TERRORISTS defame the religion they claim to support and are enemies of real Islam, Gympie Muslim community leader Shifa Mustapha said this week.
"When robbers wear a George Bush mask to commit an offence, no-one blames George Bush.
"These people are wearing a mask of Islam," Mrs Mustapha said yesterday.
Mrs Mustapha took a courageous stand for peace and international tolerance when she spoke to The Gympie Times, pointing out that the victims and heroes of the Paris shootings and siege included Muslims.
"Muslims," she says, "are not responsible for what crazed killers do.
"I don't think anyone holds Christians responsible for the Holocaust.
"And you can't blame the excesses of Josef Stalin on atheism."
Muslims, like anyone else, viewed the events in Paris, and many terrorist acts before that, with horror.
The Gympie based religious teacher has represented the Queensland Muslim community extensively in multicultural forums, ethnic meetings and multi-religious gatherings.
"We have seen our religion hijacked by thugs and murderers," she said.
"It may help to tell you that the majority of people they have killed were Muslims and so was the first person killed in Paris."
Mrs Mustapha says the atrocities committed by Muslims in Paris, in the name of Islam, were part of "a long line of atrocities we have all viewed with horror."
But she says the horror is even greater for Muslims who stand up against terror and risk retribution.
"As a Muslim I can tell you that the horror you experience is magnified many times over for we who know that Islam has no dealing with these evil, insane actions of those claiming to be its followers.
"I speak for the majority of Muslims, and for those you probably know already within the region.
"We have seen our religion hijacked by thugs and murderers; criminals who have dragged it in the blood and dust of their heinous actions - and we weep.
"We weep for the victims and their relatives and friends.
"We weep also for the destruction of friendships and ideals; for the loss of innocence and peace, as surely as heaven weeps with us all."
She asked Australians and particularly Gympie people to understand that the first death in Paris was that of a policeman, a Muslim named Ahmad.
She expressed the hope that the wounds of terrorism would not be too deep for the rest of us to understand.
But if we are at risk, she says, Gympie's small Muslim community (about 30 people, including children) stands with us and faces the same risk, "an even greater risk for those of us who stand openly against them."
"Overnight huge demonstrations of sympathy were held for the victims, as well as to uphold freedom of speech and the right to draw cartoons."
Reflecting the view of The Gympie Times cartoonist Jeff Douwes, she said those offended by cartoons have a right to retaliate with pens and words and drawings, but not with bullets and bombs.
She says she hopes the world's support for free speech, including that of the Islamic world, will show terrorists they have achieved nothing.
"For the better part of the night, a good few of us have been sending out messages of peace and support for the protests worldwide, but it amazes me there are still Muslims who uphold the violence.
"They set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner and they place themselves above Allah. A life is a life and each life belongs to Allah."