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Arwa Abousamra, wife of Muslim Bulldogs legend Hazem El-Masri, anxious about Sydney lockdown police

The wife of State of Origin’s first Muslim player has revealed a heavy police presence in multicultural south-west Sydney during the lockdown has made her anxious.

The NSW Police Force has been criticised by some in the community for sending 100 extra officers on July 9 to suburbs, including Fairfield and Bankstown, where an overwhelming majority of people are migrants and have English as a second language. 

The same heavy law and order presence wasn’t initially last month deployed in Bondi and surrounds, despite the Australia’s first case of the more contagious Indian Delta strain of Covid spreading from the eastern suburbs.

Arwa Abousamra, the first wife of Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs legend Hazem El Masri, said the sight of police officers throughout her area of Sydney made her and her three children particularly fearful.

Arwa Abousamra (pictured), the first wife of Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs legend Hazem El Masri, said the sight of police officers throughout her area of Sydney made her and her three children particularly fearful

‘I can tell you, the level of anxiety within me, and I speak English fluently,’ she told the ABC’s Q&A program by Skype on Thursday night.

‘I still have to have a conversation with my children that put them at ease that, “What are we going to do if we get stopped by police? Do we have a right to be outside? 

‘What are our rights when we interact with police?”.’

Ms Abousamra, an Arabic interpreter based in Bankstown, said the heavy police presence even made her nervous to take her children to school outside of her local government area, to pick up home learning resources.

‘It’s actually been very difficult managing that. The levels of anxiety in the community have been quite high,’ she said. 

The writer and former journalist of Palestinian heritage also criticised police for targeting migrants, who were simply confused about the ever-changing public health order messages. 

‘It was demonising a community for not having access to that information,’ she said. 

The New South Wales Police Force has been criticised for sending 100 extra officers on July 9 to suburbs, including Fairfield and Bankstown (pictured), where a majority of people are migrants and have English as a second language

The New South Wales Police Force has been criticised for sending 100 extra officers on July 9 to suburbs, including Fairfield and Bankstown (pictured), where a majority of people are migrants and have English as a second language

Her Lebanese-born husband, who she reunited with in 2017, made history in 2007 as the first Muslim player to don a Blues jersey for New South Wales in the State of Origin. 

El Masri famously kicked three sideline conversions from three attempts, and also scored a try in NSW’s 18-4 victory against Queensland.

He played for the Bulldogs from 1996 until his retirement in 2009, being a rarity among rugby league players who only played for one club. He is considered one of rugby league’s best-ever goal kickers, and once in the 2003 NRL season landed 35 consecutive kicks. 

A day before the deployment NSW Police announced that on Friday, July 9th, 100 police officers would be deployed to south-west Sydney, touting how dogs, police helicopters and the highway patrol would be sent. 

The same heavy law and order presence wasn't initially last month deployed in Bondi (pictured on June 25, the day before Sydney went into lockdown) and surrounds, despite the Australia's first case of the more contagious Indian Delta strain of Covid spreading from the eastern suburbs

The same heavy law and order presence wasn’t initially last month deployed in Bondi (pictured on June 25, the day before Sydney went into lockdown) and surrounds, despite the Australia’s first case of the more contagious Indian Delta strain of Covid spreading from the eastern suburbs

Her Lebanese-born husband Hazem El Masri (left), who she reunited with in 2017, made history in 2007 as the first Muslim player to don a Blues jersey for NSW in the State of Origin. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs legend famously kicked three sideline conversions from three attempts, and also scored a try in NSW's 18-4 victory against Queensland

Her Lebanese-born husband Hazem El Masri (left), who she reunited with in 2017, made history in 2007 as the first Muslim player to don a Blues jersey for NSW in the State of Origin. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs legend famously kicked three sideline conversions from three attempts, and also scored a try in NSW’s 18-4 victory against Queensland

Mal Lanyon, the Deputy Commission of the Police Force’s Metropolitan Field Operations, said the circumstances of the Covid outbreak justified the strong action.

‘Our police will be targeting the people who think the rules don’t apply to them,’ he said.

‘Those people are putting everyone’s lives at risk, including their own families, and working to prolong the lockdown.’

The vast majority of infectious cases are in south-west Sydney with 97 new Covid cases recorded overnight, 29 of which were infectious in the community. Pictured is Premier Gladys Berejiklian delivering the news on Friday

The vast majority of infectious cases are in south-west Sydney with 97 new Covid cases recorded overnight, 29 of which were infectious in the community. Pictured is Premier Gladys Berejiklian delivering the news on Friday

Police Minister David Elliott, who was born and raised in Bankstown, has rejected any suggestion law enforcement had particularly targeted multicultural communities in south-west Sydney.

The vast majority of infectious cases are in this part of the city 97 new Covid cases recorded overnight, 29 of which were infectious in the community. 

People in these areas are also more likely to work in service jobs that stop them being able to work from home, with taxi drivers and construction site labourers among the most common jobs in Fairfield, Census data showed. 

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