Australia: Muslims protest counter-jihad laws

Funny, isn’t it? How Muslims in Western countries like Australia, the US and European nations never protest jihad, FGM, Islamic Jew-hatred, honor violence or killing, the persecution of religious minorities under the sharia or the current ethnic cleansing of Christians in Muslim countries.

They protest the Jews and counter-terrorism measures. Always.

Photo: Islamic Council of Queensland’s Mohammed Yusuf accused the government of hypocrisy. Picture: Jamie Hanson Source: News Limited

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“Islamic leaders deny silence on local jihadists,” The Australian, August 9, 2014 (thanks to Kenny)

AUSTRALIA’S Grand Mufti has called on “all fair-minded Aus­tralians” to support a campaign by Muslims against the federal government’s proposed new suite of anti-terrorism laws as Islamic leaders reject accusations they have been silent in the face of a home-grown jihadist movement.

The leader of the Australian National Imams Council, Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, last night boycotted an annual Eid dinner in Sydney hosted by the Australian Federal Police, and vowed the council would “vigorously campaign” against the planned anti-terror laws.

The grand mufti was joined yesterday by the Sydney-based Lebanese Muslim Association, which labelled the federal government’s plans to beef up terror laws “deplorable” and “divisive”.

Muslims have reacted with resentment and fury to plans by the government to vastly expand the capture of telecommunications data, lower standards of proof for terrorist offences committed overseas, and force travellers to prove they had travelled to designated areas in the Middle East for a legitimate purpose.

The plans to bolster terror legislation represent the biggest expansion of counter-terrorism legislation in more than a decade and are in response to a movement of Australian-born young men who have joined the jihadist cause in Syria and Iraq. There are believed to be about 150 Australians who have travelled overseas to take part in the foreign conflicts, and about 60 who are active fighters, including convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, who was pictured holding the severed heads of Syrian government soldiers. Arrest warrants have been issued for the two men.

While Islamic community leaders have publicly condemned Israel for its campaign in Gaza, they have also been criticised, including by law enforcement officers, for being less vocal on the bloody conflicts in Syria and Iraq and as Australian extremists such as Sharrouf continue to call on young Australian citizens to join the jihadi cause.

Muslim leaders said yesterday they had been vocal in their own communities in condemning extremism. Professor bin Mohamed declined to be interviewed, but his adviser, Samir Benegadi, said the ANIC had “always been outspoken” in condemning jihadism. “We don’t have to justify ourselves,” Mr Benegadi said.

Pressed on whether the ANIC had been vocal enough in condemning young jihadis travelling abroad, Mr Benegadi referred The Australian to a press release issued by the council in June in response to suggestions by the chief of the NSW Counter-Terrorism Squad, Peter Dein, that the Muslim ­leadership had been “very passive” in the face of home-grown jihadis. At the time, the ANIC labelled Mr Dein’s comments “offensive and provocative” and said senior members of the community had sought to prevent people becoming involved in the Syrian conflict.

Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Ghaith Krayem said he was angered by the suggestion that the Muslim community had not been loud enough in condemning violent images emerging from the Middle East, including the gruesome pictures involving Elomar.

“We don’t feel the need any longer to have to go out there and be judged every single time something occurs overseas,” he said. “For the last 20 years, we have gone out every single time an atrocity like this has occurred, and we have made very clear our ­abhorrence to this stuff.

“We have made that statement so fundamentally clear that its ­actually insulting every single time something happens (that) we have to restate it every single time. We are sick and tired as a community of being put in the spotlight every single time something occurs, when there is absolutely no genuine engagement with government around the genuine and fundamental issues our community is facing.”

Islamic Council of Queensland president Mohammed Yusuf said yesterday the government had all but destroyed its relationship with the Islamic community by pushing its “questionable” expansion of anti-terrorism laws that targeted Muslims while remaining silent on what he said were war crimes being committed by Israeli defence forces. “Why are Muslim leaders being called upon to condemn what is happening in Iraq and Syria when the government has not come out to condemn what is going on in Gaza — 1800 lives lost and government has not said a word about it,” he said.

“This is the hypocrisy on the part of the government. The ­people are of the view that why should we co-operate with the government on this, when our own people are being killed and it doesn’t matter. This is why we are all having second thoughts on to what extent we are going to co-operate with the government when it comes to anti-terrorism. We really go out of our way to do this, but it’s all one-sided.”

On Monday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned as “indefensible” the shelling of UN schools in Gaza by Israeli troops, saying she was deeply troubled by the deaths of innocent Palestinians. She supported Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks but urged both sides to respect a ceasefire.

Though praising last night’s AFP-hosted Eid dinner as an important community engagement initiative, Professor Abu Mohamed said in a statement yesterday he must “regrettably and in all good conscience decline the invitation to attend”.

“ANIC believes that the proposed changes to the anti-terrorism laws will severely impinge on the rights and freedoms of all Australians and especially those of Muslim faith,” the statement said.

“ANIC will vigorously campaign against these proposed changes and calls upon all fair-minded Australians to do likewise.”

Islamic Friendship Association spokesman Keysar Trad yesterday praised Muslim leaders who had boycotted last night’s Eid dinner. “Community leaders have been working very hard to educate young people to stop them going (abroad to fight) and then the government announces it is spending $630 million assuming everyone who comes back is guilty.”

He said the proposed laws amounted to a “slap in the face” to community leaders.

Mr Krayem also questioned the need for expanded counter terrorism laws. “We think it’s just crazy to be extending powers without even looking at what the reality of the last decade has been,” he said.

“We don’t really know how many people are engaging in those conflicts … there is no question that behaviour is appalling and nobody in their right mind would condone that, but to use that as the trigger for what they’re doing right now is part of the problem.”

Additional reporting: Pia Akerman

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