On any given day of any given week, especially now that the warmer weather is upon us, the scenarios below are occurring.
At Rookwood cemetery in Sydney’s south west, members of our (Muslim) community are farewelling their loved ones – their profound grief further compounded (if such a thing is possible) by the current NSW Health order restricting the number of bereaved attending funerals to a farcically low 10 people.
Less than 30 kilometres away at Bondi beach, under the same Sydney sun, hundreds and on some days thousands of beach goers are exercising – power walking, running and swimming.
Where the water gets muddied is when the same people cease their so-called “exercise”.
Unrolling their towels, sunbaking on the sand, sitting on the rocks, idly strolling along the promenade, standing around in groups, drinking coffees or alcohol or just socialising. Maskless, still….seemingly without a care in the world.
Breaching the Health orders as they do so but why not – as day after day, we see footage of these beach goers laughing and chatting with the police on social media and even on the TV News as if they’re lifelong friends.
Maybe some of the ‘Bondi entitled’ have been fined but if so, we can see little evidence of it.
TURMOIL AT ROOKWOOD
So we turn our attention back to Rookwood just last Thursday, where grieving families had gathered to say goodbye to relatives who had touched their lives..
The Health orders say only 10 bereaved can be in attendance at a funeral, but try explaining that to any Muslim family.
To adult Muslims who as a rule (and certainly prior to the Health order condemning it) visit their parents in the family home several times a week, and who would walk over broken glass before committing their elderly mums and dads to aged care facilities, unless their condition was too complex to be cared for at home.
So the figure at last Thursday’s funeral was closer to 100 than it was to 10, but from what we’re told, all but the immediate family remained seated in their cars.
But this wasn’t good enough for the police.
Channel Seven News suggested that one man became aggressive and was arrested.
We prefer to believe the account of Sister Betty Zreika Kabbout, who took to social media to express her sadness, anger and frustration….and provided video evidence to back up her claims.
“I am so angry and frustrated as my family members are burying my uncle Hajj Omar Naboulsi, and my brother and my cousin and two others get arrested.
“(The police) wouldn’t allow my uncle to be buried until everyone jumped in their cars and left.
“Shame on you, NSW police, my family were mourning the loss of my uncle.
“Allah yerhama, uncle Omar, you’re in a better place, Alhamdulillah….and away from the world.”
Our thoughts are also with the family of Hajj Mohammed Derbas (Abu Fares), whose funeral was also held on Thursday and also went through traumas that those burying loved ones should not have to experience.
Nobody denies that the police have a job to do and getting the public to comply with Health orders is not easy.
But what has happened to the ethos that the police are there to serve the public – and believe me, I’m not using the word “serve” in a condescending manner.
Surely the six months training our cops go through at Goulburn teaches them to show compassion and understanding when dealing with the family of someone who has passed away, let alone at a funeral itself?
We will let the video do the talking and we are sure you will come to the same conclusions we have.
LACK OF JUDGEMENT
Over the three months of the current Sydney lockdown, we have seen numerous examples of
where the police have acted with a lack of sensitivity and judgement.
You would have all seen the video of the brother being tackled to the ground by police for not wearing a mask on September 9 in the carpark at Bass Hill shopping centre.
25 year old Bilal Ladkani was thrown onto the ground and handcuffed for not wearing a mask.
Those with him warned the police that Bilal had a heart condition but this didn’t prevent the officers present from leaving him on the ground while he received heart defibrillator treatment.
Callous acts like those described are quite sickening and make me wonder what kind of briefing the police received when these current Health orders were rolled out.
Lockdowns are tough, curfews are tough, making it illegal to visit your aging parents is tougher still….but capping funerals at 10 mourners is just ridiculous!
The aggressive manner in which some police have handled some home inspections has also raised more questions than it has answered, and as for the helicopter patrols herding people back to their homes from parks and other exercise areas like cattle, how humiliating is this for those trying to make the most of their daily hour of freedom? (Recently extended to two hours….big deal!)
Social media has gone into meltdown since lockdown with many, many video examples of police not being shown in a good light.
Cases where members of the public are wrestled to the ground by as many as four or six cops – simply for not wearing a mask outdoors.
