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Jews offer safety tips to Muslims

Melbourne′s Jewish community has offered to advise Muslims on security measures for mosques and Islamic schools amid fears of a backlash against terrorism.

Jewish schools and synagogues have developed a system of training individuals to guard and watch over possible sites for anti-Semitic attacks, and that expertise could be shared with Muslims.

Michael Lipshutz, the immediate past president of the Jewish Community Council made the offer at a meeting of the Victoria Police-sponsored multi-faith group hours after this month′s terrorism-related arrests.

He told The Age that co-operation between the faiths was one way to discourage the importing of prejudices common to overseas communities.

"Muslims feel very threatened, very targeted, and we are happy to support them. There′s no conflict between Jews and Muslims in Australia and we don′t believe in bringing in prejudice and hates from overseas," Mr Lipshutz said.

"We have organised a system where there are people in our community who will stand guard and will observe and will report matters to police."

Eighteen Muslim men arrested in Melbourne and Sydney have been charged with terrorism-related offences that carry penalties of 10 to 25 years′ jail.

Malcolm Thomas, president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said the offer would be accepted because of concern for Islamic schools, mosques and businesses. Isolated instances of abuse had occurred since the arrests and last week a brick was thrown through the window of the city mosque.

Areas likely to adopt new security measures included shopping precincts in Sydney Road, parts of Dandenong and areas around Hoppers Crossing where there were concentrations of Islamic businesses. "Generally the first ones who suffer some attacks are women because they are highly visible and it′s not uncommon for women to be attacked in shopping centres," Mr Thomas said.

He said the offer of help from the Jewish community was an open one that would be taken up after a series of risk assessments had been conducted on Muslim centres.

Police Commander Ashley Dickinson, who chairs the Multi-Faith Council meetings where the offer was made, said people generally understood that those charged were isolated from the mainstream Muslim groups. He said police had noted slight increases of prejudice-motivated crimes around the periods of the Bali bombings, but the number of incidents was low.

The manager of the Islamic Women′s Welfare Council, Joumanah El Matrah, said recent instances of abuse had been minimised because many Muslim women were staying home.

Mr Lipshutz said the main task of security guards trained by the Jewish community was to observe, to know what was normal and what was unusual.

"Generally al-Qaeda has targeted Jewish communities (overseas) and we are aware we are targets," Mr Lipshutz said.

He said the community had young men and women being trained in security and they would try to prevent attacks on synagogues and report them to the authorities.

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