Organizers of a controversial Islamic conference in Melbourne have sparked outrage for publishing a promotional flyer with the faces of female speakers blacked out.
Australian Islamic Peace Conference planners came under fire for putting out the flyer advertising speakers at their conference to be held next month.
The pamphlet featured the often smiling faces of 12 male speakers, including controversial Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman and prominent community spokesman Keysar Trad.
But critics were furious the faces of three female speakers - psychologist Monique Toohey, social worker Nina Trad Azam and Islamic teacher Umm Jamaal ud-Din - had been replaced with shadowy veils.
'It's backwards and inappropriate,' said a person with knowledge of the conference planning.
'These are knowledgeable and professional women - this reduces them to faceless beings'.
The source said some prominent Islamic women in Melbourne had protested the flyer to organisers.
Several people in the Islamic community were scathing in their criticism on Facebook.
'When Muslim women are made further invisible by our community bloody oathe,' wrote psychologist Hanan Dover.
'This flyer is wrong on so many levels,' said another Facebook commenter. A third said: 'This is unbelievable'.
A spokesman for organisers the Islamic Research and Education Academy (IREA) apologised for the upset the 'faceless' flyer had caused.
Wasseem Razvi told Daily Mail Australia they had been trying to protect the women from right-wing extremism.
'Muslim women are particularly (being) humiliated and targeted in our streets, threatened and abused on social media,' he said.
'Due to the growing Islamophobia our campaign team wanted to be extra cautious with female guests so they wouldn't be targeted in the streets.'
So the organisation decided to put their first flyer out without images of the female speakers.
'We didn't want to make it so easy for them to get abused,' Mr Razvi said.
Mr Razvi said the organisers apologised if people believed the poster had been inappropriate.
'We apologise for that, we never wanted anybody to feel this was inappropriate.'
He said the women had since given their permission for their pictures to be put in campaign posters in the future and they were forthcoming.
In a statement, Mr Razvi added: 'IREA would like to assure the community of the respectful nature of the event and its organisers.
'Indeed, IREA welcomes any members of the community who may have misgivings or misunderstandings about Islam, Muslims or even this event to attend any relevant session and seek clarification from the many qualified Islamic & faith speakers present.
'As with all of IREA’s events, the conference is being held in good faith and with genuine intentions.
'All are welcome to attend, and we look forward to greeting you on the day. '
Ms Azam and Ms Toohey declined to comment. Umm Jamaal ud-Din was also approached for comment on Wednesday.
Posted by Women Against Shariah on Wednesday, February 8, 2017