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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4401

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (09:46): In the early hours of 19 March a number of petrol bombs were thrown at the doors of the Alevi Community Council's centre in North Coburg in my electorate. Glass bottles containing petrol were set alight and thrown at the front and rear doors of the centre. Fortunately, no-one was inside the centre at the time and most of the bottles fell short of their target and did not properly ignite. However, one bottle did set fire to the rear door and did extensive damage to it. The fire triggered a fire alarm and the fire was stopped before it could spread to other parts of the building.

Just as disturbing as the petrol bombs was a threatening note, copies of which were left on the centre's fence and in the letterbox. The one-page typed letter purporting to come from the Islamic Emirate of Syria accused the Alevis of helping Christians in Syria, demanded that the Alevis testify that Allah was the only god to be worshipped and said that they could 'hunt us down like dogs and kill us', in the words of one centre representative who I discussed the attack with. I have to stress that the Islamic Emirate of Syria is not a group known to the police or anybody else so far as I am aware. I point out that sometimes people engage in violent actions and seek to have others blamed for those actions and also note that police investigations are continuing.

However, I want to respond to this attack with two very clear observations. First, I have had a 20-year-long association with the Alevi community in my electorate as both a state and federal MP and during that time I have found them to be a peace-loving and community minded group who have added to the cultural diversity of my electorate and Melbourne more broadly. They have their ethnic and cultural origins in Turkey. There are estimated to be 15 million Alevis worldwide following their own faith. Women are not required to cover their heads or faces and are not discriminated against in any way. I have never encountered any behaviour from the Alevi community which could be characterised as provocative or confrontational or in any way justify a violent response. There can be no place in Australia for religious violence.

Australia is very fortunate that we have no history of civil war or sectarian violence. I urge everyone who comes to Australia to love and respect that. I know that many other countries are not so fortunate. I can readily understand the passion and enmity that can arise from belonging to a family in which a father has been killed or a sister has been raped, but anyone who has the good fortune to come to Australia needs to do both themselves and Australia a favour: leave those things behind. Drop them off at the door as you enter this country. Australia is a beautiful country where people have freedom of speech and expression including freedom of religious expression without fear of retribution or violence. Please allow it to remain that way.