May 2, 2016 4:42am
The Daily Telegraph
Photo: A Facebook post of the event from the United Muslims of Australia (UMA) Community organisation.
GENDER segregation again raised its ugly head at a packed Islamic conference in Western Sydney yesterday.
Following a recent NSW tribunal ruling that separate seating could be unlawful, men and women were directed to sit apart at the United Muslims of Australia event at Olympic Park. Steel barriers were used to split the auditorium seating, with women directed to the left and men to the right.
In a separate incident, the practice was recently condemned by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal as “sexual discrimination” and that it had to be stopped.
The womens’ entrance at the United Muslims of Australia event / Facebook
Photo: Arrivals for the United Muslims of Australia event.
The NCAT decision against radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir ruled that journalist Alison Bevege was discriminated against at one of its events because she was told to sit at the back with women.
When quizzed by The Daily Telegraph, organisers claimed that the designated seating was not compulsory and that attendees preferred it because it made them feel more “comfortable”.
The UMA conference was engulfed in controversy before it got started with the star speaker forced to cancel after immigration refused to grant him a visa.
British radical Sheikh Zahir Mahmood, once filmed boasting “Hamas are not terrorists, they are freedom fighters”, announced via Facebook on Friday that his “outstanding visa application (was) not approved by immigration”.
His no-show was announced to the 3000-strong crowd just before the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed gave his welcoming address, saying in Arabic that Islam “rejects violence and terrorism”.
Sheik Mahmood was the second controversial speaker that failed to show at the event after fellow UK preacher Hamza Tzortzis bowed out after media criticism that during a previous visit to Australia he condoned child brides.
The 10-hour talkfest at Sydney Showground featured an all-male line up of 12 speakers with tickets sold along gender lines.
Photo: Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed.
The spokesman for UMA said yesterday’s event, entitled Quest for Success, aimed to provide a “platform for mainstream Muslim scholars and community leaders to provide a counter narrative to those who claim to represent Islam and Muslims.
“It is a strong demonstration of the Muslim community’s unity and solidarity with all Australians regarding recent events and outright rejection of rhetoric that suggests otherwise,” he said.
The media were allowed to attend but banned from recording any of the speeches.