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50,000 gather in Sydney for Eid celebration, remember Gaza with olive tree planting

Sydney, April 12: Wednesday 10 April saw an estimated 50,000 worshippers attend the Eid Prayer at Australia’s best-known and most iconic masjid, Imam Ali Bin Abi Taleb Mosque at Lakemba in south-western Sydney, reports AMUST.

Those in attendance witnessed a historic moment following the conclusion of the other formalities, when Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Bilal El-Hayek planted a symbolic olive tree in front of the mosque.

This was the first of 30,000 olive trees to be planted across the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA over time, following the inspirational decision last month by Council to plant the trees in remembrance of 30,000 innocent lives lost in Gaza.

“It is important that the Council recognises the grief that the Muslim community has been going through over the past six months, and that we support the community in its time of need, and stand by them,” Bilal El-Hayek pointed out following the completion of the planting.

More commonly known as Lakemba Mosque, this grand masjid was completed in 1977 and mosque regulars and historians from the Lebanese Muslim Association, which owns the building, were racking their memories to recall a larger Eid Prayer gathering in the 47 years since the mosque opened.

They came from far and wide….families from southwestern Sydney and indeed from all over metropolitan area, from interstate and even overseas – for what is traditionally the Australian Muslim community’s largest Eid prayer event.

With the mosque and its underground prayer areas quickly filling to capacity, worshippers used every available vantage point to pray, not just within the mosque and its surrounds but in the carparks, on the pavements and as far  as the eye could see.

In a break from tradition this year, there were no political speeches on the front steps of the masjid, however inside the mosque, both Sheikh Yahya Safi (the Imam of Lakemba Mosque) and LMA Secretary Gamel Kheir spoke passionately about the current situation in Palestine.

In justifying his Association’s decision not to formally invite politicians to this year’s event, Mr Kheir launched a scathing burst aimed at federal and state political representatives.

“Normally on Eid, we are on the front steps (of the mosque) getting a lecture from our politicians – this time, how about we give them a lecture,” Mr Kheir said.

“There are over 50,000 people here united today and it is this unity in our community that the politicians fear.”

“So today, 50,000 of us are sending them a message.”

“The centre of our community is Lakemba Mosque and Lakemba Mosque speaks on behalf of the Muslim community of Sydney, so if the politicians want to neglect this community, it is to their own peril.”

“We can vote them in and vote them out but until they stop playing this wedge politics and stop treating Gaza like a killing factory, we have to teach them a lesson.”

“We won’t take our brothers and sisters in Gaza for granted anymore….if the politicians don’t want to support them, we won’t support the politicians, either.”

The smiling faces of the multitude of children present are a common feature at the Eid Prayer celebrations at Lakemba Mosque every year and those smiles were magnified this time when the LMA distributed around 1,000 bags of lollies, while LMA volunteers (who worked tirelessly throughout Ramadan and on Eid morning) gave out mamool, dates and water to appreciative members of the community.


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