Dob in the fanatics, pleads PM Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 November 2005


PRIME Minister John Howard has appealed to Muslim communities to dob in those "within their midst" who advocate a "perverted, fanatical form of Islam" in a bid to stop terrorism.


Mr Howard's plea comes as the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network said the "vast majority" of the Muslim community was opposed to the proposed counter-terrorism laws.

As the Senate this week begins an inquiry into the anti-terror legislation, Mr Howard promised to "reach out" to law-abiding Muslims, declaring they were "our friends" and "part of this fight".


Mr Howard said terrorism was a shadowy, obscene enemy that in the past few years had claimed the lives of more Muslims around the world than any other identifiable religious group.


He used a speech to a Queensland Liberal Party conference yesterday to urge Muslims to help the Government and police stop terrorists.


"It is the responsibility, particularly of the leaders of the Islamic community, to ensure as best they can, with our co-operation, that those within their midst who might seek to pervert the minds particularly of the young, to a distorted obscene form of Islam are identified and dealt with as best they can," he said.


There was also an obligation on the rest of the community "to reach out to our fellow Australians who are law-abiding Muslims and say to them, 'you are our friends, you are part of this fight. Terrorism is as much an enemy of yours as it is of ours'," he said.


Mr Howard, who briefed US President George Bush about the arrest of 18 terrorist suspects in Melbourne and Sydney during a 30-minute telephone call yesterday, said new terror laws were not aimed at Australians who were Muslims.

Last week's arrests were not "a generalised attack on the Islamic community", he said. Police were simply dealing with alleged breaches of the law.


However, his comments come a week after a Muslim woman and her family were assaulted in a Williamstown park.

"Fatimah" was punched, kicked, spat on and and abused, told to "go home to her own country" and left with an injury to her right eye.


Her sister, she said, had a knife thrust towards her face.


According to Fatimah, she was on a family picnic with her sister, husband and three children, aged five, eight and 10, and their elderly mother-in-law to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when the attack occurred.


The family had caught the train to Williamstown and had just begun cooking on a public barbecue in the park when an argument broke out with a group of people waiting to use the barbecue.


Fatimah and her sister do not wear headscarfs, but their 67-year-old mother-in-law was wearing one and Fatimah believes the Muslim identification contributed to the attack.


"They called us every name you could imagine, telling us to go home and hitting us — they said no one wanted us to come to Australia," she said.


Williamstown police have confirmed an incident occurred in the park last Saturday.


Police have spoken to two witnesses and said charges of assault arising from the alleged attack could be laid. But they said it was too early to determine if the alleged attack was racially motivated.


They said the group that allegedly carried out the attack were also from a minority race background.


The Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network has called for extensive changes to the anti-terror bill, including reducing the 10-year sunset clause to three years and removing "advocating terrorism" as a ground for proscribing an organisation, in a submission to the Senate inquiry.


It argues the test for judging people to be risks for the purpose of putting them under control orders should be "beyond reasonable doubt" rather than "on the balance of probabilities". This is because control orders can be used to impose such harsh conditions, including electronic tracking and house arrest.


"Of particular concern to the Muslim community is that the low test for control orders potentially opens the door for racial or religious profiling … whether it be officially or unofficially," the submission says. This could happen at the level of grassroots policing or in the court room.


"In the courtroom, there is a real possibility that the fact that a person prays at a particular mosque, or that they are devout Muslims, could be used as evidence to support claims of involvement in terrorism", the submission says.

The network says that having trained with a terrorist organisation should be removed as a reason for granting a control order, and warns that the draconian provisions against financing terrorism could reduce support for people in need.


Victorian Labor Senator Kim Carr last night told the Alawi Islamic Association of Victoria's annual dinner in Somerton the Howard Government had fostered "the unleashing of thoughtless and ignorant prejudice in our society and Islamic communities have borne the brunt of this ignorance".


■ INJURED accused terrorist Omar Baladjam was transferred from hospital to prison in Sydney's biggest ever anti- terror convoy yesterday.


Black anti-terrorist choppers hovered overhead as the heavily armed convoy took the 28-year-old former Home and Away actor from Liverpool Hospital to the secure hospital at Long Bay Jail just before lunchtime.


Baladjam was shot in the neck by police officers on a Green Valley street on Tuesday night after he allegedly opened fire on two officers. He is one of eight alleged terrorists arrested in the police swoop.


A huge security operation involving more than 100 police officers swung into action. Police officers conducted thorough searches of everyone entering the hospital.


Heavily armed special operations officers joined the rear of the convoy in four-wheel-drives while two helicopters, one with surveillance cameras underneath, trailed the procession.


Phillip Hudson, Jason Dowling and Michelle Grattan

Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 2005

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