EDMOND ROY: Cracks are appearing in this week's much vaunted Muslim
endorsement of the Federal Government's new anti-terror laws.
The President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Dr
Ameer Ali, said on Thursday that all 13 members of Muslim Community
Reference Group had been assured that the laws were needed and that
they include enough safeguards.
But now that view is being disputed by at least two members of the group, who say they have grave concerns that the laws will unfairly target Muslim people.
Karen Barlow reports.
KAREN BARLOW: The Federal Government's proposed anti-terror laws are yet to be introduced or even drafted.
But the unclear and undefined announcement of the laws have left religious, welfare, legal and civil liberties groups concerned they'll involve racial or religious profiling.
On Thursday the sell to the Muslim community was on, with the Prime Minister's handpicked Muslim Community Reference Group being briefed by the Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs John Cobb.
The ministers assured the 13 members that there will be significant judicial oversight, and the laws will be designed to target behaviour, not race or religion.
After the meeting John Cobb said he was confident the message got through.
And it seemed so by listening to the Chairman of the Reference Group and the President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Dr Ameer Ali.
AMEER ALI: We think that there's adequate, is balanced laws, it has enough safeguards, and it protects us from any incident that might happen in this country.
Not one single dissent was expressed.
KAREN BARLOW: But that unanimous satisfaction is being disputed.
The President of the Islamic Council of Victoria and member of the Muslim Reference Group, Malcolm Thomas, has released a statement saying:
MALCOLM THOMAS' STATEMENT (read by actor): We note with concern Dr Ameer Ali's comment that the members of the Muslim Reference Group had unanimously accepted the new laws. This statement was unauthorised and totally misrepresents our position.
KAREN BARLOW: Malcolm Thomas says the 13 members had only supported the intent of the Government's new anti-terror laws.
In his statement, Mr Thomas says the assurances of legal safeguards were not unanimously accepted.
MALCOLM THOMAS' STATEMENT (read by actor): 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. And they will be using these powers, not the Government.
KAREN BARLOW: Dr Waleed Kadous from the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network wasn't at the Canberra meeting, but says he knows other members of the Reference Group who feel like Malcolm
WALEED KADOUS: And they expressed concerns that these laws would have an impact on the Muslim community, as well as all of Australians.
KAREN BARLOW: Dr Waleed Kadous wants more community consultation.
WALEED KADOUS: Unfortunately Ameer Ali may not be in contact with the grassroots and may not have seen the effects of existing legislation the way that we have. And so I think he may be more willing to put forward a position without going back to his community and consulting them.
KAREN BARLOW: Are you angry with Dr Ali?
WALEED KADOUS: (pause) I just wish that he would consult his community more, and before making major decisions like this, at least come back to us and explain to us what the situation is.
EDMOND ROY: Dr Waleed Kadous from the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, ending that report from Karen Barlow.
Report: Karen Barlow
AM - ABC, 8 October 2005