Backlash fears on terror tactics Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 August 2005


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 groups.

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 clerics.


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 recruiters".


Muslim groups are uniting around the country in an attempt to issue to the wider public strong and clear condemnations of terrorist attacks.


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 Islam.


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 terrorism.


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

The Australian, 17 August 2005

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