Please disseminate these marvelous items as widely as possible—and perhaps once a week! Try to get this edict to President Bush and of course to high profile American journalists.
- Australia meets with Muslim leaders to root out extremism
- Interview of Treasurer of Australia
- Minister tells Muslims: accept Aussie values
Prof. Paul Eidelberg
Australia meets with Muslim leaders to root out extremism
Courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor Online
Prime minister John Howard held a summit with Muslim representatives, but left out many others. By Janaki Kremmer, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor. 25 August 2005.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – The London Tube bombings this July have raised concerns about domestic terrorism in countries with large Muslim immigrant populations, including Australia, which has hitherto enjoyed a fair measure of interreligious harmony.
To discuss ways to combat the spread of radical teachings, Prime Minister John Howard held a summit Tuesday with moderate Muslim leaders. In the two-hour discussions, officials probed the curriculum of Islamic schools and suggested measures for vetting imams.
Mr. Howard has since detailed what this might mean: Sending outsiders into mosques and schools to monitor their messages for extremism.
“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 harbor is given to terrorism within that community,” Howard told Australian radio.
As other governments have found, however, deciding who represents the Muslim community can be a delicate matter. Large sections of the youth, as well as conservative and more critical clerics, have been left out of Howard’s summit – meaning some of the government’s more aggressive proposals may meet resistance.
But the groups who attended the meeting Tuesday hailed it as a successful first step in an ongoing dialogue.
“We determined along with the prime minister that there must be more communication between the government and Islamic schools where it comes to teaching common values like democracy, fairness, tolerance and so on, and radicals will be reacted to, whenever they make inflammatory remarks,” says Ali Roude, the acting president of the New South Wales Islamic Council.
Australia’s most recent census in 2001 revealed rapid growth in the country’s Muslim population. The census found more than 280,000 Australian Muslims, a jump of some 40 percent in five years. Some recent estimates place the figure over 300,000.
The government also counts more than 100 groups representing Muslim interests, however this week’s summit only included 14 group representatives. Top leaders were present, including Ameer Ali, head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. But Keysar Trad, the spokesperson for Lebanese Muslims in Australia, questioned the inclusion of “obscure” groups like Islam Care and the New South Wales Youth Advisory Council, which is “merely a government body with no support in the community.”
However, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer expressed concerns before the meeting about including every group, fearing that extremists who “applaud the killing of innocent civilians” could dominate news coverage of the event.
But Mr. Trad believes that excluding the full spectrum of Muslim groups would only further isolate and radicalize certain elements.
“What mainstream society does not understand, is that even the radicals have come a long way here when they began to engage with the media. Their followers, even if they are a handful, will now accuse them of getting nothing for compromising themselves,” Trad explains. “And they will feel even more marginalized than they do already.”
Sitting in a cafe in the Islamic heartland of Sydney in the western suburbs, sipping cinnamon tea, Trad ponders the future of Muslims in Australia after the London bombings.
“It’s much worse for us now, because 7/7 showed the world that the enemy is to be found within” instead of 9/11 when the terrorists were all foreigners. “Now they are suspicious of all of us, and it’s very serious, but the prime minister is only playing politics.”
But some Muslims here have a growing sense that they are being defined within the media by the voices of the extremists, and that an intervention by the government and moderate Muslims to counter such elements would be useful.
“So far it was OK to do your own thing. But if the media is focusing on the extreme elements, we need to do something about it,” says Chabaan Omran, a senior member of the Federation of Australian Students and Youth, an organization that gives religious advice and teaching to young people. “Muslims need to interact more with mainstream Australia.”
This might sit well with recent calls from ordinary Australians asking Muslims to assimilate. But Mr. Omran is worried about the connotations of the word “assimilate,” and talks more of “positive integration without undermining our religion.”
This week’s summit will be followed by further meetings to continue the dialogue. Howard said that relevant government ministries would take charge of smaller sub-committees to work out new initiatives for weeding out radicalism.
Interview of Hon. Peter Costello, MP, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia by Tony Jones of ABC Lateline television news about Australian values, Muslim clerics
Courtesy of ABC Lateline and Hon Peter Costello, MP, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Tuesday, 23 August 2005
TONY JONES: Peter Costello thanks for joining us.
TREASURER: Good to be with you, Tony.
TONY JONES: Now, over the past 24 hours you’ve been repeating the notion that migrants, evidently Islamic migrants, who don’t like Australia, or Australian values, should think of packing up and moving to another country. Is that a fair assessment?
TREASURER: What I’ve said is that this is a country, which is founded on a democracy. According to our Constitution, we have a secular state. Our laws are made by the Australian Parliament. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you. This is not the kind of country where you would feel comfortable if you were opposed to democracy, parliamentary law, independent courts and so I would say to people who don’t feel comfortable with those values there might be other countries where they’d feel more comfortable with their own values or beliefs.
TONY JONES: It sounds like you’re inviting Muslims who don’t want to integrate to go to another country. Is it as simple as that?
TREASURER: No. I’m saying if you are thinking of coming to Australia, you ought to know what Australian values are.
TONY JONES: But what about if you’re already here and you don’t want to integrate?
TREASURER: Well, I’ll come to that in a moment. But there are some clerics who have been quoted as saying they recognise two laws. They recognise Australian law and Sharia law. There’s only one law in Australia, it’s the Australian law. For those coming to Australia, I think we ought to be very clear about that. We expect them to recognise only one law and to observe it. Now, for those who are born in Australia, I’d make the same point. This is a country which has a Constitution. Under its Constitution, the state is secular. Under its constitution, the law is made by the parliament. Under its Constitution, it’s enforced by the judiciary. These are Australian values and they’re not going to change and we would expect people, when they come to Australia or if they are born in Australia, to respect those values.
