Mosques and Islamic schools will be targeted by intelligence
agencies as the federal government tries to stamp out homegrown
terrorism and extremists.
Prime Minister John Howard said on top of trying to promote
Australian values in Islamic schools, the government would monitor
what was said in certain schools and mosques to ensure they did not
Asked whether he was prepared to "get inside" mosques and
schools to ensure there was no support for terrorism, Mr Howard was
"Yes, to the extent necessary," Mr Howard told Southern Cross
"I have no desire and nor is it the government's intention to
interfere in any way with the freedom or practice of religion.
"We have a right to know whether there is, within any section of
the Islamic community, a preaching of the virtues of terrorism,
whether any comfort or harbour is given to terrorism within that
Mr Howard this week met Muslim leaders in Canberra, agreeing to
work on a national strategy to address intolerance and the
promotion of violence.
New ASIO head Paul O'Sullivan was involved in the talks, which
included some discussion of improving links with the Muslim
Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network convenor Waleed
Kadous told AAP there was no evidence to suggest there was a
terrorist problem in mosques or schools.
"I don't know why he is resorting to such tough kind of measures
when frankly he could consult with members of the community," Mr
"He had the opportunity to do that yesterday but he chose not
just to ignore radicals, who are a very small minority, but a broad
section of the community and, for example, he didn't invite anyone
from the schools sector.
"Such hardline talk only isolates some parts of the Muslim
community even further and makes it harder for cooperation between
the Muslim community and the government."
Islamic School of Canberra chairman Ikebal Patel told AAP he
believed current checks on what schools taught and who taught in
them were rigorous.
"Every school in Australia, whether in the ACT or other states,
has to go through the rigorous process of registration with the
education department," he said.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said conditions should be put on
school funding to ensure that young Australians were not taught
with inflammatory material.
"Labor believes funding for schools should also be conditional
upon ensuring students are not exposed to extremist material or
teachings," Mr Beazley said.
Education Minister Brendan Nelson and Citizenship Minister John
Cobb will spend the next few weeks meeting Islamic leaders to flesh
out the summit's proposals, including ways of training imams in
Australia and ensuring schools teach Australian values.
Dr Nelson said steps were needed to ensure the minds of students
in Islamic schools were not poisoned by fundamentalism.
He will also propose at a meeting with vice-chancellors and
Muslim leaders next month plans to support more imams being
educated in Australian universities.
"(This is) so muftis and the imams we have teaching the Islamic
faith and values in Australia, whether in schools or any other
place, are people that are Australians, understand know and live
Australian values and have been taught in an Australian
environment," Dr Nelson said.
Meanwhile, Dr Nelson said, Muslims in Australia who did not want
to accept local values should "clear off".
AAP,The Age. 24 August 2005