AUSTRALIA is examining aggressive French-style anti-terror
tactics in the wake of the London bombings to crack down on Islamic
extremists and clerics who preach hatred.
But any move to
emulate the French tactics, which will be considered at a summit of
premiers and chief ministers convened by John Howard next month, will
face a backlash from Australia's Muslim community and civil liberties
Under a tough policy known as "active intolerance" or "offensive
harassment", French authorities use all legal means available to raid
the hangouts of suspected extremists and their associates, in some
cases acting without adequate proof.
This might mean raiding a restaurant under the guise of conducting a health inspection or a tax raid on a bookshop.
French officials have told The Economist magazine that
the practice has proved highly successful in disrupting terror networks
and thwarting potential bomb attacks, resulting in the detention of 200
people last year and eight prosecutions for terror-related offences.
France also has tougher laws than Australia for detaining
terror suspects without charge, gives judges much freer rein to detain
terrorist associates and is tougher on expelling hatred-preaching
A spokesman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock last night
confirmed that Australia was examining other countries' counter-terror
frameworks as part of an extensive review of Australian law in the wake
of last month's bomb attacks on London's transport system.
He said the French and Australian legal systems were completely
different and "anything Australia might borrow from countries such as
France would have to be modified for Australia's circumstances".
French ambassador to Australia Patrick Henault confirmed the US
and Australia had expressed interest in the French counter-terrorism
model. "We've had (terrorism) on our soil, we've suffered casualties
over the past 20 or 30 years, and we have a way of dealing with these
matters," he said.
But Australian Council for Civil Liberties national secretary
Cameron Murphy warned the Howard Government would be doing just what
the terrorists wanted in sanctioning French-style harassment tactics.
"The terrorists want to instil fear and for us to change our way of life," Mr Murphy told The Australian.
Waleed Kadous, head of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights
Advocacy Network, said sanctioning harassment would "backfire and
guarantee people were driven into the hands of the terrorist
Muslim groups are uniting around the country in an attempt to
issue to the wider public strong and clear condemnations of terrorist
Australia's Muslim Shia community this week formed a body in
response to the London bombings charged with quickly and publicly
condemning future attacks that are wrongly claimed in the name of
Other Muslim groups have also unified in recent weeks in
attempts to swiftly stem any backlash against local Muslims in the wake
of attacks and reinforce to the public that they too are opposed to
Muslims are often abused and vilified after terrorist attacks such as the London bombings.
The new body called the Australian Shia Muslim Network has hired
a public relations company to issue a press release denouncing the
London bombings and other attacks.
"Terrorism is legally, morally and explicitly wrong by Muslim principles," group spokesman Sydney Shiek Jehad Ismail said.
The Islamic Council of NSW has urged its communities to report any signs of local terrorism.
John Kerin and Trudy Harris
News.com.au, 16 August 2005