Hundreds of people have gathered at a rally in Sydney’s west in protest over negative coverage of Islam and treatment of the prophet Mohammad.
While police said more than a dozen people were moved on from the rally for breaching the peace, the event was peaceful.
Among the 800-strong crowd in the Muslim enclave of Lakemba, placards were held up with the slogan: “Je Suis Muslim” or “I am Muslim”, evoking the same sentiment that became a touchstone for many in the wake of attacks in Paris.
Organisers of the Our Prophet, Our Honour rally said it was intended to be “a peaceful and respectful event” to counter negative coverage of Islam and the lampooning of the Prophet by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Speaking at the rally, outside the Lakemba train station, local Muslim leader Sufyan Badar told the crowd it was also in response to the waves of protests in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Mr Badar said the protests in the name of free speech had nothing to do with freedom.
“We also gather to place the politics of the events in France in the correct context,” he said.
“Freedom is the smokescreen with which Western politicians and media conceal the underlying issues.
“In reality free speech is one of the many political tools that are used to maintain dominance over the Muslims.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned against the rally being used to incite terrorism, saying he hoped few people would attend.
Mr Abbott said called on more Muslim leaders to distance themselves from “evil things that are done in the name of Islam”.
Hamzah Qureshi, a spokesman for the controversial group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which helped organise the event, questioned the prime minister’s comments and the suggestion the event could incite violence.
“No one should be asked to apologise for or distance themselves from something they are not responsible for,” Mr Qureshi said.
“I would, however, mention that it’s interesting that the question of whether a Muslim event will be peaceful or violent consistently seems to come up.”
Police later said in a statement that the event had been concluded peacefully, although 14 people were removed for breaching the peace. No charges were laid.