A mosque in Sydney is facing criticism after auctioning off a black flag associated with the Islamic State.
Al Arabiya reported the flag fetched more than $2,000 for the Markaz Imam Ahmad mosque and youth center in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool.
Muslim community leader Keysar Trad defended the auction item in an interview with the Australian Daily Telegraph, asserting that Islamic State militants have “hijacked” the symbol known as the "shahada" that appears on the flag.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the mosque called insinuations that it was supporting terrorism “unfounded and defamatory.”
“The black and white flag being referred to is an important symbol in Islam which contains the first pillar of the Muslim creed, the testimony of faith (shahada) that 'there is no god except God and Muhammad is his messenger'; and the seal of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him),” the mosque statement read. “This flag has been in existence for more than a thousand years, long before any terrorist organization misappropriated it for its own political goals.”
“As for the money raised at the fundraiser auction which was held in late July was for the mosque and for no other purpose,” the mosque statement read.
A video purporting to show excerpts of the auction was posted online.
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said Monday that he would consider banning the Islamic State flag.
“All parents and all communities need to protect young people from the insidious and corrosive effects of the radical ideologies that are causing so much suffering around the world,” Baird said, according to the Daily Telegraph. “It is a flag that is used by ISIS, and ultimately that is something we have to respond to and we have to have a zero-tolerance approach."
Fred Nile, a New South Wales politician and ordained Christian minister, called the auction “disgraceful.”
“They fly the flag as something to be proud of — they should be ashamed of beheading people and selling women into slavery,” Nile said.
The Daily Telegraph quoted New South Wales police who said auctioning the flag would be considered an offense only if the money went to fund terrorism.
The mosque is accusing the Australian newspaper that broke the story of promoting “hatred of Muslims” and “fear mongering."
“[T]he newspaper’s use of the term ‘jihadist’ is false and inappropriate. The unusual combination of an Arabic word with an English suffix negatively stereotypes the noble Islamic concept of striving for what is better. The frequent misuse of this term by sensationalist media only serves to promote hatred of Muslims and Islam," the mosque's Facebook statement said.
“We reject any attempts to tarnish the good reputation of our center and pledge to stand firm against the current wave of Islamophobia,” mosque leader Sheikh Abu Adnan said. “We also believe that scapegoating and fear mongering has the serious potential of radicalizing disaffected youth.”
(H/T: Al Arabiya)