NSW joins Victorian government in cancelling iftar dinners after boycott announced by peak Muslim bodies

<span>The Victorian premier Jacinta Allan says she intends to mark Ramadan ‘respectfully with private occasions’ after Muslim groups announced a boycott of the now-cancelled annual iftar dinner.</span><span>Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA</span>
The Victorian premier Jacinta Allan says she intends to mark Ramadan ‘respectfully with private occasions’ after Muslim groups announced a boycott of the now-cancelled annual iftar dinner.Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

The New South Wales government has cancelled its annual iftar dinner, just hours after the Victorian government called off its own event in the wake of peak Muslim groups announcing boycotts due to Labor’s position on the war in Gaza.

A spokesperson for the NSW premier, Chris Minns, told the Guardian on Thursday afternoon that “the annual iftar will not be going ahead this year.”

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, had earlier on Thursday confirmed next month’s Ramadan event would not go ahead out of respect to those in the Muslim community who were grieving.

“My role here in Victoria is to support the community, not add to distress and grief. It’s in that context that the dinner will not be proceeding this year,” Allan said on Thursday.

“It is my intent to mark iftar, to mark events through the Ramadan period, respectfully with private occasions, sitting with families [and] providing support and care.

“I do not want to add any moment of additional stress … to people who are already deeply grieving. It was in that context that we’ve made what is a difficult decision.”

The premier’s comments come just a day after the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) and the Australian National Imams Council (Anic) said they had rejected invitations to premiers’ iftar dinners in New South Wales and Victoria.

Both groups expressed disappointment in their respective state government’s position on the war in Gaza, which has claimed about 30,000 Palestinian lives.

Minns has previously criticised pro-Palestine rallies and their cost to police, and decided to light the sails of the Opera House in support of Israel last October.

This month, he criticised Labor MPs for making comments about Gaza, saying they should run for federal politics if they want to express strong views on international affairs.

The ICV welcomed the Victorian government’s decision.

“It is an appropriate decision in response to the overwhelming sentiment from the Muslim community that due to the traumatising impact of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza it would not be appropriate to stage the premier’s Iftar this year,” it said.

An open letter, seen by Guardian Australia, had called on “individuals and organisations within the Muslim community to boycott the premier’s iftar for this year”.

Related: Victorian Islamic leader criticised over comments casting doubt on death toll from 7 October attack

“Standing united in boycotting this iftar will provide a clear message to premier Allan as to how unhappy the Muslim community feels due to her and her party’s position regarding the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” the letter reads.

Soon after the 7 October attack by Hamas, Allan led a motion that stated parliament stood with Israel and recognised its “inherent right to defend itself”. The motion also recognised that “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their legitimate needs and aspirations”.

Last week, she told parliament she supported the prime minister Anthony Albanese’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire.

On Wednesday, Allan’s office issued a statement saying the dinner would go ahead as a “more solemn and respectful” event in light of the ongoing events in the Middle East and reiterated her support for a ceasefire.

Government-hosted iftar dinners during Ramadan have become popular and have been attended by politicians, Muslim community leaders, senior clerics of all faiths and consul generals.

In Victoria, the premier has hosted the event annually since 2015, though the ICV also boycotted the event in 2017.

Meanwhile, she also criticised comments made by the ICV’s president, Adel Salman, on Wednesday, in which he appeared to cast doubt on the official death toll from Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel and defended what he called a “legitimate act of resistance” by Palestinians to “this status, this occupation”.

Salman later said that it was not his intention to dispute how many died, but he contested the “full explanation of actually what happened” during the attack.

Allan said: “I could not disagree more strongly with the comments made yesterday by the president of the Islamic Council of Victoria. They were comments that I felt only cause more division and distress.”

She said the government would continue to provide funding to Islamic and Jewish community groups, particularly to support mental health.