This kind of heavy handedness is so unnecessary in the vast majority of cases.
As previously referenced, the police have a job to do, and many of them do it well.
Let’s face it, the public are not all angels – if they were, we wouldn’t need a police force at all!
But they signed up for the job – nobody forced them into it – and the police need to be cognisant of the fact that the public are going through tough times and deserve compassion and where possible, a bit of flexibility and latitude.
EAST VERSUS WEST
Which brings us back to the East versus West debate.
As mentioned at the commencement of this article, the public at Bondi beach are behaving as if there is no lockdown at all….and the police are allowing them to do it!
Another example of the hypocrisy of the government and the police was on Friday when hundreds of Jewish worshippers in the exclusive EASTERN suburb of Bellevue Hill were given permission to celebrate Yom Kippur together in a local park.
No doubt health minister Brad Hazzard will justify this exemption just like he does with the daily Bondi fiasco.
When questioned about beachgoers’ masklessness last weekend, Hazzard told the media that he wasn’t interested in these people being fined.
“Fresh air is the safest place to be,” he deflected.
So fresh air is “safe” in Bondi and Bellevue Hill, Minister, but not at Rookwood cemetery!!??
Praise be to Allah swt that some non-Muslim journalists still have a sense of fair play.
Writing online for the Sydney Morning Herald, columnist and author Elizabeth Farrelly has highlighted the unfair treatment that the people of Sydney’s west and south west are currently experiencing.
“Balmain’s Dawn Fraser pool has recently reopened,” Elizabeth wrote.
“This delighted locals who made a huge play of it on social media.
“And again (as with those in areas like Bondi and Bellevue Hill) the residents are wealthy.
“Sure it is an outdoor pool,but so are Auburn’s Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre and the Canterbury-Bankstown Leisure and Aquatic Centre.
“Yet they and all the other pools in the areas of concern remain closed….surely Mr Hazzard, fresh air is either good for you or it’s not!”
OUR LEADERS MUST STEP UP!
But while it’s great to report about this kind of support from at least one member of Sydney’s mainstream media, I am constantly asking myself (as well as being asked by other people), what are our OWN people doing about it?
I am talking about our politicians – our elected representatives – and our major religious organisations.
Under the new leadership of Chris Minns, the NSW Labor Opposition has had very little to say about the unfair treatment of those in Sydney’s west.
Lakemba MP Jihad Dib and Granville’s Julia Finn are both very good people but they and other local Labor MPs need to be far more vocal, even if it means standing up to their new leader and ensuring that he also condemns the unfair treatment of those in the south west and the west during this lockdown.
As for the religious groups, they also need to do more as overall, their silence over much of the past three months has been deafening.
Having said that though, the tide may be turning.
Earlier in the week, the Australian National Imams Council issued a public statement expressing its concern about the approach of the NSW government and its enforcement agencies relating to the application and enforcement of Public Health orders and restrictions in the affected local government areas in Sydney, particularly south west Sydney.
Click on the link to read the statement in its entirety: ANIC PUBLIC STATEMENT
Additionally, ANIC has taken the very laudable step of creating a Police Incident Report form, which they have urged Muslims to complete in relation to any incident involving the police which concerns them: ANIC POLICE INCIDENT REPORT
While the Lebanese Muslim Association’s same day press release condemning the actions of the police at Rookwood cemetery last Thursday was quite outstanding.
So finally, we are seeing our major religious organisations not only standing up for our community, but doing so in a very firm manner.
You can read the full LMA press release by clicking on the link: LMA PRESS RELEASE
As LMA president Samier Dandan said: “Our community members (at Rookwood) were not sunbaking without masks on the sand, they were observing social distancing and wearing masks while burying their loved ones.
“If our health minister says that being outdoors is the best place to be for beachgoers, then why not outdoor funeral attendees?”
This a moot point, as are the matters of overzealous policing and the favourable treatment for Sydney’s rich areas over the rest of us.
And the government MUST address these matters or risk its own demise.
The people in the LGAs of concern have had a gutful, they are over the bias and they are over the bullying.
The next state election may still be 18 months away but the public have long memories when it comes to being shafted – and if ever there was a government which has failed to step up to the plate in a crisis, it is Glady Berejyklian and her team.