," Sheikh Saleem said.
"I'm not saying there will be problems."
Other speakers at the press conference, which included the Egyptian consul general, a representative of the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Coptic Bishop of Melbourne, also heard that Melbourne was ahead of Sydney in terms of encouraging inter-faith dialogue.
La Trobe University professor Joseph Camilleri, who chaired the conference, said the media and politicians also had a role to play to ensure incidents involving Muslim youth were not taken out of context, because that could inflame any unrest.
West Heidelberg Mosque Imam Sheik Riad Galil said those who violently protested against the film had acted abhorrently.
"They don't understand the tenets and teachings of Islam," he said.
Sheik Abdulazeem Afifi, from the Australian National Imams council, said those who protested violently could be classified as extremists, similarly to those targeted in Australian Federal Police anti-terror raids in Melbourne last week.