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Muslim groups claim double standards in police handling of two high-profile stabbings in Sydney

NEWCASTLE, Australia — Muslim groups in Australia on Friday criticized the disparity in the police response to two stabbing attacks in Sydney this month, saying it had created a perception of a double standard and further alienated the country’s minority Muslim community.

The Australian National Imams Council said an attack at a Bondi Junction shopping center was “quickly deemed a mental health issue” while the stabbing of a Christian bishop at a Sydney church two days later was “classified as a terrorist act almost immediately.”

“The differing treatments of two recent violent incidents are stark,” the council’s spokesperson, Ramia Abdo Sultan, said in a statement with the Alliance of Australian Muslims and the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network.

“Such disparities in response create a perception of a double standard in law enforcement and judicial processes,” she said.

A 16-year-old boy is accused of repeatedly stabbing Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and a priest at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church on April 15, two days after the Bondi Junction attack, in which six people were killed and a dozen others seriously wounded by a lone assailant with a history of mental illness.

The boy was charged last week with committing a terrorist act, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Five teenage boys aged from 14 to 17 have also been charged with terrorism offenses in connection with the church stabbings. They were among seven arrested in a series of highly publicized raids across southwest Sydney in a major operation by the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team.

The boys, who are accused of following a violent extremist religious ideology, appeared in a Sydney children’s court on Thursday, with only the 14-year-old being granted bail. He was still in custody Friday pending an appeal.

Sultan called for an inquiry into the processes leading up to the police raids to ensure transparency and accountability within the judicial system and to prevent marginalization of different ethnic and religious groups.

“We must also address the problematic and longstanding issue of racial and religious profiling, which has been part of the societal fabric for decades,” Sultan said. “The presumption that terrorism is inherently tied to religion is not only inaccurate but harmful.”

New South Wales state Premier Chris Minns agreed that it was important for allegations of terrorism to be correctly made but rejected any need for changes.

“The truth of the matter is, in some instances and it’s only some instances where there are terrorist activities, they are as a result of religious-based extremism,” Minns said at a news conference in Sydney on Friday.

Meanwhile, a Sydney university student settled his defamation claim against Australia’s Channel Seven network for wrongly identifying him as the assailant in the Bondi Junction shopping mall attack.

Channel Seven had falsely identified the 20-year-old student, Benjamin Cohen, as the attacker after he was named in several posts on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Police later identified the assailant as 40-year-old Joel Cauchi, who was shot and killed by the first responding police officer.

“Seven accepts the identification was a grave mistake and that these assertions were entirely false and without basis,” Seven Managing Director Jeff Howard said in a statement reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Friday.

He said Seven “apologizes to you for the harm you and your family have suffered as a result of Seven’s statements about you.”

Other details of the settlement have been kept confidential.

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