Interfaith leaders accept apology for radio comments

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Peaceful protesters outside the KIIS FM radio station on 30 September as Kyle Sandilands issued his on-air apology. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Muslim and Christian leaders have accepted an apology by radio host Kyle Sandilands for his disparaging remarks about the Blessed Virgin Mary last month and called for “mutual respect of beliefs”.

“[We] extend a hand of friendship to Kyle Sandilands for the way he addressed the issue and for his sincere apology,” they said.

“Based on the firm belief in divine love, mercy, and forgiveness, expressed both in the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran, we are confident that the faithful, who were hurt and who gathered peacefully and prayerfully outside the radio station, will likewise accept the tendered apologies and forgive, without any shadow of continuing resentment, in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.”

The 30 September statement was signed by Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Basilios Kodseie, the representative of Dar-Al Fatwa in Australia Sheikh Malek Zeidan, Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona, Sydney Imams Sheikh Youssef Nabha, Melkite Bishop Robert Rabbat, Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Imam of Lakemba Mosque Sheikh Yahya Safi, vicar general of Sydney’s Coptic Orthodox church Father Tadros Simon and Father Matthew Attia.

It came after a second peaceful prayer protest outside the KIIS FM radio station in Macquarie Park since the shock jock made an unprecedented attack on Our Lady and believers.

Athena Farsarakis (centre right) holds her family’s Russian icon of Our Lady of Kazani outside KIIS FM. PHOTO: G Portelli

About 60 people gathered some holding holy icons and other images of Mary, to pray for Mr Sandilands and voice their strong opposition to his hurtful comments.

Angela Horvat, a member of Gladesville’s Greek Orthodox community said she had found the remarks “very disappointing”.

“We’ve living in a very confusing time where free speech has at times in reality become hate speech, and even though in the last 12 months we’ve had the Me Too movement, now a high profile media personality has come out and degraded a woman, the most revered woman in all of history, and that is ok,” she said.

Romeo Georges, parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes in Earlwood, said he was glad the incident had brought Christians and Muslims closer together.

“We worship God in our own ways, but that has to mean without being punished, without being made fun of,” he said.

The KIIS host sparked outrage just over a week ago with his unprovoked comments about the virginity of Mary who is revered by both Christians and Muslims.

They were swiftly condemned by believers around Australia, with many calling for his sacking.

Mr Sandilands apologised for his “dumb” comments and said he believed everyone had a right to religious belief.

“What I didn’t realise was…that I’d stepped on the belief of other people and that’s what I’d done wrong,” he said.

“It was hugely bad decision, poor taste. I didn’t realise the gravity of it, and it really upset a lot of people, and even friends of mine were like ‘Bro, how could you say something dumb like that?

“A lot of people including fans of the show were devastated at what I said. I caused a lot of grief to a lot of people and that isn’t what I meant to do.”

An Australian Radio Network spokesperson said the organisation “echo Kyle’s statement and unreservedly apologise for any offence that may have been caused”.

“When this content ran, we immediately recognised that it wasn’t appropriate for distribution and it was removed immediately.”

The interfaith leaders said they would continue to “seek to build peace and harmony in our multicultural society, based on mutual respect of beliefs and religious freedom”.

“We hope that this unfortunate incident will be a step towards a more considerate and respectful dialogue.”

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