TONY JONES: I take it that if you’re a dual citizen and you have the opportunity to leave and you don’t like Australian values, you’re encouraging them to go away; is that right?
TREASURER: Well, if you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practises it, perhaps then that’s a better option.
TONY JONES: But isn’t this the sort of thing you hear in pubs, the meaningless populism you hear on talkback radio? Essentially, the argument is if you don’t like it here, you should go back home.
TREASURER: No. Essentially, the argument is Australia expects its citizens to abide by core beliefs—democracy, the rule of law, the independent judiciary, independent liberty. You see, Tony, when you come to Australia and you go to take out Australian citizenship you either swear on oath or make an affirmation that you respect Australia’s democracy and its values. That’s what we ask of people that come to Australia and if they don’t, then it’s very clear that this is not the country—if they can’t live with them—whose values they can’t share. Well, there might be another country where their values can be shared.
TONY JONES: Who exactly are you aiming this at? Are you aiming it at young Muslims who don’t want to integrate or are you aiming it at clerics like Sheikh Omran or Abu Bakr both from Melbourne?
TREASURER: I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that that is false. It’s not the situation in Australia. It’s not the situation under our Constitution. There’s only one law in Australia. It’s the law that’s made by the Parliament of Australia and enforced by our courts. There’s no second law. There’s only one law that applies in Australia and Australia expects its citizens to observe it.
TONY JONES: But you’re not moving to the next stage, as they have in Britain, of actively seeking out clerics who teach what they regard as dangerous philosophy to young Muslims and forcing them to leave the country?
TREASURER: The only thing I would say—and let me say it again—is we can’t be ambivalent about this point. Australia has one law, Australia has a secular state and anybody who teaches to the contrary doesn’t know Australia and anybody who can’t accept that, can’t accept something that is fundamental to the nature of our society.
TONY JONES: All right. But the situation now, as far as you’re concerned, if they are to leave, it should be completely voluntary.
TREASURER: Well, I’m just saying if they object to a secular state with parliamentary law, there might be other countries where the system of law is more acceptable to them.
TONY JONES: Alright. Could that situation change? I mean, the voluntary nature of it at least, could you compel people to leave, including radical preachers, if there were a terrorist attack in Australia, as there was in London not so long ago?
TREASURER: Well, where a person has dual citizenship, Tony, it might be possible to ask them to exercise that other citizenship where they could just as easily exercise a citizenship of another country. That might be a live possibility.
TONY JONES: You mean to force them to leave?
TREASURER: Well, you could ask them to exercise another citizenship.
TONY JONES: But you would only do that if there were a terrorist attack in the aftermath of it. You wouldn’t do it, for example, if there were a thwarted terrorist attack as ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation] has told us there has been in this country?
TREASURER: Well, I am not going into individual circumstances. I just make the point that where people have dual citizenship and they’re not comfortable with the way Australia is structured, it may be possible to ask them to exercise their other citizenship.
TONY JONES: Forcibly?
TREASURER: Well, as I said, it may be possible to ask them to exercise their other citizenship.
Minister tells Muslims: accept Aussie values or ‘clear off’
Courtesy of ABC News Online
24 August 2005.
Federal Education Minister Dr. Brendan Nelson says he will be meeting the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) to develop ways to teach so-called Australian values to Muslim school children.
But Dr. Nelson says those who do not accept and teach Australian values should “clear off”.
One of the recommendations at Prime Minister John Howard’s terrorism summit yesterday was for Islamic schools to be encouraged to denounce extremism and teach about Australian traditions and culture.
The Minister says it is important for all groups to be integrated into the Australian community, whatever their religion.
“If you want to be an Australian, if you want to raise your children in Australia, we fully expect those children to be taught and to accept Australian values and beliefs,” he said.
“We want them to understand our history and our culture, the extent to which we believe in mateship and giving another person a fair go, and basically if people don’t want to support and accept and adopt and teach Australian values then, they should clear off.”
But a prominent Muslim educator says Australian values and traditions are already being taught in Islamic schools.
The deputy president of the Australian Council of Islamic Education in Schools, Silma Ihran, says the Minister should meet with school leaders to get a clear understanding of what is actually being taught.
“We have a document in all of our schools and we’ve all been receiving, through associations such as Independent Schools Association, professional development on how to actively incorporate the state of Australian values that are in this document, called Australian Values for Schools, as part of our teaching process,” he said.
Meanwhile, Muslim educators are calling on Mr. Howard to include their representatives in future summits with the Islamic community.
Ms. Ihran, who is also the principal of the Nooral Houda Islamic College in Strathfield in Sydney, says Mr. Howard must consider the wider Muslim community and its youth before making decisions about the teachings of Islamic schools.
“The Federation of Islamic Councils is an excellent body, but it doesn’t represent the majority of the community and it itself isn’t aware of some of these programs which are really the ones that the Government should be working with, to make sure that their concerns over the issues of values and citizenship are really addressed properly,” she said.
Prime Minister John Howard says the Government is willing to go inside mosques, prayer halls and Islamic schools to ensure they are not preaching terrorism.
“I mean I have no desire and nor is it the Government’s intention to interfere in anyway with the freedom or practice of religion,” he said.
“But we have a right to know whether there is, within any section of the Islamic community, a preaching of the virtues of terrorism.”