Christian Refugees Before Muslims? Islamic Leader Slams Catholic Archbishop for Wanting to Save Christians First

An exhausted migrant holds his son as he speaks to a police officer at a collection point in the village of Roszke, Hungary, September 7, 2015.
An exhausted migrant holds his son as he speaks to a police officer at a collection point in the village of Roszke, Hungary, September 7, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh)

Australia's grand mufti and highest Sunni authority, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, claims that prioritizing Christian refugees ahead of Muslims, as some Christian and political leaders have suggested, is "discriminatory."

"When it comes to catastrophes such as these we should be prioritising human beings rather than prioritising a certain religion," Mohamed told Guardian Australia.

The Islamic leader further argued that such sectarian thinking is what "got Iraq and Syria into the problems they're facing now."

The Islamic State terror group has conquered cities across Iraq and the civil war-torn Syria, forcing millions of people to flee as refugees. While most are making their way toward Western European countries, creating a migrant crisis in Europe, other nations such as Australia have said that they will increase their refugee intake to over 25,000 people.

"This is a very significant increase in Australia's humanitarian intake and it's a generous response to the current emergency," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, according to BBC News.

"Our focus for these new 12,000 permanent resettlement places will be those people most in need of permanent protection — women, children and families from persecuted minorities who have sought temporary refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey."

Mohamed's comments come in response to several suggestions that the Australian government focus first on helping the Christian refugees.

Employment minister Eric Abetz said Tuesday that Christians in the Middle East were "the most persecuted group in the world" and should be made a priority in terms of receiving help.

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce added on ABC Radio that although a number of religious minorities are being persecuted in the region, it was "the reality [that] the future of Christianity in that area is over."

Sydney's Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher also made similar comments, noting that "other groups are also suffering badly and being persecuted but many Syrian Christians have relatives and a cultural affinity in Australia and we should be honouring those ties and connections."

Both the Australian Catholic and Anglican Churches have called for the government to increase its intake of refugees.

"The church has today written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton offering to cooperate with the government in any way it can to help resettle the refugees," a statement from the church read.

Vatican leader Pope Francis has urged every Catholic parish in Europe to take in at least one refugee family, and called on the world's religious community to reach out and help with the crisis.

"Before the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing death in conflict and hunger and are on a journey of hope, the Gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned," Francis said.

Mohamed asserted, however, that Australian Muslims are facing "yet another form of discrimination, or marginalisation and of targeting."

He said that suggestions of prioritizing Christians "assert the counter narrative that Muslims are always going to be discriminated against and vilified in the Australian community."

Back in August, the European Union member state of Slovakia announced that it would only be taking in Christian refugees, and not Muslims.

Interior ministry spokesman Ivan Netik argued that the country's policy is not discriminatory.

"We want to help Europe with the migration issue. We could take 800 Muslims but we don't have any mosques in Slovakia so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?" Netik asked.

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