Muslims must better handle 'vicious' media

By Daniel McCulloch

Australian Muslims must be far more united in handling a media "onslaught" against Islam, a leading scholar and religious leader says.

Shaykh Mohamad Abdalla told the second annual Sydney Muslim Conference on Sunday the nation's media could be "vicious" about Islam.

Dr Abdalla said the Muslim community must address the piecemeal approach to speaking publicly if it was to counteract Islamophobia.

"We do respond to media in different ways and shapes and often our response is fragmented," he said.

"The media is vicious in this regard, there is an onslaught against Islam and Muslims, whether for the right reasons or wrong reasons."

Author and academic Randa Abdel-Fattah told the conference the Grand Mufti had been slammed in the wake of the Paris terror attacks for straying from a script prescribed to Muslim leaders.

Liberal frontbencher Josh Frydenberg said on Sunday the Grand Mufti's initial statement on the terrorist attacks in Paris was a "graphic failure" which he then sought to cover up.

"He had strayed from the sanctioned topics of conversation and treaded into territory reserved only for those who belong to the nuclear unit," Ms Abdel-Fattah said.

"When a Muslim speaks, they are censored for saying what white men can say every day without consequence."

Dr Abdalla said Australian Muslims must also be more wily in dealing with politicians.

"We have some politicians who come out and say the most outrageous things about Islam and Muslims," he said.

"There are many politicians, unfortunately, who use the situation for political opportunity.

"And if you do not know how to play the game, you will continue to be the ball that will be kicked around."

Ms Abdel-Fattah told the conference her own research revealed Muslims were often cast as "would-be terrorists" threatening to radicalise.

"As a result of the war on terror narrative and counter-radicalisation policy, the Muslim has emerged as the pre-eminent threat to health in contemporary Australia," she said.

There was a clear sense that Muslims somehow had a dormant virus within them that could be unleashed at any time, she said.