ACT News

Non-Muslim women offer flowers in show of solidarity with Canberra's Islamic community

Ten non-Muslim women, wearing hijabs and carrying flowers, have touched Canberra's Islamic community with their simple message of love and solidarity.

After a week of heightened anti-Islamic rhetoric in Canberra, where numerous politicians discussed banning the burqa, 10  women armed only with flowers attended an ACT Islamic festival to show support for their fellow Canberrans.

At three locations across Canberra on Saturday the Islamic community celebrated Eid al-Adha, or the festival of the sacrifice, which involves prayers followed by family events and feasting.

As worshippers left the morning prayer at the AIS Stadium in Bruce they were met by the women, who offered flowers to the women and children in attendance.

Twenty-six-year-old Canberran Annabelle Lee, who helped organise the show of support, said although reactions from Islamic worshippers were originally cautious, they soon turned joyous.

"We told them we were sorry you've been treated so badly in the media and we wanted to say we stand with you in solidarity and we want to share love instead of hate," she said.

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"And when they heard that, many of them wanted to give us a hug, many smiled and some were brought to tears."

She said they gave a flower to every woman and child present, while some men asked if they could take flowers for their wives at home.

Islamic Society of Belconnen vice-president Hassan Warsi said men and women from Canberra's Islamic community were touched by the women's gesture.

"They had people coming forward and putting a [hand] on their shoulder, saying 'Look, we're here with you. We know you guys are good people like us and we are all in a community, caring and sharing and it should be an exception," he said.

"It was obviously a very good feeling and people were touched by that."

Another Canberra worshipper, who did not want to be named, said everyone had appreciated what Ms Lee and her friends had done, adding it had left them "joyful".

"It was a very unique approach to the Muslims in every way, to show harmony and to show their respect. If there's a team Australia, they want us included as well," he said.

Ms Lee said she and her friends came up with the idea when they were having a conversation with their friend Radia, who is a practicising Muslim.

"She told us how she hadn't been attacked personally but she felt very self-conscious at the moment. When she went to the shops nobody would talk to her and she didn't feel very safe at that time," she said.

"So we [thought] what can we do in this situation as a positive thing rather than doing nothing and keep having these women feel like they're being judged?"

Mr Warsi said he hadn't noticed any change in community attitudes to him or his family in Canberra since the recent announcement of Australia sending planes to help in the fight against Islamic State .

He said Canberra was a very accepting community.

"I can say I've lived here for a long time and Canberra is a lot more accepting than many."

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