Muslim community unhappy over terror law
Saturday, 08 October 2005
Cracks are beginning to appear in the federal government's Muslim Community Reference Group following a summit on proposed new counter- terrorism laws.
Thirteen Muslim community representatives met with Attorney-General Philip Ruddock on Thursday in Canberra for a briefing on the laws, with the group later declaring they would seek further meetings with the federal police and ASIO.
President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Dr Ameer Ali said at the time Muslim leaders had been reassured that the laws had adequate safeguards.
The laws, which allow detention without charge for up to two weeks and control orders on terror suspects for up to 12 months, have been criticised at public forums as targeting Muslims and leading to police using racial profiling to identify suspects.
But Islamic Council of Victoria president and member of the Muslim Reference Group Malcolm Thomas on Saturday rejected that view.
"We note with concern Dr Ameer Ali's comment that the members of the Muslim Reference Group had unanimously accepted the new laws," he said.
"This statement was unauthorised and totally misrepresents our position.
"Our position on these laws has remained unchanged."
Mr Thomas said his group had grave concerns about the laws and could not support or endorse them until they were subjected to rigorous scrutiny in their final form.
"The outcome of the Reference Group meeting was only to note that the intent of the government is to exercise the proposed powers appropriately and to apply them to all groups equally to protect all members of the community," he said.
Mr Thomas said while he accepted this was the intent of the government, he believed such laws were inherently open to abuse.
"For example, the government might reject racial profiling, but some law enforcement officials do not, and have sought legal protection for engaging in this practice," he said.
"And they will be using these powers, not the government.
"This is a view which has broad support in the community."
Islamic Council of Victoria executive committee member Waleed Aly said the laws could prove counter-productive.
"Our position has always been that the laws as proposed strike at the heart of what it means to be Australian," he said.
"We have not yet been convinced that the laws are necessary or indeed will be effective.
"They may even be counter-productive."
Dr Waleed Kadous from the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, who was not at the meeting, said he was aware there were more members of the group who still had concerns.
"They expressed concerns that these laws will have an impact on the Muslim community as well as all of Australia," he told ABC radio.
"Unfortunately Ameer Ali may not be in touch with the grassroots and may not have seen the effects of existing legislation, the way that we have.
"He may be more willing to put forward a position without going back to his community and consulting them."
© 2005 AAP, SMH 8 October 2005