THE Howard Government's planned terror laws would create more intolerance towards Muslims, community leaders warned yesterday.
As hundreds of Muslims, including Bilal Khazal, who is awaiting trial
on terrorism-related charges, gathered in Sydney's west calling on the
Government to scrap the terrorism laws, protest leader Chaaban Omran
said Muslims were being singled out.
"Instead of coming out with practical steps to address terrorism, these laws will just work to create more intolerance towards Muslims," said Mr Omran, national president of the Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth.
"As Australians, we just want to be treated like everyone else. We don't wish to have all these laws set out that will lead to us becoming targets."
Agnes Chong, from the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, said the new laws were discriminatory and Muslims should fight them. She said ASIO had detained and questioned 18 Muslims in the past two years.
"We know of at least 18 people who have been detained and questioned by ASIO," she said. "We have to use every legitimate means to prevent these unjust laws."
Mr Khazal, a former Sydney Qantas baggage handler, hovered around the side of the protest in a Lakemba park talking to friends. He will face a Supreme Court trial next year after earlier pleading not guilty to two counts of inciting terrorism.
The meeting heard that a 41-page legal opinion on the proposed laws prepared by the Muslim civil rights organisation says the changes to the sedition law and the control orders could be unconstitutional.
The opinion was sent to John Howard last Friday with a letter requesting he withdraw the proposals, saying they lacked detail and were discriminatory.
"It is clear that the proposals, if adopted, will mark serious breaches of key liberal democratic principles and raise constitutional problems," said the opinion, written by a community lawyers and legal academics.
Wassim Doureihi, a spokesman for the controversial Islamic political organisation Hizb-ut-Tahrir, told the crowd that the victimisation of the community would draw it together. "This can only make us stronger," he
Zachariah Matthews, from the Australian Islamic Mission, called on Muslims to complain when they heard or read discriminatory material in the media.
"Complain, demand to be heard, ask for an apology. Be firm, be polite and be civil," he said.
The Australian, 26 September 2005