Uneasy calm in Sydney suburbs
Australian lawmakers poised to pass new laws after racial
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Attacks linked to two nights of
race rioting in Sydney were reported in two other Australian
cities Tuesday, but an uneasy calm returned to the streets of
As rain fell Tuesday night, hundreds of police converged on
the beachside suburb of Cronulla and stopped and searched
dozens of cars.
But there were no arrests reported and no repeat of the
previous night's rampage in which dozens of cars full of
young men of Middle Eastern appearance smashed store windows
and cars in apparent retaliation for a race riot on Sunday in
which 5,000 white men chanted racial slurs and attacked
youths they believed were of Lebanese descent.
Lebanese community leader Keysar Trad criticized the
violence, which was triggered by the beating by men who
reportedly were Lebanese of two volunteer surf life savers.
"We have always condemned the ... violence or anti-social
behavior on the beaches or anywhere else," Trad told
television's Channel Nine.
He later held talks with members of a surf gang called the
Bra Boys in Maroubra, one of the beach suburbs hit by
violence, and said they were an example how Australians of
different ethnic groups can mix at Sydney's beaches.
"They expressed their outrage at what happened at Cronulla
and they expressed their support and appreciation for the
Middle Eastern community," Trad said.
"They have many friends who are from a Lebanese and Middle
Eastern background and of various religions, so they want
Anger towards groups of young Lebanese men in Sydney that
erupted Sunday has been simmering for years, particularly
since a horrific gang rape case in 2002.
At a trial in Sydney, prosecutors and witnesses said members
of a Lebanese gang hurled racial abuse at their rape victims,
all of whom were white. The ring leader, Bilal Skaf, was
sentenced to 55 years, an unusually severe sentence in
"The rapes have had a significant impact in terms of race
relations in Sydney," said Professor Chris Culleen, director
of the Institute of Criminology at Sydney University.
Tens of thousands of people of Lebanese descent, about 60
percent of them Christians, live in Sydney, mostly in a
cluster of lower income neighborhoods close to the city's
Olympic sports complex.
Most of them work, although often in low-paid jobs, but some
are conspicuous success stories -- New South Wales state's
Governor, Dr. Marie Bashir, comes from a Lebanese family. The
governor holds a largely ceremonial role as local
representative of Britain's monarch.
In one of the suburbs, Auburn, the main shopping strip
features halal butcheries and Arabic video stores, but also
Walking down an Auburn street, Ayten Tugcu, who was born in
Australia in a Turkish family, condemned all involved in the
"I think it is pathetic," she said. "I think both sides are
However, she admitted that she sometimes feels intimidated
walking through parts of Sydney because wearing her Muslim
headscarf makes her a target for abuse.
"I get scared to go out," she said.
Tensions between youths of Arabic and Middle Eastern descent
and white Australians also have been fueled by anti-Muslim
sentiment stemming from the September 11, 2001, terror
attacks in the United States and deadly bombings on the
Indonesian island of Bali that killed 202 people, including
88 Australians, in October 2002. Six of the Bali victims were
In an attempt to keep the peace, lawmakers will meet Thursday
to pass laws giving officers tough new powers to crack down
on rioters, including ordering bars to shut and erecting road
blocks to effectively seal off suburbs, New South Wales state
leader Morris Iemma announced.
Iemma said he would urge lawmakers to pass legislation
increasing prison sentences for riot offenses from five to 15
years and double the penalty for affray to 10 years.
He said the rioters had "effectively declared war on our
society and we won't be found wanting in our response."
Violence spreads to other cities
Meanwhile, attacks on a Middle Eastern family in the Western
Australian state capital Perth and a Lebanese Australian taxi
driver in Adelaide in South Australia state were linked to
Sydney's race violence.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio reported Tuesday
that a family of Middle Eastern origin was attacked in Perth
by a group of 11 white men, who threw eggs, shouted abuse and
kicked their garage door.
The 42-year-old father, who did not want to be identified,
said his family was badly shaken by Monday night's incident.
"What I definitely know is it was something linked to the
escalation in New South Wales," he said.
Perth police Superintendent Shayne Maines said police could
not rule out a link between the attack and the racial
violence in Sydney.
"There was some suggestion they did make ethnically related
comments to the occupant of the house," Maines said.
In Adelaide, a taxi driver of Lebanese origin, Hossein
Kazemi, was injured when punched by a passenger during an
incident Tuesday. Police said he also was taunted about the
Sydney violence during the attack.
And on the Gold Coast in Queensland state, text messages
targeting ethnic groups have called for people to attend a
demonstration on Sunday and to start "cracking skulls,"
Australian Associated Press reported.
About 300,000 Muslims live in Australia, the majority in
lower income suburbs of large cities.