‘The Muslim community is taking the utmost caution’: Islamic school disappointed with coverage as two COVID-19 cases confirmed

Authorities have ramped-up coronavirus testing within Melbourne's hot spots, where 300,000 have been put into lockdown. Source: AAP/David Crosling

Ilim College, an Islamic school in the north-west suburbs of Melbourne, reported two cases of coronavirus at their campuses. While taking the required measures, the school has criticised recent media reporting of the Victorian COVID-19 surge, citing unfair targeting of the Muslim community.

Islamic school Ilim College, in Melbourne's north-west suburbs, confirmed two teachers at separate campuses had contracted COVID-19.

One of the teachers is from Ilim College's Glenroy primary school campus, and the other is from the school's secondary girl's campus in Dallas.

"It is reassuring to know that there wasn't a teacher to teacher transmission and most likely, the teachers received COVID via community transmission," Kerim Buday, an Ilim College spokesperson told The Feed.

The school became aware of the cases in recent days but before the cases were identified, Ilim College had already closed their campuses to all staff who had been working there during the second term holiday break. They took the decision to do this in the middle of last week.

The school has been liaising with the state's Department of Health and Human Services to ensure the premises were disinfected.

The school has also begun contact tracing with the help of the DHHS which started yesterday when the cases were reported to Victoria's health body.

"[We have been] monitoring the footage and movements of the two teachers who were confirmed and providing all of that information to the DHHS," Buday said.

"To really get to the bottom of those who have come in close contact with those teachers, staff and students and work out exactly the level and risk of exposure to the community."

Kerim Buday is the school's Chief Financial Officer, and he believes there's been a misleading depiction about how the Muslim community has responded to the pandemic.

"The portrayal in the media, the way the northern suburbs of Melbourne in certain hotspots and, specifically maybe the Muslim community and how they've dealt with it is disappointing," Buday said.

Buday points to the continued closure of mosques as to the seriousness the community has been treating the outbreak of COVID-19.

"The Muslim community has been taking the utmost caution during the pandemic," he said.

"And to see that maybe certain media outlets representing this in a different light is disappointing."

The Australian reported on an unconfirmed Eid party that caused the spike in cases of COVID-19.

And Peta Credlin spoke on Sky News of South Sudanese communities who she said were "poorly-assimilated migrants" and had broken restrictions to have an "end-of-Ramadan feast".

Credlin later apologised for her comments after receiving criticism.

Last week, the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) said the reporting of the surge in cases in Victoria was creating "division, hatred and fear."

The criticism followed a column from Andrew Bolt that suggested the country had become divided into "tribes".

"Victoria's coronavirus outbreak exposes the stupidity of that multicultural slogan "diversity makes us stronger". Oh, really? It's exactly that diversity — taken to extremes — that's helped to create this fear of a "second wave"," Bolt wrote in his column.

He added, "But check where most new infections are breaking out — in six poor, outer-suburban areas in Melbourne's north and south-east. In five, more than a third of residents were born overseas, in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Iraq, China and Vietnam."

ICV vice president Adel Salman told SBS News last week there were media crews targeting Muslims with "ill-informed" views in the hotspot areas for comment.

"That's completely ridiculous. You can find ill-informed people like that in any suburb in Melbourne, they don't represent the whole community," he said.

Buday agrees. He’s seen similar incidents happen in Broadmeadows. 

“Look, unfortunately, the Muslim community can be a bit of an easy target sometimes for sensationalist news and some media outlets,” he said. 

“In some of the hotspot suburbs, interviewing people that weren't able to articulate their feelings in the best manner. So unfortunately, that's just something that we can have to deal with.”

After the Christchurch terror attack Ilim College, like many Islamic institutions at the time, added extra security at the school premises. Buday doesn’t believe that security will be necessary in this situation, but warns of the danger of possible impacts of recent media reporting. 

“I don't think that we feel that at this stage, but it is, it is dangerous for some media outlets to be portraying things in a certain light,” Buday said.

“Because all it takes is people who may be a little bit uneducated to easily misunderstand messages and start to target certain groups.” 

Despite recording two cases, Buday doesn’t think Ilim College should be seen any differently to other schools in Victoria. 

“With the confirmed cases at Ilim, unfortunately, this is the reality that we are living. We're experiencing a number of community transmissions. But, you know, there's been many schools, with confirmed cases,” Buday said.

“And we're just another one of them. But I don't think that this is a genuine reflection on the Muslim community and how they have been dealing with a pandemic.”