In “United in condemnation, divided over the causes” in the Sydney Morning Herald, Malcolm Kerr says the beach fights were touched off by “Middle Eastern” gangs intimidating people in Cronulla:
But the Liberal MP for Cronulla, Malcolm Kerr, said the people of Cronulla were tired of being intimidated by gangs with Middle Eastern backgrounds. The reaction in Cronulla was the result of community anger over the lack of response from authorities and had got out of control as the crowd was fuelled by alcohol.
“There were some drunken louts who have indulged in racist remarks but this is not a racist community,” he said.
The director of the Forum on Australian-Islamic Relations, Kuranda Seyit, said he never imagined tensions would result in “horrible mob violence”.
“It was clearly Australian people victimising another ethnic group. It shows that there is underlying racism running deeply in the Australian psyche. It’s been simmering for a few years but I think the latest incident here – people have really let loose their inherent racism and violence “¦ The only thing I am worried about is that it’s going to further play on the minds of young Australian Muslims, particularly of Lebanese origin.
“It’s going to lower the morale which has already been lowered. They are young Australians who don’t have a sense of belonging.”
The founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, said talkback radio programs and some newspapers had presented a youth problem as a race issue. “The attack on the lifeguards was just wayward youths behaving badly, but they [some media] escalated that to a racist issue.”
He said yesterday’s “mob behaviour was absolutely outrageous and un-Australian”.