Sydney siege 2: Australian Muslim groups condemn Sydney cafe siege

DECEMBER 15, 2014

More than 40 of Australia’s Muslim groups on Monday jointly condemned a siege at a Lindt Chocolat cafe in the Martin Place shopping mall, in central Sydney, where hostages were taken by an unknown gunman and forced to hold a black flag with Islamic slogans on the café’s window.

"We reject any attempt to take the innocent life of any human being or to instill fear and terror into their hearts," the groups said in a joint statement, adding that it was a "despicable act".

The black flag shown at a window of the Lindt cafe is one commonly used by jihadist groups bearing the shahada, or profession of faith in Islam.

It said: "There is no God but Allah; Mohammed is his messenger."

However, Australia’s Muslim groups said the inscription "is not representative of a political statement, but reaffirms a testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals that represent no-one but themselves".

"Any such despicable act only serves to play into the agendas of those who seek to destroy the goodwill of the people of Australia and to further damage and ridicule the religion of Islam and Australian Muslims throughout this country," their statement read.

"Our immediate thoughts go to the hostages and their loved ones.

"We pray for their safety and hope this matter is resolved quickly and peacefully."

Meanwhile, religious leaders across Australia called on their followers to unite and pray for a peaceful end to the Sydney siege. Mosques, synagogues and churches across the country welcomed worshippers on Monday evening - Australian time, in what their leaders said was a show of community solidarity.

"In times of great adversity it is imperative that we remain calm, united and stand together," Lebanese Muslim Association president Samier Dandan said.

By the evening, five people had fled the building, two of them young women wearing Lindt aprons who raced out and into the arms of police officers.

Officers wearing black SWAT-style uniforms had earlier taken up position, eyes staring down rifle sights. Some onlookers took photos to post on social media, others shook their heads in disbelief.

Photo caption: Two people to hold a black flag bearing Islamic slogans written in Arabic in the Lindt Chocolat Café's window.