Sectarian Tensions Running High, Say Australian Muslim Leaders

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UNITED STATES, Nov 6  Muslim community leaders in Australia say sectarian tensions are soaring, as radicalized Sunni youth, inspired by ISIS, seek to import the religious conflicts wracking the Middle East. “The tensions are very high and will continue to be high,” said Jamal Daoud, a Shia community leader in Sydney, where a 47-year old Shia leader was shot in the shoulder early Monday morning, as worshipers observed the Shia ritual of Ashura.

He said Rasoul Al Mousawi, a leader in the Shia community focused around the Islamic center in Greenacre, south-west Sydney, had been released from hospital on Tuesday and was doing well. The attack was only one incident in a string of attacks and threats against Shia Muslims by Sunni extremists who sympathized with ISIS, he claimed, and had followed an incident where a group of men had driven past the Islamic center, yelling comments such as “IS lives forever” and “Shia dogs” in Arabic.

A security guard had also been attacked by a group of men who appeared to be followers of the austere Wahhabi tradition of Sunni Islam on Friday, he said. “There’s high tension between Sunni and Shia, but these extremists, they threaten and attack Sunnis too,” he said. “Anyone who speaks against the fighting in Syria and advocating the government to take action against people in Iraq and Syria — they are threatened and attacked.”

Jamal Rifi, a Sydney-based GP and Sunni community leader, agreed, saying sectarian tensions were at an unprecedented level as a result of the brutal Syrian conflict, and the appeal of ISIS to radicalized Sunni youth in Australia. “This is the highest level I’ve ever seen, and it’s been like this since Khaled Sharrouf got his son to hold up that severed head,” he said, referring to the notorious Australian ISIS jihadist who tweeted a picture of his seven-year-old son posing with the body parts of a dead fighter in August.

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