Intelligence agencies will monitor mosques, prayer halls and
Islamic schools "to the extent necessary" as part of the Federal
Government's counter-terrorism policy, the Prime Minister said
John Howard made the remarks as Muslim groups excluded from this
week's summit said they would hold the biggest gathering of Muslim
leaders seen in NSW on September 11.
The summit hosted by Mr Howard in Canberra on Tuesday denounced
terrorism and called for community harmony and continuing dialogue
about how to vet and train imams and promote Australian values in
But speaking on Perth radio, Mr Howard said the Government would
be prepared to go further.Asked if authorities were prepared to
"get inside" mosques, prayer halls and schools to keep tabs on
activities, he replied: "Yes, to the extent necessary, yes.
"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
"Now it's very hard for a government or any of its agencies to
penetrate every aspect of life and we don't want to interfere with
people's enjoyment of life [but] if people are not willing to give
their first loyalty to this country, then … that will arouse
enormous concern within the rest of the Australian community."
Security agencies have long kept watch on suspects and the
mosques and prayer halls they attend, but Mr Howard's remarks
concerned some Muslims.
Waleed Kadous, the convenor of the Australian Muslim Civil
Rights Advocacy Network, said the comments were ill advised.
"It was a very poor choice of phrase," he said. "It's like the
PM doesn't trust us.
"It makes the community feel isolated. People talk about
integration but it's a two-way street. If you feel there's
hostility then you will want to be with our own people."
But the head of the NSW Islamic Council, Ali Roude, said there
was widespread public fear about terrorism at the moment and he
"understood the reaction" of Mr Howard.
Mr Kadous criticised the make-up of this week's summit, saying
many important moderate representatives had been excluded, such as
those with education experience.
He said this might explain why much had been made about
promoting Australian values in schools, even though there had been
an explicit charter for Muslim schools to promote non-violence and
harmony for several years.
The Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, also weighed into the
debate yesterday, saying Muslims in Australia who did not want to
accept local values should "clear off".
Tom Allartd and Linda Morris
Sydney Morning Herald, 25 August 2005